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Living Fear

by David Graham 9 months ago in Short Story · updated 8 months ago

A man fights to overcome his fear

Image by Aravind kumar from Pixabay

The fear, it was too much, I had to get away from the edge, but I couldn't. If I stepped back I would fail her a second time. I had to jump. And the traffic lights, in the distance I could see them, so far away but it was clear as day, they were green. Jump when they turn green, that’s what Martha had said, jump when they go green.

I couldn't jump, but I couldn't again fail her, like I had that day, when she had jumped and I had not.

Argh! I had to do something, not step back, if I stepped back I'd never again step up, the fear would win and I refused to let it win, but what could I do? Something, I had to do something, and it wasn't jumping or stepping back. But what could I do? Just what?

I sat down, seemed a smart option, sitting down on the cliff edge, my feet hovering freely over the six hundred metre drop, definitely smart, not stepping back but safer than standing, this way I wouldn't fall.

Falling would have been a good thing. In fact, I wish I hadn't sat down. Too late now, no way could I stand, at least not right this second. But I would again do so, I would, I swore to God I would, I had to, and when I did, I was going over this cliff edge.

**

An hour had passed by and I had still not stood, fear was the reason, and I really wished I knew why fear was doing this to me. It was killing me. I wanted to go to Martha, and to go to Martha I had to jump, not fall, jump, and yet fear wouldn't let me.

Why wouldn't it let me? The amount of times I had jumped out of planes and had no problems, the amount of times I had done bungee jumping and had no problems, and yet here I was, completely consumed by fear.

As my hands again began to tremble at even the thought of jumping, I wished I knew what fear was, why it forced me to feel this way, then I could have a chance of beating it. Was it to keep me alive? Was that the purpose of fear?

People were always telling me that, that fear was what kept us alive, but that didn't say what it actually was, it simply said what it did. What actually was fear? As I sat on this cliff edge, nothing but fresh air separating my feet and the six hundred metre drop to the ground, I really wished I knew.

But I didn't, and so the unknown entity that was fear, which was the very thing designed to keep me alive, continued to stop me from living, because without Martha, even though my heart was still beating, I was dead.

Blast you fear, let me stand so I can again live!

**

Yep, still sat here on this cliff edge, which meant I was still not standing. I had never been more exasperated, my conscious mind didn't feel afraid, and yet my body was paralysed by fear, which was driving me crazy. It was literally like my body felt afraid of the sheer drop, but I didn't, and yet that made no sense. My body and mind were supposed to be one, supposed to both be me, and yet they felt disconnected.

Fear was the reason, and it was infuriating me. It felt like a switch had been activated in my body forcing me to be afraid of going over this cliff edge, all the while robbing me of my faculties, but I hadn't activated that switch. And if I hadn't, who had?

Fear. That was who. But did that mean fear was a who? An entity in its own right that lived within me? As I watched the birds fly overhead, so alive, so free, it felt like it, it felt like fear was an entity in its own right, an imposter, a parasite even, a parasite that lived within me, and that parasite had taken control and turned me into a prisoner in my own body, refusing to allow me to jump, refusing to allow me to be reunited with Martha.

Hell, more than that, it was forcing me to look up when it was down I so wanted to look, down at the world below, where Martha awaited me.

A bird swooped down towards that world, I tried to follow it with my eyes.

I could not, I was not allowed, up was the only place I could look. Why did fear hate me so?

**

Still sat here and now thinking of spiders of all things. I saw one just before, it had crawled up from over the edge and had stayed on the rock floor beside me for a short while before disappearing down a crack, I felt no relief that it was gone.

That was because fear didn't force me into paralysis at the sight of spiders, only at the thought of going over this cliff edge.

I saw another spider, a far bigger one, this time I let it crawl onto my hand, but still fear did not sting me with its paralysis inducing venom. I raised my hand towards my face to take a better look at the spider, but still, fear's venomous ire stayed away. The spider had a sandy coloured back on which there was a most fascinating and intricate design, like a tattoo of a spider, on a spider.

Arachnophobia, fear had decided I did not have it, that was for sure, the spider was trying to crawl up my arm, if fear was going to strike, it would have done so by now.

But for any person fear did decide had arachnophobia, right now that person wouldn't be able to help how they reacted when they saw this spider, as soon as their eyes caught sight of it, an internal switch would be activated by fear and, no matter how much that person fought it, the only way to switch it off would be to get as far away from the spider as possible. I knew it because this guy I used to work with ages back had arachnophobia.

I used to laugh whenever he would see a spider, and I would prank him like crazy over his arachnophobia. Once I put a spider not so dissimilar to this one on his desk and wow did he jump back when he saw it and wow did I laugh.

I regretted laughing now, regretted playing pranks on him now, because now I understood what it was like to be forced to feel an uncontrollable fear over which you had no control.

This cliff edge and this spider, which I allowed to creep back down into the darkness of the crack beside me, had opened my eyes to my colleague's pain. He did not fear spiders, his reaction to them was the result of an attack from a monster that lived within the very essence of his being, and each time I pranked him, and laughed at his pain, that monster had laughed with me.

Now the monster laughed at me.

**

I still hadn't jumped, but I was certain that if I could just work out what fear was, why it would fight so hard to stop me going over this edge, that I could beat it.

It was not a parasite, that was silly, I wondered though if maybe it was my ancestors, the embodiment of all their learnt lessons working together inside of me trying to make sure that I stayed alive.

That would make sense, my ancestors at some point would have learnt that if you jumped off a cliff, you would die. That lesson lived within me because they lived within me, so maybe this was their fear, not mine, and "fear" was in fact my ancestors working to stop me from going over the edge, to save me and thus themselves from death.

They weren't saving me or themselves from death, they were dooming me to it because all I could do was sit still, and that wasn't living. That meant if we were to live on, I had to jump.

And I was going to. No more talking, no more thinking. I was going to jump, for Martha, I was going to jump. A stone was beside me, I picked it up and dropped it over the edge, six seconds later came a clatter as it hit the ground six hundred metres below. One step, six seconds to live.

Martha had lived those six seconds... alone... And all because I'd let her step over the edge without me. I had broken my promise to her. We go together on the green light, that’s what she had said, that’s what I had agreed to. But on that green light, I had not jumped, I had broken my word to her.

I would break it no more. With all my strength I pressed my hands into the ground and I pushed my body upwards, then a miracle happened, I was standing up. Christ, I was actually standing up. Standing right on the edge.

Stay strong. Stay strong. I was, I moved closer still, so close my toes were over the edge, but I didn't look down, I looked only to Martha.

"Don't let the fear beat you," she had said.

I nodded to myself, this time I would not. The distant traffic lights turned green, I jumped. The explosion of the wind in my face! The sight of the Earth rocketing towards me! I was going to die! I was going to die.

No! I was not! I spread my arms out wide and the wind captured my wingsuit and thrust me upwards over the mountains. My smile was as wide as could be as I flew like a missile down the side of the mountain, I had done it, I was flying, just like Martha had been, and just like her I flew for as long as possible until I had to pull my chute.

Hers had failed that day, mine did not fail this day, she was the reason, she was with me, protecting me, and as I landed softly at the bottom of the mountain, I knew this was not the end, it was the beginning, for the fear was no more, because I was alone no more. Martha and me were finally together again. Flying free.

**

Written as an entry for the SFS 6: Greenlight challenge.

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Short Story

About the author

David Graham

Due to injury I write using voice dictation software! Lover of psychology, science'y things, movies, fiction and self-improvement. From the north-east of England!

Linktree: https://linktr.ee/DavidGraham86

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