Mark vs Cancer

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Kid Fears

As a young child, nothing struck fear deeper into the heart of myself and my brother Matt than this fearsome, loathsome aquatic terror, the trigger fish.

I am posting this picture now for one sole reason: I know that the instant Matt opened this page and saw this image, his heart dropped in his chest, his breath quickened, and he flushed with cold sweat-- just for an instant. Then, his rational adult brain took over and convinced him that there is nothing to be afraid of. (Right, Matt?)

I know he felt this because that's what I felt recently when I accidentally opened a long-forgotten Childcraft book to this very page. A chill ran down my spine before I steadied myself, before I gave reason for my children to doubt my manhood.

As kids, Matt and I used to flash this page open, shriek, and then slam the book closed--repeatedly. It was a sort of terrifying fun, but it haunted our dreams at night. I remember being too frightened to open the book alone, as if the trigger fish would burst out of the page and snap its jaws into my throat.

Now all grown up, Matt and I have more substantive things to be afraid of: money, responsibility, terrorism, boredom, insignificance, failure, even success. And then there is the relentless encroachment of time and age that marches on and promises to render us obsolete and forgotten. These are real fears, tangible dangers that we all must face daily when we throw the covers off and stumble out of bed.

But for all of us, some vestigial childhood fear--deep-seated, reflexive, like the trigger fish--forever lurks in the quiet lagoons of our subconscious, ready to get medieval on us, pick our bones clean, and leave our carcasses floating down the river.

It's not real; it can't harm us. So why does it still evoke such terror?

What would you give for your kid fears?


Tankfos said...

I would have hated to be the man who first discovered the Trigger fish. He has probably never had a decent nights sleep since. What if by some random chance the Trigger fish were to evolve legs, just imagine the horror it would cause.


spittingrage said...

My own childhood monsters were vampires; specifically, the vampire "Mr. Barlow" from the 1979 television series of 'Salem's Lot (based on the novel by Stephen King). Pretty much all of the vampires in this series terrified me (especially the child vampires), but the grotesque, 7 1/2' Nosferatu-like apparition of Mr. Barlow was the worst by far, as I'm sure you will agree after viewing the link!

After viewing this mini series (at the tender age of 8), I spent the next several months sleeping completely under my covers at night (with obligatory tiny breathing hole) and turned toward the wall to prevent myself from accidentally looking out my bedroom window and finding some pale, grinning horror hovering outside, dragging its claws across the glass...

Aiyeeeee! I guess some of those childhood fears never really go away...

Matthew said...