Knock. Knock. Knock.
A slight tapping sound seeps into the room as darkness engulfs the room. The noises from the outside world become audible as soon as I wish to sleep as if your mind wants something to be distracted about. My family is fast asleep by this time and it feels I am alone in the house.
It is common for me to struggle to sleep these days. As I lay motionless on my bed, facing the wall in my room, only the world outside the room seemed to exist. I am the world’s omniscient but impartial observer, trying to hear what goes on in the places where I do not exist.
There are always noises of people talking far away, who whisper to each other as if mindful to not disturb anyone. How come their whispers reach my house? And what do they even talk about, at this time of the day? Still, it feels there are people awake at night too. I also hear cars whizzing past roads that come close but don’t turn towards our town. Somehow these people know to skip these towns and not disturb those who stay here, especially at night.
There is someone knocking at the window glass. At least, it sounds like that to me today. My mind has a habit of playing tricks on me especially during these nights of overanxious sleepnesses. Like, yesterday I imagined murder of crows fighting to chisel away the meat from the bones of a dead-rat from the distant kaw-kawing sounds.
As these sounds weigh on my mind, I become restless and wake up to explore. As if to tell my mind — see it is nothing, don’t be irrational. I stood up and decided to grab a glass of water from the kitchen below. Somehow I feel parched. As I walked past my parent’s bedroom, I feel a sense that I should look if they are awake or asleep. It is stupid though. There is no point in disturbing them so late at night.
The sound of filling my bottle echoes in the empty kitchen which looks out towards a big garden in front of our house. I sense if someone is standing there and calling out my name. Well, that’s stupid. I focus on the increasing pitch of water filling the bottle and almost run out the kitchen as soon as it is done, switching the light off behind my back.
The home is eerily silent tonight of all days. I can usually hear my father snoring happily in his deep sleep but today there was no noise emanating from their room. It is as if, my family has turned into mannequins that cannot move or make a sound. I feel the walls of my home closing in and I rush back upstairs to my room. These imaginations are going out of hand as if this is a lucid dream I am losing control of.
I decide to just go back to sleep and wait for this weird night/dream to end. Scared, I pull my blanket over my face, deciding to ignore the outside of my body completely. Hopefully, sleep shall arrive soon.
I am not sure how much time has passed since I went to grab my water bottle. I feel sweaty inside this blanket which seems to be heavier than before. I cannot hope to remove my blanket from my body as I fear what lies outside. It feels something lies on top of my blanket breathing down on me, calling me to face them finally. I know none of this is real but my gut tells me to stay inside the blanket. They cannot hurt you if you don’t see them. They are not real as long as you keep your eyes closed.
I have learned to rely on my gut even if I know all this is a conjured sequence dreamt by my underslept brain. I focus all on my energy to look inside my being and not acknowledge the outside world or their existence. Keeping at this, I slowly tire. It seems like sleep might finally be here as I begin to lose consciousness.
I wake up again, to find myself in my room with my light on. Phewww, it felt like I woke up from a bad dream. These lucid dreams are getting out of hand and I should stop flirting with them for my own mental health. It seemed like a lot of time has passed and it might be morning again but I see the clock to check. It shows 3:00 am. Time is dilated inside dreams.
I feel relaxed as if a weight has been lifted from my chest. This was an interesting dream and I start thinking what would it mean if it were real. Well, if there was an actual ghost outside how would I really react? Maybe I will finally start believing in God and back down from my self-indulgent nihilism about the world. The dream was scary, but at some level seeing an actual ghost would be really comforting. Maybe once I die, I can keep on watching over the world as a passive ghost.
Still, I do a small prayer before waking up for real and grabbing actual water. Think of this like a coward’s pascal wager. I try to fight the irrational thoughts about ghosts that might exist in our worlds as I walk down the stairs and towards the kitchen. There is a mirror in front of the stairs. I decide to not look at the mirror, scared that I would find a Vetal on my back if I look. This final imagination amused me. Be rational. That has never deceived you. Stick to that. Don’t indulge in mysticism especially at this time of the day. Still, I quickly pace towards the kitchen without looking at the mirror.
I gulp down water from the bottle in the kitchen and decide to go back to sleep. All this imagination has made me totally exhausted. Finally a good yawn. My body wants to sleep. Maybe, the mind needs exercise before tiring enough for sleep.
As I am about to go upstairs, I see my dad staring inside a dark room.
“What happened?”, I whispered.
“Shh. I heard some noise. Just checking the locks. You go back to sleep” — He said while glancing towards the blackness in the bigger main room.
“Okay. Don’t worry. It is probably your imagination”, I assuaged him and myself.
“Right. Still wanted to be sure. You never know crime is high these days.”
“It could be ghosts too you know.”- I can now joke about these thing seeing how my dad was awake.
“haha. funny. now go back to sleep”
He turns around to go back to sleep but froze in his tracks as soon as he saw me.
“Who …”, he tried to say something but words did not escape his mouth as he stood frozen.
He had a habit of pranking me and often teased me about my phobias by calling me a mama’s boy. “Come on. what happened? Don’t joke as if Vetal is behind me.”
He took a step back, with his hand extended towards me, trembling as if protecting himself from me.
As I took a step towards him, “what happened? …”, my gaze falls upon the mirror and my throat dried completely.
I see someone else in the mirror with a sinister smile on his face. I am unable to speak and as I keep on looking at the reflection, it speaks back to me in jest with a smirk on his face as if completing my dad’s fearful question.