I had a nightmare last night. Well, a series of them. I do not often have nightmares. I know this because I remember a large number of dreams I have. At least for a good number of hours. Only in looking back on this dream was I able to really determine what was going on.
This nightmare was what I would call a "meta dream." That means it was aware of the fact that it was a dream, but I wasn't. At least not at first. Similar to a lucid dream but the DREAM had the lucid part. It started out as a normal dream, I believe my daughter was in it. But at some point she was taken away… and then bad things started to happen. It was almost like a home invasion, but the invader was not human. It was too thin. too gaunt, too strong. Its face was like a mask and the rest of it was black. And it started to torture me. I was tied down. I was thrashing my head from side to side. When I finally looked next to me, I saw a disturbing figure, almost human but with red stripes against its white face. The only problem was… I had already woken up.
I was indeed awake when I saw that figure, and I remember calling for help. I don't know if I actually said anything or if that was in my mind. It was meant to be a shout, but what I heard, which could have been internal, was a whimper. I couldn't move my arms, only my head. And I was worried that it would be going for my daughter. It took a few seconds before I was finally able to move again, and the figure vanished like the dream it was. It had been lying next to me one moment, looking disfigured and torn open, and then it was all a memory… Of course, when I went back to sleep, it continued. At this point, the first figure, the thin one, was taunting me. It knew I was dreaming, that I was asleep, and that I could do nothing about it. I didn't get a very restful sleep last night.
I believe I just had my first instance of sleep paralysis. I was likely awoken during my REM cycle, which is when you dream. The brain has a mechanism that paralyzes the body during dreams so you don't actually act things out. Sometimes, when you are suddenly awoken, this mechanism can be slow to turn off… but it can also cause very realistic and terrifying hallucinations. Strangely, I did some research on this a few weeks ago, specifically about the "hag" phenomenon.
When I look back, I can see some things that would have triggered this. The first is that I went to bed late last night. I was a bit depressed at failing to be even mentioned in the Dark Crystal contest. When I get depressed, I tend to lose the desire to sleep or eat. I also had seen an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where Riker and other crew members go through the classic "alien abduction" scenario. And that night, just as I was heading to bed, I heard a strange and disturbing sound that made me worry that someone was breaking in. It's a big house, and with three cats such sounds occur from time to time. I fell asleep while intently listening for footsteps, breathing, floor creaking, what have you. My mind was going over what would happen, if I would be able to get to Addy in time, or if the intruder would even think to look in her hiding spot. It was prime nightmare material, I tell you.
I hope I don't have another episode. When you find yourself unable to move and staring at something that should not exist, when your daughter is threatened and you can do nothing about it… it is enough to make a guy not want to sleep again.