by Ronda Bout-Knott

I seemed to have awoken for no reason. It was pitch black in the room. There was no sound except the roar of blood pulsing through my brain. I strained to hear a muffled sound, as if through a wall, sounding like a voice recording played backwards. I turned my head this way and that to locate the source of the sound. I raised my eyebrows as if to hear better and it was then that I realized I couldn't see. I blinked my eyes to make sure they were open. I blinked hard and then tested my eye muscles, looking hard left then hard right. Nothing. I was either blind or I was in a very dark room.
Deafness and blindness were driven aside by panicky questions of : Where am I? When am I? What am I doing here? When the question of my sanity came around I had to hit the reset button. Think backward. Had I just awoken in a strange place? Don't know where I am. Can't see. I'm lying down. I think it's a bed. Could've been sleeping. Don't remember. Maybe I'm ill and having fever dreams. Don't feel sick. Maybe I'm still asleep and I'm dreaming. What would happen if I went to sleep in a dream? Could I go to sleep in a dream? I can't sleep, my nerves are tingling in my fingers and I have a slight nauseous feeling in my stomach.
I can't find the light. I can't find anything. I feel around under the covers on both sides of me. Nothing. I can't move my hands very far. I can't move from this spot. I can't get up. I don't know why. My body won't respond. I can move my head. I can move my toes and fingers but I can't get up.
That muffled sound again. Was it voices? Was it inside or outside my head? I couldn't tell for sure. I pinched myself. No, I wasn't dreaming, if the sensation of pain is any indication. My eyes are open. I can touch my face. Nothing clogging my ears. That sound again. No, not voices, a voice, low and garbled. I put my fingers in my ears. Yes, the sound was coming from outside my head.
I pulled my fingers out of my ears. I thought about checking the size of the room by making some kind of sound. Then I thought, what if I was being held prisoner by that voice? What if there were other hostiles about? Were there others sleeping in the room with me? I wouldn't want to alarm them. Why was I afraid? Why did I immediately assume I was in some sort of danger? Because it feels that way, that's why. I'm trusting my instinct on this one. What if . . . what was that!? I stared straight ahead into the darkness. There was something about two feet tall standing right next to the bed! I could almost make it out in my peripheral vision. Without showing any outward sign that I'd seen the thing, I kept staring straight ahead into the darkness. I didn't even want to blink my eyes. I couldn't bring myself to look in it's direction. I didn't want the thing to know I'd seen it. What'll I do now?!
Wait a minute, this is crazy! It couldn't be. It's just my vivid imagination. No, there it was again! I heard it! It made a sound - that sound - and it was right next to my bed. This was the source of that garbled noise I'd heard. This time it only made a tiny little sound but it was the same sound. And now it knows that I know it's there. I still don't look but I can sense it in my peripheral vision. Waiting there, gleeful in my paralyzing fear, it's ugly head just above the height of the mattress. It's laughing at me! I'm paralyzed and that's what scares me. I can't even take a swipe at it. This is too weird to be a dream - it's too real!
I was concentrating hard on picking that thing out of the darkness in my peripheral vision, when I'd finally had enough. I thought to myself, the way to overcome your fear is to face it. Maybe if I turn my head and face the critter the spell would be broken. So, I quickly turned my head and look right where it should've been. It wasn't there. Nothing. I had a good chuckle at myself. What a relief! I felt silly for being so afraid. I closed my eyes and turning my head forward again, laughed at myself. Now I could just go back to sleep and tell my friends about this weird dream. Then I heard that garbled laughter again. My eyes exploded open. There it was! On my chest! Squatting up there looking down at me laughing and pointing a long crooked finger at me. Then I felt the weight of it. It was just a little thing, about two feet tall, kind of skinny with, what appeared in the darkness to be, wrinkled black skin. It seemed way too heavy for its size. The thing laughed. It seemed to be getting heavier - yes, I'm sure of it now. I was increasing in weight, slowly but surely. It was getting harder to breathe. The thing laughed harder. I could only take short, hard-fought breaths now. There was no defensive tactic I could think of. I felt hot and panicky. The creature laughed even harder, holding its sides and pointing at me. It seemed to be thoroughly enjoying my suffering. I was fighting for every breath now. I couldn't get enough air now to call out for help. Not even enough for a pleaful cry to this thing crushing the wind out of me. I knew at that moment, the desperation of a drowning man. Hot fire shot through my jugular. Again, I heard the backward laughter of that demonic dwarf. There was a sizzling sound in my ears that always precedes unconsciousness. The loud, distant, metallic banging sound of my heart pounding in my ears. Slower and slower . . . hysterical laughter . . . distant choking . . . my face feels fat . . . tunnel vision . . . slower pounding . . . my eyes want to burst . . . heart bangs slower . . . slower . . . a hissing sound . . . laughing . . . darkness.

Way Out West © 1993 Martin Scherer. Venus & Mars © 1995 Martin Scherer. E-mail: