220. Terror

I’m a person with many fears. Some conventional, some not. I’m fascinated by heights, but terrified of falling. I’m accustomed to the sight of lizards, spiders, and cockroaches; but frogs, centipedes, and rats creep the hell out of me. I relish the feeling of being completely alone, but am scared to death of the dark and unknown.

The great Mr. King said that there are 3 types of fear: gross out, which is the sight of a dismembered head waiting for you in the fridge; horror, which is a clown at midnight with blood staining the front of his costume; and terror, which is waking up to your empty bedroom and feeling someone staring at you.

I’m not usually grossed out. I haven’t seen many things that are horrifying in this life, and I think the less I see, the better off I am. But I am very often terrified.

I used to be a very scared little child. I used to camp out in my parents/sisters’ bedroom, preferring to sleep on the floor with company than to sleep on a bed alone in a room. Doses of “true ghost stories” while reading at school didn’t help one bit. Some of those stories still haunt me to this day.

There’s a certain power in childhood memories. Most people are familiar with the evocative nature of nostalgia. On the flip side, there are literal ghosts from the past that continues to haunt you even when you’ve turned 50 or 70. I recall a time when I went up the stairs to my bedroom. My parents and siblings were still downstairs watching TV, doing their homework, or something else. I walked up the stairs by the dim staircase light, and when I got to the top of the stairs, I swear that I saw a shadow leap across the wall and hid behind a cabinet.

The cabinet is still there today. I have checked behind it many times since, but have not found the shadow-creature. I shudder to wonder where in the house could it be now.

Another time. I woke up in the middle of the night, and I thought I heard sounds coming from downstairs. That in itself isn’t very special – I imagine sounds coming from downstairs all the time. When I was very little, I imagined there was a ghoul on a motorcycle racing around my living room in the dark. So I heard a sound from downstairs, and I was ready to brush it off.

But then I saw a spot of yellow light – like that from a flash light – shining through my open door and into the room. It was there for a moment, and then it was gone.

Mr. Gaiman would describe these things as “not story-shaped”. These episodes don’t have closure. I cannot tell you where or what might have caused the jumping shadow-creature, or where the sudden light came from. All I know is that I saw it, and I was awake when I saw it. And in those moments, I knew terror.

There are a great many things that still scares me. I jump whenever I think I see a shadow that’s moving on its own. I hold my breath when I think I hear a sound coming from downstairs. Then there’s sleep paralysis, which is about the worst thing that can happen to a person. I’m still deeply, deeply terrified by the things that lurks in the dark, and the things that exists where even darkness dare not tread.

Even now that I’m older, I’m really nothing more than a very scared grown-up. Earlier today, a plane that departed from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport went missing over the South China Sea. Some say that it crashed into the ocean. Official reports state that no sign of the wreckage has been recovered.

For a moment, I don’t feel so alone in my fears.

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