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Sounds of Somnambulism


The period between consciousness and unconsciousness is the most dangerous, most terrifying time. You consciously know that you are not yet asleep and you can still hear and think, but your eyes remain closed and your body cannot move. You fall into a half dream state, where it's as if you were daydreaming and you think you can control the actions in your dream, but that is untrue. You may see yourself as a third person in your dream and think you can control your actions, but you cannot. Only by forcing yourself awake do you truly have control.

On the precipice of sleep, that is when the voices come.

I would hear them intermittently throughout my childhood. These occasions lessened as I grew older, but they never fully went away. As a young child, I told no one about it. Something like that parents would dismiss as fantasy, like a monster in the closet. But who is to say that there are no monsters in this world? Or that a human monster was not waiting in the closet? Parents should always take such claims seriously, or the repercussions could be dire indeed. My parents only knew that I occasionally suffered from headaches, nothing unusual. I would not admit to them how terrible those headaches could be.

Perhaps I should not call them voices - the words were indistinguishable. It was more like hundreds of voices - as if a large crowd spoke at a murmur, then each person raised his or her voice in order to be heard over the others, resulting in a loud unintelligible roar. Sometimes I was able to ignore the clamor between my ears and drift into an uneasy slumber, but more often I had to force myself awake so that what remained of my conscious mind would not be sucked into that chaos. I felt sure that if I succumbed to those voices, if I could hear what they wanted, I would surely go insane.

There were also times that I thought I saw a crack in this world. These were the times when the voices were inordinately loud. Such immense pressure built within my skull that I felt my brain would surely burst from my orifices. I would force open my eyes and see a red jagged crack. It seemed the voices emanated from that fissure and were manifested physically as vibrating red light that pulsated and grew and enveloped my room. Luckily, these instances were rare. Rather they were rare until recently.

But because of these incidents, I naturally developed an interest in the occult. Was it possible that what I heard were voices from the great beyond? Spirits that still had ties to this earthly plane with an unresolved issue that bound them. Maybe these restless spirits sought to speak through me. Maybe they wanted vengeance.

Could the voices be extraterrestrial? Maybe an intelligent life form was using telepathy to speak to the human race. Maybe I couldn't understand the voices because they were not in a human language. Maybe they were from another dimension rather than another planet. Maybe the red crack I saw was a shift in the space-time continuum. Maybe I was picking up radio or television signals with my fillings. I tried to think of all the possibilities, the most likely and the most bizarre. But there was no way to test any of my theories.

As an adolescent, I held séances with a few friends who were also interest in the occult. We even played with one of those silly ouiji boards, all to no avail. No spirits appeared to us; no one was possessed; no one saw or heard anything. They claimed to be believers, but when I finally told them about my own experiences, they did not believe me. Most of them thought I was seeking attention, that by making up such a preposterous story I would be someone special.

Another so called friend suggested that I possibly suffered from migraines, or was schizophrenic, and should see a doctor or shrink. She was currently seeing a shrink because of her parents' divorce and could help me set up an appointment. She encouraged me to speak to my parents, and despite my better judgment, I did.

They were horrified that something could be wrong with their only son, but they mollified themselves with the belief that the problem was fixable - an organic problem, not a mental one. So I was analyzed and medicated, despite my protests that these voices were less and less frequent and not a problem. But the fact that I had heard voices at all, instantly categorized me as crazy.

First the doctor ran me through a battery of tests. He drew countless vials of blood, checking for every conceivable toxin or disease. He subjected me to a CAT scan and MRI, whatever newest technology was available that the insurance company was willing to pay for. He found nothing wrong with my blood or brain and based on my symptoms diagnosed me as having migraine headaches which are often associated with auras. He told me that the voices I thought I heard and the red light I thought I saw are quite common auras. He explained that fortification spectra are seen as flashing, brightly colored lights, usually starting in the middle of the visual field and progressing outward, while scotoma was a hole in the visual field, also known as a blind spot. Either could describe the red crack I saw. He added that auras could be auditory hallucinations, abnormal tastes and smells, explaining the voices I heard. But an aura normally precedes the headache, or occurs simultaneously with the headache, while I felt that my headache was caused by the auras. But the doctor said some people do experience the auras without the headaches. So everything was explained.

He gave me analgesics for the headaches, which was pointless since it wasn't the pain (except on those rare occasions) that bothered me. I took them anyway but they did nothing to mitigate the voices. Then he gave me a triptan drug which I was supposed to take when I felt the symptoms. But in order to take the drug, I had to force myself awake and the symptoms would go away anyway. Still I took them and all they did was make me drowsy, which defeated the purpose since the voices came when I was on the verge of sleep. My symptoms did not fit any classic migraine profile, nor was any treatment effective. Why only at night, when I'm just about to fall asleep? Why indistinguishable voices? Why a red crack? Why no other hallucinations?

Then it was onto the nut doctor and more tests that came back negative - no brain lesions or tumors, normal dopamine levels, nothing. Nor did I exhibit the classic symptoms of a paranoid (maybe on a bad day) or disorganized (my room begs to differ) or catatonic (only during history class) schizophrenic. The shrink pried into my personal life, trying to blame my parents or society for my problems. But he found all was relatively well in those areas (no Oedipal complex, no antisocial behavior) so he decided that simple stress heightened a fundamentally anxious personality type - that must be the cause, easily remedied by tranquilizers and sedatives. That apparently was the pill popping psych doc's answer to everything. It turned out my friend was on tranqs too.

Again the drugs just made me sleepy, but it was a false tiredness, and did not help me sleep at all. In fact, the drugs just kept me in a daze during the day, and prevented me from sleeping soundly at night. They kept me in that limbo state between consciousness and unconsciousness and made things worse. The voices returned more frequently, and so did the headaches, and the red crack.

I stopped taking the medications and seeing the shrink and pretended all was well. I told them all that my headaches were gone, that I heard no voices, saw no fissures in mid air. I was fine, just fine. So I was able to continue high school, for a while anyway.

But despite stopping the drugs, the voices continued, this time with a vengeance. I could not sleep any more. I forced myself to wake up each time I heard the voices - always on the verge of sleep. I probably did fall asleep for a few minutes here and there, but I felt as if I had not gotten a wink of sleep at all. This continued for weeks. Awake, drifting off, the loud roar, awake, it was a cycle throughout the night. And since I could not sleep at night, my fatigue carried over to the day. I began to hear the voices while drifting off during monotonous lectures on American history by my overweight, balding high school teacher, who dressed only in three piece suits and thought it was still the nineteenth century. I supposed I should be grateful that the voices kept me awake during his lectures, otherwise he would have thrown his chalk at me like he did with so many others.

I had always tried to ignore the voices. I never tried to listen to the words, never tried to unscramble the noises or concentrate my hearing. I was always too afraid.

But now the voices were getting clearer, more demanding.

And just two months ago, I finally understood what the voices were saying.

"Kill them. Kill them! KILL THEM!"

You can use practically anything in a room to kill someone. A chair, a fork, a pen, a crochet hook, the alarm clock, even something as soft as a pillow or as innocent as a little plush toy. It's all in how you do it. But why bother when there's usually a set of knives in the kitchen. I was tall and large and strong for my age. My parents never stood a chance.

I was conscious of what I was doing yet unable to control myself. I knew it was wrong but I couldn't stop. I had to obey the voices. I had to, or they wouldn't stop.

Brick, burgundy, carmine, cerise, cherry, crimson, garnet, magenta, maroon, ruby, rust, scarlet, vermilion, wine - all fancy words authors with vivid color palettes use to describe blood, but for all their purple prose, the base color is still red. Arching arterial spurts of red painted patterns on the white walls of my parents' bedroom. I hated myself more and more with each stab, each slice, each blow, but I couldn't stop until the voices stopped. I finally collapsed out of exhaustion.

I slept for I don't know how long. It must have been for days. I was woken by a policeman, or rather several policemen. One woke me while three others had their guns pointed at me.

"Police, tell us what happened here," said the one who woke me. I peered at him through hazy eyes and shook my head. For a minute I could not remembered what happened. Then I saw one of the cops carefully place a large knife into a Ziploc bag. I looked around and saw that I was lying in a pool of half dried crusted blood. It all came back to me and I began to scream soundlessly.

I was underage and had no criminal record, and because of my medical and psychological history, they committed me to the nuthouse, also politely called the mental correctional facility. Awake day and night, I grieved and berated myself. From my sincere grief and wailing, they thought that I might be a danger to myself, so now they keep me locked up and sedated.

That was the worse thing they could have done. With the sedatives, I am never fully awake. I drift into the half-sleep mode. My eyes are closed but instead of black darkness, from my memories of blood, all I can see is red, as if a red light shone through my eyelids.

The voices come again but now it's different. I feel myself forming the words again and again within my mind. I feel as if my words are traversing time and space. And now I know that the voices I've heard all my life was a single voice from a single source, but from various points in time.

"Don't kill them. Don't kill them! DON'T."




Author's Notes: Based on real life experience. There's been a handful of times in my life when on the verge of sleep I hear such clamor I have to force myself awake. Very strange and scary.