Is there anything more unsettling than not being able to see the path ahead of you clearly? Driving home on a foggy night when you mistakenly choose to take the back roads instead of the highway . . . Waking up to look out your window and realize you see . . . nothing but a dense, pale grey haze. It’s how my life feels right now, since I’m not really sure what my tomorrows will bring.
You see, a few months ago I held a full-time job, plus spent every spare moment I could nurturing my life as an author. A trip, a tumble, and a broken arm later, my entire life has been halted in its tracks. I can’t work, I’m in constant pain, and even my writing is on hold. Typing, just recently at all possible, is slow, inconsistent, and painful. It was my right arm and shoulder that suffered the damage, and I am right-handed. Voice-to-text software isn’t compatible with my Mac computers, and Apple’s built-in app is great for emails or blog posts, but for fiction? Not so much.
My life has become shrouded in fog, a dense haze of uncertainty that has me feeling fidgety, impatient, depressed–and afraid. I’m not sure how long it will take for me to heal, or if my arm and shoulder will ever regain full strength and range of motion. Let alone how long I will be a slave to the relentless pain, the sleepless nights, and the uncertainty of what my future looks like.
All of these emotions can be distilled down to one word: FEAR. And fear is the most crippling of all maladies because it does a number of things: for one, it paralyzes, both body and soul. Isn’t that the feeling you get when you’re driving down that winding back road in the pudding-thick fog and have no idea whether the pavement will bend left or right ahead? Whether a wayward animal will wander into your path? Even worse, a crazy or lost pedestrian? If you might inadvertently plunge headlong off into a ravine?
Yet this very emotion enabled our ancient ancestors to survive. Huh?
Fear is at the heart of every story I write. Why? Why would anyone want to write, let alone read, a tale driven by fear? Stephen King described best the three different types of terror:
“The Gross-Out . . . a severed head tumbling down a flight of stairs . . .the lights go out and something green and slimy splatters against your arm.
The Horror . . . Spiders the size of bears, the dead waking up and walking around . . .
Terror: when you come home and notice everything you own had been taken away and replaced by an exact substitute.”
Here’s where fear helped our species survive: Our bodies have a physiological reaction to fear known as the “flight or fight” syndrome. It’s an adrenaline rush, with spikes in endorphins and dopamine. It’s what kept our caveman ancestors alive, since when threatened by a landslide or hungry mastodon or pillaging enemy tribe, these hormones enabled the cavemen to become stronger and faster.
Modern man has learned these spikes in hormones–feeling the rush of fear–can be pleasurable IF experienced in a safe environment. It’s why we love scary stories, horror flicks, and haunted houses at Halloween time. We know there’s no real danger, reading alone at night in our bedroom or snuggled up in front of our TV screen.
But on that foggy back road late at night? Do we really know we are safe?
This terror I’m feeling right now . . . there are no severed heads, no giant spiders, no slimy green stuff splattering my arm. It’s that everything once familiar to me has now become frighteningly similar, yet unfamiliar. Uncertain. Do I really know, in my situation, if I am in a safe environment?
I suppose only time will tell.
Claire is the author of seven novels, five in the Haunted Voices series, standalone supernatural suspense romance stories set in spooky, haunted places. You can find out more about her work at her Website. Unable to continue work on her next HV novel for now, Claire has compiled four of her creepiest short stories in a collection called Enigmata: Eerie Bits, Book 1, an Amazon Short Read that’s on pre-order right now.