I could feel my eyes slowly open to the sound of the birds chirping, soft morning light coming in through the window slits left uncovered by the curtain. I tried my best to peek outside through my hospital room. The narrow little slit offering me with just enough information to help me the guage the scenery beyond. I could faintly make out a park, some of the children riding their bikes, others running around in a game of hide-and-seek. Young mothers looking at their adorable children with love and care ensuring their safety and at the same time building up a loving memory to be reveled in forever. I could see an old man, sitting all by himself with a newspaper wrinkled and rolled by his side, all the articles presumably read and digested. He had a chess set in front of him and he was laying down the whites for himself and the blacks for no one. Once he was done placing all the set pieces required by the game of two, he looked around. And he looked for a long time. Saddened by his defeat and unabilty to garner the interests of those around him who would share his love for chess, he began playing alone. First the black pawns, then the whites, till the time either one would win but ultimately it wouldn't matter because it was the old man who had lost. "Ah, you would like to go out there and challenge the old man for a bout of chess, wouldn't you?" he said with just a hint of silent menace in his voice. I turned to look at him with fear building up inside me till the point I laid my eyes upon him and then I screamed out loud in horror, jerking upright. Or so I thought. No voice came out. Neither did I jerk up. I could see and smell everything, but my hands wouldn't move, my mouth wouldn't open and I couldn't speak. I was frozen. Paralysed. Unmoving and unsettled, I felt lost. Death would have been a preferable option on the menu anyday, it seemed. More than him, the realisation of not being able to do anything shook me the most. I tried to gather my breath and looked at him again. He had a disgusting face but he wore an expression of amused annoyance. "You get distracted easily", he hissed with a tiny inkling of seething anger in his voice. I gasped, or rather I tried to, but as you perhaps guessed correctly I again couldn't. The black creature cocked his head to one said and said,"Hell-lo". He wore a hood but that was nowhere enough to hide the hideousness underneath. He had a long shallow face, with hollow cheeks, the shadows around his eyes blacker than his pupils. He was hairless and pale with crooked teeth and a sharp pointed nose. His long slender fingers held a scythe which otherwise would have looked harmless in the hand of any farmer but wielded by him, it looked quite fearful. "You can't move, my son", said another voice from the left, full of concern. A young boy stood there, looking at me with his puppy eyes that showed love and absolute empathy. The young boy continued, "Ignore him", pointing to the black creature with a slight tilt of his head. "Where am I and what is happening to me? Is it a dream? Or is it real?", I thought to myself tearfully and full of emotion, with my panic level soaring through the roof. "It is real enough, boy. You better believe it", said the black creature. "We can hear your thoughts. We are a part of you now", added the young boy. "Where is my family? My friends? My parents?", I thought with bile building up inside my throat. "All dead. All gone. Leaving you all alone here with us", answered the creature, an attempt to frighten plainly visible on his face. He moved towards me, shifting the scythe from his left hand to his right and sat on my bed. A bad rotten smell wafted from him and filled my nostrils with distaste. I tried to scrunch my nose, but again, I couldn't. He clutched my neck softly with his horrid disgusting fingers, the maggots emerging from his hand and crawling over my neck, his face close by mine and he whispered in my ears - "This is the beginning of your never-ending end, a hell from which no one will be able to break you out. You are doomed to suffer with me for the rest of your so called life, boy" I looked at the young boy beseechingly for help. But he only looked on with sad helplessness. He mouthed, "I am sorry" I turned to look at the black creature's eyes, my whole body filling with deep horror and aversion. I closed my eyes, trying hard to accept my fate with the harsh knowledge that I could not free myself from this repulsive shackles. My eyes burst open. I was in my bedroom instead of any hospital room, sweating all over. I stood up, threw away the blanket and went to the washroom. I splashed some cold tap water over my face to snap me out of this evil reverie. As I watched myself in the mirror, a ponderously disturbed thought arose in my mind. I slowly went to my room and looked all over, and then heaved a sigh of relief. It was empty, devoid of any black creature or that young boy. I sat on the edge of the bed, and realized that I was shivering. I wrapped myself with the blanket and tried to make sense of what I had experienced. It could have been a dream, but all of our dreams are in a way projections of our subconscious with a twist. Basically, in some minor elements, it relates to our life. Something that we have thought of, or experienced or seen. I hadn't seen any horror movies of late, nor had I witnessed any dreadful events recently. And then it hit me. Just the other day, I was randomly scrolling through the net and I had come upon an article of sleep paralysis. By definition, Sleep paralysis is a phenomenon in which an individual, either during falling asleep or awakening, temporarily experiences an inability to move, speak, or react. And these experiences, actually and without exaggeration, could be anything as explained by many people who have in reality gone through it. As I calmed myself down, an even more disturbing thought came to my mind - Was what I had seen merely a dream or my very own sleep paralysis?

Published by Shardul Khade