The peaceful darkness is shattered by bright lightning. I am lying in my bed as I wake up, but I sense something hovering over me. I can’t move as buzzing fills my ears; I can’t close my eyes as a glowing object forms before me. I try to open my mouth to shout at it to fuck off, but my teeth feel like they are sealed shut. The brightness begins to take the form of a man. The male figure is slim and lean. I don’t want to look anymore. I want to get up off my bed and kick him in the face.
Planted on my mattress, the buzzing intensifies as the face of the dreamlike man takes form. It is Brad and he is shining like the surface of the moon. I long to scream and break free of the hold on me, but my efforts are in vain. I don’t understand what is happening. I am forced to look at the idiot’s gloating expression as he moves closer to me. I don’t believe in ghosts so he can’t be returning from the under world to seek vengeance on me. I rationalize what could be happening in my brain as he steps slowly toward my bed. He is smirking. It’s that look all men have when they have you cornered and there is nothing you can do to get away. I want to grab a sharpened knife so badly.
My heart pounds against my breastbone. I would slit his throat and gut him if I could. My pulse races so quickly that my eardrum thunders and drowns out the sickening buzzing sound.
Brad’s apparition reaches my bed; he bends until his face hovers over mine. It isn’t real. I’ve never believed in ghosts. Whatever it is I am seeing causes chills to from at the back of my head and whisper down my spine. Nothing has ever given me fear like this. What the hell is going on with my head?
“How do you like being the helpless one, you murdering little bitch?” he asks.
I know exactly how it feels to be at someone else’s mercy. I want to kill him all over again, but I am as useless as a china doll in my current state. All I can do is watch this figment of my imagination as it tries to toy with me. He grins wickedly and sticks his tongue, lowering his face enough to lick my forehead. I feel hot all over as the desire to hurt him overcomes me. I know he’s not real, but it feels real.
“I am going to kill you for killing me,” he hisses.
I struggle with all my might to open my mouth. I try to move with every fibre of strength I possess, but it is impossible.
Suddenly, it is dark again and I am alone in my room. The nightmarish vision of Brad has vanished. The heaviness in my head lifts and I sit up quickly, clawing at the lamp until my finger hits the switch. In the light, I shudder. I check my phone. It is 5:05 AM. I feel oddly cold.
I jump out of bed and take a hot shower. What is going on with my brain? Nothing like this has ever happened to me. I don’t care about what I did to Brad. He’s just another idiot who got in my way. I never want to think about him again.
I leave the shower and walk up to the foggy mirror. I run my hand over the glass and see myself in the blurred reflection. I study my eyes. They look empty as they should. I am aware of how little I care for other people. I was created to be better than others – I am smarter, more beautiful, more fashionable, more cunning. It is why I have been gifted with the knowledge of how to get ahead of others. I need to preserve my own existence and rid the world of idiots. I think of Brad’s eyes and how warm they used to be when he would look at me. His kindness is what killed him. I hate soft things. He made the wrong choice to work for my husband.
“You bastard,” I hiss as I style my hair.
I am shocked at myself for forgetting to wash, tone, and moisturize my face before drying and flat ironing my hair. There is something wrong with me. My memory never slips like that.
“I need help.”
After getting dressed and applying my makeup, I rush out the door and jump into my black Audi R8. I drive to the general hospital. When I walk through the automatic doors, I search out the mental health wing on the hospital map and walk there. I step past the people waiting in emergency. They glare at me for making an annoying sound with my high heels on the hard floor; I smirk. Their discomfort is my glee. I stifle a laugh and walk up to the front desk of the mental health department. An unremarkable woman with a mullet-like hairstyle and cheap foundation settling into her wrinkled face greets me.
“Hi receptionist,” I say. “I need to make an appointment with a psychiatrist today.”
Her eyes widen as she rolls her chair backward. “You do realize there’s a waiting list to see the doctor, right? You will have to make an appointment.”
I stare at her. This is not acceptable. She brings her attention to the outdated desktop computer she’s using and clicks through the booking system.
“What’s your schedule like, Ma’am?” she asks. “I could book you in as early as next Friday.”
“That’s over a week from now.”
Her eyes glaze over. “That’s the best I can do.”
She doesn’t care about my needs. What a shitty receptionist for a place that’s supposed to help people with mental health issues. Clearly, I am above the other types of people she usually deals with. I am intelligent and I know how to get ahead in life. I just need help with this little hallucination issue I seem to be having.
“You’ll have to do better,” I say. “I need to see someone today. I am losing my sanity and I can’t afford for it to get worse over the next week. Is there not a cancellation you can squeeze me into? I know people with mental health issues can be terribly unreliable.”
I glance over my shoulder at the three people sitting in the waiting room chairs. They cast me weary glances.
The receptionist sighs deeply. “Let’s see here.”
I cross my arms and wait. If she doesn’t fit me in, I will want to storm into one of the doctor’s offices and demand that they accommodate me. The lady shakes her head and tells me again I will have to make an appointment for another day.
I take a deep breath to stifle my anger. Those stacks of paper on her desk would look so much better tossed all about the room, but I need to remain calm and courteous or they won’t want to help me. I can’t make demands. I need to play nice here.
“Very well,” I say coolly. “May I at least use the washroom before I go?”
“Of course. It’s down the hall to your left.”
My face hurts from fake smiling. After checking my makeup and hair in the washroom’s mirror, I quietly exit the washroom and wander further down the hall. Most of the office doors are closed, but one is left half open. I peer inside. A middle-aged man with dark hair and black-rimmed glasses leans over his desk reading something. I walk in with a wide smile on my face. Noticing me, he sits up.
“Good day,” I say pleasantly. “I know I don’t have an appointment, but I really need to see someone. My mental health is in jeopardy as we speak.”
He glares at me with his dark blue eyes. “You have to make an appointment, Ma’am. I am not seeing any clients today.”
“Oh,” I say, slouching my shoulders and pouting in just the right way. “The receptionist wasn’t able to get me in today. I was really hoping to get some help from a doctor.”
The psychiatrist brings a hand to his forehead as he exhales sharply. “What seems to be the problem, Miss …”
“My name is Marie. You must be Dr. Fitzgibbon if the sign on the door is correct.”
“I am, Marie. Sit down and tell me what the issue is. I can spare fifteen minutes, but you’ll need to make an appointment for a full assessment and diagnosis. Do you understand?”
“Yes, Doctor,” I say sweetly, sitting down in the chair on the other side of his desk. “I had a lifelike dream early this morning. Something like this has never happened before so you can imagine how scared I felt. I was wide awake, but I couldn’t move as a glowing presence came at me. Then it turned into a man. Someone I used to know who died. I was paralyzed and couldn’t open my mouth.”
“Hm,” he says.
“Doctor, I don’t believe in ghosts and all that spiritual nonsense, but I wonder what is going wrong with my head. I rarely have dreams. Having one that was so lifelike this morning was very strange for me.”
He clears his throat and leans forward. “It sounds like you were experiencing sleep paralysis.”
I blink. That doesn’t sound good. “What is that and how do I get rid of it? How did I catch this paralysis in the first place?”
“It is not something you can catch or cure. Sleep paralysis is sometimes an underlying symptom of narcolepsy, but if you have never been diagnosed with that condition, it is probably a sign of stress.”
“Stress,” I repeat. “So, there is no cure?”
“The best treatment for sleep paralysis is ensuring that you keep good sleeping habits and reduce your level of stress. Has something significant happened in your life lately?”
“I usually sleep well. My life is very easy, you see. I’m a trophy wife.”
He chokes back a laugh. “You didn’t answer my question. Has something occurred in your life that has stressed you out more than usual?”
“No. Not that I can think of,” I lie.
“Sometimes, something in our subconscious can come out to play in the form of nightmares or waking dreams like you described. I don’t believe these are a cause of great concern. As you mentioned, it’s not a ghost or a spirit, it’s just a figment of your imagination. As troubling as they seem in the moment, they’re never dangerous and they go away within seconds.”
“This sleep paralysis means I’m not going crazy, then?”
He shakes his head. “No. You are not crazy. It’s something that happens to many people at least once in their lifetime.”
He checks his watch and looks at me hollowly. “My time’s just about up. You are more than welcome to book a full session with me another day. I should have some time next Friday.”
I nod. “Thank you for taking the time to explain this to me, Doctor. I’ll see myself out now.”
He leans back in his chair and studies me with an unreadable expression on his face. “Have a good day, Marie.”