At some point during the night I fell asleep. I must have, because what happened then could only have happened in the world of dreams.
I was lying there in my bed, – in the dream – and on my back, staring at the ceiling and trying to make myself tired and sleepy. It wasn’t working, and I seemed to have been tossing and turning for hours.
The blinds were up on my window, and I noticed a shimmering light, hazy and soft, floating just outside. There was a form to it, and it was made up of different colors, but I could not quite make it fully out. It looked blurred and stretched, like a blob of a person in the background of an out-of-focus picture. It hovered and bobbed outside the window, and then it moved through the glass, and into my room with me. It made no noise.
The floating blob was sitting in the air just above me, and as it sat there, it began to stretch and grow. Protruding clouds came to form appendages or bulbous, ovular shapes, and at the same time, I felt like someone were messing with the lenses of my eyes, bringing things into focus like a camera. I saw that the cloudy appendages were really arms and legs, and a head, with wavy brown hair, that moved as if underwater. It was Clara, floating above my bed. The realization came to me the way remembering the title of a song that has been stuck in your head does, and I found it hard to believe that I hadn’t recognized her when I first saw her.
She waved at me, and put a finger to her lips. I nodded my head in understanding. Then she whispered to me, and her voice was like leaves in the wind.
“How did it go?” she said, referring to the confrontation with my uncle.
I shook my head, and opened my mouth to speak, but Clara cut me off.
“No. Don’t talk. Not here. Come on, and tell me about it outside.”
She reached out her hand, and I tried to take it, but found that I could not move my arm. It seemed to be bolted to my bed, along with my entire body. My breath quickened, and I felt like there were straps and cords tied to me, holding me in place. I could only blink, and flick my eyes about the room.
Clara drifted closer to me, until she was only a few inches away. She lifted her hand, and caressed my head, and I felt it, like a trickle of cool, refreshing water down my face. “Shh,” she whispered. “Don’t be afraid.”
I regained control of my breathing and slowed it down, taking the air in through my nose, and out again, through my open mouth. I accepted the fact that I could not move a muscle, and that that was okay, for the moment.
Clara smiled reassuringly at me. Then she held out her hand again, and said, “Okay, let’s go.”
I didn’t understand. How could I take her hand if I couldn’t move my arms? I tried to move them again, and failed. She shook her head again, and a flicker of agitation passed over her face, but she covered it up a second later.
“No,” she said. “Don’t try to move at all. You’re in sleep paralysis. You can’t. Just close your eyes, and imagine your hand reaching out to mine.”
I did what she told me to. I closed my eyes, I could at least do that, and I pictured Clara there, floating in front of me. I thought I could still see a blob of light behind my eyelids, and I used my imagination as best I could, and pretended to lift my right hand up, and toward her. I felt something pulling me then, along with a curious sensation. It was as if my body were attached to a single thread, and someone was pulling that thread, and lifting me along with it.
Then I heard Clara’s voice. It sounded slightly warbled, as if she were speaking through a filter. “Alright, you can open your eyes now. But stay quiet. Don’t make a sound.”
I opened my eyes, and I Clara wasn’t above me anymore. She was right in front of me. I wasn’t laying down in my bed, either. I looked below me, and nearly screamed, but Clara clapped a hand over my mouth, so that only a muffled murmur escaped.
I was looking down at my own body, lying stock still in bed, eyes closed. My chest rose and fell, so I knew that I was not dead, or a ghost. But I felt something like how I imagined a ghost would feel, airy and light. I looked at myself, the me that was floating next to Clara. I had the same shimmering quality to my own skin, and I bobbed in the air like a leaf on a branch. My eyes were wide with disbelief, and I turned to look at Clara.
She wore a grin that stretched across her face, pushing folds of skin – skin that couldn’t be there – into wrinkles up against her eyes. She lowered her hand from my mouth and whispered, “Let’s go.”
With her other hand still holding mine, Clara moved to the window. I watched as her body went all out-of-focus again, and then felt as mine did the same. My sight became clearer, more clear than it had ever been, and I could see there were spaces in between where the window was. There were spaces in between everything, little microscopic gaps. I felt myself spreading out, separating, to ease through those gaps, but I felt no fear. It felt like the easiest thing in the world, easier than breathing or blinking, and I somehow knew that I would return to myself on the other side.
We floated in a burning mass of atoms together on the other side, and there was some of Clara that overlapped with some of me, but I could not have known where they were in relation to our bodies. We stayed like that for a moment, pieces of each other intermingling and drifting in space, and I felt like I knew exactly who Clara was, knew myself too. And with that bit of knowledge, I caught a glimpse of knowing everything, then: how grass felt when a gentle breeze brushed along its spine, the quick life of a raindrop, falling and smashing to the ground, and how our own bones and bodies would become dust, and we would be returned to this universal feeling, in the center of all things.
Then the feeling started slipping away, grew fainter, and my own consciousness came to fill in the spaces it left behind, seamlessly, until Clara and I were both sharp and focused again; and when I tried to remember how I had felt then, disconnected, there was a fuzzy blotch in my mind, covering up the memory.
We were floating in the night sky, above my front lawn. I looked at Clara. “What just happened?” I asked.
“You just had your first out of body experience,” she said. “It’s only natural to be a bit disoriented. How do you like it?” She grinned.
“I,” I said, looking down below at my bobbing feet. “I can fly.” I imagined myself floating up higher, and it was like an invisible hand was pushing on my back, lifting me up, and I rose.
Clara rose alongside me, and then did a little swoop, and giggled. “Try it,” she said. “It’s fun.”
I did. And it was. I made a full loop, and then shot straight up above the trees. There was no temperature change the higher up I went, but I could feel the wind moving through me, giving a cool, tingling sensation as it passed, and was my only measure of movement.
The moon was full and large in the sky, and it hung low. It looked so close, that I thought maybe, I could make the journey. There wasn’t a cloud to be seen. The stars were bright and plentiful, and looked to me like little holes poked through a great, velvety blanket that wrapped up the whole world. We were high above the little city then, and I could see the lights that came from moving cars, streetlamps, and the windows of houses and buildings. They shone dimly, outclassed by the pure white light radiating from above. I could see the horizon, and the Earth curving down in the distance.
I hung there in the middle of the air, and took it all in. It was the most beautiful sight I had ever seen, or could hope to see in my lifetime. Clara floated up next to me, and gave me a serious look.
“Now,” she said. “What happened?”
My stomach dropped as I remembered, and I thought that it would carry me with it all the way back to the ground. I told her everything that happened, how I had kept my uncle out until my mother came home, and how he got me in trouble, and then made me wash the dishes. And then I mentioned the sounds I had heard that night, right before I had fallen asleep.
Clara listened closely as I talked, and nodded and bit the nail on her thumb. When I was finished, she gazed out at the moon, and didn’t say anything for a long while. I waited, and followed her gaze out into space. I wondered how far away the moon was, and if this is what it felt like to float in space.
Then Clara spoke. “We can figure this all out later, I need to talk with Gran first.” She turned to me, and gave me a shy smile. “Do you want to see your dad?”