The A-Z of Fear (unfinished)
It’s coming. It doesn’t happen all at once, it creeps up on you; that’s what gives it power. It is the silent killer. First, you’ll catch yourself cancelling plans to spend all weekend weeding the garden. Next, you’ll be avoiding foods that have a high salt content. Before you know it, you’re shouting at Loose Women while eating a bowl of porridge and writing an aggressive email to a customer service representative. Have you been listening to BBC Radio 4 a lot recently? Empathising with the villain in Disney movies? No one is safe.
You cannot escape a bear. Any animal that can run as fast as a racehorse uphill and down, swim twice as fast as humans and climb a tree in less than three strides is an opponent you should endeavour to avoid. If you’ve found yourself in a position where a bear has taken a disliking to you, your only hope is to try to understand it. Ask how it’s been feeling lately. Validate its feelings. Offer a shoulder to cry on. While it’s true that a bear can outrun you, it can never outrun itself.
The uncanny valley is a psychological phenomenon that explains our aversion to human-like objects. Anything that is categorised as part of the uncanny valley provokes a sense of unease, even revulsion. Clowns live in the uncanny valley. Joseph Grimaldi moved there in 1805, started a family, and the cult was born. They exist to terrorise and terrify, hiding beneath a veil of make-up and a false shared purpose. Did you really believe they came here to entertain the children?
Frosty mornings. Hot chocolates. Festive spirit. A lack of vitamin D that inhibits serotonin production leading to a persistent low mood, irritability and feelings of despair.
We meet. It’s intoxicating. We eat, sleep, and breathe one another. Everything that came before is irrelevant now; it feels like all we’ve ever known is each other. All you need is love. Why are you working? I can support you. Why do you need a place of your own? It’s keeping us apart. Why are you going out tonight? I’ll take you for dinner. Don’t worry about the mortgage, I’ve got this. Don’t worry about your mum, she’s toxic. Don’t worry about your friends, they’re sluts. Worry about me. Isolating, suffocating, menacing, me.
Pudding Lane, 5th September, 1666
London, the epicentre of the country, where everything is wood and life is good. The Merry Monarch is in his sixth year of reign and, I must say, he’s doing a splendid job. I’d never dream of saying anything to the contrary, even if it wasn’t treason- he’s genuinely a really nice guy. Mary went down to the river to wash the kids’ clothes this morning- since she’s been back she’s developed these boils, and keeps complaining of a fever of some kind? I’m sure it’s nothing. I fixed a hole in the roof this afternoon; it only took a couple of hours. Having a thatched roof is brilliant! I wish it would rain soon, though. This drought is absolutely killing the garden. Anyway, I must dash, I’m off to work soon; the bread won’t bake itself!
I had a friend from age 3 to age 16. She knew everything about me. She would tell my secrets to the world and then comfort me as I cried. She could change your opinion of someone within three sentences without you ever realising what had happened. After we left school I took the opportunity to never speak to her again. I just drifted away, no confrontation, no consequences.
There was a girl with a burn mark on her neck, a thin red reminder of the broken relationship that cost her parents hundreds of pounds in therapy. I wanted to reach out, tell her: I see you, I’m here, I’m sorry, it wasn’t me, this isn’t me, I want to help. She disappeared in 2013, hidden from the prying eye of social media, only providing updates to those who asked. I never asked.