Writers get to the heart of their most absurd fears.
Of Fruit and Phobia by Priti Devaprakash
Since I was a young girl, I have had an irrational phobia of choking. More specifically, about other people choking. So much so, that even the sound of someone coughing while eating is enough to send my heart rate into overdrive, cause panic, a rush of adrenaline, and an almost reflexive urge to get up and run away from the situation as fast as my legs will carry me. While this might seem like a completely baseless and idiotic fear to have it, is rooted in a traumatic experience I had as a child.
One day when I was about five-years-old, I was casually biking around my parents’ backyard and eating grapes when I suddenly began choking.
While I turned out fine, the incident (or the small amount that is embedded in my subconscious), scarred me for life in the sense that whenever I see anyone else behaving in a way even mildly suggestive of choking I get panicked past the point of reason and flee the scene as if I have seen a spectre.
As a result of my childhood experience I have become convinced of the power of external circumstances to shape the developing mind. My personality and responses to certain situations have altered forever in such a deep-seeded way that I am not even conscious of a change until I analyze my behavior objectively.
Dear Mr. Devil by Ashley Duong
As a young child, my most feared moment of the day was bedtime. While most kids were scared of monsters in their closets, I, on the other hand, was convinced the Devil himself was attempting to murder me in my sleep. And so began several years of self-imposed sleep deprivation and a long battle with somniphobia.
There’s a Chinese superstition that says the devil creeps into houses while people sleep and sits on their chests, suffocating them to death. When my mother told me about the superstition, everything suddenly made sense.
I had no idea that it was just an explanation people used to justify sleep paralysis. To me, the Devil was sneaking into my room each night, sitting on my chest and waiting for me to die.
In reality, my fear of sleep was simply an avenue for my larger more potent fear of death. The closest experience to death in life, is sleep. It’s dark, you don’t have any control over your body or what’s going on around you. Added to the fact that I was constantly waking up unable to move my limbs or breathe, I began to see sleep as a mortal enemy, equating it to certain death.
Still, I didn’t understand why the Devil was targeting me. I was a good kid! So I decided he and I needed to have a conversation.
I stayed up night after night, waiting for him to show up but he never did.
Eventually I decided the best way to reach the Devil would be to leave him a letter by my bedside.
“Dear Mr. Devil,
Please don’t kill me. I still haven’t gone on any of the big rides at Disneyland and I really want to. Plus Mommy would be really sad.
Shaking Things Up by Payal Goswami
What does shaking a person’s hand mean? It means having their entire day on your hand.
I personally love meeting new people, because that equals discovering new mentalities and new personalities, but I do not want to ever shake their hand. The second they extend their hand and say, “Hi, my name is blank,” I become completely and utterly distressed about everything I’m going to touch.
During that one little pause before I commit the appalling deed all I can think about is everything that person could have possibly encountered that day: the millions of door handles they touched, their dorm room key, their student I.D. card, their shoelaces, their pen cap that they may sometimes chew on, their laptop’s keyboard, a desk that a hundred other students have touched, and who knows what else!
Perhaps the irrational part of my brain thinks that some of the microscopic germs will jump off their hand and create a new campsite on my hand, and maybe the germs will take advantage of the time I spend talking to my new friend to prepare for war against my immune system. Given that most bacteria reproduces asexually through binary fission, it’s as if the germs are having sex with themselves on my hand as quickly as scientifically possible (disclaimer: I am not a science major).
Even as the fear character of my brain—like in the movie “Inside Out”—worries about all of this, I am more prominently aware that the germs will most likely not win the war, and I won’t get sick, and that making a new friend is totally worth an extra trip afterwards to wash my hands.