Ever had sleep paralysis? Imagine awaking to a strong sense of a 'presence', pressure on your chest, intense fear and hallucinations, but being incapable of moving a muscle. I've had two unhealthy doses and just writing this is making me break out into a sweat.
The first one was about twenty years ago. I’d got back from Glastonbury after a weekend of general over-indulgence and very little kip. At that time I lived on the attic floor of a big old house. I spent the evening watching the box then turned in about half nine. I was kipping on a double mattress slung on the floor, the room was in bathed in that weird summer half-dusk twilight and for some reason, despite me extreme fatigue, I was finding it hard to drop off. I think I was “beyond meself”, as they say. I managed a few fitful naps, kept jolting awake and drifting off again. I put this down to the remnants of the weekends revellery still rampaging round me bloodstream, a gradual winding down, last orders for me metabolism, so to speak. The landlord inside me head was shouting “can we have your glasses please, do yer talking while yer walking” etc etc.
After a bit I realised I was staring up at the ceiling, fully awake, the room now fallen fairly dark. All sorts of random stuff was racing through me noggin. Then, for some reason – and I remember this very very clearly – I thought “Hhhmm, Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller – what a strange couple that was” And with that I felt this sudden massive crushing on me chest, like some big strong fucker had suddenly dropped down with both palms onto me and was pinning me to the deck. Me first and most obvious instinct was that some cunt had got into the room, which wasn’t entirely unlikely as it was a shared house with more than it’s fair share of itinerant weirdos.
“In strolled this fucker with a top hat and a bone through his nose and his face all blacked up with boot polish.”
I tried to get up but this fucking thing rammed me down with renewed vigour, as though sensing me resistance. It felt exactly like big heavy hands across me chest and shoulders. Me second instinct was to open me eyes. An that’s when I properly shat meself, cos in a heartbeat I realised that my eyes were wide open, I wasn’t having a dream and there was fucking no-one there. No one. But could I fuck raise meself against this overwhelming weight. And as soon as I realised that I was shot through with a bolt of absolute pure terror. I mean stark raw fear the likes of which I have never ever experienced, a terror that is virtually impossible to put into words.
I felt as though I was in the presence of something absolutely unspeakably evil and it was hell-bent on ripping my heart out of my chest and feeding it to the fucking hounds of hell. Writing this is making me break out into a sweat, I can still almost taste the fear of this evil, evil motherfucker. I tried to shout out, but the sound was frozen dead in me throat.
And then, as suddenly as it had dropped down on me, the weight was lifted. And then I started fucking floating towards the bastard ceiling. I clearly remember thinking “Oh Jesus, this is happening, this is actually fucking happening.” It was like I was utterly weightless, full of helium. I could see the artex on the apex of the ceiling getting closer and closer. I remember thinking, if I look round I’ll see me own body on the bed, so I looked round over me shoulder and saw an empty bed, every detail of the sweat soaked sheets below me. That’s when I started properly sobbing. I remember thinking, am I going to heaven? Is this being dead? The ceiling got close enough to touch so I reached out and touched it and then I woke up in me bed blathered in sweat and shrieking and crying like an infant.
I pelted down the stairs, everyone was out. I turned a radio on to hear a human voice, some normality to bring me back down but all I could get was white noise. The clock said twenty past eleven. All of this is etched onto me memory cos I kept thinking, “Is this real? Is this real?” I was in a right two and eight. Eventually I got Radio 4 and calmed down enough to make a cup of tea and take stock.
Over the next few days I was jittery as fuck. Everyone who I spoke to about it either thought I was lying, on drugs, or had just had a nightmare. Eventually I went to the library and did some looking up and found a few articles. Then I realised I hadn’t imagined it and I wasn’t insane. Which was a relief, but for a few weeks after I was still a bit wary of bedtime and what it might bring.
The next episode was a fucking pearler. Around a year or so later, I’d got me own flat and was seeing this bird. We tended to have big dramatic rows and without boring you with details, one of these culminated in me spending a fitful night kipping in a car outside me own flat. When I eventually got into me own quarters, I was cream crackered and decided to sleep for the day and get some proper rest. I got into the scratcher, completely exhausted and fell straight into the land of nod.
“I felt this sudden massive crushing on me chest, like some big strong fucker was pinning me to the deck.”
Woke up again some time later, same thing, Giant fuckin Haystacks on me chest. Broad daylight outside. The same sickening dread in the guts, the presence of sheer evil in the room like an ominous stink. But this time I knew what was going on. “You’re asleep, you’re asleep” I kept saying in me head. Then the weight lifted and the door opened and in strolled this fucker with a top hat and a bone through his nose and his face all blacked up with boot polish. A bastard voodoo man with a crazy fixed grin and leering eyes and the cunt was there right in front of me, clear as day, as solid 3-D real as the rest of the room. There was me wardrobe, there was me clothes on the floor, there was the door and the window and there was a jauntily dressed demonic cunt with a topper and a bone through his bugle, boot polish about an inch thick on his boat race. (Years later, when I saw that DAAAAVE out of League Of Gentlemen I had a brief but horrific flashback. Seriously thought someone was taking the piss.)
Anyway, this dude strolled up to me bedside and I was sat up in bed too frozen too move. He came right up next to me and bent down to stare into my eyes. “You’re not real,” I said. “Oh aren’t I?” he grinned. “Well, that means I can’t do this then” And he reached down and grabbed me wrist and twisted with both hands, gave me a Chinese burn.
I woke up shouting and screaming again, and I’d grabbed me own wrist and was twisting fuck out of it.
I can only conclude two things from these two carry-ons: one, there is a strange land halfway between consciousness and sleep which is more powerful than anything else on hell, heaven or earth. And two, I never ever want to have sleep paralysis again. I would not wish it on my worst enemy.
I’m knackered after recalling all that now. I’m off for a lie down.