It was a cold, silent winter night. She sat in a corner of her dark room, arms wrapped around Her shins, chin resting on Her knees. She could not sleep, so She was left with Her own thoughts this fateful night.
Her back straightened sharply as something creaked outside Her room. Suddenly Her heart was pounding, Her eyes fearfully scanning the darkness of Her bedroom; the light from the moon shone halfheartedly through Her window, blotted out by an old oak beside Her house. Most of the room was covered in shadow because of the ancient tree.
She shivered. What is that? A...A monster? Some horrible creature? Will it come into my room? Will it see me? What will it do to me when it comes? Logic tried to shove away these thoughts, but another creak of feet on wood, closer this time, strengthened Her fear.
Through Her bedroom window something crept in, snaking its lizard-like body into the house without the need for cracks in the pane. It slithered over to Her, unseen. It shone white in the dark room, and the dead black eyes on its human-like face were wide with fear.
This creature was afraid, afraid of what the darkness of the night held. It climbed up Her left shoulder, but She did not feel its small feet on Her clothes. It perched by Her ear, waiting.
Logic attempted to quell Her fears a second time, giving reason to the strange sounds: Perhaps it was just the family cat. Her mind relaxed.
What was I afraid of anyway? She said to Herself.
What lurks in the shadows, unseen, an unfamiliar voice inside Her head replied.
Her heart twisted. What lurks in the shadows?
She shuddered, Her logic withering. The creature smiled sleepily, sensing Her weakness.
Like what? She asked again.
Achluophobia replied grimly, Burglars. Stalkers of the night. Perhaps your mother forgot to shut the door and lock it tight. What then? Burglars, burglars with greedy fingers that take.
What will they take?
A rat-like creature, also with a human face, entered the room, clad heavily from head to stumpy tail in riches. Its human hands pawed worriedly at its various jewels and pouches of money and gold, its eyes shifted about fearfully.
Harpaxophobia struggled to climb up the shoulder opposite Achluophobia, weighed down by its kingly load. It had heard Her frightened thought and eagerly fed Her half-truths.
They will take what is most precious to you; they will take it far away and use it to receive ill-gotten money. They will sell your most beloved items or they will dirty them by keeping them. Not a thousand cleanings could rid an object of the filth of a robber; not a thousand searches could find a lost item.
It is the cold hard truth.
She looked up. Perhaps I should sleep in my parents' bedroom tonight. They'll protect me from the thieves and the dark.
Something hissed as it materialized on Her left shoulder, but the sound never reached Her ears.
No, Agoraphobia hissed. If you leave this room, the thing in the hall could get you.
It could? Her thoughts were heavy with fear.
Agoraphobia's sparsely set, pointed teeth poked out from bared gums. Its lipless human face was twisted in cruel pleasure. Its wormlike body curled around Her ear; its complexion tinged a pasty yellow.
Yes, it rasped. Do not leave this haven of safety.
Another creature emerged from the shadows, scrawny and pale, eyes deep pits of lonely grey. It shuddered once before approaching Her, clambering up beside Harpaxophobia.
No, you must leave this place, Eremophobia whined. You mustn't be alone. If you are alone, no one will be there to help you, to save you, to protect you. No one will be able to hear your screams...And your parents have such pure personalities. Perhaps you can become them; we don't want to grow up to become our self. We're so flawed. Our imperfections will consume us, and we will wither into nothing. We must change if we are to escape ourself.
Her eyes widened, clouded with fear.
Atelophobia and Atychiphobia briefly appeared beside their master, Eremophobia, on Her shoulder, dancing snakelike by Her ear, whispering; whispering. And then they faded.
...I...I should go; I should leave to be with my parents. Then I can learn to be like them; to become them, instead of me.
Eremophobia purred victoriously, greedily gulping down Her insecurities. Agoraphobia snarled, still hungering; its appetite had yet to be quelled, and it was quickly losing its possible meal to its nemesis, Eremo.
No, precious child, Agoraphobia croaked, you mustn't. We heard an awful creaking outside the door, and we know what it is...
BURGLARS! Monsters! Terrors of the night! Agora shrieked, clawing at its face with its talon-like hands, fearing its own poisonous words.
She flinched, remembering the noises in the darkness. Achluophobia crowed happily to itself. Its second chance had finally come.
You poor thing, Achluo purred, feigning sympathy. I understand your fears. The darkness holds so many unknown dangers; it truly is overwhelming at times. If you close your eyes, you might miss a shadow that moves by itself in a forgotten corner...
Her eyes widened. No...Then I mustn't sleep, or I will surely befall a terrible fate.
Eleven eyes opened in the far reaches of the room, all shining like the light of an angler fish's esca; waiting patiently for prey to bait. It was invisible to Her eyes, even when it emerged from the darkness and hobbled over to Her. Its eyes were raw and bloodshot, frozen in place and dry, but not unseeing. Its three weak legs pulled itself up to Her, its toxic neon colors shifting in the faint moonlight as it moved, pulsing grotesquely.
Yes-s-s-s, it hissed, gasping for breath through wheezing lungs. Be afraid, child. Sleep is a dangerous thing. It leaves you vulnerable, and every time you close your eyes it could be your last...
She clutched at Her chest, feeling nauseated. So much...There is so much to fear.
Hypnophobia sighed from physical exhaustion. There is much danger in this world, it agreed. It is up to us to fight sleep, and to keep those that seek weak night-dreamers at bay.
Such as whom?
A mournful cry echoed through the room as three transparent people materialized into the room. She was deaf to their cries and blind to their entrance of Her dark, fear-filled room.
The ghosts were chained to each other so that they were back to back. They pulled against their binds, screeching and moaning as they tried to pull away from each other—eternally tortured by their own fear of what they were.
Phasmophobia, Merinthophobia, Spectrophobia. The fear of ghosts, the fear of being bound, the fear of specters.
Suddenly the three flashed before Her eyes, screeching horribly, the only phobias that appeared visibly to humans.
"SAVE US, SAVE US, CUT OUR BINDS!"
She screamed, crying tears of fright as the ghosts lashed against their chains, pleading to Her in bloodcurdling voices. Merintho, Phasmo, and Spectro vanished suddenly, leaving Her curled up in a tight ball on Her bedroom floor, tears streaming down Her face. The other phobias were silenced for a few minutes, they themselves recovering from the unexpected appearance of the tortured souls.
It wasn't long before they returned to feeding off of Her fears, sucking Her reality away, replacing it with insecurity and a growing fright of many different things. They abused Her mind, playing with it, spinning their web of exaggerated truths in it, poisoning it.
The night was long; She began to fear anything the little voices told Her to. They were so nice, so soothing, so understanding. Why shouldn't She trust them? They seemed to be the only things She could trust in this world of hurt and danger.
Every object She looked upon, every thought that came into Her mind, the little voices told Her to fear. Fear the darkness for what it may hide, fear being robbed for what might be taken, fear leaving a safe place for what dangers may await outside it, fear loneliness for what protection and support it lacks, fear failure for how it might stain one's future, fear becoming one's own self for what success may be lost and calamity be found, fear imperfection for how it may cause others to look upon you, fear sleep for how vulnerable it makes one, fear ghosts for their cold touch and malevolent wrath, fear being bound for how it traps and restrains one in the face of danger, fear slime for how it clings and dirties, fear gold for what uncontrollable greed it may awaken, fear snow for its two-faced beauty, fear wind for how it may misdirect and mislead, fear becoming ugly for how it may repulse others, fear microbes for what fatal illness they may strike and kill one with, fear height for the long fall down.
She obeyed their every command; listened to those poisonous little voices. At last dawn came, but the little voices told Her to fear it; to fear the dawn and the daylight it brought with it.
To fear darkness, to fear light. To fear being robbed, to fear stealing. To fear leaving a safe place, to fear being confined to one. To fear imperfection, to fear praise. To fear loneliness, to fear the others around you. To fear walking, to fear sitting. To fear nature, to fear technology.
To fear eternity, to fear death.
She shivered in Her silent, still room the following winter evening.
I fear the cold, a voice told Her.
Her sleep-deprived eyes drooped.
I fear sleep, a voice rasped.
She looked down at Her hands; once solid, warm, human.
I fear hands, a voice insisted.
Now Her hands were transparent, like the rest of Her; cold.
I fear the cold.
I fear death.
Whispers, whispers. She was not dead, but She was no longer human either.
I fear ghosts...
But She knew She wasn't a ghost.
I fear ghosts, a small voice repeated forcefully.
The voices had lost most of their control over Her, but still She was afraid. Hungry, too, but not for mortal food.
I fear eating; I fear of being poisoned.
I fear I am already poisoned, She stated sadly to Herself; to those little nagging voices.
I fear other things, too, a voice reminded Her.
"I fear everything," She replied bitterly.