It’s dark, quiet and still. The blankets lie lightly on top of her and her head sinks into the center of her pillow. Slivers of hallway light cast beams across the scattered toys and Barbie's on the floor. Winnie the Pooh sits snuggled into her side while Piglet has unfortunately been kicked to the floor.
She starts to twitch, like she’s coming out of a sleep in the morning.
But it’s midnight.
Normal children get restless, but she escalates. Her breathing quickens and her head turns left, then right, faster and faster and faster, until you think it would be spinning if it weren’t for her bed catching the blows of her cheeks slapping back and forward against the pillow.
She’s just been having a bad dream, but it continues. It heightens. Her body starts to rock, her foot is twitching and her head somehow convulses faster than before. Her mouth opens and you can hear her ragged breath.
You want to run to her, hold her, do anything to make it stop, but you can’t. Nobody is coming for her. Nobody hears her.
Back and forward, back and forward her head slams into her pillow. Her body sways uncontrollably as the convulsing propels it into motion, jarring her shoulders into its likeness. Her foot still twitches against the wall.
She makes a noise.
Not a whimper, not a scream, but something deeper. It’s a sound no little girl should make, an agony escaping her, ripping from her chest.
She has finally made herself heard.
Lying in bed, she slowly wakes. Not by noise or light, but by a deep numbness filling her body — a paralysis of sorts.
The room is moving slowly, as if she were on Peter Pan’s ship. The light from her door blurred back and forth, slowly rocking. It’s almost soothing. Her mind was foggy, like she couldn’t think of where she was or what she was doing on the ship.
The light started moving faster, back and forward, back and forward, blurring more and more by the second. She then realizes what it was going to become, and at that point, it was too late for her to jump to shore. The realization was like a trigger, and before she could take a breath to call out, her vision flew backwards into her skull, as if her eyes were camera lenses that had previously been in extreme zoom.
The full light she could see becomes a small sliver in the distance, pulsing and flashing, surrounded by nothing but black. Her body is constricted, like a box had morphed itself around her — being held so tight her could barely breathe. She lay there, completely crumpled in on herself.
A rushing sweeps through her ears, an explosive waterfall blocks her from the world, a barrier of harsh, pounding static. She wanted to think, but thoughts wouldn’t come. They were blurry, jarred and disorganized. It hurts her to try as the deafening sound rages through her head.
The box tightens around her and the pulsing light in the distance becomes harsher and brighter, flashing in violent bursts. She feels her heart, her terror, but can’t get her mouth to work. She wants to yell, but it was like someone pressed mute. The more she tries, the more pain she feels.
Her chest wanted to explode, her heart was beating so fast.
Then it hits.
From deep within her, a whale of sound finally escapes, ripping out of her like an explosion as the pulsing light became ever more volatile. It would never end, it was a trap, slowly suffocating her, slowly taking her away. Flashing, blinding, rocking, convulsing lights and the ever tightening constriction of her body.
Until she feels two hands firmly touch her cheeks, and that is all it takes to zoom back in on her mom’s face and cooing voice. All the noise disappears. An awareness that hadn’t been there sets in and the panic of being in the dark box dissipates completely.
Her face was wet with tears streaming over her mother’s fingers, but her body felt light, as if it were made of air — even with her mother’s form laying over the top of her. Her lungs were free and her breath came in full, calming waves. Then, her eyes grow heavy, her brain was clear, but drifting back into a peaceful sleep. Finally, an escape back to tranquility had come.
As the mom stands up, gazing down at her exhausted little girl, her heart thumps. She knows it won’t wake her, but it seems like it could. She pulls the sheets up tighter around her daughter, picks up Piglet and Pooh Bear from the floor where they fell, and tucks them back in with her.
She walks to the hallway and her body spins around fast at a new noise from the bed, but her daughter has just turned to cuddle her Pooh Bear. The hallway light seems bright compared to the darkness she had been in. She blinks before turning to a new door to peak in. Her son still sleeps soundly. He missed it.
“I love you Torin. I love you Tianna. Sweet dreams,” she whispers before turning to go back downstairs.