Continued from Assimilated
“What’s everyone in such a hurry to get away from, John?” I asked, sounding more confident and upbeat than I felt.
“Didn’t you notice what happened in there?” he said, “Are you the only one didn’t feel the terror in those screams? Can it be that you alone were unaware of the number of people who ran out vomiting, with some even passing out on the floor of the chapel?”
“Of course I saw all that, John,” I replied, “but I also felt the calm of the place and, after you had all left; when I was alone in the sanctuary with that awful screaming; I realised that there was nothing to fear, nothing to justify the mindless panic that you all displayed. It was only a sound, for goodness’ sake; in all probability a change in temperature triggered a release of gas or something that had been trapped inside the wood for ages.”
“We’ll talk about it on the way back to the hotel” John said. “These people with us are seriously concerned about what happened there. If you can throw any light on it, I’m sure we’d all be both grateful and relieved.”
Oh, I can throw some light on it, John, but if I tell you the things I know, I don’t believe gratitude and relief will figure among your responses.
“Of course, John,” I comforted him, “I’d be happy to tell you what I learned after you all scurried out like so many rats from a burning sewer. Notice, though, that it is not I; I who stayed there despite the panic, I who learned of the source of the screaming and what it really meant; it is not I who am afraid. No, it is you; you who let your irrational fears take over and cause you to flee.”
You whose feet weren’t glued to the floor so you couldn’t leave, even if you wanted to. You were right to be afraid, but I’m not about to tell you why. Not yet, anyway.
Back in the bus, everyone eventually settled. Some of the sturdier folk comforted those less able to deal with what they had experienced, while some administered smelling salts.
“I didn’t know people still used smelling salts, John,” I said, “I’ve not seen them since my grandma used to use them when any of her more delicate friends came over giddy at the first sight of a bare knee in the 60s.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that what they’re using was left over from then,” John replied with a chuckle. “Anyway, today’s outing was my idea so, as the next in line, it’s down to you to decide what we all do for entertainment tomorrow, Vic.”
The voice inside my head laughed the archetypical evil I’ve-chained-your-girlfriend-to-the-railway-line-and-the-express-train-is-approaching laugh and I had an inkling that this was to be his first decision.
“I’ve had a funny day, John,” I said, “I don’t think it would be a good idea to ask me to choose our activity for tomorrow.”
“We’ve all had a funny day, Vic,” he replied, “you can’t worm your way out of this one that easily.”
At that moment, I suffered a foretaste of how the rest of my life was to be. I have often been worried about what other people might do, but being terrified of what I was about to do was a new experience for me.
This week's challenge at esthernewtonblog.wordpress.com asked for a story about fear.