“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”
Many many years ago, as part of the course I was doing at Further Ed. college the class I was in were assigned the task of creating a back story for a fictional computer game called “Keep watching the skies”. Of course, heeding my tutor’s advice I looked up where this quote came from. Bear in mind kids, this was back when the internet was relatively small: before YouTube was even a twinkle in Chen, Hurley and Karim‘s collective eye and Google just a search engine and not yet a verb. I probably used Ask Jeeves or something and came up with all kinds of abstract references to sci-fi films, books and tv series.
Anyway, cutting a long story short, I ended up with a whole bunch of sci-fi books on loan from the local library, the only one of which I remember now is Asimov and Silverberg‘s Nightfall (recommended reading there folks!) and the research section of my assignment surmised that, if you dig really deeply, all science fiction plays on our most basic instinct: The instinct to survive.
It’s not just sci-fi that does it either, I bet you would struggle to find any fiction that we create which doesn’t include some element of survival in it. It doesn’t matter whether it is is on a personal or species level (which is essentially the survival of our genetic fingerprint); the basic instinct of all life on this planet (and, no doubt, elsewhere) is to survive.
So when The Daily Post’s prompt “You’re locked in a room with your greatest fear. Describe what’s in the room.” (The Daily Post 01/11/2015) invited us to look at our own fears my mind immediately went to that 20-something year old conclusion made by younger self. I delved deeper into it this time though.
There are an absolute ton of quotes about fear online these days. I picked Lovecraft’s quote to start this blog post because it is most in tune with my outlook. I did consider that maybe what I was most afraid of was myself, or the past, or the future. That would be a good one for a self-help blog wouldn’t it? But this isn’t a self-help blog.
Fear of the unknown, survival instinct, fear of the unknown – listen hard enough and you will hear the cogs of my mind ticking over as I work out what would be in a room with me. We’re getting there, I promise.
There’s nothing actually wrong with having a healthy fear of something, as long as you don’t let it cripple your experience of life. I’m afraid of falling from a height which will kill me (what complicates it is the vertigo I suffer from). I’m not bothered by the native spiders of this country (although some of them give me the heebie jeebies). I hate slugs but then so would you if you could still remember the nightmares you had about them as a kid.
That leads us to my main problem: I have a massively over-active imagination. I hate being kept in suspense (on a personal level it can fuel my more paranoid days) so I struggle with horror films. I can cope with gore, I can’t cope with waiting for the killer to appear from under the bed or behind the door or whatever place they are walking slowly towards their intended victim from. Two films that massively freaked me out were Signs and 28 Days Later. In fact, I went to see both in the cinema. The former left me jumping at shadows and I spent all but about the first 5 minutes of the latter sat with my eyes screwed shut and my fingers in my ears. I unintentionally made it worse for myself doing that though, I could still hear what was going on so my mind was creating all kinds of scenarios.
Zombie films freak me out in general (well, apart from Shaun of the Dead), which is a shame as they are my other half’s favourite. You see, I am under no doubt that a zombie plague could happen, we mess around with viruses and bacteria too much (the film I Am Legend also messed with my head – yes I know it is vampires but it has the same kind of idea behind it). When I am really struggling with anxiety I have nightmares and they are always about zombies.
So would my room 101 contain zombies? No. My room 101 would be in complete and utter darkness. That stifling, still darkness. That’s not because I am afraid of the dark – the dark won’t hurt me. What could hurt me would be the sounds in that room, the scratching or snuffling or creaking with which my mind would conjure up visions of psychopaths and/or the undead hovering, ready to pounce on me and maim me and cause me a slow and painful death.
The thing I most fear is those sounds.
What about you?
This is my #NaBloPoMo2015 post for 1st November. I’ll see you back here tomorrow.
Unless the zombies get me first.