Zombie Spiders on MDMA
You didn’t even wake me this time. I think I just woke up because, somehow, I knew you weren’t there. I walked down the hallway to the bathroom and saw the door was closed and the light on. I could hear you sobbing but I knew there was nothing I could do, so I went to the kitchen and made tea.
I made a cup for you and left it outside the bathroom door.
‘There’s a cup of tea for you here.’ I said, uselessly, as I set it down on the floor. Then I went back to bed and waited for you.
Sometimes, when I was a kid, I would wake in the night, completely unable to move. The paralysis was often accompanied by the presence of a figure, standing over my bed. On more than one occasion it was my mother - hovering in midair - doing the ironing.
The feeling of helplessness and dread was overwhelming. I would try to communicate with my limbs, try to break the grip of whatever had hold of me but no matter how hard I tried I just could not move.
Then all of a sudden I’d be free, my legs would jerk and kick spasmodically and I’d wrench the duvet off my chest. The figure would melt away but the sweat and the panic would stay with me for a good while.
I told my dad about my night terrors and he had a way of explaining it to me.
‘Your mind thinks it’s still asleep so it hasn't told your body to wake up yet.’ He said. ‘Once it catches up it realises you’re awake and then you can move. The in-between bit is scary though.’
To illustrate his point he took me out to the garden, opened the lid of the compost bin and told me to look inside. It was a miniature forest world - full of hedge cuttings and leaves and draped with fine cotton sheets of spider’s webs. The main inhabitant was a huge brown spider, which slowly retreated in to its shadowy hiding place as we watched.
‘Spiders don’t have brains.’ My dad informed me. ‘They’re just powered by a central nervous system. They can sense danger, that’s why he moved when we opened the lid. That’s what’s happening to you at night. It’s called Hyper-Vigilance and it’s just your brain acting on impulse because it’s confused and feels threatened. Ok?’
This made absolutely no fucking sense whatsoever. I was a sensitive kid with what you would call an ‘overactive imagination’ and now I had to worry about zombie spiders as well as the night time visits of a Succubus in the shape of my mother.
I’m going over all of this now, as I pull your warm body towards mine under the covers, in the darkness of our room. I’m wide awake and staring at the tiny red standby dot on our TV, imagining it’s some lonely, distant planet being sucked in to a black hole.
My hand is on your stomach because you say that it helps with the cramps. Maybe it’s just the warmth of my hand, but I think it’s because your body knows my touch. I visualise my hand taking the pain out of you, and in to me. Like some fucked up form of Reiki but in reverse. Because I want the pain - I’d take it all, if I could. And gradually, after a while, I can feel your body stop shaking.
As I listen to the rhythm of your breathing change, I realise you have finally drifted off to sleep. I hope that it is not haunted.
It took us a long time to get this far, even though the doctors said we were both healthy and shouldn’t have any problems. We did everything we could to help things along; took vitamins and supplements, quit drinking altogether, exercised more. Avoided turmeric, caffeine and high-mercury fish. But for all that, it is stress, we were told, which is the biggest inhibiting factor. Your body knows what to do but your mind is stopping it from working properly.
I remember all the times I lay awake after nights spent revelling in psychoactive chemicals, heart pounding my ribcage just as it is now, praying for sleep.
‘You’re tired.’ I would tell myself. ‘You body knows it needs to shut down but your mind is awake, try and turn it off.’ That never really worked though. Masturbation can help, Ketamine is your best bet. But with so much MDMA whirling around your brain you’re never really going to be able to sleep, all you can do is lean in to the fuzzy warm blackness and try to rest.
That’s what I do now.
I lean in to the unbearable sorrow and let it lead me in to pale lucid nightmares. Just got to ride it out.
You’re the only person I could ever sleep next to. I know we’re safe here in the darkness, but tomorrow we’ll have to get up and try to start again. We’ve come this far together, and there’s no way we can just turn around and go back. We’re off-grid now, lost in the hinterlands of our own future. So we keep going - powered by some blind will, some blinking synapses pushing us forward through the blankness, searching for some kind of joy.
We’ll need to go to the hospital tomorrow, just to get you checked out, so I will have to call in to work early to book the morning off. It will be routine, this is common in the first twelve weeks, nothing we could’ve done. It’s the third time for us now, so we know how it goes.
I look at the clock, it is 4:53AM. If I fall asleep now I’ll have two hours and seven minutes of sleep.
If we’re successful next time, I’ll be fifty-two on our child’s sixteenth birthday.
Rick White is a writer of fiction and poetry from Manchester, UK whose work has most recently been published in Storgy, Ellipsis Zine and Lunate Fiction. @ricketywhite
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