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Sleeping Techniques for Insomniacs
I took a deep breath and gently closed my eyes.
One sheep, two sheep, three sheep…
I sighed. I didn’t know how much time passed, but I must’ve counted eight hundred and twenty six sheep before I finally decided to give up.
I frowned. So much for "Sleeping Techniques for Insomniacs." I could’ve spent that money on some decent drugstore makeup. I mean, I probably look like a dead (undead?) zombie right now with the major dark circles under my eyes. I’m pretty darn sure the zombie chic style isn’t very popular. At least not now. Heck, maybe not ever. I groaned. That’s what I get for being sleep deprived.
I stopped thinking long enough to hear the soft rhythmic ticking of the clock on my desk. What time is it? I quickly sat up and turned to glance at the clock. It was approximately 2 in the morning.
Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock…
Seconds felt like minutes and minutes felt like hours. I figured I wasn’t tired enough to fall asleep. With one swift motion, I slipped into my fuzzy bunny slippers and threw a blanket over my shoulders. I walked away from my bed and stared out the window.
I decided to look for stars, but the night sky appeared empty and unwelcoming, varying from shades of deep eggplant to pitch black. I listened, but the night was silent except for the rustling wind that sent shivers across my shoulders and chills down my spine. I quickly shut the window and held the blanket tighter around my body. The beautiful bright moon that once shone was now concealed by the dark gray clouds. I squinted, but there was not a single star in sight. All I could see was the faint silhouettes of tall pine trees.
I lived in this house for as long as I could remember. It was an old house, built across the woods.
In second grade, I envied the girl with the pretty brown hair tied in a silk ribbon. When she decided to be my friend, I was overly excited. Imagine the kid-version of me hopping up and down. My parents arranged a play date, but as soon as she got out of the car, her eyes widened and she refused to enter the house. Eventually, she left and I was disappointed.
“Mommy, daddy, how come she doesn’t want to play here?” I asked quietly.
My mother and father exchanged an amused glance and chuckled.
“Sweetie, it’s the same fear you get when you meet a new person or try a new food. She must feel nervous about a place she’s unfamiliar with.” My mother smiled as she gently gestured for me to sit next to her.
I sat down, preparing for story time when I asked, “Were you nervous when you moved here?”
My mother smiled again. “Yes, I was, but we were drawn in by the peculiar charm of the house. Even though it was old, we fell in love with it. We just had a feeling; it was perfect. This is where we agreed to settle down and start a family. That’s where you come in.”
My father placed his hand over my mother’s and she slowly closed her eyes and sighed. When she opened her eyes again, she stared far into the distance. A moment of nostalgia swept across her face as she reminisced about her younger days when she fell in love. My mother smiled at my father and my father smiled back.
A few years ago, trees were cut down to provide an area for the new park.
I remember my dad taking me to the park on Sunday afternoons. I recall the sweet scent of freshly cut grass, the joyous laughter of young children, and the taste of a melting popsicle on a sunny day. I used to wonder if the trees hurt when they were cut down. They must be ancient because their height never failed to amaze me. I would tilt my head and stare at the trees that seemed to dance with the clouds. Sometimes, I don’t even notice that I’m holding my breath until the back of my neck starts to hurt and then I stop to rest, but in my head, I’m still in awe, wondering what it’s like to be so old and tall. If wisdom comes with age, then those trees must be really dang smart.
But other people disagree. They’re afraid of the woods. No one stays after dark. They say that the woods are haunted. There are stories they tell. They say that when the night falls, there are terrifying creatures lurking among the trees, hungry and bloodthirsty. Some say that once you enter the night of the woods, you can never leave. There have been news reports of people gone missing. Witnesses claim that they were last seen by the woods, before the sun sets. A man was once rescued, but he had scratches on his face and strange carvings all over his body. The police questioned him, but all he could do was tremor and speak nonsense. His family suspected that the horrifying experience may have traumatized him and sent him to a mental hospital to receive help. Others simply just said that he turned crazy. Three weeks later, he committed suicide and-
I shivered again. Probably not the best idea to think about this at night. I stared out the window again and clutched onto the wrap of the blanket. I yawned and I felt my eyelids getting heavy. I must be feeling tired. I hurried back to my bed and crawled under the covers. Then I fell asleep.
Sigh. Did I wake up again? Well, everything’s still dark. How many hours did I sleep?
I tried to sit up and look at my clock. But I couldn’t. I tried to turn to my left. I tried to turn to my right. I couldn’t move.
What the heck? Am I dreaming or something? Of course it’s not a dream, this is exactly how my room looks. That’s the ceiling, that’s the paint on the wall chipping, that’s the window my dad couldn’t fix and that’s the ugly green sweater that my aunt got me last Christmas. I know I should be thankful, but it’s all bulky and ragged. Even the thought of it makes me itch. And it’s not even a traditional festive green. It’s like a cross between olive and-
I winced as a terrible stinging sensation paralyzed my entire body. I tried to move my pinky finger, but it started burning even more. I tried to kick with my left leg, but it wasn’t responding. It reminded me of competitive cheerleading in seventh grade, when I tried to do a flip but ending up spraining my ankle. It hurt back then when I tried to move it, but at this moment, everything felt painful to the touch.
What the heck is going on? Is this real or am I just-
There was something lurking over me. I felt it before I saw it. It was larger than a small child, but no larger than a man. It was heavy too. I felt as though a ton of jagged rocks were crushing my legs. The pressure increased until it reached my stomach. Then I saw it and I gasped.
I wanted to kick and punch, but my body was paralyzed and I couldn’t move. I wanted to scream, but I opened my mouth and no sound came out.
It was dark and ugly and had no face. It was a black hooded figure with no definite structure or shape. All I could see was its gleaming white eyes, reminding me of a dead person. Unlike human eyes, they had no irises. Their eyes were utterly white, except for the splotches of scarlet blood and the small black pupil in the center of each eye, blazing with hatred and desire. It was a monster.
Adrenaline rushed through my blood as my heart pounded with superhuman speed. Thoughts raced through my mind and I felt like I was driven to the state of insanity. A cold shiver ran down my spine, but my skin was burning on fire! I could hear my heart thumping with such intensity that my eardrums hurt. I smelled fear. My fear. My mouth felt dry, but all I could taste was my own fear.
Please, anyone! Help me! Make it go away! Anyone! Help me, please!
As it came closer, it pushed down hard on my chest. I could hardly breathe. There was a sick numbness that I couldn’t fight. It felt like I was dying. I started gasping for air and I became lightheaded. Suddenly, I felt a sharp pierce into my stomach and my eyes widened. It was like a pointed dagger jabbed into my stomach, cut through my skin, and ripped my organs out! I wanted to yelp, I wanted to scream, I wanted to cry. It was the most excruciating pain in my body and at that moment, I really wanted to die.
I opened my eyes again and it was gone. There was only the darkness of the night and the cool wind that blew across my forehead. I quickly sat up, gasping for air, choking and coughing. Sweat trickled from my forehead down to my neck. My palms were sweaty and shaky and I couldn’t manage to hold still. It was like I could still feel its presence, burned into the back of my mind. I didn’t realize I was crying until I tasted the salty tears running down my cheeks.
I jumped out of bed and ran across the hall. I clutched the blanket with one hand and gently knocked with the other.
“Mom? Dad? I can’t sleep,” my voice came out in a hoarse whisper.
No response. I pressed my right ear against the door. I heard maniacal laughter.
“Mom? Dad?” I called again. I twisted the door knob and pushed the door open.
The horrifying sight made my knees tremble and my stomach churn. I noticed that the carpeted floors were soaked with blood as I caught a glimpse of a lifeless body. Limbs were pulled apart and fingers were missing from the corpse’s pale hands. I gawked and quickly clamped my hand over my mouth. Their heads slowly turned around, glaring at me with their ghastly eyes that pierced into my soul. My father snapped the corpse’s head and bit into the flesh beneath the chin. My mother’s bloody lips curved into a wicked smirk.
“Would you like to join, sweetie?” Her sharp teeth snarled.