Sleep Paralysis

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  • Scent Notes
    Patchouli, ripe figs covered in dark chocolate, a cabinet full of imported spices behind a bouquet of brightly blooming flowers.
  • Description

      Scent Notes: Patchouli, ripe figs covered in dark chocolate, a cabinet full of imported spices behind a bouquet of brightly blooming flowers.

      Elijah awoke one morning ecstatic. In his sleep, his tongue had apparently been loosening his top left tooth, getting it ready to come out so his first adult tooth could make its way into the world. He jumped out of bed, ran out of his bedroom and down into the kitchen where his mom was making breakfast. Well, “making breakfast,” she was really grabbing out the various boxes of cereal and different types of milk everyone in her family needed for their very specific tastes. She’d long ago given up on trying to make breakfast on weekdays … and, honestly, on most weekends. There were plenty of things to do instead, like laundry, or cleaning any of the surfaces that were constantly getting cluttered from having three kids, two adults, and a dog in the house, or taking a shower and enjoying the only five damn minutes of peace and quiet she’d get for herself all day. Being a single mom was not an easy job. Elijah was the youngest, the most intelligent, and the most excitable of her two boys. He always had an exaggerated story of what he had done at school that day, or what he’d dreamt about the night before. He was also prone to nightmares and occasional sleepwalking, which she usually found out about because she’d find her purse in the freezer in the morning. That was Elijah’s signature sleepwalking move: the frozen purse. 

      “Mooooooom!!!” Elijah screamed as he ran into the kitchen, nearly running smack into her as she pulled down a box of Fruity Flakes. “Woah, woah, calm down!” she said. “What’s all the fuss about?” “LOOK!” he yelled, opening his mouth and wriggling the loose tooth. “It’s happening, it’s happening, I’m finally losing a tooth!” His mom gave him a weary smile. “That’s great, honey!” She made a mental note to make sure she had a dollar or two on-hand for whenever the tooth came out, so she could put it under his pillow as part of the weird money-for-bone transaction that was the Tooth Fairy tradition she’d told all her kids about, and that society had basically demanded that she continue. Because that’s just what we do instead of telling kids what’s really going on in their mouths, but it’s not like she had time for that anyway. She walked out of the kitchen to yell down the hallway to her older son. “Get out of bed RIGHT NOW for breakfast; I have to take you all to school and I can’t be late to work!” Elijah just stood behind her, wiggling the tooth with his fingers. She turned around and admonished him. “Honey, stop that. It’ll come out when it’s supposed to. You’ll hurt yourself if it comes out too soon! Come on, have some Fruity Flakes.” He grabbed a bowl, poured in some cereal and milk, and tried to chew with his front teeth. To his surprise, it hurt, and he cried out as his older brother entered the room. “It’s a loose tooth; you’re fine!” Mike said, picking up his box of cereal and smacking Elijah in the head with it. “Ow!” Elijah yelled, tears springing forth. “Don’t worry, I’ll just yank it out of your mouth for you,” Mike said, taking his hand and pretending to pull down on Elijah’s face, hard. Elijah got up and ran back to his room, crying. “Why do you do this?” their mom asked, shooting Mike a hard look as she left to go comfort her youngest.

      Elijah was crying on his bed. “Mom, I hate it! This stinks, it hurts, and why is Mike such a jerk?” She patted his head and held him close, dampening her stomach with his tears and snot. “He’s going through this horrible thing called ‘puberty’ that eventually you’ll go through, but let’s wait on that for you for a while, okay?” She felt him nodding, his tears rescinding. “Hey! The great thing is, when the tooth comes out, the Tooth Fairy will come and leave you some money. Isn’t that nice?” Elijah nodded again and sat up, wiping his eyes with his hands. “Yeah, that’s pretty cool, I guess,” he conceded. “Okay. Leave the tooth alone; it’ll come out when it’s ready. Go eat a little bit, we have to leave in like three minutes to get you all to school.” She got up, kissed him on the forehead, and left to go do whatever moms had to do in the bathroom in under three minutes to get ready for the day. Elijah went back to the kitchen, ate a few bites of now soggy cereal, and got up to get his backpack the minute he heard his mom coming out of the bathroom.

      It was a warm spring Friday, and Elijah was so excited to show off his loose tooth to his friends at school. “That’s cooooool,” said Lucy, the girl he had a crush on and, naturally, the first person he showed. He turned deep crimson and thanked her profusely before suddenly darting off to his friends to show them. All of his friends offered to help get the tooth out, whether they wanted to knock him down so he’d hit his head, or one classmate suggested tying the tooth to a string and the string to a doorknob and slamming the door so the string would pull the tooth out, which sounded to Elijah more like it would end with him banging his head into a door and giving him a headache. He rebuffed all their advances, steadily wiggling the tooth with either his tongue or his fingers when his teachers weren’t looking.

      By the end of the school day, the tooth hadn’t fallen out yet. Elijah was getting upset; he wanted the tooth to come out so he could show his friends and put it under the pillow for the Tooth Fairy. He didn’t know how much he’d get for this baby tooth, but it clearly wasn’t worthless if a member of the fae wanted to trade it for cold hard cash. That whole evening, his mom kept telling him to leave it alone and his brother kept threatening to knock it out for him. “You know you’re born with all your teeth, right?” Mike said to him. “Isn’t that gross?” “Stop being rude to your brother,” their mother said, doling out slices of pizza. “Though that is a true, and kind of weird and disturbing, fact about human anatomy, it’s not appropriate dinner conversation.” The three ate their pizza and watched a movie that Elijah had been wanting to see, an animated film about witches. They had to stop it halfway through, though, as Elijah got too scared to continue. Mike started to tease him, and their mom sent Mike to his room. They turned on some cartoons Elijah liked and he snuggled in close to his mom. He was starting to fall asleep when he felt a little pop in his mouth, and sure enough, his tooth fell out of his mouth and into his hands. He was so excited, and then surprised to taste blood in his mouth. He started crying and his mom took him to the bathroom. He bit down on some gauze and, thankfully, his mouth stopped bleeding a few minutes later. His mom wiped his tears and rinsed off the tooth, then put it in Elijah’s hand. They went into Elijah’s room, and his mom said, “Okay sweetheart, I’m going to tuck you into bed. We’ll put this tooth under your pillow, and when you wake up, you’ll have a present from the Tooth Fairy.” Elijah nodded, exhausted, and he fell asleep almost immediately. His mom kissed his forehead and left the room, reminding herself to come back in the room in a few hours and switch out the tooth for the few dollars she had put aside from today’s tips. 

      Elijah was in a fitful sleep. His dreams kept waking him up, sometimes for seconds, other times for what felt like hours. Suddenly, he started awake, his eyes open wide, but his body was frozen. His mouth was stuck shut; his arms and legs would not budge no matter how hard he tried to move them. It was like he was paralyzed, which was terrifying, but it was made even worse by the vision floating before him. There were gigantic, black, furry-yet-feathery wings attached to a floating, spectral figure that was tough to fully take in as it kept moving. It seemed to be wearing a tattered, gauzy, dirty tunic, but it was covered in layers upon layers of chains made of … were those teeth? They were definitely teeth, mostly small like children’s baby teeth, but some much bigger and more disturbing and decidedly non-human teeth as well. The real horror, however, was its head. It was grossly oversized and seemed to be almost entirely made of one gigantic mouth with lips as dark as night. There must have been eyes on the head somewhere, but between its frantic flying and the size of the cavernous maw that it called a mouth, they couldn’t be seen. Elijah tried to scream, again, but nothing came out of his mouth. The thing saw his terror, opened its gigantic mouth, and let out a soul-curdling laugh. Its mouth was full of an impossible number of teeth. The figure flew over to him, reached out a gray, rotting hand, and took the tooth from under Elijah’s pillow and popped it into its own mouth. Elijah saw the figure take out two one-dollar bills from somewhere and reach out to put those under his pillow when his little body finally passed back out from fright. 

      In the morning, Elijah woke up to his mom knocking on the door. “Come on, sleepyhead, wake up! We have to get you to grandma’s house, I have to work.” She cracked open the door, seeing Elijah shivering in a cold sweat. “Honey? Are you okay? Did the Tooth Fairy come?” she asked, kneeling down and feeling his forehead. No fever. He reached under his pillow and found two one-dollar bills. “Yeah, it was here,” he said quietly. “But the next tooth I lose, I’m putting it under Mike’s pillow.”

      Scent Notes: Patchouli, ripe figs covered in dark chocolate, a cabinet full of imported spices behind a bouquet of brightly blooming flowers.

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