The Cage (Preview of a short story by yours truly, Naebulokk)
We’ve all been there before, the exact same place as you. Well, to be more precise, we’ve all been in the same…predicament…at some point, albeit with slight variations. No matter how or when it occurred, it left its mark on you. Ever since, you’ve been unnerved by the very notion of solitude.
Oh, don’t bother lying about it. There’s no shame admitting fear. What, does it embarrass you? Why? Perhaps it was in a department store. You were holding onto your mother’s hand, when something caught your eye on one of the shelves. You let go for a moment, meaning to inspect the item further. It was only a moment, but suddenly, you realized that your mother was nowhere to be seen. Naturally, your childish mind went into overdrive, and feared the worst; that you had been forgotten.
That’s not it? Ah, but you will allow me to hazard another guess, won’t you now? Of course, you will. Just give me a moment.
Ah, that’s it! You remember that long camping trip you went on as a child? A state park, no doubt, although there were very few campsites. The park was mostly intended for hiking, correct? Good, now we’re getting somewhere!
It was very late at night, and for some strange reason, your adventurous (or reckless, you’d believe either one) father decided it’d be a fantastic idea to go hiking along the longest trail possible. He had the only flashlight, of course. Naturally, you and your siblings (if you had any) made sure to stick close to him. You brought up the rear, as your party walked along the trail.
Suddenly, you felt the need to relieve yourself (no, all that water right before hiking was most certainly NOT a good idea). You excused yourself to the nearest patch of shrubbery that would allow you the ideal amount of privacy, and relieved yourself.
Meanwhile, your father decided to shut off his flashlight, presumably to better immerse himself in his surroundings. You’d finished, and suddenly, you had no light to guide you back to your family. Your mind began to enter a state of panic. Had they left you behind? Had they simply vanished?
You were too panicked to act rationally. Your breathing became more frantic. Your heart began pounding like a machine gun. And all around you, you felt that something was watching you. Well, aside from anything predictable, like a fox or deer. No you felt that there was something towering over you, standing behind you. Maybe that wasn’t the wind, but warm gusts of carbon dioxide being exhaled onto the back of your neck. Was that just the hair on the back of your neck standing up, or the things claws, just barely grazing your skin?
None of these assumptions made sense, but the paranoia had already taken hold. In your mind, there was no other possibility. You didn’t call for help, no, you wouldn’t dare. That had to be what would make it pounce. Your silence kept you alive.
But the need for sanctuary grew greater in your mind, battling your survival instincts. Every second you spent silent felt like an eternity, and the need to scream grew rapidly, until it seemed you were about to burst. Finally, you screamed with all the air in your lungs, crying out desperately for help! You were sure your fate had been sealed.
But no, your father got to you just in time, and you finished the hike without a scratch. Although the impact on your mind was far more severe, I’m sure.
Is that a nod of agreement? Good, good! Now that we’ve gotten to the root of the problem, we can set about the task of recovery, so to speak.
What was that? How do I know so much, how do I see all of this, if I’ve never met you? Oh, please don’t think so irrationally; you’re only reinforcing the paranoia I’ve spoken of. Still not convinced? Still want an answer?
Very well, I see no reason to deny you that request. The truth of the matter is that you and I have never met. I don’t know your name; how can I discern that through this obsolete story? I can’t. This is all speculation. It’s not that hard to figure out what someone is scared of. Think back to the beginning of the Homo Sapiens. You know as well as I do that the most powerful fears are the vestigial remnants of a once essential survival instinct. Fear of the dark, as well as fear of the unknown, kept our ancestors alive. The same goes for the fear of solitude; our ancestors were at their most vulnerable when they were alone. The problem is that, very often, these phobias serve no purpose in our modern lives. We fear something may be lurking in a darkened corner of our house, but there probably isn’t. Get the idea?
Now, the particular phobia I’ve been exploring with you is based on a very common sort of experience (or at least, I find it to be quite common, based on what I hear). The two guesses I’ve provided are what I believe to be the most probable sort of event that could have set this phobia in motion. It’s just my knowledge of people and very good speculation that have led us here.
Now then, I assume you want to be rid of this useless phobia, correct? Of course you do! Why hold on to a purposeless instinct? So to begin, we need to use a method which, in my experience, has proven itself very effective. I call it extreme exposure. Heard of it? No?
It’s simple really. It works on a long and very metaphorical principle. Picture this fear as a cage. No locks, no keys, just a cube with six sides, all sealing you in. The cage impedes your growth, your advancement as a human being. Every time you try to escape, the cage deters you in some manner. However, if you can embrace that fear, endure it, you will find that the way out of the cage is very simple. Spend enough time in the presence of anything, and you will become privy to its secrets and intricacies. The cage will hold you no more, but you must endure the fear! Allow your mind to swim in the terror, until it becomes normal! Throw yourself at the thing you fear most, and you shall eventually lose that fear.
Are you ready to begin? Ah, good! Now, we’ve established what it is that you fear. You fear the unknown. You fear solitude. You fear the darkness. All of these can be dispelled through another long and drawn out lecture, but we haven’t the time or the patience to expend on that.
Where are you now? Your home, I presume? Good, this will do nicely. An area you think yourself familiar with is best to utilize in confronting what you fear.
Are you alone, by chance? Or at least, certain that no one will interrupt our procedure? Excellent! I despise unwanted interferences with a burning passion…What? Oh, nothing. So you’re alone. This much is ideal. Now, where is the one place in this house that you can ensure will have the proper amount of darkness? Any room will do, really. Just be sure to turn off all of the lights in the house, so that no light seeps in through those pesky little gaps between the door and the frame. And make sure not to leave the house during this time. Hell, use the whole house if you want! Just close all of the blinds, shut off all of the lights, and wait until night comes. Lock any exterior doors as well; you need to feel like you can’t escape the fear, in order for this to work.
Oh, don’t cock your damned eyebrows at me. You’ll be perfectly fine. Remember, this is all in your head. You just need to get it out, okay? Isolation is the best method for this, I promise. It’ll all be over before you know it…Oh, come now, you know what I mean, stop being so suspicious.
Now then, I’ve said that you need to ensure complete darkness. This is only part true. You’ll want a flashlight. Why? You know as well as I do how a flashlight can cast such ominous and threatening shadows. A lot of people, myself included, believe it can even worsen the fear. So make sure to obtain a flashlight. A small one, preferably one with an incandescent bulb. LEDs cast far too much light, ruining the effect. And no lanterns. You want to limit what you can see for maximum effect.
Also, make sure to eliminate any source of noise for the duration of this procedure. Dishwashers, laundry machines, you’ll need all of it to be silent. Don’t worry, you can leave the furnace on.
Also, do not distract yourself with any other tasks. No visits to the fridge, no games on your iPod, and certainly no contact with any other person. You can use your phone ONLY as a light, in case your flashlight burns out. Am I clear? Good. Then at night, we begin.
(I Am still in the process of writing this one, but any constructive criticisms would be greatly appreciated!)