Agoraphobia (Fear of Confinement)

The hot steamy jungles of Vietnam were ringing with the sounds of wildlife. Captain James Matheson and his platoon were heading for a village where the Viet Cong were said to be hiding out. The men went as quietly as it was possible considering the foliage which had dropped from the trees from last night’s rain storm. The closer that they got to the village, the more they relied on hand signals. Before they got to the village, the captain decided to give his men a break so that they could rest and rehydrate themselves. The signalman walked over to his commanding officer and, in a quiet voice, said,

English: Viet Cong soldier stands beneath a Vi...

English: Viet Cong soldier stands beneath a Viet Cong flag carrying his AK-47 rifle. He was participating in the exchange of POWs by the Four Power Joint Military Commission. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“How much longer do you think it will be before we get there?”

“It shouldn’t be more than a half hour. Call the rest of the men over, so we can go over the plan again.”

The corporal waved his hand over his head to the rest of the soldiers. One or two grunted because they had just gotten comfortable and didn’t really want to get up, but they managed. The captain had his map spread out on a rock and waited for everyone to get into a good position. When everyone was standing or kneeling around the captain, he began,

“I just wanted to go over the plan one more time since we are almost there and I want it fresh in your minds.”

Private William Jackson, the platoon’s so-called funny man, quipped,

“Captain, I may be a lowly private, but I’m not totally stupid. I can’t speak for the others, but…”

“That’s enough Private. Now, Donaldson, Emeritt, and McClaine will split up and cover the back side of the village and look for any signs of rat holes. I will take…”

Suddenly, the sounds of Kalashnikovs rang out and the platoon formed a circle around the captain and returned fire. The Viet Cong had received word of the platoon’s whereabouts and had positioned themselves an hour before the platoon arrived. McClaine and Donaldson were the first casualties of the skirmish, which ended ten minutes later when more Viet Cong came out of “spider holes”. Ten men, including Captain James Matheson, were captured and led off into the jungle. Each man had been disarmed and had their hands tied behind their backs.


After a long, hot trek through the jungle, the prisoners were brought to a camouflaged area ten miles northwest of the village that they had been sent to investigate. Each of the non-commissioned officers were led to a bamboo cage and locked in. Captain Matheson was led to a hut which looked like it had been recently built. When he entered the building, he was led to a chair, sat down, then had his hands tied to the back of the chair. There were some rays of light shining through the thatched roof and the captain saw a stone-faced man sitting behind a desk writing on a sheet of paper. The man finished writing, folded it, and set it aside on his desk. He then looked up and gave a slightly sarcastic smile to Captain Matheson.

“I am Major Le Nguc. You can either make your imprisonment here a pleasant one or an unpleasant one; the choice is yours. Now, you will tell me what your plans were concerning the village.”

Matheson looked at the major and spit on the floor. A soldier walked up to him and punched him in the side of his head. The major waved the soldier away and then repeated his question to Matheson. Matheson, in reply, stated only his name, rank, and serial number.

“Very well, Captain James Matheson, you will tell me what your orders are concerning the village and who you were to report back to.”

“I’m not telling you shit, asshole!” Major Le nodded to the soldier who stepped up to Matheson and gave him a quick punch to the nose. The captain’s head flew back so violently that he almost fell to the floor while still tied to the chair. The major then ordered the soldier to untie the captain from the chair and put him in the “sweat box.”

“We shall see if any of your men are more cooperative,” the major said to Matheson as he was marched out of the hut.


Matheson regained consciousness five minutes after being put into the sweat box. At first, he thought that he had been blinded when the soldier had punched him, but realized that this was not so, because he saw faint rays of light along the sweat box’s hatch. The heat soon became unbearable but the captain did not call out for water or demand to be let out; it would have been futile, anyway. He decided that the best way to beat these people at their game was to close his eyes and let his mind drift away to a beautiful place. The first thing that came into his mind was the smiling face of his wife who was waiting for him at the shore of Tampa Bay. It was a semi-cloudy day filled with salty air and golden sunshine. Elaine, his wife, was sitting on a blanket in a bright red bikini.

“Come on, handsome, put some lotion on my back.”

Matheson imagined himself in his Hawaiian print swimming trunks and walked over to the blanket, knelt down and took the lotion from his wife’s hand. He squeezed the bottle and started to spread the lotion on her shoulders and…


Matheson quickly opened his eyes and noticed that the rays from the sun that he had seen earlier were replaced by flickering light from a torch. The banging noise was just another way to make sure that the prisoner did not get any sleep. This continued for the next eight hours.


Matheson was startled out of his flickering dreams by the sound of a rusty lock being opened. His eyes were stabbed by the bright sunlight of the morning and his cramped body screamed its complaints. He felt two hands dragging him out of the sweat box and a plastic pail of water was dumped on his head. When his vision cleared, he saw a pair of sandals. He was dragged back to the shed where he had first been interrogated. Major Le greeted him with a stony expression on his face as he watched the prisoner once again bound to the chair.

“Would you like a cigarette, Captain?”

“I don’t smoke.”

“Very well, suit yourself. Shall we begin again? What are the Americans’ plans?”

“How would I know? They don’t tell me everything.”

“We know that you were going to investigate the village for our men. What were your orders after your investigation.”

“Nothing. Just to report back to headquarters.”

“Were your superiors going to use the village as a forward base?”

“I don’t know.” The interrogation continued for another thirty minutes, by the time that Major Le decided that it was fruitless. He was about ready to have the captain returned to the sweat box, when a soldier entered and handed a folded sheet of paper to the major. He opened it, scanned its contents, then issued orders to the soldier. When the man left, he ordered Matheson’s guard to take the captain and put him in with the other prisoners. The men who survived the skirmish gathered around the captain and asked questions but he could not tell them much of anything. An hour later, three soldiers opened the bamboo cell door and ordered the prisoners out. While two of the soldiers kept their Kalashnikovs pointed at them, the other soldier bound their hands behind their backs and tied them to a bamboo pole. It appeared that the Viet Cong were breaking camp and, perhaps fortunately, not going to leave their prisoners’ bodies behind them. It would be three years before the captain and his surviving men would see their country again.


Former Captain James Matheson sat in his easy chair watching the late night news. The war had been over for fifteen years now, but its effects were still felt in his life. Two years after he had returned from Vietnam, his wife and five-year old son had been killed by a drunk driver. Matheson had also been diagnosed with PTSD which had caused his wife to leave with their son which led to their deaths. Due to all of this, he decided that the outside world and the people in it were not worth dealing with. True, he would have his groceries, and sometimes meals, delivered to the house, but other than that, Matheson shut himself off from the outside world. He, sometimes, thought about the times that he had been locked up in the sweat box back in Nam, but the deaths of his wife and son were the final straw. It seemed to him that when he had been rescued along with his men, that the blue skies and fresh air were the greatest gifts that God could have given him. When the war was over and he went back to college using his benefits from the GI Bill, his life, despite an occasional flareup of his PTSD, was wonderful. His world shattered when, while watching a movie on TV about the war, he found himself so entrenched with the story that he went to his bedroom closet, during a commercial, and took out a handgun that he had bought and shot the television screen. Fortunately for him, his wife and son had been out shopping; when they returned, however, his wife found him whimpering behind the sofa with the gun still in his hand. She wasn’t quite sure how to deal with the situation, but knowing that her husband’s condition was fragile, she grabbed her son’s hand and quickly left the house. She had planned to go over to her sister’s house, which was five miles away, and call an ambulance for her husband, but she never made it. Matheson’s sister-in-law was the person who found him in a fetal position when she went to the house to tell him about his wife and son’s deaths. He spent a month in the psychiatric ward, and when it was determined that he was stable enough to be discharged, his older brother took him home. After returning home from the hospital, Matheson decided that, if at all possible, he would never leave his house again. He had groceries, newspapers, and any other necessities all delivered to the house. The television became his only connection to events happening in his country and around the world.


One night he was watching the news when a bulletin came on the screen. The National Weather Bureau had just issued a tornado warning for his area. When Matheson heard this, his whole body began to sweat. Matheson’s house did not have a basement. The announcer told everyone who was listening to go to their basements or find another safe area in their homes. The only place that Matheson could think of was to hide in the bath tub. He didn’t know if this was an old wives tales or not, so he decided to risk it. He grabbed a heavy jacket from his bedroom closet and hunkered down into the tub. Almost as soon as he had taken shelter, there were sounds of chaos echoing outside. He closed his eyes, gritted his teeth, and tried to think happy thoughts, but did not succeed. The sounds were getting louder and all that he could think of was that skirmish in which he had been captured. The next thing that he knew was there were the sounds of buildings crumbling and the explosions of thunder. Suddenly, he heard heavy raindrops falling on his jacket and the bath tub was shaking violently. It was after one particularly violent shake that Matheson realized that the bathtub was flying in the air, so he gripped the sides of the tub as hard as he could, even though it meant that he would loose his jacket. When Matheson was able to open his eyes, he was astonished by what he saw; there was a pickup truck, several trees, and various parts of destroyed houses circling around with him in the black/gray funnel cloud. Matheson wasn’t sure if he would survive or not, but he kept an eye out in case any pieces of large debris headed towards him. After what felt like a lifetime, Matheson felt that the wind force was weakening and for the first time in a long time, he began to pray. Suddenly, the tub was plunging down to the ground and Matheson held tighter, if that had been possible. When the tub hit the ground, it rolled over and over several times before it finally came to a rest. Matheson survived the plummet but he was knocked unconscious. By the time that rescue squads found him, he had been unconscious for an hour; his rescuers were not even sure if he was alive.


When former Captain James Matheson regained consciousness, he discovered that he was in a hospital bed. One of his arms and legs were in casts and his head had been wrapped with a turban of gauze. The beep of the heart monitor was barely registering with his brain, but it sounded normal to Matheson. A doctor in a white lab coat came into the room, checked his eyes, and asked him how he was feeling. Matheson did not answer his question; he screamed, and screamed. The doctor called in a nurse and told her to bring in a sedative. The nurse was back in a minute and she handed the syringe to the doctor. Matheson tried to struggle away from the syringe, but his casts were restricting him. Finally, the doctor sedated him and told the nurse to keep an eye on the patient.

“Yes, I will, Doctor Le.”

Acrophobia (Fear of Heights)

The glare of the Yucatan sun shot its rays through the jungle canopy. The rare moments that they hit the jungle floor, the heat rose to the canopy and was trapped, causing the air to steam. This heat had no real effect on the few animals and birds that made their homes among the trees. The heavy leaves of the trees formed shade for those who knew how to seek it. The occasional bird call was the only noise heard, as if there had been anyone around to listen. For now, the jungle seemed only occupied by those who rested in the heat of the noonday sun.

Suddenly, even though none of the animals heard it, a twig snapped. Down on the jungle floor, some leaves moved but not by the stirring of the wind, since there was no wind to speak of. Manuac, a local hunter, was following the trail of a wild pig which would help feed his family. His steps were not exactly perfect in their quietude, but he knew that he was not far behind his prey. Manuac was about to take his next step in his pursuit, when he heard the sound of a macaw screaming to its mate. The loud screech caused Manuac to stop in his footsteps and stand completely still. He waited ten heartbeats before he resumed his hunt. Before he could pick up the next sign of the pig’s direction, a weighted net feel from a tree and knocked him to the ground. The jungle erupted in the sounds of victory chants as five men appeared out of seemingly nowhere. Manuac the hunter had just become the prey of the War God’s warriors. All of his attempts to get untangled from the net were futile once one of the warriors clubbed him.

The loud alarm from Edward Holman’s clock stabbed through his consciousness and

New York City Street Scene

New York City Street Scene (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

caused him to leave the Mayan nightmare that sleep had locked him into. He rose from his pillow and shook his head when he realized that he was not in the Yucatan, but in his bed in New York City. He was not someone who believed in the power of dreams, but he had heard that dreams could be symbolic or they could just be the remnants of intense emotions from the previous day. He dismissed the symbolic aspects of his dream and marked it up to having watched Mel Gibson’s “Apocalypse” the night before. After having allotted his dream to its proper category, Edward went to the bathroom and took a shower.

Edward was a 29-year old, mousy-haired accountant who was also a bachelor. It’s not that he did not want to get married, he did, but it seemed to be impossible to find a decent woman who would find an accountant a desirable catch. Having quickly eaten his two pieces of buttered wheat toast and drunk his cup of decaffeinated black coffee, Edward ran out of his brownstone and caught a cab into work. When he entered the glass and steel building where he worked, he took the elevator to the 20th floor and went into his office. His desk faced the door while behind his chair was a row of oblong windows which looked out onto the canyon created by the building across the street. Since there was nothing of beauty or interest outside, Edward Holman never took advantage of the sights outside the windows. Edward Holman came in for his eight hours, did his accounts, left and went to a nearby bar and had a martini before going home to his apartment and making dinner. If he felt really adventurous, he would order out, but he only did this if he had had to stay for overtime. After dinner, he would mix himself another martini, watch the news, and, if there was a movie on that caught his attention, he would watch it. At the latest, Edward would be in bed by 10:30 P.M., no later. That night there was a special on the History channel that he had decided looked interesting. It was a documentary about the discovery of a new tomb in the Valley of the Kings. Edward had always had a fascination with ancient Egypt since he was a child. His parents had given him a book about ancient Egypt on Christmas when he was six.

When the documentary was over, Edward looked at his watch and saw that it was 10:00 P.M. Since it was a Friday night and he did not have to work the next day, he scanned through his copy of the Times that he had not had time to read during the day. He spent a couple minutes going through the front page section and then went to the Business section. These were the only two sections that interested him.

Manuac woke up quickly in the morning when one of his captors kicked him in the side. He, and the other people who had been captured, were given a root paste and water for breakfast before being lined up to resume their journey to the capital. The trip finally ended two days after Manuac had been captured. Manuac had never been to the capital city before, so when the caravan entered the suburbs, he was amazed at everything that he saw and heard. The surrounding crowds and the everyday noises were unimaginatively foreign. The noise of the people and caged animals would make hunting in the jungle impossible; the silence needed for hunting would have been decimated. The captives were finally brought to a tunnel which led down under a giant temple. Manuac had heard stories about the temple but he did not believe everything that he heard. The only thing that he wondered at this point was, would he be sold as a slave or would he be sacrificed to the gods. The thought of dying young and being sent to Xibalba frightened him.

Edward woke up the next morning in a sweat. He didn’t know if it was possible to dream about the same person or subject two nights in a row. He decided that he would go to the library and read up on the significance of dreams. The taxi dropped him off at the library just as it was opening its doors. Edward went to a cubicle and went on line. After deciding on three books to check out, he went to one of the tables and skimmed through the chapter headings of the smallest book. It seemed to have been written by a person who dissected dreams without any real psychological education or rationale. Edward found a few things of interest, but nothing that he considered relevant to his situation. The second book had been written by a woman who had so many degrees after her name that he was sure that half of them had to be fake. After slowly reading the first two pages of this book, Edward felt like he would need a dozen more books just to understand the jargon. He quickly gave up on this book when he realized that the Index was just as useless as the chapter headings. The final book was written in a style that had more in common with the first book than the second but he felt more comfortable reading it. It did have a section which dealt with location in dreams and explained their significance in general terms. For instance, if one dreamed that you were in France, it could signify a desire to visit Europe or it could relate to a desire to be an artist. The closest thing that he found concerning Mexico, was if you were in a hot climate. The author suggested that this could relate to a premonition of illness or contracting a fever. Another section that related to his dream dealt with types of buildings someone was in. The closest thing that he found was if you dreamed that you were in a jail cell. The author wrote that this implied that you had trapped yourself, or someone else had trapped you, in an uncomfortable situation. When he read this, Edward thought about what had occurred in his life that would make him feel that he had been put into such a situation. He could not think of anything, so he decided to checkout the last book and finish reading it at home.

When he got home, Edward noticed that he had a message on his phone. He was surprised, since he rarely received phone calls, so he took off his jacket, laid the library book on the table and pushed the button.

“Hello, Edward, this is your mother. I decided that I would come into the city for a day of shopping and thought that we could get together for lunch. If you get this message in time, I will be at the Russian Tea Room at 11:30. I have recently bought a cell phone, so call me at (555) 392-6881.”

Edward checked the time and saw that he had enough time to change into something more fitting for the Tea Room and catch a cab to uptown. Edward was ambivalent about his feelings for his mother, but since he saw her only on Thanksgiving and Christmas, he was curious about her desire to get together with him. After changing his clothes and going down to the street to hail a taxi, Edward called his mother to let her know that he was on his way. His mother seemed cheerful enough and kept the conversation short. Edward arrived at the Tea Room twenty minutes later. His mother stood up from her table and waved him over.

“So how are things with you, Mother. Is Father well?”

“Oh, yes, he’s fine. I assume that you are still not seeing anyone.”

“No, I’m not. Don’t you think that I would tell you if I was, just so you wouldn’t have to bring it up in conversation?”

“Is that anyway to talk to your mother? I only ask out of concern for you, after all, your job isn’t that exciting. You should go out more.”

“I know, Mother. Now, what did you really want to talk about to me?”

“Well, as you know, your sister in California is getting married in a week, so since you can’t afford a ticket to be there, your father and I are offering to buy you one. Now, before you say no, since I know that you abhor being dependent on anyone for anything, I’ll make a deal with you. We’ll buy you the ticket and you can pay us back in installments. Would that be satisfactory?”

Edward thought about it for a few seconds and decided that it wouldn’t be much of a breach of his policy. He agreed on one condition: that it would not be on the same flight as his parents were on. His mother thought that this was a strange request, but she finally agreed. She told Edward that she would have the information sent to him as soon as everything had been arranged. Edward’s reasoning behind his request was that he dreaded being on the same plane as his parents for 8 plus hours, since he knew that his mother would not give him any relief about his personal life.

Manuac woke up as the first heat of the day was being felt by him and the other prisoners. Their jailer brought them a plate of tortillas and some jars of water. Manuac asked his jailer why they had been taken prisoner and what would happen to them.

“I suggest that you eat breakfast and don’t worry about it.”

Manuac turned away and took a tortilla and a jug of water and sat down in a corner. An older man walked over to Manuac and sat down beside him.

“Where are you from?” he asked Manuac.

“A small village called Ix Tikal.”

“Ah, then we are near neighbors. I am from Kanakul.”

“Do you know what they are going to do to us?”

The old man looked at him but didn’t said anything for a minute. “Do you not know what season it is?”

“It is summer. What does that mean?”

“It is also the time of Buluc Chabtan. I heard some whispers as we were being brought in. We are meant to be offered to the God of War as an offering for the god’s help for their warriors.”

“But why were we chosen?”

“Because we were either slow, like me, or at the wrong place at the wrong time. The gods choose who they will, you might as well accept your fate.”

Manuac set his jug down and withdrew within. The old man walked away. Manuac longed to be back at his village with his wife and son; he worried that they would not be able to accept his loss. His mother was still alive and would take them into her hut, but his mother would not live forever.

Edward made arrangements at work for taking a week off so that he could attend his sister’s wedding in Los Angeles. Two days after having lunch with his mother, he received the information that he needed concerning his plane ticket. His dream from last night had caused him to loose some sleep and by the time that he had prepared to go to the airport, he was still feeling a bit sluggish. He had hoped that having a coffee while waiting for the taxi would help wake him up; it was only effective until he went through the scanning process. He told himself that since he would not have to switch planes, that he would be able to get some rest on the trip. The attendant directed him to his seat and, after putting his laptop in the carry on compartment, he sat down and looked out the window. Ten minutes later, the pilot made his announcements.

“Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, this is Captain Moreno speaking. We will be taking off in five minutes, so be sure to have your seat belts on until directed otherwise. We will be flying at an altitude of 11,500 feet and should arrive in Los Angeles at 7:36 P.M. We hope that you will enjoy your flight and please acquaint yourselves with the emergency procedure card in the holder in front of you. Thank you for your attention.”

The flight attendants went down the aisles in order to make sure that all of the passengers had their seat belts on and to answer any questions. Soon, the passengers heard the engines start and felt the airplane rolling unto the runway. Fortunately for Edward (he thought it was fortunate), he had a window seat and the other two seats on his side were empty. Once the plane had reached its flight altitude, Edward tilted his seat back a little bit and closed his eyes. The steady hum of the airplane engines were like a tonic to Edward and he quickly fell asleep.

The prisoners had their hands tied behind their backs and were slowly being led towards the pyramid. As they walked along the Sacred Roadway, priests walked along side of the prisoners and, with reeds in their mouths, blew blue paint on their bodies. As soon as they reached the foot of the pyramid, they were guided up the one hundred step stairway by another priest. When the prisoners reached the platform of the pyramid, they were directed by the priest to a holding area. As Manuac dragged his feet to the holding area, he looked around and saw the high priest with his jade jewelry, leopard skin robes, and horrifyingly painted face. He saw other high born people standing on the platform, but the high priest horrified him more than any of the others. He could also hear the music of the drums and conch shells mingling with the prayers of the crowd at the base of the pyramid.

Manuac was the third person in line and as the two men before him were taken out to be sacrificed, he kept his eyes closed. Despite being in this situation, Manuac did not think that it was ironic that he found himself praying to Balan, asking the God to watch over his family. He had just finished muttering his prayer, when he felt the priest leading him by the rope around his neck. Manuac looked out to the horizon and saw the sun shining down on the city. He saw the people and musicians at the base of the pyramid roar as he was brought to the altar. Manuac saw the fresh blood on the altar and the bowl containing the ripped out hearts of those that went before him. Two warriors dressed in an eagle uniform and a jaguar uniform lifted Manuac by his arms and feet and set him down on the altar. They continued to hold his limbs so that he could not try to escape or cause the high priest to miss his mark. Manuac smelled a trace of incense and then saw the blood-smeared face of the high priest. A ray of sunlight danced on the facets of the raised obsidian blade and that was the last thing that Manuac thought that he would see.

The high priest severed the arteries from Manuac’s heart and the two warriors tossed his body down the temple staircase. Unfortunately, the obsidian blade was not the last thing that Manuac saw before finally dying. His last sight was of the world turning around and around as his body fell down the staircase. Now and then, he felt the pain from the hard stones on his body, but he felt very dizzy before losing consciousness.

Suddenly, a voice was heard screaming. It was a wild, continuous, animal-like cry. Like a panther’s scream in the jungles of Belize. Two of the flight attendants ran up the aisle to see who was making this horrible sound.

“Let me go! I don’t want to die! Let me go!!” Edward was screaming as he sat looking out the window. One of the attendants put her hand on his shoulder to try to calm him down. He just shoved it away and continued to yell. Fortunately, there was a doctor on board who gave him a couple of Xanax to calm him down. Edward fell back into sleep, but it was a restless sleep.

Edward slept the rest of the flight to Los Angeles without any more episodes. Since he did not cause any major problems, the pilot decided not to have Edward arrested when the plane landed. The rest of the passengers eventually calmed down after the incident.

By the time that Edward had arrived at the hotel, the incident, and embarrassment, had left his mind. He went up to the check- in counter and received his key card. He did not pay much attention to his surroundings and got on the elevator. As soon as he set his suitcase and laptop down on the floor of the elevator, he looked and saw that he was on a glass elevator. As it continued to climb, he looked down at the lobby and saw potted palm trees. All of a sudden, he felt sweat on his forehead and on his palms. The elevator was going slowly and Edward felt trapped even though there were only four other people on the elevator with him. He did not make it to his floor before falling to his knees and screaming. The other riders were terrified but not as terrified as the man whose vision of an obsidian knife was. They would never be that terrified.

The Corporate Whore of Babylon: An Excerpt

Chapter Eighteen Looking out of the airplane window, Gladd saw that the sea was sparkling and the sky was clear. He had called Ned to let him knew that he was coming back and that he would pick up Sasha around 6 o’clock. Hopefully, Sasha would be in a good mood because he tended to ignore Gladd when he felt that he was being abandoned. David was fascinated with Sasha so Gladd felt that would help alleviate Sasha’s sense of abandonment. Either way, Gladd was always happy to see his “buddy” and knew that he would be eventually forgiven. Just then, the captain made the announcement that the plane would be landing in ten minutes and that all seat belts were to fastened. Gladd quickly retrieved his back pack from the overhead compartment, set it at his feet and fastened his seat belt. After getting off of the plane, he went to the baggage carousel and retrieved his small suitcase and fishing gear. He found his stub for the parking attendant and waited while his car was being brought. He didn’t notice anything or anyone who looked suspicious, but he stayed aware of his surroundings all the same. As he pulled out of the parking garage, he occasionally checked his mirror to make sure that he wasn’t being followed. Traffic was fairly light, so he managed to get back to his apartment in thirty minutes. He unlocked his apartment door, went over and opened the sliding glass door to his balcony and watched the small amount of people who had no where to go on a Wednesday morning. He went back into the apartment, turned on the television to catch up with the news, and went into the kitchen to make a small pot of coffee. “At noon, Pacific Standard Time today, the President will hold a press conference concerning the forthcoming Economic Summit to be held in Davos, Switzerland this weekend. The topics are expected to relate to the world wide recession and finding means to resolve it. Among the expected representatives for the United States will be Warren Babble, Aaron Levitsky, and Dale Westmore.” As soon as Gladd heard the first two names, his eyebrows raised and he decided that he would watch the press conference just to see what this Aaron Levitsky looked like since he had not been able to find any pictures from his sources. “In local news, an unidentified body has been discovered lying on a bus bench in Santa Monica.

The "Santa Monica Harbor" neon sign ...

The “Santa Monica Harbor” neon sign at entrance to the Monica Pier|Santa Monica Pier]. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The unknown man was found shot in the head around 3 AM this morning. He is described as around 6 feet tall, blond hair, and around 35 years old. The body was reported to the police by a homeless man who thought the man was sleeping while waiting for a bus. If anyone has any information concerning this person, please contact the Santa Monica police at (310) 555-6829.” At that moment, Gladd’s cell phone went off. He saw that the phone number was blocked. “Hello, James Gladd here.” “We have to meet.” “Alex? What’s wrong?” “I got home last night from Georgia and found someone waiting for me inside my house. It looks like I stirred up a hornet’s nest. Can you meet me at the Pier in half an hour?”

Achluophobia (Fear of Darkness)



(Fear of darkness)


“The night creeps on little cat’s feet” was what little Donny Weston’s mother had read

to him once, but Donny Weston felt that it stalked on big panther claws. And the night always seemed to stalk him. It always seemed worse on the dark nights when there was no moon out. On those nights, Donny insisted that there should be a light left on in

Sigmund Freud, founder of psychoanalysis, smok...

Sigmund Freud, founder of psychoanalysis, smoking cigar. Español: Sigmund Freud, fundador del psicoanálisis, fumando. Česky: Zakladatel psychoanalýzy Sigmund Freud kouří doutník. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

his room. His mother would indulge him on those nights but his father would complain about the cost of electricity. After a few times of spending the night in his parents bed, his father decided to yield to the inevitable since it became a matter of either having his son in his bed or having sex with his wife; uninterrupted sex won out. His father eventually quit complaining about the cost of electricity.


Donny was, of course, unaware of the disruption that his fear was causing in his parent’s marriage. His mother would tell him that it was a phase that all children went through and that it would disappear as he got older. This was something that he wanted to believe and on those nights that were especially scary, he would quietly chant this phrase to himself as he hid under the covers. Ironically, on stormy nights when lightening struck and thunder sounded, he did not feel so afraid because the milliseconds of light from the lightening tended to comfort him. Unlike some cartoons he had seen, Donny did not have a giant leafless tree outside his window. All he saw outside of his bedroom window was the bedroom window of his next door neighbor and occasional playmate, Jimmy Dunstan.


Jimmy Dunstan had spent a sleepover at Donny’s house once, and this had kept Donny fairly calm since the two boys spent most of the night talking and reading comic books under the glow from their flashlights. That was when Donny was seven, but now Donny was nine years old and his fear still stalked him.


Donny’s mother had once taken her son to a psychologist to see if he could help her son overcome his fear. The psychologist had told them a story about a patient that Sigmund Freud had encountered; a child who also was afraid of the dark had asked his aunt to stay in his room with him at night. The aunt said that it would do no good, since the boy would not be able to see her. The boy replied, “Yes, but I will be able to hear you talk.” Donny was not as impressed with the story as much as his mother had been, and when she told his father the story, he just threw up his hands and said: “For that, I paid $50?” Despite his father’s objection to the cost, Donny did see the psychologist a few more times.


On one fourth of July, a carnival came to town and Donny and his friend Jimmy went with Donny’s parents. The two boys had fun on the roller coaster, the carousel, and playing at some of the games at which one could win a prize. Jimmy even managed to talk Donny into going on “The Tunnel of Terrors”. At first, while the car they were in slid through the entrance doors and before going into the main attraction, the boys found themselves in total darkness. Donny was almost ready to scream when the doors opened and they saw various monsters poised to “attack” them. Donny’s only screams after that were normal reactions to the horrors. Ten minutes after going into this “hall of horrors”, the boys found themselves once again among the noises of the carnival. Donny’s parents were waiting for them outside.


“Boys, how about we get something to eat and drink?” Donny’s father said.


“I wanna hot dog and Coke!” Donny yelled.


“Me too!” Jimmy chimed in.


“Alright, you boys wait here with Mom and I’ll go get the food.”


The boys were suddenly hungry when Donny’s father mentioned food. The boys and Mrs. Weston went to sit at a nearby table while waiting for Mr. Weston to return. As they were sitting at the table waiting for Donny’s father to return with their food, Donny heard one of the carnival barkers; he was advising the crowd to come see the Master Hypnotist, Doctor Cellini.


“Come one, come all! See the doctor change man into animal!, see him cause people to float in the air! Come see him cause people to feel no pain! Come one, come all! Only 75 cents a person!”


Donny was hypnotized just by the promises that the barker was making. He turned to his mother and asked if Jimmy and he could go see Doctor Cellini. His mother told him that they all would go see the show after they had had their lunch. Ten minutes after Mr. Weston had come back with their food, Donny had almost finished wolfing down his food. His mother told him to slow down or he would get sick.


“What is he in such a hurry about?” Mr. Weston asked his wife.


“Oh, he wants to go see the hypnotist show and I told him that we would go after our lunch.”


When his parents finished eating, Donny jumped up from the table and said, “come on, guys, let’s go!” His father just looked at his wife and shrugged his shoulders. “You heard him everyone, let’s go!” his father said. They got up to the counter and Mr. Weston paid the $3 for them all to get into the tent. The inside of the tent was slightly stuffy and dimly lit. There was a small stage at one end of the tent with about fifty chairs lined up in a square fashion. Donny led the way to a row where there were four empty seats and everyone sat down. A minute later, a spot light hit the stage area and the barker leaned towards a microphone and announced: “Welcome ladies and gentlemen; boys and girls! You are in for a very special treat today! Doctor Cellini is one of the world’s foremost authorities and practitioners of the mysterious art of hypnotism! Prepare to be astounded by his amazing feats! And now, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, our Master Hypnotist, Doctor Enrico Cellini!!!”


With the introduction finished, a man who looked to be in his sixties, with a bald head and a white goatee, dressed in a brown suit and a bright red tie stepped out from behind the ragtag curtains and bowed to the audience. As the audience lethargically clapped (Donny was the loudest), the Doctor raised his hands to quiet the audience and spoke: “Thank you one and all for coming. Now, let’s get started shall we? For my first demonstration, I require a member from the audience. Any volunteers?”


The people in the seats shuffled their feet and muttered until one man stood up and said, “I will!” The rest of the audience clapped and cheered him on. The man was in his twenties and walked up to the stage with a bit of a swagger.


Doctor Cellini asked the young man if he had even been hypnotized before. He said that he hadn’t and that he was sure that he couldn’t be hypnotized. Doctor Cellini said, “We’ll see” and asked the man to have a seat on a stool that had been brought up unto the stage. The doctor told the man to relax and concentrate all of his energy of the shiny watch that he held in front of the man’s eyes. The crowd in the audience became completely quiet without being told. The doctor slowly twirled the watch and spoke in a low voice to the man. Within one minute, the doctor was sure that the man was hypnotized and said, “Can you hear me?”




“What is your name?”


“Carl Friesner.”


“Carl, in a few seconds I am going to clap my hands twice and you will wake up. Once you do, I will say the word “chicken” and you will start to act like a chicken. Do you understand?”




“Very good, Carl.” and with that said, the doctor quickly clapped his hands twice and Carl woke up. “See, I told you I couldn’t be hypnotized.”


“Yes, you did Carl. By the way, have you ever raised a chicken?” When the doctor said the word “chicken”, Carl jumped off of the stool and crouched down like a chicken and started to cluck and peck at imaginary food on the ground. Everyone in the audience laughed. The doctor then asked the audience to be still and clapped his hands rapidly again. Carl instantly quit pecking and looked up in confusion. “Thank you, Carl. Please return to your seat.” The barker walked up to Carl and led him back to his seat.


“That, dear friends, was a minor feat of hypnotism. For my next feat, I would like to request the assistance of a young lady. I assure you ladies that I will not have you performing any animal acts.”


There was some laughter from the audience, and soon a woman’s hand went up in the air. Doctor Cellini saw it and waved the woman up to the stage.


“And what is your name, my dear.”


The woman smiled and shyly said, “Carol”.


“Very good. Now Carol, have a seat. Have you ever been hypnotized?”




“Very well. Now I want you to relax your body and your mind and keep your eyes on this watch.” The woman quickly went under and the doctor asked her to stand up. While the doctor had been hypnotizing the woman, two men brought two saw horses and a board covered in nails on the stage. They laid the board on the saw horses and then left the stage. The doctor then led Carol over to the makeshift bed and laid her on it.


“Now Carol, I want you to listen to my voice. You are laying on a very comfortable bed. Do you feel the soft mattress?”


“Yes, I do.”


“Now, Carol, I want you to turn on to your other side.”


The woman did as she was told without crying out in pain. She really did feel as if she were in her very own bed.


“Very good. Carol, it is now time for you to get out of bed and I want you to stand by me.”


Carol slowly got off of the nails and walked over to where Doctor Cellini was standing. Carol was facing the audience so that everyone could see that she had not been harmed while laying on the nails.


“Carol, I am going to count to three and when I say ‘three’, you will be fully awake. One, two, three.” When the doctor said “three”, Carol opened her eyes and looked around wondering why everyone was clapping.




Donny and Jimmy were fascinated by Doctor Cellini and wondered if they could learn to hypnotize people. Unfortunately, Doctor Cellini had not written a book, so Donny wondered if he could get to talk to the doctor in private. His parents were skeptical and tried to distract their son with something that would take his mind off of hypnotism. Jimmy managed to distract Donny by saying that he wanted to go to the firing range.




Five years had passed since Donny, Jimmy, and his parents had gone to see Doctor Cellini’s show. Within those five years, Donny had gone to the library to see what books he could find on hypnotism. He had found several which he had wanted to keep, but knew that he couldn’t, since they belonged to the library, so he started to save his allowance money and visit bookstores. His friend Jimmy would occasionally go with him to the bookstores, but he was more interested in reading comic books. One time, Jimmy went with him to see about getting the new copy of “Thor”. Donny had just finished going through the section that had books about hypnotism when Jimmy walked up to him and showed him an advertisement in the back of a comic. It said that for $2.95 you could buy a spiral wheel that could hypnotize friends and family. Donny was, at first, skeptical, but Jimmy insisted that they buy one and give it a try. Donny sent the money to the address in the ad and within three weeks received a package. He called Jimmy to let him know that the wheel had arrived and had him come over to try it with him.


The spiral wheel came with a small booklet which told him how the wheel was to be used. The two boys went up to Donny’s room and read the instructions. After reading the instructions and understanding them, Donny decided that he would be the first one to use it and he would use it on Jimmy.


“Just don’t make me act like a chicken.” Jimmy told him.


Donny went over to his window and closed the curtains and turned on his bedside lamp. The boys faced each other on the bed and Donny started the wheel to spin. Jimmy stared at the wheel, but after a minute passed, did not feel like he had been hypnotized.


“Maybe you didn’t relax like the book said.”


“No, I tried to relax. All it did was make me a little dizzy. It’s my turn now.”


Donny handed the spiral wheel to Jimmy, kicked off his shoes, and tried to drive all thoughts from his mind. When he felt that he was ready, he told Jimmy to start spinning the wheel. The black and white twirls were blending into one color before his eyes. Soon, he heard Jimmy’s voice asking him if he could hear him.


“Yes” Donny answered. Jimmy was startled when he realized that the wheel had worked. He tried to think of something to make his friend do. Jimmy knew that Donny had a fear of the dark, so he decided that he would make him think that he was in a haunted house.


“Donny, I want you to think about a haunted house. Do you see it?”


“Yes, I do.”


“Now there is a full moon out. The moonlight is glowing on the front porch steps. Do you see the steps?”


“Yes, I do.”


“Good. Now go up the steps and through the front door.”


“I don’t want to; it’s scary.”


“Go ahead, I’ll be with you.”




“What do you see?”


“A staircase going up to the next floor, a living room with furniture covered with cloths and some spider webs.”


“Do you hear anything?”




“Alright, now go find the kitchen.”


“I found it.”


“Do you see a door to a cellar?”




“Open the door and go down into the cellar.”


“It’s too dark; I’m afraid.”


“Don’t worry; I’ll be with you.”


At that moment, Donny’s mother walked into the bedroom to let Jimmy know that it was time for him to go home for dinner. Jimmy was startled when she opened the door, but jumped up and ran out of the room. She saw Donny sitting out the bed staring at the wall and saw the spiral wheel lying on the floor. She walked up to Donny and gently shook him, but Donny did not respond. Finally, she snapped her fingers in front of Donny’s face and the boy shook his head and his eyes cleared.


“Mom, what are you doing? Where’s Jimmy?”


“He had to go home for dinner. What were you boys doing?”


Reluctantly, Donny told his mother about the spiral wheel that he and Jimmy had bought and that they were just seeing if it worked.


“Well, it must have worked on you because when I came in, you were staring at the wall.”


“Really? Wow!”


“Yeah, wow. You boys have to be careful with that. It takes years for a real doctor to learn to control a hypnotized subject. Now, get ready for dinner.”




The thought running through Donny’s head that Jimmy had managed to hypnotize him caused Donny to have trouble sleeping. He moved closer to the radio on his nightstand and changed through the stations. He found one that played soft classical music and laid back in his bed. Sleep eventually caught up with him and, not long after that, so did a dream. He saw himself walking along the sidewalk alone. The sun was just setting and three houses away from where he was, he heard a whisper in his ear, urging him to go into the third house up the street. When he got there, he saw a badly-painted white fence and dead leaves spinning in the wind by a dead oak tree. He was reluctant to even go through the gate, but the voice in his head became insistent. As he expected, the gate creaked when he opened it, but he continued to walk towards the front door. As soon as he got to the door, a breeze came up and pushed it open. He slowly entered the house. To his left, he saw a living room filled with furniture covered in tarps and spider webs hanging from the light fixtures. Slightly to his right was a staircase which had seen better days. He heard the voice calling to him, but it wasn’t from the upper floor. He looked down a narrow hallway which was beside the stairwell and led to a kitchen. There was nothing on the kitchen table or in the shelves, but to the right he saw another door. The voice seemed to be coming from behind the door. Donny walked over to the door and opened it. A stairway led down to a dark basement. The voice continued to call out his name but Donny stood there shaking his head.


Suddenly, a loud growl sounded behind Donny and, without looking behind him, Donny ran down into the basement. The basement door slammed and darkness swallowed Donny. Just as Donny was about to scream, he heard a noise. It wasn’t the voice, it was something else. It seemed to sound like a far off drum. Donny started to slowly walk towards the sound. With each step, he felt that he was getting closer to the drum sound. Suddenly, the drum started beating faster and faster. Donny started to run towards the sound but tripped and fell down on his face. When he looked up, he saw a man’s face with an expression like a wild animal. He screamed but the darkness took over again and Donny lost consciousness.




At Donny’s funeral, his mother was dry-eyed and stock still. The memory of that night when she was only sixteen and had been raped by her neighbor played back in her mind. She had hoped that it would never return, but when she went into Donny’s room and found him lying in the same position that the police had found her, she knew what caused Donny’s fear of the dark.




From “All of Our Fears”: An Anthology


(Fear of bathing)

The rain was falling so hard that it was nearly impossible to see across the street. Denise Williams closed the curtains so that she could not see the source of her terror. She wasn’t exactly afraid of the rain, but she was afraid that if she went out into it that she would begin to feel that she was wrapped in a shower curtain struggling to avoid the drops that would wash away the dirt on herself. Denise Williams feared any sort of water making contact with her body. This fear started when she was six years old and her mother had not paid attention to her when she was playing near the family’s swimming pool. She had been knocked into the pool by Schatzi, the family’s pet German Shepard. Her mother, who was in the kitchen talking to a friend on the telephone, did not notice her daughter’s absence until she heard Schatzi’s barking. Her mother, putting her friend on hold, yelled at the dog to be quiet until she saw him barking at something in the pool. She quickly hung up the phone and ran out of the house to see what he was barking at. When Denise’s mother saw her daughter slowly sinking to the bottom of the pool, she jumped in and rescued her. Fortunately for Denise, her mother knew CPR, since she was a nurse at the local hospital.

The next incident that caused Denise to fear applying water to any part of her body was when her uncle Raymond was babysitting her while her mother was working overtime at the hospital. It was time for Denise to get ready for bed, when her uncle called her to come into the bathroom to get her bath. Denise, who as an innocent seven year old, didn’t think that it was unusual to see her uncle waiting for her in the bathtub. She got undressed and waited for her uncle to pick her up and put her in the tub for her bath. Denise was unaware of any bad intentions on the part of her uncle and was distracted by the soap bubbles which filled the tub almost to the top. She was having a good time with her uncle, when she noticed a funny smell coming out of his mouth.

“Uncle Ray-Ray, what’s that funny smell?”

“Oh, darling, don’t worry about that. Your uncle was just having a special drink.”

“Oh, okay.”

“Say, darling, do you want to play a fun game?”

“Yeah. What is it?”

“It’s called ‘Submarine’.”

“How do play it?”

“Well, you dunk your head under the water for a little while and look for uncle’s submarine.”

“What do I do when I find it?”

“Just grab it, okay?”

“Okay” And with t-hat, Denise held her breathe and dunked her head under the bubbles. She looked and saw something that was long and hard and grabbed it. The next thing that Denise felt was her uncle’s hand forcing her head down under the water. She tried to struggle away from him but her uncle forced her head between his hairy legs. After what seemed like an eternity, her uncle released his hold on her and she popped straight out of the water crying hysterically. Her uncle, instead of trying to calm her down, just got out of the bathtub, grabbed her by her arm and roughly rubbed her body with a towel. He then told her to go get dressed for bed, shoved her out of the bathroom and slammed the door. Denise went to her room, while wracked with a case of the hiccups. She got dressed, got into her bed, and prayed that her uncle would not come into her room to say “good-night.” After that terrible night, she would wake up screaming from nightmares featuring soap bubbles and submarines. When her mother would try to ask her about her dreams, Denise would only sit up on the bed and draw her knees up to her face. It took two years of visiting a child psychologist for her to open up and admit what had happened to her. After her mother turned her brother into the police, Denise never saw her uncle again.

The rainstorm didn’t let up until two o’clock in the morning and Denise was finally able to get some sleep. After six hours of dreamless sleep, Denise got dressed, dabbed a bit of perfume behind her ears and left for work. Fortunately for her, her work did not require interacting with a lot of people; she was only able to get a job as a telemarketer and her boss gave her a cubicle far enough from the other employees. Denise did not really have any friends at work, so she did her job, clocked out at the end of her shift and went home.

As she was driving towards the freeway on ramp, she saw a homeless woman pushing a shopping cart filled with her meager possessions. Denise almost always felt a sympathy for homeless people because she felt that if she didn’t have a job, she would be one of those women. Even though she knew that she was a slave to her fears, the stories that she had heard about homeless women being raped was a bigger fear. She quickly put the thought of Uncle Raymond out of her head and pulled up to her driveway. Although she didn’t mind doing grocery shopping, she always sensed when other shoppers noticed her smell and preferred to have her groceries delivered to her house.

It was a nice clear summer day and Denise decided that she would go for a drive out to the countryside. The fresh air of the countryside and the minimum amount of people always made her feel relaxed. She saw a roadside stand selling fresh produce, so she stopped and bought a box of strawberries. After awhile, she grew hungry and stopped at a small restaurant and ordered some chicken-fried steak with mashed potatoes and a glass of ice tea. The waitress who took her order was friendly enough and didn’t turn her face away from her when most of them would have because of her heavy use of perfume. Yes, she decided, this was a very relaxing day. Around three o’clock, Denise decided to return home. She didn’t want to let the strawberries get too much sun and start to rot. She would have to wash them when she got home, but washing fruit did not feed into her fear. She would just take the flexible hose attached to the sink and rinse them.

Denise was listening to a radio station that played songs from the seventies, when she saw the sign pointing to the upcoming on ramp of the freeway. As she was waiting for the light to turn green so that she could cross the road for the on ramp, she saw a man dressed in unmatched and filthy clothes holding up a sign that read, “Need money for food”. Since she was a single woman in a car and the sun was almost setting, she ignored the man and his sign. She was afraid that if she stopped to give him a dollar, that he would highjack her and her car. The light turned green and she drove onto the on ramp without giving the filthy man another look or thought. An hour later, she was pulling up into her driveway, carrying in her box of fairly fresh strawberries. Once she had rinsed off the strawberries, she put most of them in the refrigerator, while keeping one small green plastic box of them on the counter. She took a small bowl off of the shelf, dumped the strawberries into the bowl and poured some milk into the bowl with a teaspoon of sugar. This was Denise’s favorite comfort food ever since she had been a child, before the bad times had happened.

She had just sat down to watch the news, enjoying her strawberries and pulling their stems off when she heard a sound coming from her bedroom. She lowered the sound on the television to see if she had heard right. She heard a door close and realized that someone was in her house and that they were now in her bathroom, because she heard water running. She turned off the television, put down her bowl of strawberries on a stand, and grabbed her phone to call 911. Her mother had always warned her that she should buy either pepper spray or a baseball bat for protection since she was a single young woman living alone, but Denise never felt the need for either of these items since she lived in a good neighborhood. The 911 operator came on the line and asked her the nature of her emergency.

“Someone has broken into my house and it sounds like they are in the bathroom.”

“What is your address, ma’am?”

“793 Evergreen Street. What should I do?”

“Don’t do anything. I’m sending over a unit right now.”

Denise hung up the phone and sat frozen in her chair. She had no idea how long it would take for the police to arrive, so she was unsure if she should wait for them outside or stay in the house. Finally she decided that she would take a peek into her bedroom to see if anything had been stolen or destroyed. She tiptoed over to her bedroom door and saw that it was ajar. She slowly pushed it open wide enough to see around. Everything seemed to be in order, except for a couple of her dresser drawers being open. Denise never hid anything important in the drawers, so she wasn’t worried about that. Suddenly, the bathroom door opened and a man in his mid-30’s stepped out of the bathroom wearing only a towel. His blond hair and face were filthy and his hands looked like they had some scars. Denise suddenly let out a small scream, and the man looked up at the door. He saw Denise and started to run after her. Denise tried to run towards the front door to escape but she slid on an area rug and fell down. The man caught up to her and grabbed her by the arm. He started pulling her towards the bedroom while she tried to struggle out of his grip.

“I just wanted to clean up a bit, bitch.”

Denise was not listening as she started to scream. The man grabbed a vase which was sitting on a side table and hit her over the head. Once he was sure that she was out, the man picked her up and carried her into the bedroom. He tore her clothes off then carried her into the bathroom. The water in the tub was hot and steaming. The man took off his towel, put Denise in the water, and got on top of her. He was forcing himself into her when Denise gained consciousness and started to scream again.

“Shut the fuck up, bitch!” Denise tried to get out of the man’s grasp, but she was pinned down too tightly. She felt the pain of the man’s hard penis as he raped her, but she also felt the heat of the water on her body and she was back to being six years old with her uncle Raymond. Just as she felt her body starting to slide lower into the water, the man’s weight was lifted off of her. The police had finally arrived! After the man was taken out to the police car, a female officer came into the bathroom, grabbed a towel from the rack and helped Denise out of the tub. Denise’s eye were glazed and she did not realize what was going on. When the policewoman started to dry Denise off, Denise finally broke down, fell to the floor and started crying uncontrollably. The officer was startled and, for a moment, was unsure of how to handle the situation.

Rachel Williams parked her car in the lot, walked into the hospital, and signed in. She was met by the Director of the hospital and escorted to a room. They both sat down and the Director told Mrs. Williams that her daughter was not having a good day, and that it might not be a good idea to see her.

Denise rocked back and forth with her knees to her chin on her cot. Behind her half-closed eyelids, she saw a submarine floating in soap bubbles. Denise was in her childhood, screaming. The nurse walked over and gently inserted the hypodermic into Denise’s arm.

March 12,2012