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Your Fear Defines You
An ear-splitting bang echoes through the dark night. My eyes pop open, wide with fear. I can feel my heart thumping against my chest. Each breath comes out short and shaky.
It’s just a firework, I tell myself. It can’t harm me.
Another light shoots into the air. A bright light explodes into a small white burst. Then the bang comes, and my heart starts racing all over again.
My friend, Julie, leans over in my face and I see her mouth move, but I don’t listen to the words. Right now, my mind is elsewhere.
I see the whole thing again- just a single scene that repeats over and over in my nightmares every night. Grant’s eyes, filled with a look I can only describe as pure terror. My scream as the explosion shakes the ground. Then black. Pitch black. Then I wake up in the hospital, numb from all the pain killers.
The doctors have to hold me down as I try to get out of bed, to look for Grant.
“Where is he?!” I scream, tears streaming down my face.
I see the grave look on the doctor’s face, and I know.
Finally I snap out of it, to hear Julie frantically asking, “Are you okay?!”
“Yes!” I say suddenly, shaking my head and blinking my eyes to get rid of the flashback.
“Are you sure? You’re pale as a sheet of paper. And you didn’t answer me for several minutes,” she says.
My hands shaking, I say, “I’m not feeling so great.”
Another loud firework goes off, and I bite my lip to keep from screaming Grant’s name. Every bang reminds me of the explosion that took him- the explosion that left me alone.
“Why don’t I have my mom take you home? You look horrible. No offense,” Julie says.
I nod, and she grabs my shaking hand to lead me to her mom’s car. Her mom agrees to give me a ride home. I feel guilty for making her miss the fireworks, but I don’t protest. This is the worst it’s been.
When I run through the front door and shut it quickly behind me, leaning against the back of the door for my support, my mom comes running into the living room.
“Myra! Are you alright? Did it happen again?” she asks, with genuine concern in her voice.
I nod silently, and she rushes forward, wrapping me in her arms. It seems like everything reminds me of him now. As her warm arms surround me, I remember the feel of Grant’s arms around me. I remember the scent of leaves, lingering in the air. In my mind, those are not my mom’s frail fingers resting on my neck- they are Grant’s strong slender fingers, stroking the back of my neck.
Then she pulls back, and he is ripped away from me. It’s my mom standing in front of me again. My lungs burn with the sadness I feel. I’m glad my mom is here to comfort me, but I still can’t stop thinking about Grant. It’s only been 2 weeks. Everyone wonders what is wrong with me. My mom is the only one who knows. We couldn’t possibly explain to everyone else what I’ve been through. So I simply say to those who ask if I’m alright, “I’m fine, just going through a rough time.”
Then I turn silently away, envisioning Grant’s wide, bright smile; longing for the figure I see so clearly standing in front of me to be real. But he fades slowly away, leaving an empty spot in my heart.
Now, as I walk up the stairs to my room, I am remembering him again. He is walking beside me, laughing at the way I always take the stairs two steps at a time. I open the door to my room, and he steps in first, and I follow him. We sit on the bed, and I look into his deep blue eyes. I always loved those eyes and how they so perfectly contrasted his black hair.
Then something else happens, something that hasn’t happened before in these visions. He speaks, reminding me, “Don’t deny your fear. It’s your fear that defines you.”
He fades away, and I’m sitting by myself on the bed, pondering his words. Grant always said that when he was alive. I never quite understood what he meant. If my fear defines me, am I selfish for being afraid of death? Or is that really what I’m afraid of?
I hold my face in my hands. Who am I really?
“Grant, I need you to explain something for once,” I mumble.
He was always a mysterious person- that was part of the reason I loved him. I was always surprised by the new things I found out about him. He was full of secrets. I never understood half the advice he gave me, but just hearing him talk with such genuine care in his voice usually made me feel 10 times better. I wish that could work now. If he had to show up in all these memories or visions- whatever they were- why couldn’t his voice at least comfort me like it used to?
I sigh. It’s my fear that defines me.
Yet another scene flashes through my head, one that has not repeated itself until now.
The man in black stares at me with his unforgiving eyes. His eyes are dark and sunken in, and he blames me. I never meant for anyone to die, but he doesn’t care about intentions. When I fell through the veil into this unfamiliar world, I threw off the balance. A new life was in their world, one that wasn’t supposed to be there, so another life had to be taken away. His son died because of me, and there was nothing I could do to change that.
I back up against the brick wall, shrinking under his terrifying gaze. Grant reaches over and grabs my hand, squeezing it. I am not sure whether he is trying to give me bravery or if he is grabbing onto me for his own bravery. It does not matter. I am comforted by his hand being there. The steady pulse gives me strength, knowing we are both alive.
One corner of the man’s mouth works its way slightly upward as he advances toward us. He knows he is stronger than us. I have to stay strong, so I squeeze harder on Grant’s hand.
“We’re not afraid of you!” I shout, lifting my chin defiantly.
His mouth turns into a full grin. “Then what are you afraid of? There is fear in your eyes, I can see it.”
I stare back at him, trying to hide the fear that I can’t deny, but I know he is right.
He leans forward, sticking his pale, sunken face right in mine. His teeth are gritted together as he speaks, spitting the words in my face. As the words form articulately on his lips, his head shakes with passion, and he breathes loudly. “Right now, you know your deepest fear is about to come true, and it’s driving you mad. The depths of your terror are rising, they’re coming to get you, and you know it.”
My whole body is shaking. I can feel the darkness creeping up my spine, I can sense the fear grabbing a hold on everything I have.
“So tell me, girl. What is it that you are so horribly afraid of?” he asks, his voice trembling with every emotion he ever felt towards me.
He knows his words are digging into me. I feel smaller than an ant with his eyes looking into mine, searching for my greatest fear.
“I- I don’t know,” I say, my voice barely a whisper.
His loud laugh startles me, and I jump. He moves over to Grant, grinning into his eyes.
“Hear that? She doesn’t know,” he scoffs, then he turns and paces, saying loudly, “She is sucken under so much fear, she can barely breathe, yet she has no idea what it is that scares her.”
He turns back towards me suddenly, his eyes wild. His grin is gone, there is nothing but pure hatred on his face. Leaning so close to me I can smell his vile breath, he whispers in a voice that sends shivers up and down my spine, “You may not know what scares you, but I do.”
Then he leans back and laughs, pressing the button.
I force myself to end the flashback. There is no way I am going to relive Grant’s death twice in one day. I am shaking again, and all I want to do is forget. What scares me most is that I’ll never forget. That I’ll keep seeing him die in that explosion every day for the rest of my life. My heart skips a beat. That’s it- that’s what Grant was talking about. I am afraid of seeing Grant die. That has been my greatest fear since I’ve known him.
“Don’t deny your fear. Your fear defines you. If you can accept that, your fear can’t hurt you,” he repeats, the words he said so many times echoing in my head.
My fear defines me, but it can’t control me. I love Grant, nothing scares me more than watching him die. He is dead, he can’t die again. They are only visions- memories from the past. I am still afraid of watching him die, but if my fear defines me, then he is still inside of me. He has to be.
A great weight is off of my chest, and I can breathe easily again. I move silently to my window, unlatching it and crawling onto the roof. Fireworks go off in the distance. I can just barely hear the boom, but it no longer scares me. Grant is sitting next to me, smiling and holding my hand. I can almost feel the warmth of his hand, even though it is not there, and it never will be. But I can accept that. He will never be with me again in person, but he is still inside of me, because he is my fear. I look over at him, and, for the first time since he died, I smile. We watch the fireworks all night long, and I hold his nonexistent hand. My fear defines me, and I’m okay with that.
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
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