Portfolio Management Lecture, May 2013 — As the class shuffled out, grateful for the 15-minutes respite between four hours of lecture, I stayed behind, desperate for some sleep. I had been spending the past three days on my paper. Save for a couple of power naps to retain my dwindling mental acuity, that was sixty hours without sleep.
Hearing the soft music put on by the lecturer, the fatigue pulsated through my head, not unlike standing atop a spinning carousel whirling at twice the speed. So, it was no surprise when everything went dark the moment my head reached the table. Even then, the whirling dizziness ensued, building up the feelings of nausea.
Should I get up… No. I wanted to move… but I was too tired. The whirling settled soon after.
Feet shuffling pass. Chairs dragging. Some idiots must be back from their restroom break… Will they keep it down! They need a telling-off! I wanted to move… but I was too tired.
A minute barely pass, I was still conscious of the happenings in my surroundings. The same song was still playing amidst the background noises. Then there came a familiar discomfort pressing sharply against my back. Someone was relentlessly pressing their knuckle against my back, wedging the muscles apart. Shit. This is impossible. It can’t be happening now. Trepidation surged through my veins and almost immediately I was overcome by an even heavier sense of grogginess, making me forget the wherefores of that primal fear. The same song was still playing and the pushing didn’t stop. I really wanted to move but I was too tired.
“Time to begin the part two of Bonds Duration!”, interjected the lecturer. Wait a minute, the same song is still playing in the background. How can the break be over? Strangely, the room seemed to be full of people. I certainly didn’t hear the ruckus from them coming in, save for the few from earlier on.
Did I lose my sense of time from being excessively tired? It feels like the time I got drunk and blacked out. Shrugging off the bizarreness, I got ready to shift myself upright, even though I was still too tired to move.
I could not move. I tried again. My arms and legs did not respond. I couldn’t get up. I wanted to move but I
was too tired had no ability to move.
Alarmed, I tried calling out for help. Raw trepidation struck me again. I had remembered what the sudden heavy grogginess just now had caused me to forget… Sleep paralysis. I had no voice to call out. I could not move.
I could normally shake myself awake from sleep paralysis. Yet, there was no way I was going to risk looking as if I was having a seizure in the middle of class.
This is normal. Happens all the time when I’m sleep-deprived. The pounding in my ears was betraying this feeble attempt at reassuring myself.
“You sure this is normal?”, my thoughts were interrupted by the lecturer. Wait… Dr Goh can hear my thoughts?
Dumbfounded or not, I still could not move. Oh shit… Wake up.
At that moment, I noticed that the music in the background was no longer playing, the room was colder and the background noise characteristic to a class full of people was absent. Absolute silence… isolation. No. No. It’s happening again. Whoever replied to my thoughts wasn’t my lecturer.
The voice spoke again, transitioning to a hoarse whisper that made the hairs at the back of my neck stand, dropping pretense – “I said, are you sure sleep paralysis in the middle of class is normal…”.
Heavy breathing from the surge of fear. Stop it! Wake up… Whatever that was began cackling, knowing that I was too deep into the paralysis to rouse myself awake.
“Too tired to move…”, it taunted. “Nauseous from the whirling but too tired to move.” I could hear its amusement.
“The noisy idiots…” the hoarse whisper went on, getting nearer, “you ignored them.”.
By now I was close to hyperventilating. It was approaching. No! Stop! Go away. Get the hell away from me! Silence. And then more silence. Time ticked by. There was nothing I could do but to wait it out.
Did the hallucination cease?
Chills went down my spine when I felt its musty breath at the back of my neck. “Hello…”, the whisper dragged on deliberately.
Seizure be damned . I began to shake myself awake. The grogginess grew in heaviness with every attempt.
The sickening grinding against my back. I need to wake up!
Wham! The table shifted as I jolted. All was normal. I was awake. No one had noticed my predicament. The same song was still playing in the background. I was still too tired.
That Very Night
I laid down in bed that same night, slightly worried about sleep paralysis with its accompanying hallucinations, but soon shut my eyes. Too tired.
Something tickled my fingers on the arm that stretched over my bed, uncovered by the blanket. “Don’t worry. I won’t let it get you,” it giggled.
From the gap beneath the covers, I saw a shadowy silhouette bending over and grinning at me. I wanted to move but… I was too tired.
To be continued…
Halloween Note: Prelude to Sleep Deprivation Article
This short story was written and released on Halloween as a prelude to the sleep deprivation series that relates to health, fitness and physical performance. In writing this story, I had to look back at the many hallucinatory sleep paralysis experience I have accumulated over the years from my habit of sleeping late and very little.
I have of course taken artistic license within this retelling, since I cannot remember in detail what happened in the hallucinations in this university sleep paralysis incident. But the depiction of entities, voices and physical sensations are true adaptations from my experiences. In some occasions, my real sleep paralysis experiences surpass this fictional account in terms of horror and creepiness.
If you wish to know more about my insights, experiences and theories on sleep paralysis (nothing supernatural, I assure you), do watch this space for the sleep deprivation article series.
Wishing you all a happy and frightful Halloween!