The number one phobia is claustrophobia: the fear of small spaces. If you look up the definition of a phobia, it will say that it’s an irrational fear, a fear of something that poses little to no real threat to you. Yet still, people are scared shitless. It can cause people to feel extreme dread or panic and even cause physical ailments like vomiting or passing out. Some people can’t even talk about it without becoming upset. Others let it control their lives like me.

I have nyctophobia: the fear of the dark. I have learned to manage it. I sleep with the lights on; I keep flashlights nearby, and I always have a candle burning in the background, just in case the power goes out. I can’t go on this way, though. 

I have decided to join a research case on phobias. They will probably do tests, and with any luck, they might find a cure. I am very hopeful! 

Day 1

“Ok Mr. Davis, it’s your turn!” A cheerful young scientist says. “Don’t worry, today is just a few questions.” I get up from my chair and walk with her to a small room with two other scientists already present. A man that seems very tall even sitting down and a pretty blonde woman.

“Hello, Mr. Davis,” the man says coldly. “I am Dr. Thomas. This here is Dr. Mayweather,” he says, gesturing to the woman. 

“And of course you know our assistant Dr. Bridges.” The scientist that brought me in waves. I wave back awkwardly. 

“Please be seated,” he commands. I quickly sit down at the table with them. 

“What is your phobia?” Dr. Mayweather asks. 

“Nyctophobia, it should be on my paperwork,” I explain.

“Yes, I know, but it’s part of the process,” she reassures me.

“So you have a simple phobia,” Dr. Thomas interrupts and writes notes. “How does it make you feel? Can you describe it?”

I begin to sweat. “It’s like an immense sense of fear.”

“Go on.”

“I can’t get control of myself and I panic. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get out.”

He says nothing as he writes in his notebook. He finally looks up and glances at me with a disapproving look. “Ok, well we will find more out on that subject tomorrow.”

“When did this start? Was there a traumatic incident that led to your fear?” Dr. Mayweather asks, glancing annoyed at Dr. Thomas. 

“As a child, my parents would lock me in a dark room for hours on end. It was their form of punishment. By the time I was a teenager, I couldn’t stand to be in the dark.” 

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” Dr. Mayweather says.

A flashback plays in my head: sitting in the dark room for hours, crying for my mother. I couldn’t see anything, it was so dark. I would pound on the door and scream as loud as I could. Then I would feel it. The breath of something, I’m not sure what. It would breathe down my neck and grab my chest tightly, so tightly.

“Tomorrow we are going to put you directly in your phobia to see how you react,” Dr. Thomas’s cruel voice brings me back to the present. 

I begin to breathe heavily. Dr. Mayweather gives me a look of reassurance and pats my hand. “It will be alright. We will watch you the whole time.”

Day 2

“Okay, Mr. Davis. Let’s begin,” Dr. Thomas starts walking away from me, to the door.

“Wait!” I yell in panic. “I don’t know if I can do this.”

“It’s going to be okay,” Dr. Mayweather says. “Dr. Thomas and I are going into the other room where we can watch the feed from the night vision camera. Dr. Bridges will stay in here with you. If it begins to be too much, yell the code word three times.” 

They walk out of the room and I look at Dr. Bridges. She gives me a smile and a nod. 

Please God, give me strength. 

The lights go out and I can’t see anything, it’s so dark. I instantly become anxious. “Bicycle,” I say the safe word. Only two more times till they let me out. I walk around the room, seeing if I can find anything I recognize. As I start to touch objects, my hands go numb. I start breathing heavily, and my stomach turns. My ears start ringing.

“Bicycle,” I say again as I begin to vomit on the floor. My body is heaving as hard as it can. I can barely breathe. I’m choking. Oh God, I’m choking. The ringing is deafening now. Somebody help me. 

Then I feel it. Its icy hands and warm breath on me. It’s got me. The monster from my childhood is here. I can’t take it. I’m going to die here.

No, I won’t die. 

I turn around, barely breathing, my heart racing, to face the monster. I can’t see it but I can feel it.

I take a swing and hit it. I hear it thud to the ground. I bend down over it and start hitting.

I hit it hard and fast. I hit until I feel warm liquid on my hands. 

I feel something grab me. It pulls me and throws me down. I hit the floor so hard it feels like my ribs snapped. The ringing in my ears gets louder, then it gives way to the wet sound of someone choking. Sputtering and gasping for life.

“Somebody call 911!” a voice screams. I know this voice, but I can’t place it. 

I realize my eyes are closed. I open them and the light is back on. It’s so bright all I can see is white. And red? Some much red, everywhere. 

My senses begin to return. The figures in front of me become clear. Dr. Thomas is standing behind Dr. Mayweather, who is hunched over someone. Someone hurt beyond recognition.

A thought crosses my mind. Dr. Bridges will stay in here with you. It’s Dr. Bridges on the floor! She looks awful. I’m still on the floor, but I try to crawl closer to her. 

Dr. Thomas shoves me back. “I just want to help,” I say. What happened? 

“You’ve done enough,” he says through his teeth. My confusion continues for a moment, then I put it together. I lay down my head and weep.