“Tch, tch, tch. Look what you have gotten yourself into now,” you hear the voice say. It’s rich, like Elvis without the singing.
“You just could not help yourself, could you now? Coming here all alone? And what did you think would happen?”
The thick darkness permeates through the air like mist around you. You see slivers of light try to crawl their way inside but the dark swallows them whole, like a python its prey.
You remember falling.
“Well I have been waiting for you a long time. A long time indeed.”
You try to move, to run from this terrible place and its terrible darkness, but you can’t. Your squirming does little else than increase your suffering as the ropes cut deeper into your wrists.
“There is no point in trying to escape. I have always been with you. Hidden in the shadows, waiting. Waiting for you to arrive at my doorstep. And now I will not be letting you leave so soon.” Your shoulder shudders as you feel a warm breath fall on it. The breath tickles your neck, and then he pulls away.
You continue pulling against the ropes as tightly as you humanly can. You feel the warm trickle of blood flow down your wrist, but still you persist.
You feel a smooth finger caress your face down to your lips. And then he removes the gag from your mouth.
“So tell me, do you know who I am? Hmm?”
Your mouth strains as you try to form a coherent sentence. Your neck hurts and tears cascade down, but you have no voice.
He chuckles. “Well that is just inconvenient, no?
“What if I were to tell you, that I may not be that which you fear the most, but I am what you should fear the most. That I am fear itself? An arachnid for one, a tall tower for another. Yet for some I am the darkness, and for others I am death. So who am I? Hmm?”
You feel him shift around you. The creaking of the floorboards is drowned by the thunder rolling outside.
You remember falling.
“Tell me, what is fear? A cocktail of chemicals in your brain which triggers a preordained set of responses? Just another part of the wonderful chemistry of the masterpiece that is human flesh?
“Or perhaps it is the first sentinel? That which makes you weary of the unknown and the dangerous? That which warns you before you open the door to a stranger or wander through an empty alley at night? Whose vigil is indispensable for your self-preservation?
“Or is it something others can manipulate? Something others can use against you? To hurt you? To make you scream and to make you weep for their amusement?”
A brilliant flash of lightning illuminates the world but for a split second. And in that split second you take in the space around you. It’s a splitting image of your own bedroom. How exactly did you get here?
You remember falling. You remember blood.
“Fear, you see, is the enemy. It leaves you debilitated. In the very moment when you need your wits about you the most, the gears stop turning. In the very moments when you need your legs to run, your knees buckle. And you are laid bare in front of that which haunts you. Tell me, is that not what fear does to you? Hmm?” He takes a long breath.
“Takes you up and serves you in a platter, that is what it does.
“Death is your friend. With death comes peace, tranquillity. An end to the suffering that is reality. Of course you might argue that I could not possibly know that. What if hell exists? What if you end up there? But as long as you’re afraid, you create a hell for yourself on Earth. There is no agony if there is no fear. The fear of isolation, of abandonment. The fear of losing a dear one, of losing yourself. A hell you cannot escape from. It really is true; there is nothing to fear than fear itself.”
You remember opening the door to a dark house. You remember walking up the groaning stairs.
“Out of the myriad dangerous beings and places out there, what do you think you should fear the most? What do you think deserves the honour of being christened fear itself? Hmm?
“Is it the unknown which goes bump in the night? Or perhaps it is an arthropod which haunts you? A beast in human form maybe?
“Or was it something closer to you? Tell me, do you remember? Hmm?”
You remember standing at the edge of your roof as the cold winter winds chilled your bones. You remember dialling the number on your phone one last time, only for it to go to voicemail. You remember crumpling up the barely legible note in your palm.
You remember a voice whispering in your ears, telling you to take the leap. A rich voice, like Elvis without the singing.
“Truth be told, you do not wish to go back to that place do you? That living hell? Because reality really is worse than your nightmares, is it not?
“So you constructed this world for yourself. And how is this reality any different from the other one anyway? You can see me, hear me.” He plants a soft kiss on your forehead. “Feel me,” he chuckles.
“But you did not think I would be here did you? You did not think you would end up being this way. All bound and gagged in a prison of your own design. Worse off than you were as a foetus in the womb.
“I told you fear is the enemy. If you had just made the jump like I had told you to, you would have been fine now. But you were afraid were you not? You turned back.”
You remember turning back.
You lost your footing.
You remember flaying your arms at a desperate attempt to discover a hold.
You held onto the edge of the roof till your fingers bled.
And you remember losing your grip.
“If you had just listened to me and had dived headfirst, the concrete would have given you sweet relief. But you were too afraid, were you not? Hmm?
“Well congratulations! You managed to save your skull from getting cracked right open. Only to find yourself here with me. You know what is happening outside? The doctor says you are in a coma. What a riot.”
He laughs. A cold hard laugh. Yet it is soothing and not menacing, like the times you played with your own shadow in the dark.
“But really, your fears were misplaced. From the very beginning you should have been afraid of me and only me. Because the only thing to fear other than fear itself, is the voice that speaks inside your head.”