Estimated reading time — 12 minutes
The sleeping mind fascinates me; namely the nighttime hallucinations we call ‘dreams.’ Because of this, I keep a journal to record every thought that passes through my brain at night. I set at least one alarm each day so that I’m able to wake up during my REM cycles and recall my grandest dreams. Sometimes I fall back asleep, but for the most part, I keep up with it. It’s been an enlightening experience, and so far, I’ve filled a dozen notebooks with my nightly adventures.
In addition to cataloging my dreams, I study the phenomenon. I’ve dissected every sleep guide at my disposal and watched countless documentaries. I even took an elective back in high school called “Nocturnal Fantasies,” though it only lasted one semester (not enough students shared my affinity for the topic). In other words, most of my waking life is consumed by sleep, in one form or another.
Craving more knowledge on the subject, I recently perused my town library’s massive local authors section. I was hoping to find a book on dreams I hadn’t read, as this was the one part of the library I had yet to set foot in. It was a long shot, but one I was willing to take in the name of research.
After fishing through a plethora of self-published romance novels, I happened across one non-fiction title that caught my eye – “Sleep Tactics: Exercises for a Mind at Rest,” written by Jack Grovewood. The blurb on the back was vague and reminiscent of a self-help book with quotes like “Learn the secrets to a good night’s rest,” and “Feed your mind’s insatiable appetite for better understanding.” Not a book on dreams per se, but it did pique my interest.
Delving into the book at home, I found it to be more up my alley than I previously expected. It was filled with chapters pertaining to lucid dreaming, meditation, and even sleepwalking. I was already familiar with most of the content, but it turned out to be an enjoyable read. It wasn’t until the last chapter, though, that I was caught completely off guard. I will outline most of it below:
Chapter 16: “How To Exit Your Body”
DISCLAIMER: This is not an OBE, or “Out of Body Experience.”
As stated in Chapter 8: “Out of Body, Out of Bed,” I do believe in OBEs, but I find that they’re just another form of dreaming. What I’m about to divulge to you is something completely different; it’s neither an OBE nor any other dream state. This is a way to truly exit your body using sleep paralysis as the catalyst.
Before I discuss specifics, I’d like to go over a few prerequisites.
To pull this off, you must be proficient at lucid dreaming. What I mean by this is that you need to have lucid dreams regularly and retain lucidity for long periods of time in these dreams. It also helps if you’re able to manipulate your dream environment with ease. If you only lucid dream on occasion, you’ll have to train your mind to do so more often (see Chapter 6: “Becoming a Lucid Lucy”). If you, however, are unable to lucid dream, then this technique is not for you. It’s NOTHING PERSONAL. You simply lack the tools needed for departure.
Another requirement is sleep paralysis. Most of us have experienced this at one time or another, but it will help immensely if you experience it on a regular basis. Coupled with lucidity and a focused mind, sleep paralysis is the only way out of your own skin, so to speak.
That’s all you need in the way of mental capabilities, more or less. It’s an added bonus if you’ve had an OBE or wake-initiated lucid dream (see Chapter 7: “Wake Unto Sleep”).
Now, onto the fun part. I’m going to lay this out in a step by step fashion followed by a more detailed explanation of what to expect upon achieving your first departure. Keep in mind that results may vary.
Fall asleep, on your back, in a slanted position. It could be on a recliner or a car seat, but your body must be diagonal relative to ground-level. That’s the only way I’ve ever been able to get this to work. For one reason or another, gravity plays a role.
Attain sleep paralysis. This is more of a waiting game than a step as it’s not entirely possible to execute at will. When it does happen, lucidity is key. You must be aware that you’re in a state of sleep paralysis and be unafraid of your lack of mobility. This is one of the ways being a lucid dreamer comes in handy.
Once paralyzed, attempt to move your legs. If you’re in the proper position, at least one of them should be mobile. If you can’t move either leg, then you’ll have to restart and experiment by tilting your seat in different positions.
Upon freeing one or more of your legs, attempt to free your arms. They will feel incredibly stiff, and you shouldn’t be able to move them, try as you might. You should then feel a sharp sting in your head. Don’t be alarmed; you’re not having an aneurysm. This is completely normal and is necessary to make your exit.
As difficult and strenuous as it may be, keep trying to free your arms. As you do this, attempt to move the rest of your body as well. Put everything you have into fighting the paralysis. Just don’t fall back asleep.
As you wrestle with your mind and body, the stinging sensation in your brain is going to grow. It won’t be painful, but it will cause you great discomfort. Let it happen. As the sensation builds, you’ll start to feel yourself drift away from your body. Don’t fight it. Your mind is like a rubber band and will want to bounce back from where it’s being stretched. Don’t let it. Follow the flow of departure.
If you steel your mind’s focus and follow these instructions to a tee, you will have successfully exited your earthly meat sack and unlocked a marvel of the mind that has only just begun to be understood.
And that’s the gist of it. The author went on to say that the world you find yourself in upon departure will harbor some differences to the one you started in. It will appear similar in almost every way but will be completely void of any lifeforms. On top of that, nothing will budge. Everything will remain in its place, as still as can be. After revealing the delicate process of re-entering one’s body, the author ended the chapter with an eerie warning;
Whatever you do, don’t go near the water.
I was dumbfounded. The entire book up to that point was factual, but that last chapter seemed like something out of a science fiction novel. It certainly made for good entertainment, but I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. Why have such an out-of-place, pseudo-science chapter in an otherwise reputable book? It just didn’t make any sense.
About a week passed before I thought about the book again. It was almost time to return it to the library, so I decided to re-read its final chapter. As absurd as it seemed, I teetered between laughing it off once and for all and actually giving it a shot. I did meet all of the requirements, and it would amuse me to some small extent. I could, at the very least, say that I tried it for myself, if for no other reason than to prove it was a load of crap.
After weighing the pros and cons, I ended up giving in to my curiosity. I knew it wasn’t going to work, but it would be a fun little experiment, if nothing else. Besides, was there really anything better for me to do during an episode of sleep paralysis? The only minor nuisance was that I’d have to sleep on one of my recliners instead of in the comfort of my king-sized Serta mattress. A small price to pay for the sake of scientific discovery, I supposed.
On the night in question, I wound up having three episodes of sleep paralysis. During the first, I was far too groggy. I completely forgot about the book and quickly fell back asleep. The second one lasted a bit longer, and I was able to remember the steps outlined in the last chapter. I could just barely move one of my legs, and upon trying my arms, I did feel a small but noticeable discomfort in my head. I wondered for a split second if the author was onto something and that made me a bit excited. Because of this, I jolted awake.
Reflecting on the incident, I became intrigued. I still didn’t believe that I could “exit my body,” but I knew something was going on. I decided to tilt the recliner back a bit and try again. This time, I would have better control.
Next episode came pretty quick. I hadn’t fallen asleep yet, but my body was getting ready to. “This is it,” I thought. I allowed the paralysis to fully set in before attempting anything. It was difficult not to fall asleep, but I managed. This time around, I was able to gain full control over my left leg. I moved it back and forth a few times before trying to free my arms. True to the method, they wouldn’t budge and felt oddly stiff – more so than usual.
This is when the familiar sting set in. It jarred me, but I kept going. The more I tried to move my arms, the greater the sting grew. Believe it or not, as I continued, I did, in fact, feel myself drifting away from my body. I tried to keep it up, but my nerves got the best of me. I lost all control for just a moment and was sucked right back into my body, immediately waking up in the process.
This experience startled the hell out of me. It was beginning to seem more and more likely that the last chapter of Jack Grovewood’s book was somehow accurate. My curiosity became aroused to such an extent that I felt the overwhelming need to tell someone about it. Luckily, I knew just the person.
My buddy Josh is a character. He believes in a lot of what I don’t. This causes us to butt heads on a lot of topics. In simple terms, I’m a skeptic and he’s a believer. One thing we can agree on, however, is our love for dreams. He’s the only person I can talk to at length about the subject. He also happens to meet the requirements listed in the book. I was hoping he would join me for a sleep session and help me get to the bottom of what was going on.
I called Josh up and told him everything. He was ecstatic (as I knew he would be) and agreed to meet me at my place the following night for “departure”. In his mind, this was going to go off without a hitch. I wasn’t completely sold on it yet. I was just happy to have someone else to tag along for the ride.
Fast-forward to the following night. We hung out for a bit, and I showed Josh the book. His eyes grew wide upon reading the final chapter, and he couldn’t wait to try it out himself. I told him not to get his hopes up, but it was clear to me that they already were.
Ready as ever, we laid down at opposite ends of the living room on my two recliners. Josh cracked a joke about how this was the first night we’d be sleeping together; I threw a pillow at him, and then we were off. Shut-eye was just around the corner.
This was when things took a turn for the bizarre. I didn’t have an episode of sleep paralysis right away, but I did end up waking a few hours into my nap. I noticed that Josh was fast asleep in the recliner across the room. Needing to empty my bladder, I walked past him to get to the bathroom, tripping over his legs in the process. I met the floor with a thud and turned around to see if Josh had woken. To my surprise, he hadn’t. I knew he was a heavy sleeper, but even he should have woken up, given the commotion.
Becoming worried, I called out his name. No reaction. I tried shaking him. Nothing. I grabbed a wrist and checked his pulse. It was there, however weak. This was when I panicked.
I ran to my room, grabbed my phone, and scrambled to hit the call button. Just as I was about to dial 911, I heard a loud gasp from the next room, like a diver coming up for air. I ran out there as fast as I could, and to my delight, Josh was awake. He looked up at me with wide eyes and said, “Dude! It fucking worked!”
I was flabbergasted. Though Josh was an over-enthusiastic believer, and downright stubborn at times, he was no liar. I asked him more than once if he was sure it wasn’t a dream and he insisted that he was absolutely certain. Between his firm conviction and weak pulse just moments before, I had no choice but to believe him. It seemed that the book was legitimate after all.
We spent the next couple of hours talking about it. After leaving his body, Josh found himself in my living room, but it was noticeably inanimate. Everything was perfectly still; not even a speck of dust floating through the air. Josh also noticed that his body was translucent; a milky white outline of its former shape. He attempted to open the door to my house, but the knob wouldn’t turn and the door would not budge. It took him a while to realize this, but he found that his new form allowed him to phase through walls.
Josh went on to tell me that the world outside was very different from ours. He said it was like having the contrast dialed up on a picture. That and the static nature of everything made it feel like being trapped in a photograph. I tried to imagine it, but I knew I needed to see it for myself.
We made plans to go back to sleep and enter the world together. Despite my excitement, I was able to make my first successful departure that night. Josh was waiting in the room for me, next to his sleeping body. Seeing ourselves like that was fascinating in and of itself, but I wanted more than anything to see the world outside; a world where adventure and discovery awaited us.
For a few weeks, Josh slept over my house and we explored the new world. We would camp there for what seemed like days at a time. It was fun and downright addicting. Curiosity was what kept us going – we wanted to know more and more about the odd realm we had discovered. Here are just a few of the things we learned during our excursions:
-The lighting is fixed. It always looks to be about noon-time based on objects and buildings at eye level, however, the sky is black and filled with stars. It’s a strange dissonance I can’t quite put into words.
-It’s impossible to phase through older buildings. Not sure why.
-There are no lifeforms, just as the book stated, not even animals or insects.
-Sound is bathed in a slight echo. It’s always noticeable when Josh and I talk.
-It’s possible to fall asleep there, but you won’t dream.
-If you travel too far from your body, you’ll hit an ‘invisible wall’ and be unable to go any further.
-Time doesn’t pass in the real world while you’re departed.
After about a month of successful departures, things changed. The more we explored, the more uncomfortable I felt. It always seemed like something was watching us, even though there was no one around. Josh was the opposite. Our late-night adventures were becoming so routine for him, that he was becoming bored. He kept talking about water and how he wanted to get a closer look at the pond near the main road. I reminded Josh of the author’s warning, but it didn’t seem to faze him. Eventually, his curiosity got the best of him.
One night, upon leaving my body, Josh was nowhere to be found. I thought that maybe he hadn’t departed yet, but up to that point, he had always beat me to the punch. This could only mean one thing.
I phased through the walls of my home and raced to the nearby pond. Josh was there, standing at the end of the dock that locals used for fishing in the real world. I yelled out to him.
“Josh! What are you doing?!”
“It’s fine! See? There’s nothing to be scared of. It’s just water.”
I watched as Josh reached down and touched the surface of the pond. It rippled. The hair on the back of my neck stood up. The water should not have reacted. We’d been there for weeks and hadn’t seen a single thing move. Even the air was still.
Perplexed, I began walking out towards Josh. He lifted his hand up, just as awestruck as I was. As he pulled his arm back, the ripple expanded. With it, a small portion of the water turned dark. After a few moments, something reached out from the blackness.
It was a hand. A fucking hand. It reached up grabbed Josh’s leg, yanking him downward. He went feet first into the water, holding onto the dock for dear life. As he screamed, I ran toward him. Before I could even get halfway to his position, I watched him disappear into the water. I ran the rest of the way, but the darkness had faded and returned to normal. My best friend was gone.
In a state of fear-induced panic, I ran away. I wanted to save Josh, but I didn’t know how. Plus I felt that if I re-entered my body, perhaps I’d find him, awake in the real world. It was wishful thinking, but it was all I had.
That wishful thinking fell flat when I awoke. Josh was still unconscious. I tried and tried, but I could not wake him. Eventually, I called 911, and he was taken away on a stretcher. The doctors say he’s in a coma but can’t discern what caused it.
And that’s everything. I’m a fucking wreck over what happened. I’ve tried visiting Josh in the hospital, but I can’t face his parents, and they’re always there. Instead, I go out to the pond in the real world, hoping that somehow, I’ll find answers. All I do end up finding are more questions. They keep me up at night, along with a recurring nightmare replaying the events from that day. I’ve tried departing since, but to no avail. Something’s holding me back. It might be fear.
That world is like a photograph; a still frame of a place we were never meant to see. A moment frozen in time with a layer of reality stripped away – and something is living there. Despite this truth, I feel a need to dive back in and save my friend. He didn’t heed the author’s warning, but I’m the reason he entered that world in the first place. I’m the reason he can’t wake up.
I have to go back.
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WRITTEN BY: Christopher Maxim (Contact • Other Stories • Subreddit)
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