I’ve always struggled getting to sleep in silence. Even as a kid I can remember lying awake in the fading light, wriggling about under the sheets in a desperate attempt to find a position comfortable enough to make me drop off. Nothing really changed as I grew up – until my roommate told me about ASMR.
For those who don’t know, ASMR (which stands for ‘autonomous sensory meridian response’) is basically a pleasant tingling some people experience when exposed to certain stimuli – most commonly things like soft whispering, pages turning and gentle tapping, but there are endless videos on YouTube with various ‘triggers’. There are even channels that quietly read out creepypasta or nosleep stories – ironic, as most people use the videos to get them to sleep.
I cannot even begin to explain how much of an impact ASMR has had on my sleep schedule. I used to dread coming to bed, knowing I would spend at least a couple of hours rolling around and becoming more and more frustrated that I couldn’t sleep. Now, I know that I just have to stick in my headphones, hit play on YouTube and I can be fast asleep within ten or fifteen minutes – sometimes even sooner, if it’s a particularly good video.
I do understand why some people find it… well, creepy. Strangers whispering things into your ears in the dark? The tap, tap, tap of nails on various objects as you’re trying to get off to sleep? It definitely sounds odd. Some people just don’t get the ‘tingly’ feeling, and I get that. But I absolutely love ASMR.
Or I did, until last night.
My bed time routine wasn’t any different. I got into bed, messed around on Twitter and reddit for a while on my phone, then switched over to YouTube. I popped in my headphones, clicked on one of my favourite ASMR artists, and settled down to go to sleep. As usual, I fell asleep quickly with the soothing sound of soft whispers in my ears.
Now, every now and then I’ll wake up in the night and a video will still be going, especially if it’s a long one or if I’ve put on a playlist. I barely register when this happens, as I’m in such a sleepy state I tend to drop off again mere minutes later. Last night though, as soon as consciousness started to seep back into my brain, I felt a weird, prickly itch all over my body that pulled me further out of sleep. It was like the echo of bugs crawling over my skin, not strong enough for it to be real but enough to make me scratch and swat at my arms and legs and torso to get rid of the sensation.
As I wriggled around under the sheets, I noticed that the sounds I was hearing were… off, somehow. The whispers were no longer soft but urgent, and in a language I didn’t recognise. I picked up my phone, figuring I’d accidentally left on auto-play and had shuffled on to a different channel. At first I thought the video was just a black square – as the main lure of ASMR is the audio, some channels don’t bother with video or even a static image. But as my eyes adjusted to the glare of the screen in the dark of my room, I realised that there was something… someone… moving in the shadows that filled the square of video.
The intensity of the whispers increased. It was as though they were screaming into the microphone… but somehow maintaining a whisper. I don’t really know how else to describe it. As I stared at the screen and my mind continued to wake up properly, I recognised that the camera was angled from what must have been the ceiling of a dark room, or at least a very tall tripod. The room appeared to be empty apart from whatever it was that was moving just out of full sight. Whatever it was moved in a jerky, almost frenzied manner, always staying just at the edge of where the weak light from a single dingy bulb fell.
I tore my eyes from the video to look at the title of the video, and the username below it.
Don’t Go to Sleep
Over three million views?! I thought. I suppose I couldn’t really judge – I’d been through a phase of watching ASMR videos of people slurping down chunks of honeycomb before. Frenzied whisper-screaming seemed like a weird trigger, but each to their own. It seemed even more bizarre that a channel with so many video views had no subscribers. But at this point, I was suitably creeped out by this particular trend, and went to swipe the video off my screen.
As soon as my thumb touched the screen, the sound changed from whisper-screaming to actual screaming with a heart-jolting shriek. The thing in the shadow shot forward into the light and I dropped my phone in shock and terror, but not before I got a good look at… it.
QuietChild1742’s face was like melted wax clinging to a poorly constructed frame. Its mouth stretched into an unnaturally wide grin, its crumbling teeth gnashing together as it screamed in its brutal language. It crawled on limbs bent at stomach-churning angles, scuttling towards the camera at such a speed I was convinced for a split second that it would leap from my phone and into my bedroom. Eye sockets sagged around wide, white eyes with merely a pinprick of a pupil, and oily blank hair hung in thin strands around its horrifying face.
I know it was just a video, and I know it’s irrational… but it felt like it was looking right at me. Not at the camera. At me.
My phone dropped to the carpet and tore my headphones from my ears as it went. The second it hit the floor the screen went blank and the screaming from the headphones cut off. I was left in dark silence, my skin still prickling with the faint but unbearable itch.
I tried searching for QuietChild1742’s channel this morning, when I finally summoned the courage to reach down the side of my bed to plug my phone in to charge. It doesn’t seem to exist on YouTube, or anywhere else on the internet. I still don’t even know how I found it in the first place, which worries me even more.
I’m so tired, I can barely keep my eyes open to type this out. But I need to know if anyone else has come across this channel, and if they can tell me anything about QuietChild1742.
I really don’t want to go to sleep tonight.