Fear (Flash Fiction)

He comes trundling down a narrow path in the woods when the light of day retreats to the horizon to breathe near your ear. He says childish things like You’re lost or This can’t be right or The path looks different now. You ignore the words and hope your children don’t hear. After all, they’re holding your hand and hungry and following you without question. Somehow you’ve pulled the deception of acting like someone who knows the way.

But Fear knows better.

And he visits again in the evenings, when the home is quiet and the tears have subsided after you said those awful things. He comes to you in comfort to tell you things you feel you need to hear. They’re so young and full of love and you’ve lost your patience once again, something you shouldn’t have done. For shame on you, dear friend. For shame. The words find your ear quite easily in that dark moment of recollection. They’d be in the right to ne’er forgive you. Perhaps you should discuss this with my close friend? Perhaps you know him? Guilt is his name.

Fear knows the secrets. He’s been there. He’s kind enough to share them, life’s tips.

He helps you with each decision in life that demands absolute attention. He’s quite wonderful at risk aversion. You’d have to move, he says. You’d have to explain it to your friends and make new ones again. And the children, woe unto them. Change can be so difficult, no matter the age! Better the devil you know, friend. Why chance it? How embarrassing it would be to leave and fail and come crawling back again.

Best of all, his greatest skill, is helping you wave goodbye to hopes and dreams as they slowly fade away. Not to defame, good friend, but you’re much too old. That’s a young man’s game. Your looks have faded. Your skills were never honed. You’re so far behind in that race. What sense is there in starting now? Nay, he says, Nay. Seek the comfort of that you’ve already achieved. Ambition is fickle and flows with the wind. Waste not your time, for that is also fading.

And he’ll be there still when you hear the news of ill-health that you always knew would find its way to your ear. He’ll deliver it personally. He’ll hold your hand and say, There, there. Twas a matter of time, most certain. All pass, and so shall you. And he’ll drive you home and talk to you in the silence of your car where music used to play, and he’ll let you know your grade.

You were short-sighted. You wasted too much time. Always tomorrow, always the horizon. Never here and now was your mind. Don’t take it personally, dear friend. It’s quite normal for your kind. You did well just the same.

He’ll do his best to comfort you, as life-long friends always do. He’ll remind you of times happy. He’ll tell you it’s normal, just the circle of life. You did your best to enjoy the ride.

Before he goes, Just one more thing. Those bills will be coming soon, and they’re quite expensive. Do what you can. Everyone struggles. Try not to drink too heavily and dwell on what could have been. It’s not your fault life passes so quickly. It’s not because of you there’s never enough time.

And also, You still have that bottle of scotch tucked away in the cabinet. Don’t forget. A sip never hurt anyone. It helps with the stress, but not too much. My friend Guilt told me all about what happened last time.

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