(The name of the doctors and clinics in this narration about sleep paralysis have been changed for safety purposes – as told by an exorcist)
Beti, I have often told you to recite all your surahs before going to sleep. You should do that. Recite all your kalmas too, and of course, the sonay ki dua. It just takes a minute, really. And, make sure that you sleep on your right side. I know that I don’t mind it when you don’t cover your head when leaving the house or don’t pray when you’re out with friends, but these little things, Ayesha – they matter a lot.
You see, Sarfraz is a man of science, and Jameel is a man of religion, and I, a man of both, but what if I tell you that there are things that science tries to explain but fails to, or maybe things which occur naturally yet there’s something supernatural about them? Do you remember the first time you had sleep paralysis? You and I, we can see things. You saw it sitting on your chest – the little dwarf – as you called it. You saw it choking you and holding your hands down. But, do you remember, what happened when you mentioned all this in front of Sarfraz? He said that there was a lack of oxygen. He said that your REM cycle hadn’t been completed and that you were either not fully asleep or not fully awake and your body was in a state of confusion.
Sarfaraz said all that Jameel and I had studied in our first-year parapsychology course. When you started to tell him about the dwarf with golden, cashew nut shaped eyes, he said that it was a hallucination. Because, science, as I’ve read too, says that sleep paralysis and night terrors are related. It’s the mind working out. But, beti, could Sarfraz explain the marks on your body that looked like teething bites when you hadn’t been able to move and had seen the dwarf bite you? Because, you see things. But, if it would have been Minhal bhabhi waking up with those marks given by a creature she couldn’t have seen or if seen, not believed in, Sarfraz would have strapped her to bed the next day claiming that she self-hurt herself.
Science is good, beta. I’ve majored in it three times. When the water boils and the house help still hasn’t started making chai, I tell you that the water is evaporating. Because it is, because it’s science. Science is important. But, that’s all. It’s not a way of life. It can’t explain everything and maybe, that is why humans are afraid of jinns and churails. If they can’t explain why you see a woman with crooked feet and missing eyes, they’ll call it your mind’s trick. Of course, I’ve treated people with schizophrenia and DID, and even people who pretended to be possessed by ghosts because their shaadi was against their will. Mental disorders exist.
But so do wicked beings under your bed, crawling creatures that come out when it rains and floating women that ask you for a ride on highways.
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On the Ceiling! Hey friends I am honored to be participating with @kirksgrocery to display the Monsters in the Light series. Come down to Kirk's this Friday during the Billings Art Walk and check out the watercolor paintings in this series by your's truly. #kirksgrocery #watercolor #monsters #sleepparalysis #billingsartwalk
Today I will tell you about a rather interesting tale that took place in 1994. You weren’t born yet or maybe you were the size of a pea, and Jameel and I were out there, for Lady Majbeen. The Higher Authority of Science (HAS) had called for an emergency round table conference. Religious scholars weren’t allowed, of course, but I was there, seated next to the leader with my research papers. Beta, it had come to their knowledge that a lot of people in Pakistan who frequently got sleep paralysis either due to being stressed, depressed or sleep-deprived, jo bhi, had all claimed to see a woman when the phenomenon occurred.
The lady, they said, seemed to be in her late thirties, could be assumed to be of Asian descent and dressed up in formal attire. She would come when they’d not be able to move, lie next to them in her clothes made of reshmi kapra, and ask them to get off the bed.
She would be polite at first, but then she’d start rubbing what was assumed to be her dupatta, on which hung miniature blades, on the chest of the person. The person would groan in pain as their skin peeled off. The first rub would just redden the skin, and then she’d ask the person to move from the bed for the second time. The person, of course, wouldn’t be able to. Then, she’d rub again, this time with a lot more force, and the lymph from on top of the flesh would make its way out of the skin. She wouldn’t bother asking after this. She’d rub vigorously, till, little by little, her cloth would be stained with red and the person would pass out.
Doctor Mehmood from the Sleeping Disorders Clinic, Islamabad, had brought this case up when twelve of his patients reported having seen the same woman. On having the artist draw her face, all twelve stated that the woman was, in fact, similar to what they’d seen. Beta, here is where it gets interesting. Two of his patients went into a coma due to a severe panic attack caused by the pain, but there wasn’t any physical evidence of the pain that they had gone through.
Jameel Sahab, being in charge of the security, was present at all meetings with his men from the thaana, but I knew that back then, your uncle secretly wanted to work with me. The afternoon during which we were addressed about the matter, Doctor Mehmood told me that from the parapsychology unit, he’d have me be present during the initial screening of the ten patients that had now been admitted to the clinic. I accepted, of course, and told him that I’d require to meet the patients first too. He disagreed, saying that they weren’t in such a state, and something from my talk could trigger them into being scared of the formidable phenomenon that they’d narrated.
Jameel uncle, knowing that now a behas would happen, stepped in and told Doctor Mehmood sufaid jhoot about how I was a psychiatrist and could help soothe the patients. I think that is how Jameel and I first started working together. Ayesha, I might as well tell you why I despise people who do not know the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist. They’re worse than the people who like to have their biryani without aaloo. I’m a clinical psychologist turned parapsychologist and I treat people with therapy, and also, my degree did not require me to cram diagrams about phupho Nejma kay ghar wale dudoo, but psychiatrists go through the entire process of getting a doctorate to only overdose their patients on sedatives.
Khair, I got the permit to check in with the patients two hours prior to the monitoring procedure. Jameel and I went inside separate rooms. I had briefed him about what to ask. Let me tell you what a 12-year-old girl told me, beti.
She said, as I recall, ‘Uncle, main tou doctor ko bata kar thak gae houn k yeh dream nahin hai. Wou aurat asli hai.’
‘And uncle, all she wants is for me to get off the bed and that is what I have told doctor sahab. Keep me here, and when I’ve achieved the lucid state, throw me off the bed. Doctor sahab just hands me a lollipop and tells me that he’ll soon give me a medicine and it’ll all go away but uncle, I know it won’t. With every passing day, it hurts a little more. Pehle siraf meray kamre main ati thi aur jab main soti thi phir ati thi, ab mujhe subah bhi nazar ati hai. Us waqt kuch kehti nahin hai lekin poore ghar say phir jalne ki smell ati hai. Agar main apne waqt per nahin soti tou ajeeb mehsoos hota hai. I start getting goosebumps and eventually I sleep. Likun somehow uncle, mujhe pata hota hai if I’ll get a peaceful sleep us raat ya nahin.’
I asked her what exactly the woman looked like and how it started. To which, beti, she sat there confused, ‘Uncle, sleep paralysis tou kaafi dafa huwa hai. Bohut scary hota tha meray liye likun I got used to it. Magar kuch weeks say yeh same aurat ati hai meray pass.’
I told her that it’ll be alright and that I’d sleep next to her. I even told her that I’ve dealt with such auratein, but she didn’t believe me, because she thought that just like the doctor, I’d give her an antidepressant and for a few days she’d sleep peacefully but then, the woman would return.
When the girl had mentioned spotting the woman in daylight, Ayesha, I got the feeling that this wasn’t any normal sleep paralysis case that we were dealing with and that therapy wouldn’t help end it.
At night, the doctors and Jameel sat in one room looking at cameras showing every patient. I sat next to the bed of the little girl. She didn’t want to sleep, but Doctor Mehmood told her to count the sheep on the mobile toy placed above her head. She drifted into the first step of the rapid eye movement cycle. Her pulse rate, heartbeat and brain waves were being monitored. Nothing happened that day, beta. And, the funny part is that all ten patients slept peacefully. The doctor was reluctant to carry out the experiment for consecutive days, so I paid him. He was already being paid to carry out the experiment by the science authority, but he wasn’t under any obligation to do so every day. Jameel and I paid him into doing so.
This time, beta, meri aankh lag hi rahi thi when I felt the room’s temperature fall. I opened my eyes and waited. With half-shut eyes, after a few minutes, I heard the clinging of ankle bracelets and my head started to hurt. I knew that a presence was nearby. On the walkie talkie, the doctor asked me why I was suddenly alert. I didn’t answer. I saw, beta, that a woman came through the door, dressed in a blue garara – similar to the one your ami has. She looked at me for an instant and then nestled herself on the girl’s bed.
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‘Koun hai tu?’ I asked.
She looked at me again and smiled.
‘Who are you talking to, Adnan?’ the doctor inquired over the walkie talkie.
The woman continued to play with the girl’s hair, and then shifted herself on the top of her chest. The girl’s eyes flung open, and she started finding it difficult to breathe.
Ab, beta, kya scientific explanation deta doctor ko aur kya pooch taach karta aik churail say. I folded my arms and started reciting the Quran.
‘Quran parh rahe hain,’ Jameel’s voice came rang through the walkie talkie.
The woman shifted her glare towards me and got off the bed. She started to make her way out of the room. I had seen cases like this, beta, where the entity would leave, but then it would just be a temporary leave.
‘Ruko,’ I said. ‘Koun hou tum?’ When the woman smiled, a dimple formed under her pale cheeks. ‘Pyaar say mujhe Lady Majbeen kehte hain, Adnan.’
Saying so, she started to make her way out again and I ran and stood in front of her. ‘Ap meray raste say hat jayein,’ came a sweet reply. Her breath smelled of fresh cherries.
‘Tum iss duniya ki nahin ho. Inko tang karna chour dou.’
‘Ap nay kaha aur humne maan liya?’ she guffawed.
‘Adnan,’ she continued, picking up her dress and revealing her ankles, ‘dour aik gaoun hai. Wahan hum jaisi bohut hain. Sab tumhe janti bhi hain. Main unhe bataoun gi kay main us mashoor Adnan say mili jou hume dekhta hai, humse baat karta hai.’
Confused and feverish, I told her that this isn’t her place and that she should leave and if she doesn’t, I’ll hurt her.
‘Tumhe inhe tang karke kuch nahin mile ga. Aur na hi tumhara koi faida hai. Behtar hai k tum jahan say ayi ho wahan chali jao, Majbeen.’
Her laughter still echoes in my ears. It was like the sound a tree makes when the wind blows very fast.
‘Phir milaein gay,’ she said. And I saw the beautiful old woman, turn even more beautiful, but then into a bent old lady with a wrinkled face, a hunchback, and tattered skin, and it made its way out of the room.
Darasal yeh bhi aik churail ki kisam hoti hai, beti. They can turn themselves into pretty species and long to feed on the flesh of the humans. Some of them have a demonic nature and others don’t. They usually possess souls and start acting like them. Till that time, the doctor and Jameel had arrived in the room. I was burning with fever and even though the room was cold, my body was wet with sweat.
‘Ap us waqt say kis say baat kar rahe they?’ the doctor asked, surprised, ‘Yeh kya hai, Adnan Sahab?’
The doctor never did understand. The girl, however, was well for a few more years till Majbeen visited her again. People who have sleep paralysis often are vulnerable to supernatural attacks, and these entities just enjoy haunting humans when given the chance. But, till then, the girl had memorized ayatalkursi and I had learned of better ways to banish the paranormal.
Beti, when a person is suffering from sleep paralysis, humaray aur unke darmayan ka parda bohut kamzour hota hai, which is why some people claim to feel a presence in the room, and some feel a huge weight on their chest region. Sleep, and Allah knows best.
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Cover image via thriveglobal.com