Flash: The Sleeper

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Panic. Can’t move. I try to control, to calm myself. This has happened before. Too many times before. Each time I wonder if this time my body isn’t going to wake up.

I have sleep paralysis. There’s a fancier term, but it really doesn’t matter. What matters is my body is asleep when my mind wakes up. Unable to move, unable to open my eyes, unable to talk. First time it happened I was thirteen, Happy Birthday to me. Six hours, an eternity.

Second time I had stayed up late studying. Mom tried to wake me. Shook me, yelled at me to stop faking it. She was so scared. I could hear it in her voice. If I had been able to open my eyes, I would have seen the tears streaming down her face. Tears I got splashed with but didn’t feel. Got to ride in an ambulance. Late in the afternoon, my body woke up after I lived through a battery of tests. The MRI hum makes my teeth rattle every time I remember. Locked in my body, locked in that metal coffin.

Doctors explained it. A sleep disorder like sleep walking, only the opposite. Instead of the body walking around with a sleeping mind, I got a sleeping body and a waking mind.

I’ve only just dropped off. After two years, I know my mind never falls asleep again once it wakes up. Going to be a long night. Fighting the panic. Am I going to sleep forever, trapped?

I wish I could use breathing to control the panic, but my sleeping body is reacting to my nightmare. Adrenaline pushing the heart rate higher, breathing in short, but regular bursts. All I can do is imagine breathing slower, rolling the shoulders back to relax, opening my hands and stretching out the fingers.

Mom has put a baby monitor in my room, for all the good it does. It is not like I am going to cry out in my sleep. But it allows her to sleep so I put up with it. Upside, she allows me to hang with Nat in my room behind a closed door because she can listen in. If we are quiet too long, she shoots a question through the monitor. Kept me from reaching second base so far.

I try to go to sleep on time every night. Yep, I am a fifteen-year-old who obeys a nine pm bedtime religiously. Only way to make certain my body will wake in time for school. Even so about once a month, I “sleep” in and miss the first couple of classes.

I hear my breathing return to normal, my fists unfurl, the lub-dub regularly pushes against my oversized Adam’s apple. Dad’s is buried under his triple chin; he showed me photos when I visited this summer. He grew into it before he got fat, so I have some hope. Nat is threatening to leave hickies on it come turtleneck season; she loves kissing my neck and the deep voice that finally steadied the end of freshman year.

The grief I got last year. Bad enough being a freshman. Braces didn’t help. Orchestra geek too good for marching band. Too uncoordinated for sports, tripping over my feet hence the no marching band. Teacher’s pet in Spanish, English and Math, and transferring to the AP science track the second week should have sealed my fate as wedgie and swirly central. Only having Natalie around, going from pal to girlfriend kept me from being a total loser.

Nat, my savior, my heart, and my torment. We met when mom moved after the divorce. She push me into a mud puddle during recess my first day. I returned by punching her. None of the other boys had tried that, even in elementary school where she ruled the playground. We became best buds after my two days in-school suspension was served. The only black mark on my record.

I decide to visit her. Yeah, I know it will only be in my head, but right now that is all I got. For nearly eight lonely hours of pushing back panic, it is all I got.

I pretend I can feel my hands respond to pushing down on the bed and I sit up. I open my eyes and look around the darken room. Color blooms from my superhero posters, painted by memory. This year’s biology book is open to the genetics section for Friday’s test. My backpack leans against the desk filled with everything else, ready to grab and run tomorrow morning.

I’ve memorized my room so I can do this let’s-pretend game that I can wake and walk around even though I am actually locked in my sleeping body. I look in the mirror and annoyingly my reflection does not look back. For some reason I can’t put myself in it when I do these pretend walks. I look down to make sure I am decent. My favorite jeans and sneakers, but missing a shirt. I pretend grab the T-shirt I discarded before laying down and pull the illusion over my head. The shirt never moved from the back of the chair, but I am now dressed.

Walking through the door, I really wish I could figure out a way to feel like I opened it properly because walking through it is weird and feels like someone pushed soggy corn chips through my chest. I shake once I am through, then turn left and take the stairs two at a time. Mom is watching the news while folding clothes. I stop to watch when the weather comes up to see what will be happening for the weekend game.

I started watching the news with her this year. I figure I am hearing it upstairs since my room is directly over the television. Mom had started the laundry during dinner. Amazing how the mind fills in details. Karen, my younger sister, is studying at the dining room table for some middle school test. Douglas, our older brother, stayed with Dad since he was from Dad’s first marriage. Summer is nice because we can all get together again, though this year was a little tough since Doug had his first job flipping burgers. Be interesting to see how college is treating him. Maybe I will visit him next time.

And there will be a next time. Initially the episodes, as the docs like to call them, were about once a month, but they kept getting closer together. Now they are like every other night. After three nights in a row at Dad’s this summer, I decided to start the pretend walking for my own sanity. Books on tape only go so far.

I go through the front door. This time the soggy corn chips had some crunchy bits. Those hurt, like dry swallowing. Weird. I rest against the front porch pole. Turning around, I try to press through the wall beside the door and that is solid. I press on the door and my hand starts going through. WTF?

Mind games. Things your brain does to you. I’ve been thinking of getting a book or two on lucid dreaming.

I know doors can be gone through and walls can’t. Guess that is what is happening now. Never tried to leave the house before.

I remember in lucid dreaming sometime people can fly. Nat’s house is nearly a mile away. Wonder if I can fly there. I was going to try to pretend bike. I jump in the air like The Impressive, and fall flat on my face. Biking it is.

The nighttime ride went quick, faster than normal. I was able to pick up speed going down Hilltop, but didn’t loose it going up the other side of the ravine. Gravity may rule, but my brain seems willing to break some of the rules. Maybe I can learn how to fly after all.

I lean my pretend bike against the garage and it fades away. Frowning, I go around to the back door which is typically open to allow the night air in, saving on air conditioning. How am I going to get home? Popping through the screen door is easy even though I feel the corn chips on my shoulder where the latch is.

Nat’s parents are watching the late-night news, different channel from Mom. I watch a few seconds as Revenger dukes it out with a new supervillian before The Impressive comes to help. Then the typical public announcement reminding people with superpowers to register with the government. Whatever.

I head down the hall where music is throbbing. Nat will listen to anything that requires head-banging, whether the Black Sabbath’s Iron Man or Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. If she can crank it to 12 on the 10 scale, she is a happy metalhead. I’ve tried to introduce her to quieter music and discovered that even classic can be headbanging if you crank it enough. She loved the 1812 Overture.

Her door is closed, but only a few soggy corn chips push through me as I walk in. The music takes on physical impact on the other side. She is bopping around in a crop top and boy’s shorts and I slid to the ground.

Yay imagination! No bra, the crop top was one she wore during the summers when I am not around and should no longer be worn in public since the boob fairy, as she put it, visited her this year. Her legs sprouted out of the pink lacy underwear I had only seen in my mom’s catalogs and reached the ground after a very long trip. Her stomach, which I used to give raspberries to in fifth grade was perfect caramel from the bikini I had only got to see her wear once before going to my dad’s. She bounced over to the pile of paper on her bed; I recognized the English assignment. Working last minute again, my Nat. I had that assignment done two days ago.

She turns to go back to the pile on the floor, near the door, and shrieks.

(words 1688; first published 6/8/2015; republished new blog format 4/29/2018)