I'm following advice I read from horror writer Richard Thomas to list 10 things that scare me, the better to write fear. In no particular order.

1. Listening to my heart...

(a) ... rather than my head. My heart is reckless.
(b) ... when I lie in bed, on my stomach, ear to pillow. I have an irrational fear that hearing my heart makes me responsible for consciously keeping it beating. If I forget, I'll die.

2. Being wrong
As a child I was taught that holding incorrect opinions about invisible things could send me to never-ending torture. The stakes for error were pretty high.

3. Failure
When If I fail, everybody will know I was a fraud all along. They won't like me.

4. Success
If I succeed, people will think I'm good. They'll be wrong, of course, because the success was a fluke. They will expect continued success from me, making the inevitable failure that much worse. Then everybody will know I was a fraud all along and they won't like me.

5. Being seen
Invisibility is my safe place. If no one sees me, they can't expect success from me or witness my failures. I can't disappoint them and don't have to worry about whether they like me. (Sensing a theme?)

6. Needles
A needle jabbed into a muscle doesn't bother me. But a needle that goes into a vein is puncturing my blood system! That thing needs to stay intact!

7. Anything touching my eye
I can't wear contacts. I can't manage to hold my eye open for drops, much to my eye doctor's frustration. Leaving these important organs exposed, vulnerable as slugs, seems like poor design. My glasses provide some protection.

8. Accidentally stepping on small animals (spiders not included)
The few times I've accidentally squished snails, caterpillars, tiny frogs, I've feared revenge coming from the gods. Oddly, deliberately killing animals by fishing doesn't create the same sense of guilty dread.

9. Heights
I used to work painting buildings, sometimes atop a 30-foot ladder. I was cool with it--while I was working. But then I would have nightmares of falling. At some point that fear moved into my waking mind. (Airplanes are different. I like a window seat. The heights don't look real.)

10. Violence
I've lived in a couple of rough neighborhoods where I witnessed and was threatened with violence, but I always escaped experiencing it. Maybe if I'd been beaten up a time or two, perhaps stabbed (non-fatally) once, I could take the possibility in stride now. Or maybe not. I'd rather not find out.


Image by Henri Julien (1852-1908) for Les Anciens Canadiens by Philippe Aubert de Gaspé. From Wikimedia Commons.