Eyes Half Open

Eyes Half Open

He woke up suddenly from his sleep, with a gasping intake of breath that was quite audible to his drowsy self.

At that instant he didn’t know what had awoken him but as the senses started sending signals to his newly awakened brain, he could feel that he was sinking into the bed. Lying flat on his back , his arms at his sides felt like they were far away from his body. He felt as if his spinal column was dragging him down into the mattress, that he would   disappear pelvis-first into the oblivion that he felt was tucked away under his bed.

Surpassing all these, was the sensation that something heavy lay on his chest and that he was practically immobile…and that he would choke to death if he didn’t do something about it!

All these created a terrible urge in him to move his body, to scream for help, to clutch the sheets….but he couldn’t twitch a muscle. He tried to get up but it felt as if the weight of his body had increased a thousand times . Again and again he tried to move.The more he tried, the more he panicked. He could feel sweat trickling down his face , dropping from his jaw, sliding down the sides of his neck and reaching the sheets. He willed his vocal cords to obey his command, for his mouth to open …yet, nothing happened.  It was like being held a prisoner by his own body…

This is not workingI have to think of something else, he thought to himself…as he tried to make sense of what was happening, even as his mind raced and panicked.

He always slept with eyes almost half open. The thought just came to him and he tried to move his eyeballs. This was again not an easy task.After trying to do so for a while , he was able to slowly rotate his eyeballs to where his eyelids lay heavy, but also slightly parted.

He had two large windows in his room, Light came in from the street lamp outside, softened by the curtains. As his eyes adjusted to the semi-darkness he could see better. He scanned his room as far as he could manage. Everything seemed normal to him, his work station, the chair he occupied for most of the day as he worked on his laptop, the tall lamp that stood in darkness.

Sleep paralysis is a phenomenon in which an individual, either during falling asleep or awakening, temporarily experiences an inability to move, speak, or react.It is a transitional state between wakefulness and sleep, characterized by an inability to move muscles. It is often accompanied by terrifying hallucinations to which one is unable to react due to paralysis, and physical experiences. These hallucinations often involve a person or supernatural creature suffocating or terrifying the individual, accompanied by a feeling of pressure on one’s chest and difficulty breathing. These hallucinations maybe linked to one’s own subconscious fears or thoughts. It can be said that the unconscious thoughts get embodied in such hallucinations.

In many cultures this phenomena has been described as a visit by a demon or “an old hag” or “witch riding”.

It occurs in 8% of the general population with much higher rates in students (28%)and psychiatric patients (32%)

“Michael!”

The first voice that ever mattered to him as a new human being, the voice that meant comfort to him, the voice that lost its importance to him as he grew up and worked hard to make his mark in the rat race – THAT VOICE, was calling out to him. For a brief moment he felt happiness, but instantly his heart sank.

“Michael”….the voice implored again, nearer to him. His eyes darted around from behind his semi-closed eyelids to search for the person who was speaking, he could make out the silhouette of a lady against the light. He knew it was her as he could feel her presence – that sense didn’t require a visual affirmation.

His brain worked over time, thoughts bubbled up in his consciousness wanting to be translated into words, they desperately needed a voice to articulate them.

He tried to speak  – but how could he?

“Michael, you didn’t come to see me”…the voice spoke in a tone drenched in sadness. “I just wanted to see you once”…the voice trembled. “I know that you are a busy person, lots of people want to meet you..but you should have chosen me over them” The bangle she wore clinked against the bedpost.

He felt helpless, trapped in his own body, unable to move or speak …unable to communicate with her in any way. He felt like a bird caught in a cage….engaged in a futile fight to escape its prison. A tear rolled down his cheeks, then two.

He wanted to tell her so many things. He wanted to hug her and tell her that he was sorry for whatever he had done to hurt her. He knew she deserved an apology, if nothing else…although an apology would be like a glass of water to a burning house. He wanted to make up for what he had done…or had NOT done.

He could hear muffled sobs now. He was in despair and made an attempt with all his strength to move. Try as he might he could not do anything.  Slowly but surely he was sinking, and he had never felt so helpless in his life.

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He woke up suddenly from his sleep, with a gasping intake of breath that was quite audible to his drowsy self.

It took a few moments for him to absorb his surroundings. His room was filled with the soft light of dawn and birds were noisily waking up in the tree outside. He sat up with a start. His pillow was drenched, with sweat and tears. His cheeks were wet too, where the tears had left a trail.

He looked around, eyes searching…in vain of course.

How could he find his mother who had died a few months back? These last few months had been agonizing for him. He was wracked by guilt…extreme remorse for not having been there with his ailing mother to comfort her as she breathed her last. He had told himself that there was time, as he chose to prioritize his work commitments instead.

He shuffled across the room to where he kept  photograph of his mother. She was smiling in it, this was the last vacation that they had taken as a family.

Beside the photograph lay a single bangle that she used to wear at all times.

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