Alas, no nightmares. But being in that mindset, setting myself up, did make me hyper aware of my surroundings before sleep and was still quite the experience.
The first thing that surprised me was how hesitant I was to turn off that last light. My hand is heavy and tense and the movement is forced and laborious. Fear of the dark is not, as our parents would like us to believe when we are children, an irrational fear. It is deeply rooted in the DNA of our ancestors. It is a natural fear that teaches us to value the ability to survey our surroundings and to take comfort and courage in the known. In the dark we are blind and vulnerable. Most of us nowadays forget what true, complete darkness looks like unless we visit a science museum or Ripley’s Believe It or Not. Our nights are filled with the small creature comforts of ambient lights. From our laptops, cell phones, chargers, the street outside, starlight, moonlight, even the light LED glow of alarm clocks can provide us with just enough light to distinguish shapes, friends, or foes. But for last night’s experiment I took away everything. I closed the windows and put the thick blinds to block any outside light. Not that there were much, just any faint glows from the other hotel rooms. The TV, which normally stays on for the light and the noise, was off. I placed my laptop in my bag. Unplugged the alarm clock. The darkness I experienced last night as as close to true darkness as I could get. I would open my eyes, then close them, and realize I no longer knew the difference. I couldn’t even see the pillow below my face. If possible, I would have tried sleeping with my eyes closed, or confusing myself by blinking so many times I might forget which was which.
As you can see by the diagram, there are two beds and one wall is almost completely window. I decided to sleep on Bed 2 because I thought being close to the window might be a bit more terrifying. Something peering through, or tapping on the glass, etc. I slept facing the window wall. This created another opportunity for a sense of paranoia and dread, the lack of awareness behind me. I did not change direction at all last night. Last thing I wanted was to turn on my side and see another shape inhabiting the other bed! I was definitely thinking about that possibility before falling asleep.
Aside from the deprivation of my sense of sight and the feeling of dreading finding something behind me, the last thing I noticed was how much more sensitive I was to sound. If you ever feel lonely, watch a scary movie and stay in the dark by yourself. You’ll swear you’re not alone. I expected complete silence. But when I did hear things, I felt a sharp electricity run through my body. A chill completely up and down my spine. A drop in body temperature. A sharp intake of breath. An ‘oh my god’ moment where you consider for a split second if everything you thought wasn’t real was suddenly real.
Even though the ride was certainly thrilling, the destination ended up being just another garbled, innocent, though complicated dream. Some pregnancies, fortune tellers with their dream catchers, hippies. I will say I didn’t sleep through the night though. I think I remember waking up once or twice, with brief different dreams with each interruption. No cold sweats or panic though.
And to be completely honest, I didn’t want any surprises or plot twists, so when I woke up this morning the first thing I did was pinch myself real hard! Glad to say I’m back in the real world.