The Fear I Know
Fear, an understated word. A topic for discussion when the nights are dark and the Small Ones still wait beneath the bed, fear manifests with relentless persistence. They’re here. I know, but they don’t know I know. Not this time.
I curl my fingers, ball my fists and await them as I do each night: They won’t take me! They won’t get me without a fight! They scurry under the floorboards scritch-scratching, teasing out the nails with long twisted talons, undoing the screws. A squeak. A scrape. They’re out.
Midnight, always midnight. My clock radio signals their arrival in flickering green like minions of the Riddler, or miniature children of the Hulk, or the swamp devils they are. They don’t know I know, but I do.
I know where they came from, and one day, when they least expect it, I’ll follow them home like they did me. They won’t like it. They won’t want it. But it’s what they’re going to get. One day, when I’m better, when I’m able to run again that’s just what I’ll do. One day.
I slip my arm over my head and collect the crutch propped against my bed like an anorexic Tower of Pisa. The cold handle slips into my sweating palm and I lift it clear of the floor in silence. They stop. I stop. A pause, then the scritch-scratching starts again. They suspect but they still don’t know I know.
The first of them creeps out across my bedroom floor skittish, afraid of the giants that patrol during the day. They’re such cowards! How I despise these marauders of the night, these underfloor pirates, these life drainers. I pretend to be asleep and he passes me by signalling to his army of tiny, green scum.
I wait, I’ve waited so long, until they pool in their glowing transparency, a bacterial slime to inhibit and restrict. Like lightning, I strike with all my might.
Mum rushes in first and flings herself around me, dad next flipping on the light switch with a click.
“They’re back,” I say calmly, measured, in full control this time.
“There’s nothing to fear, my love. There’s nothing.” Mum weeps into my shoulder as dad collects my broken crutch from the floor. Placing every piece regardless of size in the corner of the room, Dad then sits on the end of the bed away from my feet. He tries not to look at my legs but can’t help it. He never can.
“There’s nothing here son,” he says checking under the bed as though he knows what he’s looking for. I know, but I don’t let on.
“When will this stop, Tim? When will you accept it’s just a disease? Anyone can get a disease. Anyone!”
I smile at mum as best I can, but I know the truth. She fears for me, but I don’t fear them: the germs; the bacteria; the illness, none of them. I’ll fight them until they take me. I’ll fight them until I’m dead.