My eyes snap open and I watch the thick girth of a tarantula crawl at rapid pace across my ceiling. As it moves above me, it morphs from a dark heavy being to something lithe and beautiful like a daddy long legs. I think of ballerinas clad in shimmering white and naked branches on winter trees. My eyes travel down the blue of dawn past the window shade as I stare at the two houseplants nestled on an antique wooden bench. An angel winged begonia and a Christmas cactus, the latter blurs of green with little tips of pink. I don’t have my glasses on and my morning mind is as blurred as my vision. Was the spider living in the folds of the cactus? I look up again and all traces of it have vanished, except a faint trail of sparkling light reminiscent of a shooting star but much slower. I begin to remember my dream, someone who I went to middle school with who has since passed away was there. He visits my dreams from time to time and I often wonder why as we hadn’t spoken in many years in between school and his death.
I contemplate the spider. There are not tarantulas in western New York. Was it a hallucination? I am awake, I have just woken up. I had been stuck in that moment between a dreaming and waking state, when paralysis and fear sets in. It happens to me often. In my dream, I was lying in a bed and I had turned toward the door which was slowly opening. No one was there but I heard an old woman’s voice, which I understood to be my deceased paternal grandmother, telling me she loved me and missed me. Then I could feel chills, as I always do when I can sense I am not the only entity in a room. I started to answer my grandma, telling her that I too missed and loved her.
I tried opening my eyes but they remained shut, I felt my head move of its own volition to the left and then the right and then I was stuck. Paralyzed. There was a heavy pressure on my abdomen, like someone sitting on me, pressing my arms and legs down. I was in my body, but also out of it, perched on my pillow like a bird on a branch, observing my struggle. I was trying vehemently to scream, to yell for help. I was trying fervently to move my appendages, kick or punch the pressure, the presence sitting on my stomach. It was impossible to open my mouth and scream. I heard moaning and I wondered if it was in my dream or if it was actually out loud. It was not a moan of pleasure. It was one of fear. It was one of someone struggling to make a sound. What always feels like eternity in these dream-like states, could possibly only be a few seconds. But after a million years, I finally shook awake. The pressure lifted, a nacreous fog moving off of a lake. That’s when I looked up, at the left corner of my room, the corner that is northeast and saw the spider.
This is not the first time I have felt the terrifying paralysis that accompanies me out of dreams. It happens frequently, but not often accompanied by hallucinations as well. I remember another struggle, a particularly alarming one where my bed sheets and I were soaked in sweat. The same type of paralysis occurred and when I finally came to, there was a small figure in a black cloak standing at the foot of my bed stock-still, staring at me. I couldn’t make out a face or anything specific, but I could make out a figure and a cloak. My eyes wide with fear, I watched as it just slowly dissipated into thin air.
How solitary these moments are. How sobering and real, yet unreal. For what meaning is to be harbored from these dreams, these hallucinations? Is hallucination even the correct word? When the line between conscious and unconscious is so blurred, what do you take for fact and what do you take for fiction? Often the dead visit me in my dreams. Often I dream something and then in the near or distant future it happens. I’ve predicted births and deaths in my dreams, I’ve predicted blooming relationships and dying ones, my own and others. How many times have I been present in a situation and thought, “I’ve dreamt this, I’ve predicted this.” Conversations, situations, small moments- sometimes I dream them before they happen.
But what of that spider? What of that cloaked figure? Is it a foreboding of something to come? Is it simply tethered fears that I cannot give light to or even realize? The spider went from darkness to light, from heavy and burdensome to something weightless, quiet and delicate. My eyes travel the trail it took leaving little flashes of light like breadcrumbs. I lay under the warmth of the sheets and stare upwards. I swim in the wake of sleep, slowing down to tread the water of this dream, wondering why two deceased were present and what the heck a hurried spider meant.