You old hag. — Macabre Mind
My love for all things scary and the thrill I get from being afraid dates back to when I was a little girl. The house that I lived in for my first 9 years of life is the landmark for where it all began for me, the beginning of what would be a lifelong activity of seeking out the macabre.
It started in a closet. The closet was in my bedroom and it was like a tunnel, narrow and deep and it had a slanted ceiling and a wall made of brown bricks. There was a small children's table and chairs on one side with a little lamp that was the only illumination in the closet. In the very back of the closet there was a rod that my clothes hung from and on the floor was a litter of Barbies and stuffed animals and books. I spent a lot of time in this closet, it was like my own private fort that was too small for adults and big sisters so I was rarely ever disturbed.
One night as I was playing in the closet with the door closed my foot caught the lamp cord and it unplugged from the wall. Immediate and complete darkness. I was swallowed alive and the fear seized me like a giant claw, slowly squeezing the very breath right out of me. I didn't scream, I got very still and very quiet because a part of me wasn't sure why the light had gone out at all. My mind immediately went to the very back of the closet where my clothes hung, behind the clothes was the end of the closet, a wall, but there was space between the clothes and the wall, space enough for a child to crouch, or space enough for a monster to hide. Everything I touched was a threat, anything could grow fingers which could wrap around my wrists and ankles at any moment. I was in the belly of the beast. Eventually I worked my way to the closet door and opened it into my dark bedroom where I then found the light switch and the monsters shrunk back into their shadows as furniture and toys came once again in view. I was terrified, I was on the edge of tears, I was thrilled! I was 5 years old.
After that I started spending time alone in the closet in the dark. I would test myself, see how long I could last with the light off and my imagination working overtime to create the scariest things I dare think of. I eventually got so good at training my fright that there came a time wherein I walked all the way to the back of the closet, parted the clothes, went through them and sat on the floor next to the monsters.
A few years later I had my first reoccurring dream, except that it wasn't a dream at all, it was a nightmare. I dreamt that three men broke into our house wearing ski masks and set about robbing us. My father tried to intervene but they nailed him to the wall, crucified above the basement stairs. My mother ran out of the house to the pay phone across the street. As she stood there ringing the house to warn my sister and I to hide, I watched out the window and listened on the phone as one of the men sexually assaulted her and then knocked her unconscious. That's all that I remember about the dream except that for a time, I had it often. I was about 7 years old.
Around that same time something else happened to me that was so terrifying and unexplainable that I kept it to myself for fear of people finding me mad. As I lay in my little bed sound asleep my mind would suddenly wake up and I would become aware, my ears would start taking in all the sounds of the house like my parents quietly talking downstairs or the TV show they were watching, my nose would smell the incense my mother was burning or the popcorn she was making, but my body would be completely paralyzed and I wouldn't be able to open my eyes. I was frozen in the form of a sleeping child while my mind screamed that I was awake and aware and trapped. My chest felt heavy and I struggled for breath, I started to panic, I was about to die. The first time it happened I thought I was being abducted by aliens. The aliens must have come down, cast one of their freaky ray beams on me and froze me stiff so that I couldn't move and couldn't open my eyes, but I was awake. For damn sure, I was awake. It lasted for what seemed like maybe five or ten minutes, slowly I regained control, first my eyes, as I opened them wide, and then with my arms as I struggled like a butterfly in a cocoon to break free of my invisible binds. When I began to look around the room, in all honestly expecting to see an alien standing there, I saw a huge shadow on the wall being cast up from my night light. It was the shadow of a witch on a broomstick.
This experience happened once or twice a year for many years of my childhood. With each one that happened I became more calm, more resigned to the experience knowing that it would pass if I struggled against it hard enough, and I never saw the shadow of the witch again, so that was reassuring.
These "episodes" eventually stopped altogether and by adulthood I had long since forgotten them. But when I was 23 years old it happened to me again. There I was, laying in bed next to Adam and I "wake up" with my eyes sealed shut and my body as heavy and as unmovable as a building. I could hear Adam breathing, could feel Commodore laying at my feet, could smell the smells of my room and hear the traffic outside and the ticking clock in the next room. When I finally struggled out of it I got out of bed and made myself a note to search the internet the next day for what could possibly be happening to me. And this is what I found.
Sleep paralysis. In some parts of the world it is known as The Old Hag Syndrome, it is said that the Hag is a nightmare spirit and at night her spirit leaves her body and goes to sit on the chest of her victim who is then unable to move. Symptoms are paralysis, an acute sense of danger, the feeling of weight on your chest, excited mental state, and at times hallucinations.
These, some might say, unsavory experiences birthed a fascination and love for the thrill of a scare. Basements, dark bathrooms, clothes hanging in closets, being alone in the woods at night, and draping a hand or foot over the bed with the lights off are all things that send my heart racing. And yes, I love every minute of it. Hell yes.
"The first time it happened I thought I was being abducted by aliens." I thought the exact same thing when it happened to me. Last episode was last summer when I was napping on the couch. I wonder if our brain paralyzes us during our dreams to prevent us from physically acting out our dreams.
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