“Fear Itself” – Excerpt from my current novel

It’s been some time since I’ve written much of anything, but I’m getting back into the swing of things. Writing a query letter, crafting a good pitch, preparing for the rejections to surely come. Beating myself over the head with self-doubt as PTSD grips its icy claws around me once more.

In between, I’ve been editing and posting short stories to my Wattpad page that are of a more erotic nature, although they aren’t typical erotica. There’s more introspection in them and the emotional responses are more of the focus. There’s also some comedy to give readers a breath of fresh air after the dark.

I returned to the book I’m crafting the perfect query for. I remembered a scene in it near the end where my alias has to conquer his fear of the unknown, namely darkness and the entities that exist in it. My spirit guide, Darokin, who is front and center in that scene, delivers some advice I’d nearly forgotten, and re-reading the whole scene, which is based on true events of my life, choked me up.

I’d fallen so far down again after nearly making the climb to the top. Metaphorically speaking, I’d started to conquer my fears before 2020 hit, and then fresh trauma, and being in a PTSD loop for months led me to write this book.

So, with a risk for spoilers that I’ll let slide, here is that scene I wrote during a PTSD-fueled bit of passion for my book, ‘Everything Is Wonderful Now’:

Sean shivered in the cold as he zipped his black hoodie to the neck. There was a full moon shining down on him and the demon prince, which was a perfect atmosphere for what Darokin had in mind. The cemetery wasn’t a place Sean often went after dark due to irrational fears, but it was all a part of the plan. Now that he knew he was a child of Lilith, and both Byleth and Darokin confirmed it, he would have to get over these fears and embrace his true nature. It didn’t help that he was weak, malnourished, and sick on a daily basis. But Darokin’s presence that night was all the more important.

The prince worked in the shadows and was familiar with the energy within it. The moon’s silver rays gave him a renewed vigor, and his eyes glowed beneath it as he was in his element. He looked to Sean as the boy stopped half way through the cemetery. “You have nothing to fear, Sean. The shadows are your allies, not your enemies.”

“Yeah, except for the thing feeding off me.” The boy wrapped his arms around himself and continued past an ancient mausoleum, pausing to stare up at its beauty. The cemetery during the day was a regular place of relaxation for him when he wasn’t ill, and it had been some time since he’d been there. At night, however, it was a strange new world to him. The dead lied below every step he took, but he knew they were just that. Their souls had moved on and they were no longer present. It wasn’t them he had to fear, but the echoes of mourning that remained in the atmosphere. Distant cries of grieving families drifted between the trees, and the occasional footstep that didn’t belong to him or his companion caused him to pause and listen.

Darokin stopped Sean as they reached a patch of grass at the center. A large monument towered over them, but otherwise, it was a place to rest with a few benches in a circle. “Nothing here means you harm, dear Sean. You must make peace with it, and in doing so, you will begin to conquer that which has latched onto you.”

“The thing I helped to create.” The boy stepped into the grass and turned to face Darokin. “So how do I do it? How do I stop being afraid?” A powerful dizziness struck him, and he realized he hadn’t eaten that day. It was no way to begin this.

Darokin knew it as well, but the demon prince pushed. “This does not require physical strength. It’s mere exposure therapy, as you are no stranger to.” He waved his hand at a rhythm, stirring the shadows around them. “Energies of the night — they take many forms. But they are merely onlookers. The ones you see and the ones I call to you tonight are merely curious. They do not wish to scare you or harm you, but they are honest in their presence. They will not spare you their gaze because you fear them, for they know you as well as I do. As well as Zagan and Byleth do. Better than you know yourself.”

Sean knew what he meant. The boy had no idea what it entailed to be a child of Lilith, other than what his path was destined to be. It explained a lot of things, such as meeting Death at birth and coming back from it, as well as living a challenging life to put it mildly, but he also remembered many things he felt as a child. He never spoke of them to Byleth back then because he didn’t have a word for them, but he could sense the good and bad in people. He felt their energy like a suffocating blanket if he were too close, which is a lot of the reason he couldn’t stand up to the children who meant him harm. He had to grow numb to their blind hatred to protect himself, but being so young and not knowing what was happening, he reacted as a child would. With fear and tears.

He was tempted to do that then as a feeling of being watched surrounded him. He turned to see the shadows swaying, and after a short time, a pair of milky white eyes stared at him from one of the forms. He was certain it was a singular being among many, but it looked more like the things he noticed while doing rituals in the safety of his home. Here — beneath the moon and in the middle of the night surrounded by the dead — Sean was among the rawest of energies these forms could take. Nothing was filtered through windows or mesh screens. There were no candles or lamps, and no light switch to run to in fear.

The boy kept his eyes on the being that watched him. It made no move to approach, but merely stood with the others as a more definite form took shape. Its face was emaciated and it’s hands bony, and it wore a long black robe that seemed to be made of the shadows themselves. It’s eyes seemed to glow like white pearls, but it had no mouth or nose. It was quite inhuman.

“You are familiar with Hades in your reading, are you not?” Darokin interrupted the swishing of the light breeze. He smiled hopelessly as the boy made a step toward him, and as much as he wanted to open his arms to Sean to comfort him, it was counterproductive. “You will notice that what is drawn to you resembles your own passions and interests — including the darkness and death. You have been obsessed with Death since birth, and they have been obsessed with you. They know they failed to claim you, so they admire you. You’ve beaten the odds, so to speak.” Darokin stepped back and held out a hand. “Stay where you are. Let them speak to you.”

Sean paused and took his eyes off the emaciated being to plead with his friend. He couldn’t bear to see it. “This is fucking ironic then, isn’t it?” Sean’s emotions surged as he fought the anxiety. “I’ve spent most of my life wanting to die, but when I’m finally confronted with things resembling death, I’m terrified. Why am I so afraid?”

“The unknown is what you fear,” one of the beings spoke softly. “The unknown is that which many refuse to acknowledge. You dress up your dead to appear as if they are merely sleeping, and you forget about them once all has been made clear with the dark blessings of graveyard dirt. You fear what cannot be seen because you feel the need to fight its existence. You deny it.”

Sean finally turned to see that the being approached, but kept a safe distance. A musty, damp, and cold aura seeped from it, and it smelled like mold. “What you fail to see is that you cannot resist the unknown, but face it. It cannot hurt you. Only enlighten you. And you fear knowledge.”

“As most angels and God would have it,” Darokin continued. “So you see, dear heart, the only way forward is to face the unknown. You have a lot of fear within you, but you resist that which is your true home. Where you belong. It is among those like myself and these.” Darokin gestured to the many dark forms that gathered Sean hadn’t noticed. There were so many of them. “You are not a child of the light. You can only benefit from finding comfort within the dark instead of fighting it. Only then will your ailments begin to lift — including your irrational fears — and you will be able to face that which is draining you. That which feeds on your fear. Because fear is the most potent of human emotions. If you show that you are at home in your darkness, and that you have control over the unknown and welcome it, your Intruder will recede. He will lose his power.”

“But what do I do about being anxious? I can’t control it. I don’t know when it’s going to happen. When stuff catches you off guard…” Sean paused and held his breath in fear as another being came closer. It had become so cold he was shivering. “How do people not even flinch?”

“Come.” Darokin gestured for the boy to follow, and Sean was more than happy to do so. He grabbed onto the demon’s dark muscular arm and continued through the cemetery until they reached a mausoleum, in which Darokin clicked open the lock. They entered through the iron doors and were greeted with the smell of ages past, and crept lower down a set of steps that led to complete blackness.

“What’s down here?” Sean’s heart leaped into his throat when he heard scuttling. “What was that?”

“Tell me, you do not really fear physical pain or actual harm, do you?” Darokin stopped and backed away from the boy, and the wave of anxiety that enveloped him was powerful. “You fear not knowing. You fear not having control over your environment. Here, in the darkness, you cannot see as I can. But you see, you have not come to harm. That which circle around us and those who lie in their shrouds beside you, they will never harm you. You fear it because in reality, you do not really want to die, do you?”

“I don’t know.” Sean sank to the ground and hugged himself. Despite the darkness providing no line of sight in any direction, he squeezed his eyes shut. “I really don’t know.” More scuttling. Was that a moan? A breath from ages past. A death rattle?

“And here is the obvious sign.” Darokin became firm, which was not a tone he usually expressed. “You’ve closed yourself off. What you refuse to realize is that by closing yourself off like this and succumbing to your fear, you become vulnerable to things that do wish you harm. You are a spiritual parasite’s absolute dream. You do not fight back.”

“So it’s my fault I’m being targeted? Are you seriously victim blaming me?”

“There is your problem as well.” Darokin pointed to the boy on the ground. “You are beyond a victim of this life. I have chosen to guide you. Byleth has chosen you. Zagan has come to join you to protect you. We do so not just because you belong to the darkness like we do, but because you are capable of a strength you refuse to acknowledge. You survived Lilith’s test — her curse. Will you let that be in vain? Will you turn your back on all of us after what we have done for you by allowing yourself to be the victim?”

“I’m sorry.” Sean took a deep breath, stood, and opened his eyes. Fear shot through his veins and nerve endings like electricity and he felt faint. “One of my first experiences with the unknown was an angel that looked like something out of the Necronomicon. I was in the dark and I was alone, and he wanted to hurt me. What if something like that happens again?”

“Do you really believe Byleth, myself, and Zagan would let that harm come to you?” Darokin approached Sean at last and placed a hand on his forehead. “Why would we let you continue to seek out this Intruder if we did not believe you were capable of defeating it?” He trailed a finger down the boy’s face and lifted a bony chin. “The universe only gives challenges it knows you can overcome. It would not make anything impossible. And you see, you are safe even now in the bleakest of shadows. You have received wisdom from your true allies. So, dear Sean, tell me. What do you really have to fear if not fear itself?”

The boy realized he’d stopped trembling and searched for a good excuse. He was full of them and exhausted all the same, but something else rang true in the prince’s words. He’d never come to harm from anything he’d feared in the dark. He tiptoed around their help during rituals with the safety of a candle’s light, but he’d seen them in the flame’s flickering shadows. In the smoke from the incense and in his peripheral on particularly manic nights. He communicated with them unknowingly when he drew each tarot card, and the energy he called to when looking for answers — when Byleth, Darokin, and Zagan were nearby to protect him so that the wrong thing didn’t reach back — was the very same that surrounded them then. It was the only force that answered his calls for help when he was told it was the angels who would do so.

And the Intruder — he wasn’t of this darkness. He wasn’t of Lilith or Hell or whatever anyone wanted to call it. He was of Sean’s own darkness he’d given power to for so many years. A thought form that became something real when he’d succumbed to defeat and stopped eating. When he grew tired from not sleeping and fearing death, causing his body to become weak as he was paralyzed with panic attacks night after night. In reality, he feared meeting the Intruder again and he’d unconsciously placed that fear on other things. Yes, the entity was feeding from him, but only because he let it. He’d given up.

Sean let out a shaky breath as tears fell. When had things gotten so bad? He was practically killing himself without meaning to, and that thing wasn’t helping. It wanted to keep him — to have him, as it often said. To keep growing stronger because that fear was what had haunted Sean his entire life. It was as powerful as was his resilience, and that resilience was needed now. Although he’d wanted to die for so long, he realized he feared it too. But now that he knew the truth of everything, he realized why the words had become empty. It was an easy escape. But he’d survived for a reason. He’d made important friends for a reason. And Lilith, wherever she was, had chosen him to defy the odds and show the world the truth they tried to ignore. The unknown that the angels wanted to keep humans ignorant on so the divine would have control and power. With knowledge came power in itself, and that was detrimental to them.

Sean’s tears stopped as Darokin wiped them with his thumb. “I’ll try harder, I’m sorry.”

“You always do,” Darokin smiled. “And you always will. This is but another hill to climb, but trust me, dear one. It is a small hill.” The dark prince leaned low to meet Sean from his six point five foot stature, and kissed him. “Welcome home.”

Sean’s nerves finally eased, and he placed a hand in Darokin’s. “I guess the first thing I should do is eat. Right?”

The demon chuckled. “It would be wise.”

©2021 Shane Blackheart

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