This story is by Krystyna Nicholls and was part of our 10th Anniversary Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
In the Land of Paranoia, caught between the psyche and the ether where your deepest darkest fears reside, where the cracks hide your most reviled thoughts and deeds, the Phobias had their own concerns trying to organise the yearly anniversary party. However, each Phobia had their likes and dislikes, and it was trying to please them all. Every phobia liked to attend, except for one.
“What’s up?” said Phobophobia’s best friend, Agoraphobia, who didn’t venture past her front door.
“Oh, I dunno, I guess I’m not feeling it,” said Phobo.
Aggi cast him a look and they both laughed, breaking the sombre mood. “Oh, you’ll be your old self in no time, it’s just a blip,” she said ushering him inside. “Look, I don’t have much time to sit and chat with you today. I’ve got things to be getting on with you know, being as it’s that time of year.”
“Oh, no, not that again – so soon, already? And what do you mean, things to do? It’s not like you’re going anywhere,” he replied as he slumped onto a chair.
“Less of your cheek,” she said. “I know you’re The Fear of Fear an’ all, but that’s what we do best. How long has it been?” Aggi handed him a brew of dark liquid.
“Since the beginning of time itself,” Phobo said. He took a sip of the tea, shuddered and grimaced; the tea hadn’t improved in all that time either. Aggi cast him a glance. “I know, I get it. You’re busy, and thanks for the tea, Aggi.”
“See yourself out, and don’t slam the door,” Aggi called out as she shuffled into one of the other rooms.
Phobo wandered the global subconscious. They never saw him coming no matter where humans hid, whether under a blanket, in darkened corners, even in plain sight, it did not matter. He always found them. Good or bad, happy or sad he didn’t mind. He would creep up on them when they least expected it, and for fun he would linger and watch as they stopped short in their tracks and looked surreptitiously around. He could see the fine hairs rise up on the back of their neck, as beads of sweat prickled across their brow. Then, their shoulders would shake as if to ward off the uncomfortable feeling. Children were the best though. Their little heartbeats were faster than adults and it was like nectar to his senses. Their shrieks, screams and palpitations fuelled him. But recently he wasn’t getting enough satisfaction. He felt forlorn.
He usually loved this time of the human year, Halloween. However, something was missing. I know, he thought, I’ll go and see Disposophobia, maybe he can help me find what I am looking for?
Silence greeted Phobo when he arrived at Disposo’s place. You could tell he was a hoarder by the boxes, toys, books, magazines, odd socks, and broken jewellery stockpiled in a haphazard way. A maze had even been made out of monitors, printers, tyres, and bric-a-brac.
“Hey, Disposo, are you there, mate?” Phobo picked his way through a tunnel of old newspapers and their musty smell wrinkled his senses. “Anyone here?” Again, no answer. Phobo decided to have a quick look around and came upon a monitor, its screen glowed an eerie blue colour, casting the area in a neon glow. Someone had recently been there, and he saw that the party was being planned.
“Wouldn’t do that if I were you,” said a voice behind him.
Phobo turned quickly, knocking over a cup of cold liquid.
“You know what happens to nosey parkers?” The voice was deep and guttural.
“Ooops, I’m s-sorry,” said Phobo. “I did call out but no-one answered.”
“So that gives you the right to pry, does it?” Disposo moved forward, and leant his bulk across Phobo to turn off the machine.
“No, of course not.” Phobo said as he tried to clean up the liquid he spilled, but only made matters worse.
“Now that you’re here, what can I do for you?” Disposo turned his one bulging eye on Phobo.
“I’m just not feeling it, man. No matter what I do lately, I’m not getting the buzz from scaring humans. I think I’ve lost my touch.” Phobo wrung his hands. “Wondered if I might find it here? You have everything Disposo. Everyone knows that.”
“I can see why you might think that,” said Disposo as he looked proudly at his accumulated paraphernalia. “But you won’t find what you’re missing here, mate. Sorry,” he said. “Let me walk you out. You’ll never find your way otherwise. Sometimes, even I can’t find my way out!”
Once again Phobo was on his own. Making humans feel afraid of their own shadow was in his nature. But now he felt at odds. The humans weren’t acting as they should. Fearing fear itself was his thing. It was usually more thrilling. Humans would cower, bite their nails, and their eyes bulged in their sockets. This gave him moments of heightened pleasure, but now they just pushed him aside. So, what was going on?
Phobo gathered his wits together and made his way to Theophobia’s place. It was a marble affair with tall pillars, and a small fountain at the front of the building gave it an opulent look. He knocked on the door. A tall thin wraith answered, wearing a silver glistening robe. It was accessorised with stars and planets of the universe that seemed to pulsate and move in time with Theo’s voice.
“Phobo, dear chap, come in. I’ve been expecting you,” said Theo as he glided across the floor.
“How did you know I was coming?” asked Phobo as he looked at the religious wall paintings. They seemed to have a life of their own, reflecting his inner turmoil.
“Nothing much escapes me.” Theo’s cavernous black eyes bored deep into the very being of Phobo. “Aggi contacted me. Told me you’re not yourself, is that right?”
“I’m missing something, Theo, but don’t know what it is. I go and do my thing, but I’m not getting the thrill out of it that I used to.”
“Well, it’s as clear as the nose on your . . . oh, wait a minute, you don’t really have a face do you,” said Theo as he looked more closely at Phobo. “Well, never mind. It’s Faith my dear chap. Some humans may fear God or religion, but they don’t fear the faith they have in themselves, in their hearts, or in their own personal beliefs. Just Faith up to her old tricks again.”
“So that’s what it is.” Phobo lightened up.
“Yes, dear chap. Faith and Fear cannot occupy the same space. Faith is closely linked to Love, and wherever Love is, Fear is a stranger. That’s why you felt you weren’t making a connection with the humans.”
“So, what do I do now?” said Phobo. He didn’t like it, not one bit. He paced up and down.
“Don’t fret dear chap. Faith can’t be everywhere at once, you’ll get your thrills back in good time. Humans are so . . . predictable. Doubt themselves all the time you know. It’s just down to timing. Now, go and see Aggi.” Theo showed Phobo to the door. “She’ll put a brew on for you.”
“But I don’t want one of Aggi’s brews. Have you tasted her tea?” Phobo rolled his eyes upwards.
“I’m sure it’s not that bad. Now, if you don’t mind, I have a few things I must be attending to.” As Theo moved back the door silently closed.
Phobo slouched his way to Aggi’s place, dragging his feet. He knocked on her door for the second time.
“Back again so soon?” said Aggi. “Come in then, and I’ll make us one of my special teas.”
Phobo followed Aggi along the hallway, and when she opened the door to her sitting room the place erupted with cheers and confetti. Party poppers and balloons were banned in deference to Ligyrophobia and Globophobia, who were afraid of them.
“What’s all this about?” Phobo asked. “Why are you all here?”
Glossophobia stepped up, “Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking, we are all here to celebrate the Anniversary of All Things Fearful, before Halloween is upon us.”
“But I can’t be with you all in the same place,” said Phobo.
“Just because you are The Fear of Fear, doesn’t mean us Phobics can’t all get together. That’s a phobia for humans, not you!” Glosso took a deep breath to steady her nerves. “We know Faith tried to undermine you. She does it to everyone. You’re not alone. So, relax and enjoy the party Phobo.” Glosso quickly stepped out of the limelight to mingle with the others.
Phobo, pleased to learn that others shared similar experiences, for the first time in eons partied on with his friends. He was now looking forward to searching the global subconscious for his next plaything.