One night in the tenth grade, I lay in my bed, listening to hip-hop music. All the lights were out. I stared at the stereo, looking at the lights on the face. I thought they were a little too bright, so I tried to turn over. Much to my surprise, my body did not move. The music seemed to be getting louder, and I reached for my remote. My hand, my arm, nothing would move. I started to panic, but panicking is strange when your body is involuntarily frozen. The music got louder and louder. I noticed the sound of a violin I had not heard before. The violin grew louder and louder, but I had heard this song before, and there was NO violin. The glass around me began to shriek. A beautiful girl appeared before my bed. She began to sing, harmonizing with the violins. The music kept getting higher and higher. I could not breathe. Air began to rush out my lungs. The violins grew unbelievably shrill, and the girl's voice went high along with them. Suddenly, the flesh of her face began to peel back to reveal a black shadowed outline of a skull. I tried to scream, but I couldn't hear myself over the screaming of the girl and the violins, now sounding like a million bees. The girl reached my bed, bent over, put her hands on my chest. I couldn't breathe. She held her face inches from mine and screamed. Her head exploded into a thousand shards of glass, and the shards tore threw my face, ripped my body to shreds.
Suddenly, I gasped in air. As the glass exploded, the room went back to normal, the shrieks died.
"Oh, God," I gasped, terrified. "Thank you that I'm alive."
I had no idea what had just happened. All I knew was that it was real. I was not sleeping.
Two weeks ago, I woke up early in the morning. The sun had just begun to rise, and faint light spread under my curtains. I tried to yawn, but for some reason, I could not move. I felt a slight pressure on my chest. The room began to darken. A man in a black cloak, hunched over, began to crouch toward me. He moved unbearably slow, and from behind him, a sound like bees buzzing-alien, terrifying-rose. I tried to call for help, but my mouth was sealed shut. The figure got closer and closer, and suddenly his hand dropped down, his fingers inexorably unfurled, and he beckoned my breath from my lungs. I couldn't breathe, move, or scream. Without warming, the figure faded away, and the light came back into the room.
This time, I laughed out loud, but to be honest, I was still very afraid.
Incidents like this have happened throughout my life. The details are usually different-the appearance of the dark figure, his actions. Sometimes, he is not there. Every now and then, the experience is almost beautiful, transcendent. As I child, I once had a minor surgery. In the middle, I awoke on the table, but could not move. I heard beautiful, strange, high-pitched music. I couldn't move, but I could see everything going on. This time, there was no dark figure. Strangely, I realized I had begun to hover above the bed. Before I knew it, I was looking down on myself. I can only think of a handful of these experiences that were pleasant like this-many were not-but all were very real.
I grew up in very conservative evangelical churches that taught there was a huge spiritual battle going on all around us. I was scared to talk about these incidents then. I was sure that demonic presences were visiting me during these 'episodes'. As I've grown, I've left my more superstitious tendencies behind. I no longer attend a conservative evangelical church. But these experiences are still frightening.
Last summer, I bought a CD by a band called Dredg. This album was called "Catch Without Arms." I liked it but didn't love it. I had seen the band before, and thought that the material they had played then was better. Last week, on a whim, I picked up one of their older albums, entitled "El Cielo". This bands music is hard to describe. I guess art rock would be the best description of the band, but the best way to describe the sound would be "pretty". The guitars sound like brushes painting clouds, if that makes any sense. On first listen, I was a little detached, and was not able to get into the music.
I put the CD on later and was struck by the beauty of the music. It sounded strangely familiar, beautiful and dreamlike. Near the end of the album, I caught the lyric:
I too once thought that the radio played
We act like children as we sleep paralyzed
Why does that seem so famiiar? I thought. I listened to the song again Then I caught the line:
The sound of a hundred bees...
Your body is asleep, but your mind is awake
I pulled out the CD booklet to read the lyrics. Unfortunately, there were no lyrics. Instead, there were photos of handwritten letters. I can't tell if the letters are real or fabricated, but I think they are a mix of both. At the heading of all the letters was the phrase "Sleep Paralysis". Apparently, El Cielo is a concept album revolving around sleep paralysis.
Huh, I thought. I decided to wikipedia the term. Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia. Here is what I found:
During these incidences, I was indeed experiencing sleep paralysis, a medical condition (from here out, this condition will be called SP). During SP, one's body is asleep, but one's mind is somewhere in between wake and sleep. SP can happen as one goes to sleep-in this case, the body falls asleep first-or when one is waking-in this case the body wakes up last. During SP, one wildly hallucinates, but strangely, the hallucinations of those experiencing SP are very similar. One often feels a malevolent being in the room, hears a high noise like bees buzzing, and cannot breathe. In every culture, there is a similar story about demons that wake people, freeze their body, and takes away the victim's breath until they suddenly awake. Many experts think that 'demons' such as the Incubus and Succubus are only continuations of interpretations of SP. Many experts feel the same way about the reports of alien abductions.
Apparently, scientists have just begun to dig into SP and don't have the whole thing figured out yet, but they are discovering more and more everyday.
I feel strange about all this. I am glad to know that, as I expected, these incidents are just a natural, scientifically explainable event. At the same time, I'm a little sad. In many of us, there is a desire to believe. Personally, I still believe in the Christian faith, but I certainly fall on the more liberal side. The night after I read the Wikipedia article (and did other research as well), I couldn't stop thinking, but not in a bad way. I was reflecting on my favorite show, The X-Files, a show that's been my favorite for more than ten years. Something I love about the show is the dynamic between believer and skeptic. Scully is obviously the skeptic and Mulder the believer, but on certain issues (religion for example) their roles are reversed. Personally, I want to have both qualities. I want to believe in something higher, but I do not want to believe in something that is false. My religion's sacred text asks believers to test everything, and I think that is a great way to go.
But back to topic:
The final song on Dredg's El Cielo begins with the line:
Does anybody feel this way?
Does anybody feel like I do?
I am curious to see if anyone else suffers from SP. Ever experience this and not know what was going on? Ever been too afraid to talk about it before? Did you ready know all this, and did you say, "He's suffering from sleep paralysis!" before finishing the first paragraph? Did you make it through this gargantuan post? I'm interested in talking to you.
NOTE: I hope I did not give the impression that I suffer from SP on a regular basis. I have SP maybe once a month at the most, but I sometimes go through very long periods where I do not have it at all.