Sitting With Fear At the Movies

“How’s the movie?” whispered a voice next to me. My heart jumped, and my head turned sharply to the adjacent seat that I’d thought empty.

“I’m sorry? I didn’t quite catch tha… uh…” The chair was still empty… mostly. My forehead creased in concentration; I could make out a violet fuzziness, and I felt a certain faintly familiar presence emanating from it. “Ah… Do I know you?”

“Sure you do,” came the whispered reply, “I’m your fear.” A ripple passed through its fuzziness. “I thought it’d be nice to sit through a movie with you. It’s been awhile since we did this, you know!”

A quick glance around the theatre made it clear that no one else was aware of my slightly visible companion. With a shrug, I told myself the chair to my right was indeed empty, and I turned to the movie with renewed focus.

Denial has never been my strongest trait. I started to sweat; my shoulders tensed up. The people on the screen were speaking English, but I couldn’t follow the dialogue for more than a few words at a time before my mind trailed off into vague worries about where my life was heading.

It was no use. I gave a sigh and made to leave the theatre—then stopped. The slight fuzziness distorting the space of that adjacent chair had returned, and I could feel it regarding me.

“Hey there! I lost you for a moment,” it whispered. A tingle flashed up my arms and stood my hairs on end, and I could hear something like laughter. “It’s easy to forget that you think you’re real!”

“That I’m real?!” I exclaimed, then blushed furiously as a woman sitting near turned to shush me. “I think I’m real?” I whispered. “You’re the hallucination here. You said yourself, you’re my fear. You’re in my mind, I’m the one imagining you.”

More of that tingling laughter passed up and down my forearms. “Whatever you say, Howl,” the fuzziness replied. It said nothing more, and after glaring at its violet hue for a moment, I turned to watch the movie.

It wasn’t the most comfortable thing in the world to sit there with my fear, but it wasn’t so bad, either. Knowing it was all right there in that chair gave me a sort of peace: knowing that, for the moment, it wasn’t an invisible, insidious force, undermining me from within, without my conscious knowledge.

I gave a shout at a sharp poke in my side. “Check these out!” it whispered. The violet distortion was holding a small pair of very physical binoculars.

My hands only trembled a little as I reached for them, then looked through them at the space where my fear sat.

What I saw was not in the shape of a person. There was instead a mass of bubbles, or spheres, rolling, floating around each other, most of them a deep cobalt blue, with a few blazing a radiant red. When it spoke now, all the spheres could be seen vibrating with the words. “I just got these red ones! How do they look?”

Howl was born in the wastes north of Hithlum, where only beasts and witches dare roam. He was raised by two old hags, Tabby and Wiles, who had an unhealthy fascination towards the literary arts. Howl now resides in a well-furnished cave off South Rim Trail, complete with an old iBook and Wi-Fi.