Embrace Your Fear

Submitted into Contest #206 in response to: Write about someone facing their greatest fear.... view prompt

7 comments

Adventure Drama Inspirational

Logan awoke alone in the forest. He felt at peace. A few stars still winked through branches.

Abandoned but not afraid, he’d expected it. Planned for it.

For his own good. That’s how it works,’ he thought. Ever resourceful, he’d find his way.

Untamed but not threatening, to Logan this was mere wilderness. Not sure why he came, fear held little sway in his life. He was not destined to die of exposure. Logan knew his fate lay within, a more interesting place to explore than this trackless expanse.

That’s what Sal, the shaman, told them. Logan and the other acolytes followed Sal into this rainforest. He taught them practical skills for wrestling their demons. The main event was a ‘walkabout.’ Each individual finding their way, alone, back to civilization. And vanquish their worst fears on the way.

The theory held, by gaining fresh perspectives on the familiar patterns of their lives, they could better recognize the unhealthy patterns and discard them.

Word had it the survival rate on these treks was above average. Yay!

Logan wondered, ‘Any stats on how many fears survived?

Chrysalis Orb wasn’t the shaman’s birth name. Logan discovered Orb changed his name from George Smith about twenty years ago. He asked people who called him Chris, or Mr. Orb, to please address him as Sal.

Last night, the questions tossed around the campfire focused on fear. Who had it? What spawned it? How do they cope?

Of the dozen present, about half knew their fears well. They rattled them off and recounted their histories like long-time friends. Logan observed that some fellow campers held their fears close, like a child holds a security blanket. Letting them go triggered anxiety worse than the fear itself.

A guy named Andre described his terror of quicksand.

Logan scoffed. “It’s a movie gimmick. Doesn’t exist.”

Andre corrected him. “Not only is it real, but people get trapped in it all the time. Some die.”

Sal offered, “The secret is not to fight against the quicksand. It’s the struggle that pulls you down. Step in it? Get trapped? Lie prone and slowly ‘swim’ to safety.”

Sal often talked of embracing one’s fear. He said, “Struggling against the darkness empowers it.”

Someone asked, “We have no maps. Not even a compass. How can we find our way?”

Sal smiled at these old questions. “Your path leads to your greatest fear. Follow it.”

Logan pondered, ‘What is my greatest fear?’ Electrocution? Assuredly unpleasant, but unlikely out here. Snakes, spiders and scorpions were more likely. But creepy crawlies never worried him.

Likewise with bears. Vicious as they could be, bear’s public persona ran toward the ‘cute.’ He remembered once, when camping, a pair of Dutch women in the next tent, were terrified of the ‘beers.’ Dismissing their fear, he joked, ‘I’d love a cold six pack of them.’

Being an avid camper, Logan thought wandering around the forest might be too familiar. ‘A fish doesn’t recognize the currents it swims in…’

He felt the odd man out in this group.  Logan wondered if Sal’s $1500 fee for this soiree would pay off. He smiled. ‘I guess Sal’s not afraid of going broke.’

The fears Logan thought of centered on pain and death. But they weren’t his. Maybe he didn’t have any.

Pain is inevitable. Suffering optional,’ he thought. Drowning, or getting caught in a forest fire would be horrible. ‘Pay attention. Prepare. Carry water wings.

Logan slung his backpack over his shoulders and walked. Carrying plentiful water and food, he set out with no known destination and not even a mild anxiety.

Sal instructed them to make the most of this ‘walkabout.’ Walking alone, they would discover unknown strengths and vanquish tenacious fears.  

Logan soon realized no direct route out existed. Paths meandered, doubled back and disappeared. As Sal admonished, ‘It’s the journey, not the destination.’ Each needed to forge his own path.

Were this a labyrinth, Logan knew he’d follow one wall ‘round and round until he safely emerged. But beneath this dense canopy of trees, the shifting light made progress difficult. There were no walls, no paths and no patterns to follow. Logan remembered his rule, ‘when in doubt, head downhill.’

After walking several hours, Logan stepped into a clearing. Andre’s wide brimmed hat lay prominently in the midst of an open space devoid of foliage.

Logan paused. ‘Remarkable. Not a blade of grass in the middle of the forest.

Unmistakably Andre’s hat, no one had ever seen another like it. He suffered much good natured ribbing over it. Made from recycled tarp canvas, it came seriously frayed and weathered. But its heavy material made it practical for a journey like this. Its broad brim kept his eyes well shaded.

The hat out in the clearing appeared to be placed on solid ground. But, even from a distance, it looked damp. Had Andre unwittingly stepped into quicksand, sunk and left the hat behind? Or had he left the hat to warn others? Logan hoped for the latter.

He skirted the open area, stepping only where foliage grew. Breaking through some underbrush, Logan blindly stepped off the edge of a cliff. Sliding down, he leaned backward and kept himself upright by grappling at branches.

Landing on level ground, he took stock. He’d slid down a hundred yards. But his injuries were only scratches and welts from passing branches. ‘A miracle…

A droning drew his attention to a huge swarm of bees swirling directly before him. There was no escape.

Logan buttoned his shirt, turned up his collar and pulled down his sleeves. Making no sudden moves, he walked the periphery of the furious insect vortex. He couldn’t shut his ears. The sound of bees filled his head.

Hundreds of bees covered him. They crawled across his face, eyes and ears. He squinted and resisted the urge to wave them off. Heart pounding, but needing to keep his mouth shut, he struggled to breathe. Bees tangled in his hair. He felt them rummaging behind his ear.

They tickled his nose and lips. One bee probed and pushed into Logan’s nostril. Struggling not to sneeze or swipe at it, he snorted. The bee flew off.

Don’t take it personally…

Making no sudden moves, he walked in slow motion. Seeming an eternity, he passed the swirling mass. The bees crawling on him returned to the swarm. He made it through without getting stung.

Logan wondered how the apparent chaos of the swarm served the bees’ highly organized social structure. ‘Are they breaking free from unhealthy patterns?

Once clear of the swarm, he walked quickly, gaining distance from the swarm. He sat on a rock and drank deeply from his canteen.

Do not try this at home…’ Relief overcoming him, he laughed. ‘Good thing I’m not afraid of bees… That could’ve been scary…

Walking again, he made good time. He felt light. The path had broadened and led mainly downhill. Destination unknown, Logan didn’t care. He felt good.

So much for my fears,’ he thought. ‘Good to know I just don’t have any. Fearless!

The path began rising. Logan continued on it rather than veer into the brush.

Ahead of him, a beautiful woman stood in a flowing, white gown and veil. In the tree branches sparkles shimmered like the glitter of shattered glass.

A sudden dread welled up. He gasped and leaned against a tree.

Understanding washed over him. He knew he’d found the way. Sal’s words about fear revealing the path rang true.

Though in silhouette, he would know her anywhere. She was his ex.

He felt weak. ‘How? Can this be?

Trying to survive, desperate, he’d left her years ago. He’d lived only for her. She controlled everything and then broke his trust. Sustaining her love consumed him. She betrayed him, stomped his identity and left him less than nothing. She didn’t laugh at his jokes.

Fearful, he watched her approach. He quelled the urge to run. ‘To where?’

She held out her hand. Trembling, he reached her electric touch.

Eyes glistening, she smiled.

He said, “Hi…”

“Hi…” she replied tenderly.

She gripped his hand and warmth flowed into him.

Facing him, she sang an old Celtic melody. But the words felt new.

“When first I met my one true love,

In short pants and braces,

Only a callow lad.

He offered me a deep red rose,

Called me his bonnie lass,

And I was so glad…”

Fear melted away.

He thought, ‘She seems nice. She might not be so bad.

Logan embraced her, his deepest fear. They held each other for what felt forever and a moment.

He felt safe. He held her at arm’s length. They smiled.

She said, “You need a bath, Honey. When did you last…?”

A bee hovered over her. Logan felt a chill of intuition. ‘Seeking its queen…’

He said, “Hold still. A bee. Separated from the hive.”

She looked around. “Don’t let it sting…”

The bee rested on her veil. She froze.

“Hold still…” Careful not to draw attention, Logan moved away from her. “It likes you.”

He moved behind her and walked up the path.

She called out. “Where are you?”

“Don’t worry. I’m okay. Don’t move.”

He reached the top of the hill and continued without looking back. He’d embraced his fear and found his path.

Logan was free.

July 14, 2023 01:56

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7 comments

Amanda Lieser
06:04 Aug 11, 2023

Hi John, This is an interesting take on the prompt. I loved that. It seemed to touch on several different types of here now, and I also like how it directly music on the definition of fear, I think that you did an amazing job of creating the opposite of fear, which, for many people is a reason to conquer fear itself. I think it’s definitely something to muse upon. Especially when you start to wonder about justified fears-fear that comes from danger. What would happen to all of us if we just embraced the fear? Accepted it as a necessary part ...

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John K Adams
15:06 Aug 11, 2023

Thanks, Amanda for such a thoughtful response. I'm glad it got you thinking. It was fun to write, but one never knows how a piece will be received.

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Antonio Jimenez
05:59 Jul 20, 2023

Nice story. I really liked the ending, symbolizing how he embraced his fear but didn't dwell with it. The description of him being swarmed by the bees was also excellent. I just published a new story. Would love if you could take a peak and leave some feedback. Thanks!

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Delbert Griffith
13:11 Jul 14, 2023

Man, an ex can really instill fear and insecurity, for sure. Nice! Didn't see that fear coming, my friend. Cheers!

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John K Adams
13:30 Jul 14, 2023

Thanks, Delbert. I try to keep you on your toes. Glad it worked for you. Always appreciate the read and the comments.

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Mary Bendickson
13:10 Jul 14, 2023

Well, wasn't that interesting!🐝 Just needed more time to process this one I guess. Yes, positively made you think.

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John K Adams
13:27 Jul 14, 2023

Mary, I'm going to take that as a positive. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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