9/23/10

Threshold

Little known fact: I once had an abduction experience.

Long ago in the far-off land of Michigan, my mother and I were visiting a college that I was about to attend. Because the orientation meeting was early in the morning, we arrived a day early and booked a hotel room. I slept pretty soundly that night, but I woke up a little too early. While I was trying to go back to sleep... that's when it happened.

Suddenly, I felt paralyzed. In my semi-lucid state, I could only see my immediate surroundings. I saw a dark figure at the foot of my mother's bed. I was overcome by an insurmountable feeling of fear. I yelled and screamed, but I didn't know if these sounds were out loud or if I could only hear them in my head. I had no idea what was going on. All I knew was that someone was in this room with us and he was going after my mom.

Flash back an undetermined amount of time. I don't know when or where it was, but at some point before this I remember learning about the phenomenon known as hypnagogia. Hypnagogia is a phase of consciousness that is between asleep and awake. It doesn't happen often, if at all, to anyone, but when it does, it produces such symptoms as hallucinations, sleep paralysis, lucid dreaming and out-of-body experiences. If I had learned about this anywhere, it was probably from some Discovery Channel special or something. It kinda went in one ear and out the other. It registered as an interesting fact, but I never thought I would ever encounter it.

Flash forward to the hotel room. There was no amount of scientific discovery that could save me from the abject terror that seized me in this suspended moment of paranormal activity. I could see the dark, hooded figure at the end of my mother's bed lifting his arm. Was this Death? Was the ancient myth of the Grim Reaper actually true? Was he standing in our hotel room calling for my mother?? Trapped in my own body, the only other explanation that came to mind was aliens.

I'm not sure what happened next. I must have fallen back asleep. When I woke up, I remembered the vivid... not dream... the vivid experience I had. I remembered that I was yelling at the top of my lungs, at least I thought I was in my mind, and I wondered if my mom had heard me. I was afraid to look around. Scared to look at the foot of mom's bed and find the stranger still there.

But at this point I had come a little more to my senses. I tried to convince myself it was a silly dream. A nightmare that had no place in reality. Bravely, still not completely convinced of my own argument, I turned my head in the direction of the foot of mom's bed. Guess what I saw.

My mother's jacket was hanging on a hook on the wall that was about five feet from the bed. It was dark and it had a hood. Suddenly, hypnagogia came rushing back to my memory. I understood that I had experienced threshold consciousness. I was half-asleep which accounted for the paralyzing, I was half awake which accounted for me being able to see the room and the objects within, I was lucid dreaming which accounted for me being able to see the objects in the room (specifically the jacket) move on their own.

I laughed to myself when this realization struck. What if I hadn't known about hypnagogia? Is this what every "abductee" experiences without knowing it? Without a basic understanding of threshold consciousness, do people just assume their wildest imaginations are pure truth?

The truth is often much simpler than you imagine. It may not make for a good story, but it'll keep you sane.