By David Saechao
My eyes are wide open. I am restless—frightened. I stare into the darkness of my room wondering what the heck just happened. It was just a dream, I thought, yet it felt so real.
The dream resumes with a feeling of joy and excitement and the opportunity to spend some time with a former teacher at his cabin. Our intellectual curiosities spark interesting conversations, and we are genuinely having a good time. Another friend of mine—one from the distant past—walks in. An ambiance of darkness falls upon the cabin. I gaze through a window and catch a glimpse of the ominous landscape. I am beholden to a deep sense of fear. I begin to worry about the drive home. The thought of staying the night—the somber eeriness of a cabin in darkened woods. I wake up. So I thought. I am being pushed down . I feel the grip of my aggressor’s fingernails pressing. My right—the shadow of an arm moving, in rhythm, with flashes of pain. I am fighting for my life. I attempt to bring my arms up. I cannot move. I scream, silently. Bungx Guangc Yie! I wake up. I am able to move.
Conventional wisdom would suggest that I experienced what doctors would describe as sleep paralysis. It is another way of saying that my mind was awake, but my body was not. Many of us have experienced sleep paralysis throughout our lives, and we are usually able to brush it off. However, what makes it so terrifying is that we are powerless against this mysterious force, whether real or imagined. In many cultures around the world, sleep paralysis is believed to be the work of a demonic figure. Among the Iu Mien tribes from Southern China and Southeast Asia, it is believed that this seemingly paranormal experience is the act of a shadowy, short and stubby, night stalker that preys upon people at an opportune time. The common belief is that it sits on its victim, thus rendering that person incapable of movement.
Now, with the dream that I mentioned, I don’t know. I’ve had similar experiences, but none in which I remember feeling the grip and pain of fingernails pressing down on my arms. Admittedly, I did sleep with a nightlight in the days that followed. But if one thing is an indication of what might have happened, the shadowy arm that I vividly remember, turned out to be my room door.