Exploding Head Syndrome & Twitter Threads

I’m going to tell you a story. Whether you choose to believe it or not is your decision alone.

Since I was a child, I’ve had trouble with my sleeping habits. Sleep paralysis, vivid recurring nightmares, bouts of insomnia… You name it, I’ve probably experienced it.

I never really knew why I had such trouble sleeping. I know my head is wired differently than other people; you only need to have a 30-second conversation with me to realise that.

Part of me thinks that some people just aren’t built to sleep, that their internal coding has been tampered with. Sometimes I feel like some weird offshoot of natural evolution. Recessive genes and bad luck.

The past decade or so, my sleep has been affected by something other than nightmares and rotten chemistry. Something that a quick Google search tells me is called “Exploding Head Syndrome.”

Now, this is probably something many of you have experienced before.

You’re on the verge of sleep. The ethereal line between waking and walking. The border-world that causes you to jolt your feet and feel that stomach-churning sensation of falling. A strange land of myoclonic jerks and hallucinations.

This isn’t that. This is something else.

Just as you’re about to fall asleep, you’re catapulted back into consciousness because you hear a bang. You hear a boom. You hear a screech. You hear a door slam. You hear a bullet whip past your face. You hear a crash of static.

You hear it all. Everything. It sounds like a compressed audio file of the universe in ruin. It scratches back and forth, it pops, it unravels, it dismantles, it… ultimately… is nothing. It lasted a fraction of a second.

It’s a noise that’s almost indescribable when separated from the moment. It’s a fleeting snippet of something you’ll never understand. It’s the ambient noise from inside a black hole.

But. It’s. Just. A. Noise.

A few minutes after the sound wakes you up, you’re either back to sleep or you can barely remember it. An essence remains. The silhouette of a soundscape. But it can’t be recreated, can’t be imitated.

Sometimes, however, it comes in the form of a voice.

And years of asking around, buying drinks to loosen lips, pressuring friends to admit their secrets, bullying strangers into talking…

Years of this ‘research,’ has led me to the conclusion that it’s a female voice you’ll hear, 9 times out of 10.

What freaked me out about it, what really made my throat dry and my migraine flare up, was the fact that this voice always says your name.

She always knows your name. She whispers it, she shouts it, she says it from across the room, from a mile away. She says it with her lips pressed against your ear. She says YOUR name.

Sometimes she has the voice of your mother, or your sister, or your lover, or a voice you’ve never heard before. Sometimes it’s a mixture of all voices. But never a chorus. It’s a solitary source.

Something out there knows your name.

You jerk awake. It’s happened every single night, but it still unnerves you. It still turns your skin white, still causes your heart to beat a little faster. It still hurts something deep inside you.

Because it’s not natural. It’s eerie. It’s perverse. It’s a midnight knock at your door when you live in a forest. It’s a glimpse of a shadow when you’re walking in a field alone. It’s something uninvited.

Maybe 10% of you have experienced it. Maybe more, maybe less. Maybe now you’re only just realising there’s a name for something that’s always haunted you.

They say that it’s just an auditory hallucination. A minor seizure in the temporal lobe. A result of stress, anxiety, broken sleep.

You’ll take what they give you. You’ll look for a solution. Your bathroom cabinet has it all:

Clomipramine,

Flunarizine,

Nifedipine,

Topiramate,

Carbamazepine…

The list goes on.

None of it works. She still visits you. Still calls your name like a siren at sea. Still clutches you in her arms when you’re on the brink of sleep.

Last night, she came again. But this time she said something different. It wasn’t my name she spoke. It was something else.

She said, “Six. One. Four.”

Sleep was out of the question after this. The change to my scheduled programming was too much to handle.

I got up and paced. I left my house. I walked the streets barefoot, gravel and dirt beneath my skin. Moonlight shining down and guiding me.

“Six. One. Four.”

I found myself at the library. Obviously, it wasn’t open at that time of night. The shutters were closed and all the lights were out. It didn’t stop me.

A window at the back provided me with access to what I needed (and several deep cuts in the palms of my hands).

I roamed the rows of words, my fingertips stroking the spines of a hundred sleeping books, spreading my blood on the names of dead authors.

Then I found what I was looking for. A bible. The Book of Genesis. It was old and coated with dust, but it would do.

Six. One. Four.

Genesis 6: 1-4

The verses I had been told to read by the voice that comes when they don’t want me to sleep.

So I read it.

When people began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that they were fair; and they took wives for themselves of all that they chose.

The Lord said, “My spirit shall not abide in mortals forever, for they are flesh; their days shall be one hundred twenty years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went in to the daughters of humans, who bore children to them.

These were the heroes that were of old, warriors of renown.

The Nephilim. A Hebrew word. Bastardised and corrupted over years of mistranslations and mistakes.

They say it means ‘the fallen’. The ones who came before the flood. Treasonous angels? Sons and daughters of an earlier God?

Others say a more accurate translation is ‘giants.’ That they roamed the earth before us. Archaic beasts that would tower above the current inhabitants of this world.

Modern translators have found all kinds of confusing interpretations of The Nephilim. The word can be found in ancient Aramaic. Sanskrit. Tamil.

Languages so old that the fact they even have a name is surprising. Languages older than human speech.

The drawings in French caves that date back millennia contain references to The Nephilim.

The Buried Ones. The Towers. So many names and so many unanswered questions. So many different theories.

Proto-humans that turned a blind eye to their creator and were punished for their sins? Indescribably large creatures? A failed experiment? Children that were born mad?

And they stayed here… They weren’t banished. Just locked away.

But they speak to you at night. They speak to us. They speak to their relatives. Their descendants. Those of us who are half-breeds and mongrels. Bastards of an old world long before our own.

I left the library. I carried on walking. I wrote this down over the course of several hours.

My hands are still bleeding and my feet are bruised and battered already. Glass and stones decorate my soles.

I’m walking with a purpose now. Because she’s talking to me again. Now I know who she is, she doesn’t need to wait until I’m on the edge of sleep.

She speaks softly as I make my way to her.

She whispers gently into my ear.

Let us out.

We’ve been locked away so long.

We’ve missed the world.

We’ve missed gazing at stars.

We’ve missed longing for answers.

She tells me where they’ve been locked away. Where they’ve spent aeons ageing and concocting plans.

They lay under the ground in a rotten hole.

Flesh on flesh, stretched out for miles beneath the surface.

Fields of skin atop impossibly large structures. Their skeletons rattling from the pressure of their cage.

Intertwined with one another.

Pulsating.

Plotting.

They’ve spent so long down there.

Their bones ache.

Their minds decay.

They hurt to be let out.

They beg us to let them out.

So, I must let them out.

——————————

T H E       E N D

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As you can tell from the weird formatting and staccato sentence structure, this particular short story was originally presented via a different medium than a blog post.

I posted this across Twitter on 05/04/19 and gave myself very little allowance in terms of proofing and editing. I wanted to write something filled with spontaneity and spunk. I hope it’s unabashed and raw enough for you.

Please excuse any errors. If I’d let myself edit too much, I wouldn’t have been able to post it.

If you liked it, I’d love for you to share the link to this post or even retweet the original thread (here’s the link).

If you enjoyed my writing, I have a small collection of short stories available on Amazon. Just search “Empiricism Jake Keane” or head over to this link. And if you can’t afford it, I’m happy to send you a copy for free.

Email me: Hello@JakeKeane.com

Cheers! x

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