And through it all
How could you cry for me?
‘Cause I don’t feel bad about it
So shut your eyes
Kiss me goodbye
And sleep, just sleep…
4:30 AM. I was just drifting off to sleep, beginning to conjure coalescing dreams, hazy and not yet solidified. As my slumber deepened further, sliding into proper unconsciousness, the fantasy materialised more clearly.
I found myself standing in the middle of a school building, an ancient and decrepit one, along with several faceless people, all of which seemed vaguely familiar, yet none that I could decipher specifically. Up to that point, everything was fine. It was just another one of the dreams that I have on a regular nightly basis, fractured and almost nonsensical. I wasn’t worrying yet. Continuing the journey of my dream, I rode on an elevator with the aforementioned faceless company, the elevator’s metal doors and interior glimmering with cleanness, strangely sterile and out of place, a stark contrast as compared to the near-dessicated state of the ruined building. I pressed a button to go several floors up, and the elevator hummed lightly, the glinting silver doors closing with a reassuring ding.
And that was where the nightmare began.
After a few seconds of waiting in uncomfortable silence, the elevator finally stopped with another cheerful ding!, the lights flickering momentarily as the doors opened smoothly, and we all stepped out of it without so much as a glance or hesitation. We found ourselves in a room, a total mess and cluttered, practically flooded, with varying sorts of garbage, debris, detritus, and disused technology, and just as equally rundown as the one we had previously been to. Thus we began investigating, scouring the place for god knows what endgame.
As I clambered atop a pile of junked wicker furniture—already unravelling from its weave and was all but falling apart—to scout the location, someone suddenly realised that one person was missing from the group, and s/he called us out and gave attention to the fact. By some form of interlocked gregarious instinct, we all looked curiously towards the elevator, eyes drawn to the buzzing reflective doors, and, as if on cue, that prominent ding! sound cut through the thick slippery silence like a bread knife through butter. Breaths bated, we all waited in suffocating suspense.
It didn’t open. No movement from the inside. No indications of our absent companion can be seen. My faceless companions and I didn’t acknowledge each other, either. We were all simply frozen to the spot, and no one moved a muscle, not even as a soft music box tune began eerily playing from behind the closed doors, muffled as it seeped past the minute cracks between the doors. As it continued to play, sweet and lilting at first, I began to grow uncomfortably disturbed, for it seemed to be seeping past not only the elevator doors, but past the boundaries of dream and reality as well. It felt so real, so palpable, so tangible, that for one moment, my dream self actually broke past the fourth wall, becoming fully aware of its incorporeal state, and I pondered if I accidentally left my phone’s music player on before I fell asleep.
But then, out of nowhere, a high-pitched screeching sound went off and collided with the initial silence that was keeping the dream at bay, as the music box melody grew louder, more distorted, chillingly hair-raising. The stentorian tone came to a point where it became too unbearable for my thoughts, and I immediately jolted back to reality, hoping to effectively get rid of the discordant noise.
Or, at least it seemed to be reality, at first. I can still see what I would’ve seen if I was awake; the red and grey stroller that my older sister left on the place, immobile and parked carelessly in front of me, my phone clutched on one limp hand, its screen faintly glowing and still opened on an abandoned Aldiko eBook that I was listlessly rereading before I fell asleep, and the sheer darkness of the quiet room only being perturbed by the light on the dining room, always left open at such hours of the day. I was awake, and everything was all normal…
Except the damned music box sound was still playing in my ears, and I can’t move.
From that moment forth, I knew I wasn’t awake yet, nor was I dreaming still. I was trapped in limbo, floating between a hellish combination of unconsciousness and consciousness that I can’t break out of. I can’t go back to sleep, but I can’t wake up anymore. It was time for drastic action. Blood rushing wildly in my heart and heart hammering out of my ribcage so hard it might just break, I frantically tried moving an arm, a leg, any limb, any muscle, to no avail. I attempted to straighten out and change my semi-foetal position, but all I could feel cooperating was my left toe, wiggling frantically, willing the rest of my body into a contagious movement, and without much success. Not even my eyeballs can be goaded into looking side to side, fixated blankly past ahead, horrified gaze locked upon the stroller, forced to watch the unfolding events transpire, as my vision shifted and spun out of control.
I felt sickeningly dizzy. Gravity must be working against me. There seemed to be an invisible force that was moulded into my entire body, blanketing me entirely as it pressed against both internal and external flesh and held me down, and the only sound I can hear anymore was no longer the pleasant music box tune, but rather, some sort of strange caterwauling amalgamation of static and a rushing wind vortex and painful banshee wails that roared angrily whenever I attempted to move, its volume nearly deafening, nearly driving me into intense deliria. This unknown spectre was overpowering, sending fresh waves of prickles on my skin, shudders and chills down my spine, and contorting currents all over my body with every futile attempt of mine to make motions, telling me victoriously that I was held under its claws, pinned like a helpless mouse under a cat’s paw. I was its puppet, and it can make me motionless whenever it wishes to. I was under its total control.
For what seemed like hours to un/conscious me, this unwinnable game went on mercilessly. The invisible force grasped strong and willfully as it immobilised me, the raging static continued to come in cacophonic mocking screams, the dreadful fear ultimately pervaded and successfully overrode every part of my system. I couldn’t break away, I couldn’t find a release, I was defeated and thinking that I’d be trapped forever in this fucking state, and come next morning, my relatives will find me already turned to cold stone like Medusa’s poor victim, with a permanent expression of horror etched on my visage, a person literally frightened to death.
But then the spell broke down. I felt everything lighten up gradually, that shocking magnanimous force that has paralysed me and held me hostage for the last few minutes slowly dissipating, the angry static noise ebbing away into nothingness, and I finally began seeing everything in a less surrealistic, less blurrier, less disorienting sight. I opened my eyes—or if they have been opened all the time anyways, I am still highly uncertain—saw the lightless room, my resiliently-illuminated phone, the abandoned monochrome stroller, my hands clutching the mobile, normalcy, reality, and hopefully for good this time. I glanced down absently at my trembling bent legs and realised with ecstatic joy that I could already move, and I rocketed myself immediately into a stiffened position, almost letting out a vivacious cheer of triumph. Everything rewound back to its proper setting, and my wildly panicking heart began to calm itself, gradually lessening a beat every second until my pulse was at an acceptable pace once again.
For several minutes after that, I was motionless. I simply laid still, staring mistily at the dull yet reassuring glow of my phone, listening to the tired whirring of the restless electric fan. For the hellish dream may have passed, but I wasn’t completely relaxed that easily yet. Fear infested itself momentarily again, and I immediately jammed my eyes shut, very much afraid that if I moved or swept my vision over the place, I would see a horrifying countenance grinning with razor blades for teeth and glaring back at me with flaring jaundice-yellow eyes. I was still scared out of my wits, thinking that, perhaps, the nightmare was not over yet.
Sooner than later, the fickle irrationalities subsided into common sense. I knew I can’t keep up such an act forever, and if there were any bastards waiting to devour me whole, then goddammit I’ll face them now. I hesitantly opened one eye, and, seeing no otherworldly creature about to pounce on my viscera, only my luminescent phone’s clock blinking sullenly and reading 5:08 AM, I opened the other eye and sighed exorbitantly, the sound of my own voice washing over me and providing me clarity and sensibility. I felt ashamed and silly, yet at the same time thankful and relieved.
But not for too long, before horrifying thoughts struck me once again, epiphanies falling down on my mind so hard I saw stars. Deprived of sleep and going through such a traumatic experience in such a short amount of time, one can only think so clearly before hell sets its hounds loose upon their brains again. I gasped audibly. My blood froze abruptly. My pulse raced maddeningly again. A hard lump metastasised on the back of my throat, making it difficult for me to breathe. A final chill slithered down my spine, and rested there permanently.
I cannot sleep again. Whatever beast or demon or godforsaken creature used me and made me its plaything for tonight, I fear it will return again to finish its job. I cannot let that happen. Never again. Perhaps if I just make it past this night, then it will leave me alone. But I am tired. I am very tired. No, I’m okay. I’m fine. I’ll make it. I’m going to die. Happy thoughts, happy thoughts, happy thoughts…