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I don’t really remember a time in my life where I didn’t live in fear of something. I’m pretty sure there was a time where I was normal, there had to be. Maybe when I was a baby or a toddler and didn’t know any better. I can’t really say what started it, or when, I just know that all my memories have been tinged with fear.

I have so many fears. There’s the normal fears; fear of dying, fear of losing someone I love, fear of rejection,fear of some crippling illness or injury…except that, with me, even these dictate my life. For instance, I didn’t learn to ride a bicycle until I was 24 because I was so terrified head injuries, even with the added protection of a helmet. Stuff like that. Then there’s the more irrational fears. Fear of hearing voices, fear of losing control of my body and mind and watching in horror as something forces me to do terrible things from the inside. Fear of getting caught in an alternate dimension…like in that Twilight Zone episode, where the little girl falls through a portal behind her bed and her dog finds her? You get the idea. Crazy stuff. Things that most people might think of in passing, these are the things over which I obsess.

So, as you probably guessed, I haven’t lived much. I avoid so many things, and I missed out on so much. If I died today, I’d have nothing but regrets to show for my time here. Yet, even with all of that, there’s one thing I’m afraid of more than anything, and lately, something has been happening that makes me feel like I’m going to go insane from terror if I don’t get some answers, which is why I’m telling you this now.

The thing I fear the most is nothing. The thing I spend so many hours thinking about and trying not to think about is nothing. I’m terrified that life and this whole world and everything in it is some delusion, that my consciousness is nothing but a tiny inconsequential accident in the immense expanse of universe and that one day, it will all just cease to exist in a devastating abruptness. I’m terrified that I’ll close my eyes and that when I open them again, I’ll be utterly alone, and nothing will exist but me and an empty void.

For months now I have had this recurring nightmare, where I wake up to find that I’m walking through this wasteland, where the ground is hard and dry and cracked and endless. It’s a blackish, murky red, like some desolate planet, and there is no variation in the landscape for as far as I can see. The sky, if you can call it that, is this suffocating, dense black, starless and darker than any night I’ve ever known. The air, if that’s what it is, is stale and heavy and still, even when I move, when I wave my hands or yell or scream, I can’t stir the slightest breeze. Any sound I make is muffled in my ears, even the vibration of my shouts in my chest is stifled. I feel like I’m being smothered but I can’t stop walking. And there is no one, no one anywhere. Not a single person or creature or even a plant. No life anywhere, except for me, and I am sure that I must be dead. It’s such a vivid dream that I swear I can feel the ground beneath my feet and my lungs struggle for a breath of real air through that heavy foulness that envelops me all the time.

I remember everything when I'm there, too. I remember the world I knew and my family and friends, I remember my last job and my first job, the bumper stickers on my car, and what music sounds like. I remember peanut butter and sunflowers and the ocean and snow. I can picture everything vividly in my mind, but it is a distant dream, and this dark and desolate world is reality. It's Hell. It's my Hell.

I hope it’s a mental illness. I know that sounds terrible to say, and I’m sorry if that offends anyone; I don’t mean to, but the alternative is just too much for me to consider. See, first these dreams became more frequent. I had them almost every night, until I started to find any reason I could to avoid sleeping. That, of course, didn’t work out very well. I’d drift off in the middle of the day and I’d sleep so hard I couldn’t make myself wake up, no matter how terrified I got. Then the dreams just stopped for a while. I was hoping that maybe it was just stress, that maybe it was over, but they came back a couple weeks ago, and now I just don’t know if I can handle this. Because it’s not just when I sleep anymore. For the last week or so, I can see that damned place every time I close my eyes. I see it when I rub my eyes. I see it when I sneeze. I see it every time I blink. I see it right now. If I even close my eyes for the briefest moment…I’m walking that wasteland now, and every day I feel like I’m less tangible. I feel less substantial than I did yesterday, much less than the day before that. I feel like I’m drifting away, and I can’t hold on anymore, and one day I’m gonna wake up and all that will be there is that desolate place and the world I knew, this world, will have been a dream. I’m so scared right now, I just want this to be over. I just want somebody to tell me all I need is a shrink and some pills and that I’ll be okay. I'm scared. I'm too afraid to tell my family or my friends. What if that triggers something and they disappear? What if I disappear? I can't see you, I never met any of you. I think I can tell you. I hope it's okay to tell you.

Please somebody tell me I’m crazy.* Please*. Just help me.

Fiction


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