Suspended Animation; Syncopated Pandemonium

posted in: Childhood Posts | 0

The best part of a 24 hour day is usually the 8 hours you spend sleeping (or 2 if you’re me). Dreams make you who you are. More so than real life, according to me. In a social environment, or anywhere in the world really, you’re never really yourself. You find yourself accommodating your behaviour to the person you want to be, not the person you are. This is one of humanity’s greatest follies, and one that I have fallen for myself.

A dream, on the other hand, is a state of thought. It is when an amalgamation of experience and human instinct blend together to condense into what makes you, yourself. Some of my best experiences have been in dreams, and so have some of my worst.

Just last night, I experienced what could have been the most frightening moment of my existence. It was 4 AM in the morning, or night, whichever way you look at it. I was trying fall asleep. Everything was blissful since I laid down; David Gilmour’s mesmerizing voice in Je Crois Entendre Encore followed by a soothing lullaby combination of Wish You Were Here and finally Hushabye Mountain had placed me in an ideal setting to be able to sleep.

I found myself dozing off during the songs. They worked. I was finally half-woken by the clapping of an audience, which is by far the most annoying noise in a concert. I switched off my iPod and haphazardly placed it aside. I once again fell into the dream that I must have been dreaming.

The memory after that is vivid. It was not a lucid dream as I remember; I wasn’t self aware. A few moments later I found myself watching television. It was an interesting but boring show. I was paying attention, and liking it, but my mind was elsewhere. It must have been Masterchef Australia.

I was sitting on the sofa. Now, to understand what could have happened next, you must understand the setting. There are two pairs of three bulbs of lights attached to the ceiling. The one on my right was on. Towards the right from where you sit, there’s an enclosed balcony with sliding windows and maroon coloured blinds, but it was night, so they had no effect. Directly behind the sofa where you watch T.V is a wall with another sliding window. It was not day, and thus the room was bright. I remember the windows behind the sofa being open. It was night inside, but evening outside, and I can confirm that it wasn’t lucid, because I found that perfectly normal.

Now the window that was open is at an angle if you’re watching T.V. Just in your peripheral vision.

It was less of a laughter as time went by. A sarcastic laugh in a baritone voice. Then a cry for help from an injured man. Then a scream from an axe bearer on a murderistic rampage. One scream divided and multiplied and made two. Then there were more, and I became less and less conscious about everything around me as the voices grew louder. It was not a human anymore. It was a plethora of monstrous beasts. Out of pitch in an orchestra, a symphony of syncopated pandemonium. The battle cry of an army of a thousand. I wasn’t aware what was going on, and infact, I wasn’t even trying to. Think about the orchestra part of The Beatles’ A Day in the Life. Now add three dimensional surround sound and make the noise deafening. That’s what it sounded like, except in human voices. This was it, the universe was out to get me.

Sometime in that lapse of helplessness, I lost my sense of sight and direction. The room had dissolved. Everything was gone, except for the voices of a thousand devils and a mystic, blurry dim blue in the corner of my eye. The noise enveloped me. It was too much to bear. I was scared, my heart was probably beating faster than it ever did. To compare, it’s the feeling of having five trains come at you at the same time from different directions. I had lost everything. Is this what death feels like?

As I tried to escape the monsters that I heard, I bleeped into existence somewhere. I realised what I was. I had two hands and two legs, and a face and a body to join those. My eyes were barely open, but I could make out that the Death Orchestra was still trying to kill me. Somewhere around then did my mind stop deceiving me, and that deafening roar slowly synchronised into the noise of the fan. Almost too long a while later I realised that I was in bed, more scared than I had ever been. I tried to move, to set myself free and to relieve myself of the torturous experience I was going through. But that hand that I could barely locate wasn’t mine. Nor were the eyes which I saw through. The hand that I tried to move only responded back with a tingly sensation, akin to the one you get when it is numb. It occurred to me what happened; I was trapped inside a body that didn’t move.

Needless to say, I panicked. I was scared, not of death, but of the fact that I was stuck in the form of something that resembled a human being, and I was not able to escape. My mind had wandered off to distant places, and when it tried to come back to the body it belonged to, the door was locked. By now the Death Orchestra had stopped playing, only to be replaced by an equally loud but distorted noise, which was the fan of course. I tried to look at my surroundings. The blue light in the corner of my eye, I could make out, was the window on the other side of the bedroom. I gave up the struggle. The world had won. I was dead.


If God was a saviour, and if I believed in God, then he was in that room with me right there. Suddenly I could move again. It was both the best and worst feeling in my life. I don’t remember how long it lasted, but it’s safe to say that it was an enlightening experience. Now I know what it feels like to hallucinate, to have your mind play tricks on you. I knew what had happened, then and there. Since it was 4 AM, it was the time when I exited my first REM sleep cycle. Somewhere between then, I had sleep paralysis

I always wanted to know what it felt like. I’d already had a lucid dream in the past, it was awesome. Sleep paralysis, on the other hand, is something I never want to happen again. Last night was literally the most frightening thing that has ever happened to me. But if I can, I don’t mind it happening something later in the future. For science, I say.

Follow Upamanyu Acharya:

IIM Ahmedabad MBA 2021. My hobbies include being vague, bending rules, time-travel, and embellishment of words. This is my personal blog where I write on topics ranging from blockchain, to leadership skills and the consistency of jam.

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