On Halloween the room was dark except for shadowed branches dancing on the walls. I was alone, awaiting that moment of surrender when my body would cave to the demands of sleep. But sleep never came.
My eyes sprung open at the mention of my name. Thereeeeesa, the voice whispered long and slow. Thereeeeesa.
As if the planets had spun out of control, their centrifugal force racing at a speed too fast for my mind to comprehend, I felt myself plastered to the bed. Every time I tried to lift my arms, my legs, and even my head, I remained glued in place. Panic swept over me in a drenching sweat as I tried in desperation to force myself out of my bed.
Though I poured every bit of strength into every imagined move in my efforts to stand up, I felt my energy deplete with each attempted movement. A kind of prickly numbness stabbed every pore in my skin while I listened to the reverberation of my heart thumping in my ears – drowned out only by my name being called again, Thereeeeesa.
Something had to be holding me down, I reasoned, something I couldn’t see, a ghost or a spirit maybe. All I could think to do was trick whatever it was that kept calling my name by pretending to be unafraid.
Using my strength of will, I tried to force myself into an upright position before this force became fully aware that I was even thinking about it.
In one swift movement, I swung my left shoulder toward my right. The move was too fast. I crashed to the floor. Leaden legs, cement block appendages wouldn’t allow me to crawl, let alone walk. Thereeeeesa, the whisper taunted me.
The phone sat on a table across the room from me. In terrified panic, I realized I had to reach the phone to call my mother. The hour was late, but my mother would hear the panic in my voice, would recognize my fear. My mother would calm me down.
I placed a hand on the wooden floor in front of me and heard the wet slap as each palm hit the ground. Inch by inch I dragged my way across the room to the phone. I reached up to grab it.
The second my finger touched the receiver, I was back on the bed. Thereeeeesa.
I could see my body glisten in the moonlight, sweat oozing from every pore after my struggle to get to the other side of the room.
If only my mother could hear my psychic cries for help. I had to get to the phone. I had to stop the voice from…from what? What was haunting me?
Maybe I was imagining the voice, but the air felt suffocating. It closed in around me, its heaviness clinging to me like clammy fingers. I had to get out of the straightjacket that held me tight to my bed.
With every ounce of energy I could muster, I flung myself forward and landed, once again, on the floor. Again, I dragged myself across the floor as I listened to the squeak of my hands. Again, I reached for the phone. Again, I grasped it in relief as I pressed the first button.
Instantly I was back on the bed listening to the rapid drumming of my heart. Maybe I could make it to my sister’s room. I had to alert her. I needed her help.
I could almost see the hands of the clock race in circles as the night passed in segments of time. I must have blacked out occasionally. What else could account for the fact that one second I was on the floor and the next I was on the bed with no memory of having crawled back to the bed?
I tried once more to get across the room. Plop. Onto the floor. Slap. Slap. Slap. I kept getting closer to my sister’s room. Dragging. Dragging cement legs behind me. I reached up. Heard my sister breathing. Grabbed the blanket.
Thereeeeesa. I found myself back on my bed.
I remembered an old Indian story I’d heard about how facing my fears head on would make me stronger. With determination, I decided that if I could make it to the end of the hall, I would no longer be afraid.
Somehow I found the strength to pull myself into an upright position and with rigid legs and a stiff back walked intently toward the kitchen. With wobbly legs, I passed my daughter’s room. I watched her sit upright in her bed as I passed by. Her haunted look surprised me and she spoke to me as if in a trance. “Don’t go in there,” she said as she fell backward on the bed.
I was terrified that I would find myself on the bed again if I didn’t move fast enough, and I was also terrified of moving forward. But if I stopped now I would never know if I had the courage to face the demon that called my name.
With more determination than ever, I moved cautiously toward the kitchen. Soon it would be morning. I could see the dawning light filter through the windows.
The hallway stretched out before me. The kitchen suddenly seemed so far away. With trepidation, I moved, each shaky leg wobbling in front of the other.
And as the morning yawned itself awake, the dancing shadows disappeared. I made it! I made it to the kitchen. And now, with slivers of sunlight peaking through the drapes, the kitchen was empty. Nothing was there. Whoever or whatever it was, departed with the night.
At breakfast only hours later, I related to my sister from the night before what I thought must have been a horrible nightmare. But just before I finished, I asked my daughter one question: Did you tell me anything about the kitchen last night?
“Yeah,” she said. “I told you not to go in there.”