When With-a-Why was a little kid, he'd wake up with night terrors. He'd look around the room with these terrified eyes and sometimes pace the room — scared, frantic, talking gibberish. I had night terrors myself as a kid (and I still wake up with nightmares) and so did my youngest sister, so I didn't find his behavior unusual, although I have to admit that it can be creepy to talk to someone who is not really awake and who is acting kind of possessed. Well, I don't think I've actually ever seen someone who is possessed but his eyes would roll back in the manner of possessed characters in movies.
I'd just point out reassuring things in the room: "Here's the lamp. Here's the blanket. Here you are in your room." Usually my familiar voice and the sheer monotony of what I was saying would lull him back into the normal realm.
Once he was awake and talking normal, I'd try to get him back to sleep. It would be a relief to have my little boy back. I'd get in bed with him, hugging him and talking to him.
"Sleep on both sides of me," he'd say. So I'd put my arms and legs all the way around him, encircling him the best I could so that he would feel surrounded.
Today, With-a-Why has been asleep most of the day, his usually lively thirteen-year-old self felled by some kind of sickness that includes a high fever, a bad headache, and a hacking cough. He woke up early this evening with what seemed like a night terror. He began pacing the room with wide open eyes, but I could tell he wasn't seeing me. He was muttering gibberish, and his clammy skin was wet with sweat. His long hair was soaked.
Shaggy Hair, the only other person home, regarded him with interest. With-a-Why's eyes were kind of bulging out, and he was muttering, "Horrible. Horrible." At first, he wouldn't respond to anything I said, but I finally got him calmed down and snuggled onto the couch, drinking ginger ale. By then he could answer simple questions, but couldn't even articulate what had just happened. I sat on one side of him, holding his glass of ginger ale, and Shaggy Hair Boy sat on the other side, so that he could feel loved from both sides.