The fear of public speaking is stronger than the fear of death itself, ‘they’ say, but in my research for this post I discovered something very interesting: according to an online article which cited the results of a recent survey in America, we are now more likely to fear losing everything on our computers than our date with the Grim Reaper.
So when Charli asked us in this week’s flash fiction challenge to show a character confronting something worse than death, I immediately thought of some deep-rooted fears of my own. For instance, my fear of wasps. And snakes creeping into my bed. And dentists. Not to mention rusty old shipwrecks.
Funnily enough, I’m not too bad with spiders until I got bitten by one a couple of summers ago. Naturally, I would have expected this to be far more likely in California but this was in England. While living in California, I was not only deathly afraid of being swallowed up by an earthquake but also of coming eyeball to eyeball with a Rattlesnake or a Black Widow spider, courtesy of watching all those wonderful BBC nature programmes.
When the children’s uncle came to visit, he always took me aside to warn me of the dangers of these venomous beasts that apparently lurked in the woodpile at the end of the garden right next door to the chicken run. We never did find a Rattler there but I did come no more than a hand’s-width away from a Black Widow. We managed to capture it in a glass jar and when we turned it over and saw the tell-tale red ‘egg-timer’ on its belly, I seriously thought I was going to be sick.
So it wasn’t funny when one day, back in non-venomous England, I sat down on my garden chair only to be stung, most painfully, on my, ahem, bum. I shot out of my chair fully expecting to see the crumpled body of a wasp, the thought of which gives me chills even as I type this. Instead I watched in horror as a spider scuttled away in between the wooden slats of the chair.
I rushed into the shed to grab a jar whereupon I managed, somehow, to capture the dastardly offender as evidence.
Now this bite grew in size and was seriously painful. Aspie D (my daughter), seeing my panic, did what she always does in a crisis: she took to the internet. Fingers flying so fast that they blurred into one, she soon enough found some information about my symptoms and they didn’t sound good. By now convinced that I had been pumped full of venom (after all, I was feeling a little faint you know…) and needing emergency treatment immediately, I called hubby and he rushed me to A&E (ER).
So there I was, not long after, in the rather embarrassing position of having to pull down my drawers for a Spanish doctor (female, thank God)to examine the offending bite while explaining to hubby what to look for should it spread into an infection. (Apologies if too much information.) Still, the kindly doctor told me that I had done the right thing and in the end no harm was done.
Oh, and the spider? The doctor said it wasn’t harmful so hubby let it go, hoping it wouldn’t show up again anytime soon. And I no longer sit down on that chair without a cushion. Not ever.
I have written about these fears light-heartedly but some fears are no laughing matter. What fears lurk in our hearts in the dead of night when we can’t sleep, when we worry about unpaid bills, our troubled children, our unhappy marriages or our health? What fears are to some, worse than death?
Here then is my flash (in 99 words, no more, no less):
No Way Out
Bill leapt out of his seat like an escaped animal as the letter landed on the front door mat. Hands shaking, he ripped open the envelope.
In large, red letters the repossession order stared back at him like a snake about to go for his throat. Rooted to the spot, he fumbled for his mobile as it vibrated into life.
“Bill? Did the letter come…? Bill? Are you there…?”
Bill stared into silence and hit ‘End’ on his phone as he tossed it into the bin. There’s no going back now he thought, as he headed for the garage.