I slammed into somebody Friday while I was walking through the tunnels beneath downtown Houston.
I think I slammed into somebody, anyway.
I believe I did.
Okay, I might have slammed into somebody, or else I might have dreamed I slammed into somebody, or else I might have hallucinated I slammed into somebody, or maybe (and this seemed least likely of all) I might have just worried about slamming into somebody, only to immediately get confused and think that I had.
At any rate, I stood there, gripping my shoulder where the possible contact had occurred and looking around to try and identify the other party. My victim, for lack of a better term. The slam-ee.
“Oops, sorry!” I said (belatedly) to no one in particular, or rather to a very particular though still unidentified individual, if in fact I had slammed into somebody after all.
And the more I thought about it, and the more I rubbed the impacted shoulder, the harder the hypothetical slam became, and the more real it became, until finally there came a point where I could no longer imagine that the slam had not occurred.
I got worried about the condition of the other person, the person whom I have previously identified as my victim or as the slam-ee. You see, I am not a large individual. You know this. Unless you are younger than eight or older than eighty – or perhaps if you are physically handicapped in some extreme way – then chances are, you do not the rank the prospect my slamming into you up among your worst fears.
But what if I had injured somebody? Injured somebody and then, you know, hadn’t even bothered to stop? What if I’d committed an ambulatory hit and run?
I scanned the ground around me for toddlers, for the elderly, for prosthetic limbs or maybe for a cane.
Lots of people walked by me, but they all seemed okay. As for me… Well, each thought that I thought seemed random. Dream-like. Convoluted and-
-and… Wait! Dream-like! “Maybe this is a dream!” I said, and I might have even said it out loud, for all I know. I walked up to a mirrored column and I tried to press my hand through as a sort of test.
It was no dream.
It was, instead, simply another moment in the surreal haze that my life has become over these past two weeks since Doctor Belloq set off my sleep paralysis.
She set it off on purpose. Well, she set it off on purpose the first night.
The next two nights, those are sort of on both of us.
Each time it happens, what happens is pretty much the same: I go to sleep sober, I go to sleep on my back, and then I find myself unable to move. I am awake but I am paralyzed, and I am being suffocated by something that stands in the corner of my room. The something in the corner orders me to “Recite!” (night #1) or “Write!” (night #2) or “Read!” (night #3).
And you want to know the crazy part? I want to hear what it has to say. The something in the corner. I want to know. I will recite, I will write, I will read, just like Muhammad did when this happened to him in that cave. After all, reciting, writing, and reading: These are the things I do.
But each night, the blank face, the black cloak, the suffocation thing, and the sense of terrifying doom turn out to be too much for me. Much too much. I freak out and I thrash around until I break the paralysis.
Now I am afraid to go to sleep.
It’s been two weeks and my life is a surreal haze and I might or might not be slamming into random strangers in the shopping tunnels beneath downtown Houston. I can’t be sure anymore.
On Friday, after I confirmed that I was not dreaming, I chased down a little Asian business-dude in the tunnels. At least I think I chased down a little Asian business-dude. There is a possibility that I just imagined it.
I think I stopped him and I said, “Excuse me, sir? Did I by any chance just slam into you back there?”
The little Asian business-dude, I think he looked a little scared. I think he shook his head and waved his hands and said, “Yes, but it is okay. No problem, no problem!”
I think I sighed and clasped my hands together. I think I said, “I DID slam into you?! Whew! Good! I was afraid I was going crazy…”
Then I wandered off, lost in the tunnels, trying to remember where it was I’d been going when all of this began.
I kept walking…