Photo courtesy of Mary DeWinkleer
Diane screamed down from the top of the cliff in utter horror. She heard no response back from her husband and started to panic. What if he’s stuck? How is he going to get back up? No way an ambulance can get down there. Maybe if I jump down after him at least he won’t be alone. Okay that’s it, I’m jumping. Three, two, o-
“Babe I’m fine! I’m right here,” Ezra called up from the water five stories down. “It’s super deep, it took me a couple of seconds to surface. The water feels nice, come down, I’ll catch you!”
Diane halted her plans to jump as soon as she heard her husband’s voice. The relief she felt was immeasurable. After she caught her breath, the anger set it.
“Dang it, Ezra you scared me!” she yelled to her husband. “Don’t do stuff like that! How do you expect me to save you when you’re being reckless to the point you could hurt yourself, hm?! Leaving your poor wife to fend for herself…”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you,” Ezra called sincerely. “Just having a little fun is all, now come down here so you don’t have to fend for yourself. How do you expect me to protect you from all the way down here?”
A scoff escaped her lips before she took one last look at the distance she was about to drop. Diane wasn’t one to let fear control her, but when it came to her family, danger lurked around every corner.
With little more hesitation, Diane took a couple of steps back, ran towards the cliff’s edge, and jumped as far forward as she could so she wouldn’t collide with the jagged cliff side. She could feel her stomach sink to her pelvis then suddenly rise to her throat as she fell, legs straight and her hands flailing close to her sides to avoid hard collision with the water. Diane landed only a few feet from where Ezra was treading. He swam towards her as she rose to the surface.
“See, that wasn’t sooo bad, was it?” Ezra sarcastically asked his wife.
“You know full well that wasn’t what scared me.”
“But look, I’m right here safe and sound,” he assured Diane as he pulled her arms around the back of his neck. “There’s nothing to worry about.”
Diane knew though her husband was fearless and often spontaneous, he always managed to keep himself out of harm’s way, his wife too. He was very protective of his family, even if he had a knack for adrenaline.
Back at the resort, Diane and Ezra opened the door to their spacious water-front suite. They were sharing it with their two best friends, Kate and Simon, who had been watching their son while the two had been roaming the island.
“Mama! Papa! Look what uncle Simon taught me,” Sawyer exclaimed as he ran to the kitchen to grab a spoon. When he arrived again in front of his parents, he balanced the tiny spoon on his nose going completely crosseyed to look.
“Nice job bud, but your eyes are going to get stuck if you keep doing that,” Ezra told his son.
“No they won’t, look!” Sawyer squealed as he kept crossing and uncrossing his eyes.
Ezra immediately ran towards his son and swooped him off the ground by his armpits. Sawyer giggled like any child his age would, with a lot of volume and really high pitched. As her husband ran around the apartment like a maniac, Diane addressed her attention to their two friends who had been watching the scene unfold.
“Thank you guys again for watching him, we really appreciate it.”
“No worries, girlie! It’s always a blast getting to spend time with that ball of energy. I mean, he doesn’t quit!” Kate chuckled while still watching the two boys run about the main room.
“Yeah, you’d have no idea where he gets it from,” Diane said sarcastically with a strong eye roll.
“Hey! That’s my spoon!” Sawyer yelled, chasing his dad.
“I paid for it so I think it’s actually my spoon!” Ezra yelled back.
“Well you love me so you’ll let me have it!”
“Hoooooo oookay tiger way to pull that card!”
“Did you guys have fun? Find any buried treasure?” Simon asked with a smirk and a wink.
Horrified and annoyed with her husband’s lack of modesty, Kate punched Simon hard in the shoulder, “SIMON!”
“HAH! Wouldn’t you like to know,” Diane responded in an attempt to go along with his joke.
After a filling dinner at the resort’s restaurant, the group returned to their suite and went quickly to bed.
Around 3:00 am, Diane jolted awake to the sound of screams from the room next door,
She tore the sheets from on top of her and bolted through the two doors to reach her son. He seemed to be still asleep, but writhing around among the sweat-soaked sheets, letting out shrieks of pure agony. Diane raced to his side in an attempt to calm him or wake him from his nightmare. Sawyer’s arms flailed with enough force to tear from their young sockets. Diane did what she could to hold them in place, though any attempt made his back arch even more.
“Sawyer, wake up,” she spoke smoothly into his ear in an attempt to calm him. “Shhh, it’s only a nightmare baby. You’re safe, just wake up now.”
Tears streamed down her face as the pure anguish on her son’s face did not falter. It had only been a few seconds, but the pale redness of Sawyer’s face made it apparent he was not breathing. He would suffocate if something wasn’t done to calm him.
The three other occupants of the suite arrived suddenly at the doorway, Kate clinging to her husband, face buried in his bare chest as to shield herself from the unsightliness of the unfolding scene. Ezra immediately landed at Diane’s side and began holding Sawyer to the bed by laying his torso against his son’s body. Diane continued to cry while tucking the soaked strands of hair from his face to behind his ears, wondering if the screams would eventually cause their ears to bleed.
For a few more moments he struggled, but not long after, Ezra felt less physical defiance beneath him and the incessant screams had ceased. Sawyer was calm. Throughout the episode, he had not once opened his eyes. Nor did he as the episode came to a close.
Diane and Ezra rested their heads on the bed in an attempt to catch their breath after the commotion. The entire white sheet covering their son had become so saturated with sweat, it had become translucent and even showed signs of tearing. He had kicked the baseboard so hard it snapped in half, a small amount of blood trickled from a small wound in Sawyer’s foot from the collision. His body looked as though he had just come out of a pool after holding his breath for too long. Drenched and red-faced, Sawyer had returned to a peaceful slumber.
Diane and Ezra thought to wake him, but he seemed to remain peaceful and thought it best to not disturb him. It could be an issue for the morning. The two stood and Diane instantly sank into Ezra’s arms, unable to control the emotions pouring from her. Ezra led her slowly outside of the room where their friends still stood petrified to make sure Sawyer would not wake up. As soon as they passed the threshold, Diane sank to the floor in a fit of despair. This time her friends joined them. They sat there huddled on the floor comforting each other as best they could.
“Thank you guys for staying up, but you’re okay to go to bed. Get some sleep and we can see you in the morning for breakfast,” Ezra addressed Kate and Simon while his wife’s cries had begun to subside. They nodded and turned in the direction of their room, saying goodnight to the couple once more.
Ezra gently stroked Diane’s hair to soothe her as it had in the past.
“He’s okay now and sleeping soundly thankfully. When he wakes up we can see how he’s feeli-”
“When he wakes up, we’re going home. If something else happens to him and we aren’t at home to get him to the hospital and we lose him I-I don’t know what I’d do Ezra. We can’t lose him!”
“Diane, I promise we won’t lose him. We won’t lose another, I won’t let it happen.”
“But we don’t know what that was. What if it happens again and we can’t stop it? He’s our baby and I can’t let it happen to him.”
Diane paused for a moment as Ezra formulated a response, but made up her mind first.
“I want to go home. The best way we can do to keep him safe is to at least get him to a place where help is 15 minutes away. Where he can be in the comfort of his own home. Kate and Simon can use up the rest of the week, I want to go home.”
He sat and pondered the thought. As much as he wanted to run out the rest of their trip and see how Sawyer felt in the morning, he knew the possibility of an impending episode would cause added tension and stress to the trip as well as the fact that healthcare and comfort were very far from where they were.
“Okay yeah, let’s do that,” Ezra replied and helped his wife stand. “Let’s start packing up most of our stuff now and take care of his toys and clothes in the morning.”
“After Simon’s killer breakfast..” Diane added, wiping the final tears from her eyes.
“After Simon’s killer breakfast.”
When the sun came up the next morning, the suite came to life as it had been, but there was a thickness in the air that was unanimously felt except by Sawyer. The couple had told their friends of the plan to leave early which they completely understood. Sawyer was up and excited for breakfast as usual and felt no tension at all. He was having the time of his life like nothing about the night before had phazed him, or lived in his memory. With Sawyer acting normal, Diane and Ezra wondered if they could continue their stay a little longer, but agreed it was best to be safe than sorry. The plane took off at 11 am that morning.
It had been two weeks since they returned from their vacation and Sawyer only seemed to be getting worse. He was having nightmares every single night, but wouldn’t wake up until the next morning with zero recollection of what had occurred. With each day he seemed to be more and more irritable and uncooperative. It was nothing like their son. He was such a sweet boy and anyone who knew him was aware of that. His behavior was severely out of the ordinary. Diane and Ezra agreed to bring him to the doctor, thinking maybe his nightmares were having a deeper effect on his personality.
“This is just a part of growing up,” the doctor said assuredly. “He’s a boy and his hormones change with time. We see this often in boys his age, but with time and maturity you’ll see his personality shine through once again. This is totally normal.”
There is nothing normal about my son. Never in his life would he explode with so much disrespect and angst. He’s only five years old there’s no way his personality would change so quickly. But there’s nothing else we can do. Please let it end soon, for all of our sakes. Diane looked over at Ezra, blocking out the rest of what the doctor had to say. She knew her son and knew what he was doing was not normal. Ezra looked down to escape her desperate gaze. He couldn’t keep watching her without having a solution to make her feel better. He had no sanctuary in his mind where he knew things would be okay. But the only thing they could do was give it time.
But they didn’t feel they had much left until something went horribly wrong.
Just as they had for the last four weeks, Ezra and Diane came barreling into Sawyer’s room at exactly 3:00 in the morning. Their son flailing about his bed, getting increasingly more tangled in his dinosaur bed sheets. The two arrived at his sides to restrain him, but there was something about the amount of force he was using that took the two by surprise.
“Why the hell is he moving s-so much str-stronger?” Ezra asked out loud through gritted teeth. He was struggling to keep his grip.
“I-I don’t know-”
Sawyer’s eyes opened wide. His pupils were milky white, entirely void of color. Diane screamed in horror at the sight. Sawyer’s white eyes turned to look directly at her.
For a moment all was silent. The movement had stopped abruptly and neither parent knew how to react to Sawyer’s behavior.
Sawyer’s attention jumped to the ceiling once again where he began to writhe. His eyes closed. His parents looked at each other in confusion as they continued to restrain their son. The episode seemed to last longer than the others. The two were growing tired.
“Is he…is he hovering over the bed?” Diane asked with a shaking voice.
Ezra knelt down with wide eyes to confirm her theory. There was too much movement to know for sure. But there was less of the sound of him ramming against the bed. Astonishment and fear plastered their faces.
The next two minutes felt as though they would never end. Sawyer continued to aggressively thrash his body across the bed with a pain-stricken face.
He began to scream.
His scream grew louder and louder, it was reaching the point where they had to let go of him to block their ears from the sound. Their hands didn’t leave their ears until the scream started to change.
His voice was gradually getting deeper. And his back was arching at the same rate.
Ezra and Diane subconsciously took a few steps back in terror at the sight and sound unfolding in front of them. Nothing in their mind could explain what they saw. They knew these episodes were much more than bad dreams.
Sawyer’s voice reached a depth that vibrated the entire room, his back so arched his spine looked as though it was about to snap in two. Tears finally started streaming down Diane’s face though not a sound escaped her quivering lips. Ezra felt the blood leaving his face and his legs start to give out from beneath him.
All sound and movement came to an instant close. Sawyer’s body crashed back onto the bed with enough force to have broken it.
At 3:10 am, he was fast asleep once again.
His parents fell to the floor in exhaustion.
Ezra stood silently in front of the stove the next morning, flipping scrambled eggs in the pan in his hand. His face was blank. The memories of the night before flashed through his mind like a slideshow of his biggest fears. He hadn’t slept well that night, he hadn’t slept at all. What the hell is happening to my son? What did I just witness? There’s no way that could’ve been real. There’s no way-A singular tear streamed down his face.
Diane took her first few steps into the kitchen. Bags had formed almost instantly under her eyes. The night before gave her the worst nightmare of her life and she hadn’t even been asleep. Though, the nightmares of her sleep were not pleasant either.
Neither her or Ezra spoke a single word to each other while Ezra pulled out three plates and divided the eggs among them. He sat down at the dining table across from Diane. They ate in silence.
Sawyer’s bedroom door slowly opened. It’s hinges creaked, but no other sound escaped the room. Diane and Ezra’s heads quickly jumped to the door. Oh God what is he going to do? What’s going to happen?
Sawyer stepped outside the room, rubbing the sleepiness from his eyes. He got excited when he saw his plate of eggs on the table.
“YES! PAPA’S BEST EGGS!!”
He ran towards the table and jumped into his chair with such childlike excitement. Immediately he was scooping eggs into his mouth.
Ezra and Diane watched in awe. Wide-eyed, they didn’t know what to make of their son. He hadn’t acted that much like himself since their vacation. They looked up at each other with confusion.
“Can Andrew come over to play today? We haven’t played together in a while. I have to show him my new dinosaur set!” Sawyer asked with hope in his voice.
“Yes baby, but are you sure you’re feeling up to it?” Diane asked her son sincerely.
“Yeah maybe you should take a nap and rest for the day.” Ezra suggested.
“But I wanna see Andrew!” Sawyer whined.
“I guess if you’re feeling okay then yes, but only for a couple hours, I want you in bed early tonight.” Ezra said decidedly.
“Thank you Papa!!”
Sawyer finished his food and jumped from the table.
“Hey, dish please.” Diane called after him before he could get too far from the table.
Sawyer ran from the table to the sink and then into his room. Ezra and Diane looked at each other one more time without saying another word. They finished their eggs minutes later.
“How was your time with Andrew?” Diane asked as she pulled the blankets over son.
“It was awesome! I got to show him my new dinosaurs and we built a lego city and made the dinosaurs like godzilla and start stepping on houses and cars and people and they were completely destroying the town and then the t-rex stepped on the school and the kids said thank you because they would never have to go to school again and THEN-”
“Sounds like fun! We can talk more about it in the morning, how about that?”
“Okay,” Sawyer replied through a yawn.
Ezra walked into the bedroom to say goodnight to his son and to check one last time to make sure he was okay. The four weeks prior had been a total nightmare for their family with Sawyer’s behavior becoming more and more angry and aggressive. Totally lost on what they could do to help their son. That was the first day since their vacation they didn’t feel so hopeless. Their loving son had returned to them and it was a euphoria like no other. They hoped that night would not bring terrors, especially after the night before.
Ezra leaned forward to kiss his son’s forehead, “Papa, can you check under the bed for monsters? I don’t want to be eaten while I sleep.”
Ezra chuckled, “Yes, Sawyer.”
Sawyer was a pretty fearless child like his parents, not often scared by what scared other children his age like clowns or the dark or heights, but he could never get over his fear of the monster under the bed. He knew full well that they weren’t real, but he was not going to risk a single night.
His dad knelt onto the floor, turning his head sideways to get a good look under the mattress.
“P-Papa, there’s som-someone in m-my bed,” Sawyer said shakily to his dad from beneath the bed.
Ezra’s eyes widened as he began to profusely sweat. Slowly he sat up to look at the Sawyer laying on the bed. When his eyes reached the top of the bed, the boy that looked like his son stared back, his eyes milky white and wide, head cocked entirely to the right. The thing in the bed spoke with Sawyer’s voice.
“What’s wrong, Papa?”