Monday, November 20, 2023

Spoils of War

I grunted.

“Okay, that’s more like a short, sharp, uhn,” the doctor said, “not a groan.”

“Right, a grunt.”

“Okay. And after you were able to make that noise you could move again?”

“Yes.” I was trying my best to be patient with the doc as he flipped back a page in his notebook.

“You said, ‘I couldn’t move at all, as if I was being held down.’ Describe a bit more what that felt like, and how much of your body was affected. Your legs and arms? Your hands and feet? Your head…”

I described the feeling again. I was held down by something that was wrapped completely around my body. My feet didn’t feel bound, nor my head, but I couldn’t move those either.

He jotted some notes on another page, then asked, “Were your eyes open? Did you see or hear anything?”

“I… I don’t know if my eyes were open before I grunted. I didn’t see anything or hear anything out of the ordinary.”

“Ah, ‘out of the ordinary’, what does that mean?”

I explained that my bedroom faces a busy street. Cars drive by all hours which cause various motion lights to turn on (so annoying my neighbor’s lights, shining directly into my room). I had hung blackout curtains to keep my room very dark throughout the night and into the early morning hours when my neighbors are driving off to work.

“Um,” I said, “I don’t recall hearing my dog’s breathing. She usually snores and, and I don’t remember hearing her until I was able to open my eyes.”

“Were you frightened?”

I wanted to tell him that was a silly question.

“Not really. I remember reading something about people not being able to move when they wake up.”

“It’s called sleep paralysis,” the doc said. “The causes are associated with irregular sleep patterns, insomnia, PTSD. I can prescribe some sleep aids for you, but we should get you started with an over the counter product first. We can move to a prescription if necessary.”

“I don’t want any sleep aids.”

“But you said that you haven’t been sleeping well for quite a while. Several weeks.”

“I get enough sleep. When I was a soldier I learned to function just fine on a few naps a day.”

“Ah, but you’re not a soldier now, and that’s not enough sleep for an older adult such as yourself. You said that," he checked his notes again, "you went to bed just after midnight, woke up around 2 am, read a book for a while, then woke up again at 4:44 am. And just a few seconds after looking at the clock you experienced the paralysis. That’s maybe four hours of sleep, which is half as much as you should be getting every night.”

“Eight hours?” Nobody gets eight hours, I thought to myself.

“Closer to nine is better.” The doc sighed. “What would you like me to do?”

I took a deep breath, reiterated that I didn’t want any sleep aids, and that I was more comfortable just ignoring it for now. If it happened again I would come back to see him.

“Try for seven at least,” he said, holding the door for me.

I left the doctor’s office feeling annoyed for having gone to see him after just one odd experience. The feeling increased as I drove home.

My dog greeted me at the door with her usual bouncing and tail wagging, which helped settle my irritation. I went about my day, worked a bit in the garden, walked the dog around the neighborhood, did a bit of reading. After dinner I found myself on the couch, dozing a little through the news, and then I turned on a movie. It was nearing midnight when I let the dog out one last time, cleaned up the kitchen, and went to bed.

I lay there with my head full of thoughts that kept circling around and around. I could hear my dog climb into her bed at the foot of mine. I thought about the movie’s plot holes, how the circular argument of traveling back in time to warn yourself just didn’t make sense. My dog began to snore and my eyelids drooped.

It was dark. My body was wrapped in something tight, and I couldn’t move. I couldn’t speak, but I could hear something. A scraping, accompanied by a low moan. I couldn’t open my eyes nor turn my head to determine where the noise was coming from. There was a flash of light, then another. Then a click. I grunted and opened my eyes, and the scraping and moaning stopped.

I sat up in my bed and turned on the lamp. My dog was still sleeping, but apparently having a bad dream. I could hear her toenails moving against her bed, and she let out several little whimpers.

“It’s okay girl, you’re safe. You’re okay,” I said, making my voice gentle but loud enough so that she could hear me. She shifted in her bed and then huffed.

“Good girl. You're a very good girl.” I laid back down, turned off the light and looked at the clock. 4:44. I turned the light back on.

“Nope, not gonna happen again,” I said. Eight hours, how the fuck am I gonna sleep for eight hours straight?

I willed myself to turn off the light, close my eyes, and listen to my dog’s breathing slow down. In and out, in and out, in and …

My body was wrapped in something tight. My eyes were closed, and I couldn’t move or speak.

“More sedatives doctor?”

“No, let’s wait awhile and observe.”

The woman’s voice was close. So was the man’s.

“Are you sure?” she asked. “We can't manage a cascading effect. We don’t have enough orderlies.”

“I’m sure.” He was sounding quite annoyed with the woman. “They’ve all been harnessed in their cots, We’ve double checked the straps. We need to wean them off the drugs to help them back to reality.”

I felt a hand on my shoulder, then fingers at my neck. I wanted to scream.

“Ah, this one is waking up,” he said. The fingers lifted.

I grunted, and as my eyes fluttered open I heard a voice disappear into the dark.

“That’s disappointing. Ten milligrams of Haloperidol please. We’ll try again tomorrow.”

 <word count: 1063>

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