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Writing Resources from Fifteen Minutes of Fiction

The following is a piece of writing submitted by Michael K on September 8, 2008

Fear Man

They call me Fear Man. Most people, when they hear of me for the first time, assume that my super power is the ability to strike fear into the hearts of criminals.

There are times when I wish that was the case, but it is not. No, my super power is quite different. I have the ability to remove fears from others. Not just humans, either - I can remove fear from cats and dogs, and from other animals as well. If vegetables had fears I might be able to remove those also.

I'm sure you can imagine how useful my super powers could be, but what you might not realize immediately is that there are severe limitations to what I can do.

Just this morning, for example, I got a jumper call. That's what we call it, in the business, when someone has decided to end their life by jumping off a bridge, a cliff, or a skyscraper ledge. I hate jumper calls.

The fellow was standing on the ledge just outside his twenty-seventh floor office window, trying to build up the courage to make the leap. And here, you see, is the issue. The poor sap had many conflicting fears that kept him teetering on this ledge.

It was the fear of living without his wife - who had just left him - that brought him to this ledge. But that wasn't his only fear. No, there was also the fear of death. And there was the fear of heights, as well.

Unfortunately, I can't zero in on one fear and remove it. If I could, I would have taken away his fear of living, and left the other two fears alone. But I cannot take the fear of living without also taking away the fear of dying.

If the fear of dying goes, what if that was the one thing that kept him from making the leap?

Or, suppose he did turn away from the ledge, but then, without his fear of heights to make him cautious, he made a dreadful, careless misstep and plummeted from the ledge?

You see how complex this is. I had to take just a little bit of fear at a time, watching to see how he behaved, trying to talk him down bit by bit, until I reached that perfect equilibrium that allowed him to return to his window and come inside.

I am the hero for the day. They pat me on the back, they call my name and cheer. The news cameras flash and reporters call out all the standard questions. I smile and nod and shake their hands, and I even answer a question or two.

They don't understand. They never understand. I don't want any of this. I just want to go home, lock the door behind me, and curl up under my blankets for the rest of the day, with my stuffed bear by my side and all the lights on their brightest setting.

Because, you see, all that fear had to go somewhere.

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