In this flash fiction piece the challenge was simple: write to a target of between 500 and 800 words on the topic of “Fear”. I had been talking to students about developing their interpretive communication skills around the same time. A “learn to read between the lines” type excercise of listening to only one half of telephone conversations led to this one-sided monologue piece.
The only thing we have to fear is Fear itself.
Oh, thank God it’s you… for a moment there I wasn’t certain. I thought you could be one of them. Stupid, I know, but I am scared. I suppose I should know better. They wouldn’t knock, they’d simply break the door down.
Well don’t just stand there. Get inside quickly before they spot us. The streets have been busy with their collection squads all day.
Sit, sit. Rest your feet. And try to relax a little. Let me get this bar back on the door and then I’ll get you some water. Yes, I know… it is a bit of a miracle that even with all the troubles recently our water is still flowing. I don’t know how long it will still run for though. I fear it won’t be much longer.
There, that should hold them for a while if the Collectors happen to find us. What’s that you say? You call them ‘Reapers’? Reapers…
Yes, I suppose that is more appropriate than ‘Collectors’. I’ve actually heard them called that before somewhere but didn’t realise my Collectors and your Reapers are one and same. Reapers it is then.
Whatever we call them, I’m not embarrassed to tell you that they terrify me. What are they? Where did they come from? Why are they collecting, uh… reaping humans? I wish we knew more about them. Maybe that would help make this all easier to deal with.
Yes, I suppose that’s true… I haven’t heard of anyone coming back once they had been taken either. None of us left behind knows what they do to the people they take. So I guess we’ll never know the answers to those questions until we get taken ourselves.
They were here just yesterday, did you know? Yeah, I know… scared the heck out of me when I heard the ruckus. They took Parker from next door. I heard it all through the vent. He was laughing like a madman at them. It was a little weird to hear him giggling away like some stoned teenager. The man was 74 for goodness sake.
What? You think he was laughing because they feed on fear? So he wasn’t being weird then? He was trying to save himself.
You know, I think you’re right. They feed on fear. It all makes so much more sense now.
Old Man Parker, in between the giggling, was saying the same thing over and over again – “Don’t fear the Reapers, don’t fear the Reapers!” Now I know what he meant.
Are you feeling any better yet? More relaxed? Good, I’m pleased about that.
Okay, so now that there are two of us, what do you think we should do? Does that revolver you’re carrying still work?
No ammunition left? That’s too bad. What?! Twenty shots? All into just one of them? And it made no difference? Damn! So much for my idea to shoot our way out of here.
We have to do something. We can’t just sit around here all petrified waiting for them to find us. Yeah, I know. I’m scared too, but we can’t take a chance staying here. We have to get out of town and into the country – the Reapers won’t be able to find us out there, especially if we keep moving.
Yeah, I think we need to go now. The sooner the better. I think the further away we get from here the harder it’ll be for them to sense our fear. And if they can’t sense our fear they won’t be able to find us.
So, you ready to hightail it out of here? Good. Let’s get going then. As soon as I get this safety bar off the door you get into the hall and scan for them. If it’s clear, we head to the left and take the fire-stairs to the bottom. And then we run like the wind.
Right. Ready… Set… And… What? What do you mean there’s something wrong with my face? Oh, you mean the mask. It’ll soon fade. You’ll see my real face in just a moment. I see you’ve met my friends. They’ve been waiting patiently out here in the hall since you arrived.
Is that fear I see etched on your face? Oh good, it is. Perfect.
That old fool from next door did get one thing right. You really shouldn’t waste the last precious moments you have in fear of my Reapers. No, what you really should be scared of is me.
[the image featured on this post is by the incredibly talented illustrator Neal Swaab. See more here: www.nealswaab.com]