A/N: No real explanation for this one, aside from the fact that, yes, it does stem a bit from my own experiences with sleep paralysis. Also, I think this could be truthfully considered my first real (Non-Slenderman-related) Creepypasta. Enjoy.
You ever just wake up one morning, and just… lie there, staring at the wall, the ceiling, whatever it is your eyes see first? You know, just barely being awake, and not getting up just yet for a couple minutes. You just lie there in bed, half-aware, maybe not even sure if you're fully awake just yet, and let your mind slowly warm up and start to function for the waking world again.
That's when you realize you can't really move. But it's not a fully horrible feeling, not really, although you might feel a bit creeped out by it once you wake up all the way. And eventually, the feeling passes, all your limbs seem able to flex again, and you're able to get up and start your day, thinking little of it.
They call that 'sleep paralysis'. I guess it's supposedly some evolutionary holdover from some past link on the chain. Apparently, it keeps us from walking around and moving while we're asleep, and if it fails, you start sleepwalking, but I'm no sleep doctor or anything. And hell, I guess you could say that it's a good thing we're not able to move much when we sleep. I mean, what if you could, and you got yourself killed because you were dreaming that you could fly and you jumped off a balcony or something? Now that's a rude wake-up call. So yeah, thanks brain, I appreciate the fact that you keep me from doing stupid shit during the night that could get me killed. Thanks for helping me not die horribly.
But the thing is, there's another kind of feeling that you can have when you just wake up, and it's even worse. Sometimes when you've just woken up, you get a very… different feeling, one of gnawing, nagging doubt and discomfort. A feeling like you might not actually be alone in your room. Hell, sometimes it's an outright fear that something's there, and then you realize you can't move an inch.
They call that 'sleep paralysis' too, and they tell you it's perfectly normal. They say it happens right out of the blue just like the other kind does, usually after a nightmare or something. But see, there's something that they won't tell you about it, because they don't want you to panic and call attention to it.
True sleep paralysis should only leave you feeling groggy, and maybe a little disoriented. Not terrified.
Do you know why we call bad dreams 'nightmares'? It's because, a really long time ago, people used to believe in these ugly hags that would sneak into your bedroom at night, and would sit on your chest and make you dream horrible things. Awful things. Things you despised about yourself, things you dreaded the most. Things far, far worse than the monster under the bed.
They called it being 'hag-ridden', and they thought it was a power that witches had because of fraternization with Satan.
And these hags? They weren't like actual old crony women or those stereotypical witches you see on Halloween decorations. No, these hags were more like hideous demonic creatures with nasty, matted hair and long, scratchy, dirty claws. They had sick grey skin mottles with patches of necrotic black, and their eyes were little more than dull, soulless voids, ringed with dark bags from sleeplessness. They literally called them 'Night Mares', and supposedly they were once human beings that were cursed by other Night Mares with the inability to ever sleep again. It drove them mad, mutated their bodies, and warped their souls. And so, jealous of humans and their ability to sleep soundly at night, they took to tormenting people in their sleep, feeding off their fear and giving terrible nightmares. The kind you want desperately to shake yourself awake from, but can't.
The legend goes that the 'Night Mares' would creep into your house at night, moving in with the shadows as the sun went down, and would wait for everyone to fall asleep. Then they'd slink, catlike, into someone's bedroom – usually the child's bedroom, but sometimes an adult's – and crawl onto the bed, settling and curling onto the resting victim's chest. They'd lean over and pin you down, whispering every awful thing they could think of into your ear and running their claws through your hair, their presence alone enough to keep you asleep and dreaming for hours. So subtle were their actions that you'd never know the difference, not until you woke up and realized what a horrible dream you'd had – and all the better for them.
But sometimes, a victim would wake up somehow, usually because the dream scared them awake, before the Night Mare had finished eating. And when that happened, it would have to leave quickly to hide in a closet or under a bed, invisible to the human eye unless it wished for you to see it. There, it would wait to see if you'd go back to sleep or not, and it could wait as long as it needed to, sometimes hours, sometimes even for days after the sleep paralysis wore off. After all, you have to go back to sleep eventually, and they were very patient, always invisibly watching you and waiting until you finally returned to slumber.
But even though you might not be able to see them, there was one group of people who could. Children. The Night Mares hated children more than any other human being, because they couldn't hide from them, and an alarmed child could be more than enough to keep their parents alert, even if they didn't believe them.
A good thing for the Night Mares, then, that they could camouflage themselves to children in the daytime hours as helpful strangers, and even blank memories if someone saw what they truly were. Now you know why your parents told you never to talk to strangers. And why you can't recall why you wake up so scared and paralyzed, or why your children want you to check the closet for bogeymen before bed.
Humans are really kind of strange, aren't we? We tend to dismiss things we don't want to hear as mere folklore or fairy tales, even as scientific impossibilities. Even our brains have a built-in safety feature when we encounter things we don't need or want to know, by making us forget in order to protect us. It's some silly belief we grew out of, we say, and the older we grow, the more we let ourselves forget. After all, ignorance is bliss, right?
They think so, too.
And they don't forget.