Just because something can be scientifically explained, doesn't make it any less terrifying.
Take sleep paralysis for example - a rare phenomenon wherein an individual finds themselves trapped in a state that is in between deep sleep and conscious wakefulness. During sleep paralysis, the individual is fully aware of their surroundings and their body, but they cannot move, and they cannot scream.
It is in this state that the darkest nightmares of the human mind become real. Vivid and terrifying hallucinations appear before the individual as if they were a part of their normal waking reality. It’s almost like you're living through a nightmare. Common hallucinations include shadowy, malevolent figures towering over your bed, and demons conjured by the mind and given form.
Some have even suggested that sleep paralysis can explain various paranormal phenomenon, such as the experience of alien abductions.
Anyways, a close friend of mine - we’ll call him Adam for the sake of privacy - used to suffer from sleep paralysis. I'll never forget the following story Adam told me once about his first experience with sleep paralysis…
He was lying in bed one night, slowly nodding off to a dull book he had to read for English class. The bedside lamp was on, and it cast a dull orange glow throughout his room. All was quiet, except for the sound of the television from downstairs.
Suddenly, Adam realized that his room had grown strangely cold. He raised an eyebrow, and glanced at his window. It was closed, but the cold kept coming, like a biting winter wind that he couldn't quite feel.
Next came the unmistakable feeling of being watched. It was like somebody had entered his room, yet clearly there was nobody there. The air was suddenly thick with an uneasy, knife-edged anticipation.
Adam put down his book, held his breath, and listened.
When had the TV downstairs turned off? It was so quiet, Adam swore to me that he could hear his own heartbeat.
That's when the lamp switched off.
The lightbulb didn't die, the power didn't go out. Adam actually heard the soft click of the lamp's light switch as an invisible force plunged his room into near-total darkness.
Adam knew now that somebody was in that dark room with him. Overcome with sharp fear, and a nauseous sense of dread, Adam tried to scream. In vain, however. Adam's scream came out like a whisper, if it even came out at all. He tried to reach up to feel his throat, to figure out why he was so hoarse, why he couldn't make a sound. However, his hands and his arms were too heavy to move. His whole body was too heavy to move. Adam was trapped.
And that's when Adam saw his dead grandfather suddenly standing before him, at the foot of his bed, screaming obscenities and thrashing and clutching at Adam's legs with bone-like fingers.
Later, Adam described the figure's face to me - he said it was a face that both was and was not the grandfather he knew and remembered. The figure had no eyes, Adam told me. Only dark, empty circles. And blood.
So maybe we can all feel safe in the 21st century, knowing that much of the universe is explainable. Maybe demons and ghouls don't really exist. Maybe mystery is gone from the world, and maybe the dead will always stay dead.
But when your own mind can make your darkest nightmares into a reality, does it really matter what is and is not real?
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