Fear Itself

on November 11, 2009 in Fiction

“I have nothing to fear but fear itself,” the child said before opening the basement door.

The light from the kitchen illuminated a few feet of bare gray wall on the left side of the stairs. The first two steps were visible, and the two below that faintly so. On the right, there was nothing but darkness. Somewhere in there was the big looming shape of the furnace, which could roar to life with such sudden noise and ferocity that it could be startling anywhere else in the house.

“I have nothing to fear but fear itself,” the child repeated, leaning into the darkness to reach for the switch on the gray wall. Unable to hit it from the relative safety of the kitchen, the child stepped down onto the first step and reached out again to flip it.

The old switch made an audible click. At the bottom of the stairs, a bare, clear bulb burst forth with light then went dark with a pop, leaving the child with an afterimage of itself and a jumbled impression of the cluttered basement.

“I have nothing to fear but fear itself,” the child said, with much less certainty.

There was a shelf straight ahead with a great big flashlight on it, three feet from the bottom of the stairs. All the child had to do was grip the handrail and follow it down, then follow the wall to the shelf.

“I have nothing to fear but fear itself,” the child said, moments before taking a big step up and back, closing the door, and backing out of the kitchen.

Fear, it transpired, was scary enough in and of itself.

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