SLEEP PARALYSIS • by Scott M. Sandridge

“Sleep paralysis?” asked Matt, blinking twice. He ran his fingers through his curly red hair. “That’s it? I’m not seeing things? I’m not crazy?”

“Nope, it’s fairly common.” Dr. O’Brien crossed her legs and smiled. She set her notebook down onto her lap then leaned forward, pressed her hands together, and asked, “Feel better?”

“Yeah,” he said. “So, what causes it?”

“It occurs just before falling asleep or just after waking. It’s like dreaming while you’re half awake. The paralysis comes from the brain keeping your body immobile while you dream.

“It’s believed to be the major source of alien abduction experiences, as well as the incubus/succubus encounters you were referring to, though they were more popular in the Dark Ages. Most people experience it once or twice in their lifetime.”

“But I’m getting it almost weekly.”

She leaned back, then curled a lock of brown hair with a finger. “Well, it does tend to be more frequent among narcoleptics.”

“But I’m only a mild narcoleptic.”

“More than enough for chronic sleep paralysis.” She rose from her chair, then added, “If you need anything, feel free to call for another appointment.”

Matt got up then shook her hand, “Thanks, but isn’t there anything that can be done about it?”

Her full lips puckered in a frown, revealing light wrinkles around her mouth. “I’m sorry to say it, but no.”

As Matt left the office, he said, “I might not be crazy now, but if this keeps up I soon will be.”

“Remind yourself it’s just a dream. It should help.”

“I’ll do that.”

Fifty dollars an hour, Matt thought as he drove home, and for what?

At his house he took his medication and stayed up watching TV with the light on. He feared going to sleep more than anything he had ever feared in his life. If he had a choice, he would choose to be an insomniac over a narcoleptic any day. But sleep was inevitable, especially for him.

He woke up lying on his couch in darkness, his body numb. He couldn’t move anything, not even his head. He heard a strange energy vibration in his ears, accompanied by whispers. He couldn’t make out the words, but he knew they were talking about him.

A sliver of moonlight could be seen through the window. A shadow moved past him: darker than the dark of the room. He could feel it watching him, and he could do nothing about it.

The shadow advanced and an oppressive weight landed on his body. A nude woman straddled his waist, skin pale as the moonlight, hair dark as shadow. Her eyes a black pit. Her full, blood-red lips–revealing light wrinkles around her mouth–formed a smile of seductive malice. Hands with black-nailed claws caressed his chest and face.

He wanted to scream, but he couldn’t. He tried to tell himself it was only a dream, but the ghostly voices drowned out his thoughts.

With no movement of her lips, she whispered, “You think this is a dream, love?”

She lifted up his left hand and pressed her nails into his forearm. Blood bubbled out of punctures and trickled down his arm. She let go of his arm, and it flopped back to his side.

His thoughts became erratic, incoherent. He struggled against the panic but to no avail. A small part of his mind that still somehow maintained coherence kept praying and wishing that he would wake up.

“Silly little man,” said the succubus. “You still think you’re dreaming.”

She rubbed her body against his, and then her lips parted to let out an ecstatic moan. She brought her face closer to his and kissed him. “Playtime is now over.”

When his life fled from his mouth into hers, he realized this was no dream.

Scott M. Sandridge‘s first short story, “Treecutter”, was published in The Sword Review in July 2005. Since then, he’s gone on to publish more short stories, and write reviews for Tangent Online and The Fix. He’s also a columnist for the Double-Edged Publishing webzines, a Submissions Editor for Ray Gun Revival, and the Managing Editor of Fear and Trembling.

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