Friday Flash Fiction: Catalepsy.

My first FridayFlash fiction story for VampLit. Opening sentence from The Assignation – Edgar Allan Poe

Ill-fated and mysterious man!—bewildered in the brilliancy of thine own imagination, and fallen in the flames of thine own youth!

I may have opened my eyes, but I cannot be sure. There is only a nauseating blackness, a total absence of light; a void of nothingness. I have no comprehension now of that sense I once knew as ‘vision.’ No awareness of shape or color. I could as easily assume blindness struck me at some instant in my life, some distant moment that must have occurred during childhood, a loss of sight for which I have no memory.

The silence too is like a tangible entity, smothering me against reality in an insulated cocoon. Like a blanket or a rug wrapped tightly about my chest and face through which I am unable to breathe; drowning me in a tide of oozing fear while my thoughts cry out in their cacophony of chaos. I feel as though I have withdrawn deep inside my own body, a minute ray of consciousness inside an inanimate, lifeless corpse.

Even the beating of my heart seems now to be still. I can feel no sensation of blood and oxygen coursing through the arteries beneath my skin, no more the audible, delicate rasping of air being drawn into my lungs. The stillness is complete, as if my eardrums that once detected the faintest vibrations of music, bird call, the hum and chatter of insects, the rustle of the leaves on the trees in a summer breeze, have been removed. Or perhaps the air itself has been taken, leaving me in a vacuum. Who was it said, “In space, no one can hear you scream”?

Paralysis has seized my mind and muscle. I have no awareness of surroundings, impossible to move, impossible even to scream. Disorientation is such that I cannot discern if I lie on my back, my stomach, or even, perhaps, if I stand on my head. There is no sensation of heat or cold. For all I know, I may have been frozen in a block of ice. A waking awareness from nightmare, or even coma, could not be so mind numbing as my present predicament.

Without the ticking of a clock or any way of measuring the passage of time, an eon may be passing as I search the depths of my mind to bring some logical recollection as to how I arrived in this situation. I seem to have no memory, no past, no expectancy of a future, only knowledge of this present moment. Is it seconds, minutes, hours merging into one continuous instant of existence I call now?

With such total absence of any sensory input, perhaps I should consider the possibility that this is death. But if I am dead, surely, I would have no self-awareness.  This activity in my brain suggests I am not dead. “I think, therefore, I am.” So, could this be insanity? I have heard that certain drugs can induce a similar comatose state of mind.

And then, so softly at first they seem only to enhance the loneliness, I become aware of the faintest of sounds creeping into my perception. I hardly dare term the vibrations as sounds, rather that they invade my senses, coercing me into awareness, almost as if they emanate from within my head until, at last, they take physical form—a  bump, a rattle, as of something falling. My entire universe begins now to pulse with the slow, rhythmic thud… thud… thud…

The noise drags from the obscure depths of my consciousness, the memory of something that has lain dormant, something I learned to dread throughout my entire life. At the now, slowly diminishing thumps, I realize the sounds for what they are; sounds that could only be mud and gravel falling onto a casket; shoveled earth falling on the lid of a coffin; sounds that bring home to me the living horror of my interment. I find my voice and release a choking scream, knowing deep inside I am already too late…

© 2011 Robert A. Read. 


A medical condition of unconsciousness where muscles become rigid and where heart rate and breathing slow to almost undetectable levels. In the early days of medicine the condition may have been mistaken as death leading to Premature Burial.

14 thoughts on “Friday Flash Fiction: Catalepsy.

  1. carole gill says:

    First of all that was very well-written, extremely so.
    It’s our worst fear too that you captured. What if it’s like that?
    Good stuff, Rob! wow.

  2. T.K. Millin says:

    Wow! You captured the true essence of the scariest nightmare of them all!

    Like Carole said, very well-written!

  3. Blaze McRob says:

    Great stuff, my friend. This is indeed a terror for many people. I wonder if one would feel some of the same horror before and during cremation if the same state should befall someone.

    • lokinvar says:

      Many thanks for the comments you left on my blog, Catalepsy. I really do appreciate that you took an interest in my writing. Thank you.

  4. That was great! I wrote a story about a girl buried alive once, but it was no where as good as this.

    • lokinvar says:

      Many thanks for your comment Lisa. I enjoy stories that involve the writer’s views on approaching death. Would love to read your story about the girl buried alive — if it is posted anywhere?

  5. sonia says:

    This is good! Poor guy. I wonder if he is a vampire?

  6. Spot says:

    Wow. I can honestly say this was one of the best pieces of flash fiction I’ve read lately! Very well written.

    Did you know that in Victorian times they often tied a string to the finger of the deceased which connected with a bell on top of the grave just in case this situation happened? I read a fascinating story about it once and the image has stayed with me for a long time.

    Fantastic work!

    • lokinvar says:

      Many thanks for taking the interest to read and comment on my Flash Fiction story Catalepsy. Yes, I had heard of the warning bells you mention. Premature burial also, probably, influenced the origin of vampire myths, particularly in times of plague where medics would give a victim no more than a cursory postmortem.

  7. W. J. Howard says:

    I once had a dream that was similar to the start of your story, so you scared the crap out of me, bringing back those memories. Great story!

    • lokinvar says:

      Glad you enjoyed the story. Yes, the dream sequence awakening I also was writing from experience. It certainly is a weird and disturbing experience trying to work out if you are awake, or still asleep.

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