My sleep paralysis demon came to me wearing a silver jumpsuit and almond-shaped sunglasses. His head was bald and bulbous. His nose was nothing more than a nub of skin and his mouth hung like a bloodless gash over his pointed chin. He brushed my shoulder, said to me, “Don’t fret, darling. I’m just gonna make myself some tea.”
He left me paralyzed on my bed, helpless. I could hear him rummaging through my pantry as the kettle came to a rolling boil.
My sleep paralysis demon wore a red suit the next night and sat cross-legged on the foot of my bed eating cookies.
“Stop that,” I hissed.
“Eating. You’ll get crumbs everywhere.”
He wrinkled his forehead, frowned. A tear ran down his gray-blue cheek.
“Forget I said anything,” I said, quietly. “Do whatever you want.”
He crammed another cookie into his black, toothless mouth. He laughed. His laughter kept me up all night.
He placed a translucent tube against my forehead. Suddenly I couldn’t breathe. Blue light spread through the room like dye and I felt like I was trapped beneath water, drowning.
His large sunglasses suddenly looked like obsidian-black eyes. He stared down at me, eager to see how much torture I could endure.
He slid diamond rings up and down his slender fingers. He held one out to me, asked if I thought they were beautiful, asked if I’d like one to wear. He found this funny because he knew I was unable to speak. Each time he offered a ring and pulled it away from me, it felt like being prodded somewhere deep within my chest or abdomen. He took pleasure in my pain, in offering and taking.
He crawled into bed beside me, his sequined jumpsuit scratching my skin. His hands were like cold rubber against my arms and cheeks. Often, his atoms slipped past mine, a hot iron passing through snow. A cold ache, but sometimes I found pleasure in it.
My sleep paralysis demon pressed his face against mine, gasping in what was either intense pain or extreme loneliness. We rested together like this, both of us frozen, for hours at a time.
Why are you doing this?
I have nowhere else to go, he said.
Neither of us moved our lips. You could call this telepathy, but it felt different from mere thinking. It was more like exchanging emotions, fears, hopes. Pictures in place of descriptions.
You hate me, don’t you, he said.
You’re a part of me.
He still paralyzed me every night. He’d stopped torturing me, though, and some nights he couldn’t be bothered to touch me. Instead, he dimmed all the lights in the room, his ovoid head a fuzzy silhouette hanging over my face, his inky eyes peering down at me.
I want us both to be beautiful, he said.
I do, too.
He matched his breathing to mine. I felt myself floating up from my bed as his body phased into mine.
Do you understand now? he asked.
I recalled cutting my thumb open for the first time with a knife twenty years ago, the chill of my own blood pouring down my wrist. My first time being bitten by a dog. The dull ache of my first broken bone. The thrill and terror of falling in a dream before suddenly awakening. All of that—my demon is all of that. It’s pain. It’s understanding. It’s pleasure.
I think I get it.
Lane Chasek is the author of the experimental biography Hugo Ball and the Fate of the Universe and the forthcoming novel She Calls Me Cinnamon, which follows the adventures of a Midwestern gas station attendant who’s reincarnated as his ex-girlfriend’s puppy. Lane writes reviews and articles for Jokes Review, and you can read his less-polished rants and musings on lanechasek.com.