Wednesday, July 18, 2007


fear is a funny thing. not so much for the people who have it, but for the rest of us. i recently came across a huge list of recorded phobias. some were outright ridiculous. still, they're legitimate fears that a least someone has had to endure.

as i read of the list, i began to imagine the origins of these terrors. and they are terrors. crippling, heart pumping, petrified, scared into a cold sweat horror. so i formulated possible scenarios for make-believe people in my head that could lead to these lifelong phobias. where there's a scarring traumatic event, there's bound to be at least a kernel of a phobia hidden deep inside it.

little Herbert Rockwell was born a normal kid. normal in all physical respects but one. his tongue was enormous. 5 times typical girth. this wouldn't have been a problem if not for his normal sized mouth. the void which makes up the airway that most of us take for granted was diminished quite considerably for poor little Herbie. the tongue just took up so much space. Herbie, though, was a trooper, and got by just fine in spite of his condition. other than a fairly profound lisp and the inability to eat anything but soft food, his life was remarkably similar to most of the other kids. the speech impediment was a much bigger problem for him than his actual deformity. relentless teasing and ridicule from both students and teachers forced Herbie to eat his lunch outside, alone, behind the cafeteria. on one particular day, Herbie discovered his mom had packed something new in his A-Team lunchbox. 'peanut butter', she had called it. it smelled delicious. much better than his usual carnation instant breakfast packets. he scooped up a plastic spoonful and wedged it into his already full mouth. the taste was wonderfully sweet and salty, but after a few seconds, it was still there. the gooey treat had adhered to the top of his mouth. the little space Herbie had available for breathing was sealed by the peanut butter. gasping, he hurried to his feet and dashed back inside as his face turned a darker shade of indigo with each passing second. he made it to the lunch lady and slapped a quarter on the counter in a panic. the cold milk hit his lips just as his oxygen less brain gave up. he collapsed while shaking his fist at the sky, cursing george washington carver's name. he awoke a few minutes later to find everyone huddled over him, pointing and laughing. apparently, the small sip of 2% was enough to dissolve the peanut butter and send it into his belly. he tried to explain but his words were unintelligible. ever since, little Herbie has had ARACHIBUTYROPHOBIA, a fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of his mouth.

Clyde Honesdale was serving the end his life sentence. he spent his days pacing the tiny cell that confined him, counting the seconds of passing nothingness. he knew he'd be facing his own execution soon and the thought of those final moments never left his mind. his nervous pacing, once a daytime activity, spilled over into the night. he wasn't sure when the end would come. he only knew that it would. so he paced. back and forth, wall to wall. without rest for days, Clyde's mind began to lose what little grip on reality it had. he'd imagined the last seconds of his life for so long. hood over his head. sit in a chair. zap. hood. sit. zap. sit. zap. sit. dead. he would never sit. sitting would be his demise, or at least in Clyde's psychotic head. as tired as his feet got, he never got off them, not until his surprise lethal injection. that's because he'd developed KATHISOPHOBIA, a fear of sitting down.

Kim Carpenter was accepted for the position as assistant editor for a large publishing company. it was her dream job. she'd been a book worm her whole life. she grew up in a time before attention deficit disorder diagnoses. before ritalin. books, so long as the stories were fast paced and the sentences concise, were the one thing she'd found able to keep her focus. to be around them everyday was like shangri la. that was until she was assigned to a book dealing with the biology of the animal kingdom. the first chapter was about bacteria, more specifically, e. coli, broken down to class, order, phylum, genus and species. in the first paragraph alone, the e. coli was referred to as gammaproteobacteria enterobacteriales enterobacteriaceae escherichia 7 times. she spent four weeks on page 1. her boss had been on her case for a while to pick up the pace. there were deadlines to meet. she just couldn't maintain the attention span needed to make it through words with such high syllable counts. she had nightmares nearly every night of words that stretched endlessly. her boss had soon grown quite angry with Kim's performance and brought her into his office to let her go. in hopes of holding onto her dream, she confessed her fear of long words. now, unable to terminate an employee because of a medical condition, he sent her to the hospital for an evaluation. she's still there. she went comatose when the psychiatrist told her she suffered from HIPPOPOTOMONSTROSESQUIPPEDALIOPHOBIA, a fear of long words.

Blue Eye, the scourge of the sea, was one of the most dastardly pirates plaguing the waters. he achieved this status on account of his prowess with a sword. he had no equal in combat and having the security of Blue Eye on the ship let the others rest easy. their only concern was dodging scurvy. they did this by reporting to the galley every morning for grapefruit breakfasts. one morning, as Blue sat with his crew enjoying some ruby reds, the first mate gouged into his fruit, causing a spray of juices to shoot across the table into Blue Eye's left eye. the acidic burn hurt. it hurt bad. Blue Eye rubbed it relentlessly. he rubbed it over and over. after some time, the rubbing irritated the skin around his eye so much that an infection took hold. the pirates were convinced it was the work of demons and removed the eye with a dagger. Blue Eye was ironically left with one blue eye. the right one. the left side was blinded from there on out. the same side he's been attacked by the grapefruit juice. the same side that suffered the only injury he'd ever endured. the left terrified him. he discovered that he was vulnerable from the left and now he couldn't even see an attack coming from that side. Blue Eye had LEVOPHOBIA, a fear of thing on his left side.

Walter Chesney had been afraid of the number 8 for as long as he could remember. it seemed all the horrible things in his life were attached to it in some way. he was in intensive care as a newborn as a result in his premature birth at 8 months. he had the black plague when he was 8. drug dogs came to his elementary school and when some scallywags saw them approaching, they jammed their reefer in the nearest locker. Walter's locker. locker #8. he was expelled from 8th grade. his wife divorced him after 8 years of marriage. he lost custody of his 8 children at 8:00 on August 8th. his new car was stolen on the same day, the following year. it only had 8 miles on the odometer. what started as simply an unlucky number grew into and omen of frightening proportion. he avoided it any way he could. he called out on the 8th day of every month. he never watched channel 8 on his television. he even scratched the number off the faces of all his clocks. if he saw the number, he ran from it as fast as his feet could carry him until it was safely out of sight. until one afternoon, as he walked home from the store, he passed a construction crew working on the sign of a new movie theater. he paused in front, and looked up at the marquee. the men were driving rivets in the huge blocks letters that read "Cinemaville 8". Walter jumped back in alarm, crashing into the ladder holding the workers aloft. all eight of them grabbed the giant number 8, but as they'd only secured the bottom 8 rivets, it swung horizontally before snapping free and landing squarely on Walter. he was pinned under a giant sideways 8. rescue teams arrived promptly and were able to remove him from the downed signage. it wasn't until the ambulance ride did Walter realize that he no longer had OCTOPHOBIA, the fear of the number 8. now he had APEIROPHOBIA, a fear of infinity.

it was in the early 1980's when Rachel Gleason had her first big birthday party. she invited all of her friends for a birthday blowout. pony rides. pin the tail on the donkey. ring toss. the whole nine yards. the biggest moment was when Rachel's favorite McDonaldland character made a special appearance. it was Grimace, the giant purple thing. Rachel beamed with excitement as he stumbled in, smelling of cheap wine and old socks. he seemed friendly enough at first, until his sawed off shotgun emerged from behind his back. other McDonaldland characters sprinted forth from a van at the end of driveway. Birdie collected wallets and jewelery while Mayor McCheese ransacked the house. the police and FBI arrived promptly, faster than Grimace had expected. it was Rachel that he grabbed as a hostage as they darted into the house. the police nervously kept their distance as negotiations went into the night. it was late when she heard the first clap of thunder, almost immediately followed by a torrential downpour. taking the weather as a distraction, Grimace tossed the bound and gagged Rachel under his arm and escaped out the back and through the woods. he zig-zagged through the trees, but the moonless night proved to dark and the big purple boots too clumsy. stumbling over a fallen tree trunk, the pair hurdled into a drainage ditch. Grimace, out cold, held Rachel beneath his heavy purple mass. she sunk deep in the mud as the rain beat down, seeing only purple. rain slowly filled the ditch, little by little. it began to creep into Rachel's nose when Grimace came to. he propped up onto a knee. it was then that a trained government sharpshooter took him out. a bullet of precision entered the violet cheek, exploding his purple brains all over Rachel's frilly new birthday dress. physically, she recovered fully. mentally, she was stricken with PORPHYROPHOBIA, a nearly incapacitating fear of the color purple and OMBROPHOBIA, a fear of rain. later that year, she saw the most terrifying film of her lifetime, Purple Rain.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Was Herbie related to Norman?