I woke up screaming again last night.
It doesn't happen too often, though I wake up all the time with a similar sense of terror, scanning the room and blinking my eyes to try to see whatever it is I perceived while sleeping that woke me up.
Usually I'm not screaming. Usually I'm silent, heart pounding, breathing deliberately, waiting for the film to clear out of my vision, waiting for the light to pour into the room, waiting for whatever it was to go away. I huddle under my sheets. I'm startled, but I'm not quite awake.
A few times I've called out things like "Hello?" and "What do you want?" and "Hey! Hey! Hey!", the latter usually accompanied by jumping out of bed and into the kitchen or bathroom, turning on a light to see that I'm, in fact, alone.
But this time, I screamed, a horror movie scream, an automatic cry of terror that couldn't be rehearsed or exaggerated, for no one's benefit other than my own.
I was staring at the window panes across from my bed. I didn't check what time it was, but I could see that it was still dark. I'd already woken up a few times since falling asleep that night, a normal routine, one or two hours into the night's sleep.
Or maybe 3 a.m. It often seems to be 3 a.m.
I was blinking at a figure that might've been standing between my two windows, in front of a narrow stretch of wall.
The windows have never been replaced in this 1929 apartment building.
Perhaps its ghosts have not been displaced either.
Since others have suggested that it's all in my head, I usually don't try to fight it. I simply wait for it to pass. I close my eyes to see if I can fall back asleep, to see if I'm still dreaming, to see what dreams may come.
When I do sleep again, I don't have nightmares. It's not the stuff of dreams that scares me. It's the waking hours.
It's the waking up.
The next day, on days like today, I wait all day to go to bed at night. I'm tired, and the sleep I get never seems to be enough.
But when I allow myself to fall into slumber, I expose myself to these terrors of the night.
I wonder, when I screamed, if my neighbors heard me. If anyone was worried about me. If I scared something away.
I wonder when it will come back, and what it will do next.
I wonder what will happen, when screaming does no good.
That Which Haunts Me