Fear as a Choice

We all have something we’re afraid of. Whether it’s something abstract like loneliness or more concrete like clusters or patterns of holes, there’s going to be something. When I was little, I was afraid of most things. Darkness, bees, scary movies, and aliens. Especially the latter two. I broke those fears on my own through a series of exposures. Sure, I’m still a little spooked by darkness, bees, scary movies, and aliens, but I no longer scream and cry in pure terror. Now the only things that scare me are when I’m sleeping.

In my child mind, I had classified Jurassic Park as a horror movie. I was scared of the dinosaurs hurting people and didn’t want to see them die. When I watched the movie, it was like taking a first dose of a life-altering drug. I was thirteen and I was hooked on horror movies. I started with the classics and branched out through other genres. In about a year’s span of time I remember watching Scream, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, The Ring, Poltergeist, even Night of the Living Dead in its black and white glory. I speedily destroyed that fear and it became an addiction.

The intense fear of any and all aliens was one of my irrational fears I held the longest. It probably stemmed from the scene in E.T. when he was sick and even more gross looking than he usually was. In the end I thought he tried to steal the dog with him on the ship and that also had upset me. Some time after that, my parents and I went to Planet Hollywood in Disney and we were seated underneath the most horrific alien-like statue that lurched over the table. It was much taller than I was and ever will be, and we had to move our table because I couldn’t stop crying.

I’m certain it was this one. What idiot puts a little girl underneath this thing, anyways?

I still had that fear at age 16, apparently. By then, I was a seasoned horror movie connoisseur and could take just about any type of horror movie. My dad, stepmom, couple-months-old baby sister and I were watching Dark Skies. My dad had been under the impression that it was more of a paranormal movie instead of an alien one like I had said. I was right. The one scene that caused me to scream to the top of my lungs and spontaneously start crying was one in the third act of the movie where the camera casually panned across the living room where four tall grey aliens stood. They weren’t even doing anything threatening; they were just standing there. Lurking.

In that moment I decided enough was enough; I needed to combat the irrational fear. So you know what I did? I rewatched the movie. Again and again. And when it began to feel too familiar I switched to The Fourth Kind. And then I repeatedly watched that movie too until the ideas stopped scaring me. Those two movies are the only ones that have ever affected my sleeping habits.

I realize that December, the month of happily enjoying major holidays, is usually not the one to be posting about fears. I’m about two months late on that train. However, for the first time in about four years, I had a nightmare the other night. One that sat with me wrong, that made me launch myself awake and gave me trouble falling back asleep. It’s when I remembered that oh: lots of my dreams would probably constitute as nightmares for most people. As a writer, I use my dreams as fuel for stories I work on. I use the vivid images in my dreams to inspire the heartwarming or heart-wrenching imagery in my books.

Most people would call a dream at a mansion party where your guests are getting murdered one by one so you and the others try to escape only to get shot in front of a GameStop to drop to the ground and sing a creepy song while you lay dying to be a nightmare. Most people would probably call a dream where you stand alone on the bleachers of a field and watch a plane release a yellow substance over everyone on the field to cause their skin to become pustules and pop as they disintegrate into nothing a nightmare. To me, those are a typical Tuesday night. And story ideas.