You have nothing to fear but fear itself

I vividly remember reading this paragraph from the introduction of Orson Scott Card’s, “Maps in a Mirror.” He’s describing the different types of fear: horror, terror, and dread. While seeming deceptively harmless, dread is the absolute worst.

Dread is the first and the strongest of the three kinds of fear. It is that tension, that waiting that comes when you know there is something to fear but you have not yet identified what it is. The fear that comes when you first realize that your spouse should have been home an hour ago; when you hear a strange sound in the baby’s bedroom; when you realize that a window you are sure you closed is now open, the curtains billowing, and you’re alone in the house.

You can read the full introduction yourself. I despise watching horror. It is the director trying to gross us all out. Over the years, I’ve become numb to the Hollywood fake blood and guts. Terror still scares me because there is room for interpretation. However, dread is what floors me. Dread makes me want to curl up in the corner of the room and hide. And the worst part is I can’t hide from dread because what makes dread the most paralyzingly of all fear is that it is all in my imagination. And trust me when I say that my imagination is limitless in its ability to think the worst will happen. No director can film a horror movie that touches on everyone’s fears, but a good writer can leave their readers petrified by leaving blanks for the reader to fill in.

I finally watched The Happening tonight. I’d wondered why I hadn’t watched it before, since I normally love M. Night Shyamalan movies. His early ones played on dread perfectly, with a little bit of terror, but this one had too much horror. I don’t know if someone forced good actors to act poorly, but the movie was just awkward to watch. The script was miserable. It was no Unbreakable or The Sixth Sense. The premise of dread was there. I will be freaked out now when the wind blows, but I could have done without seeing some of the blood. The blood cheapens the movie in the same way that talking about how bad the movie was cheapens this post. It was really just a brief distraction from reality.

Tonight is all about dread for another reason. I was saddened to learn today that two friends have lost loved ones. Taken in their primes. I’ve learned to deal with the passing of the elderly when they’ve had a full life and are ready, but parents should never have to witness the death of their child. And friends shouldn’t have to deal with the death of a sibling when we are all still so vibrant. It is an unimaginable fear. And, I can only imagine, an unimaginable pain to endure.

The old adage says that bad things come in threes. I don’t want to believe it. I’m trying my best not to run worst-case scenarios in my head. My imagination can be difficult to tame.

I dread going to sleep tonight.

However, as one of those friends reminded us all in a post he made after the loss of his daughter, his late wife always said, “In the face of uncertainty, remember these two things: you are stronger than you think, and you are not alone.”

Hug your loved ones a little tighter and a little longer, and tell them you love them. Don’t wait.


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