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The Fear Center
What is fear? I have asked myself that question many times. When you spend your life in a place others would call terrifying, you just can’t answer that question. So, of course, I would become a daredevil. What better career for a man who knows nothing of fear? Well, I found out about this strange word “fear” the hard way. It was but ten days ago that I had a strange feeling.
“It is called the Fear Center,” said my manager.
“The what?” I asked.
“The Fear Center, it’s this huge canyon in China. They say if you get too close you’ll be paralyzed with fear and you’re going to cross it on a tightrope in ten days. How’s that sound?”
“Just fine, but why ten days?”
“Because we need that time to get there.”
“It doesn’t take ten days to fly to China.”
“No, but it will take ten days to reach the Center. See, you can’t fly straight there. So we will take a car the rest of the way. Okay?”
“Fine.” My manger then left the room. ‘Fear?’ I thought to myself. ‘How many times have I heard that word? What does it mean?’ I looked over on the bookshelf and found a dictionary. ‘Let’s see… fear… here it is. Fear, noun, a feeling of agitation and anxiety caused by the presence or imminence of danger… That didn’t help at all.’
After our plane landed we loaded up the cars and set off. I saw something while we were doing this. It was a small black and white bear. What it was doing at the airport I’ll never know, but as I looked at it a strange feeling started to form inside me. When I asked my manager about this thing he looked at me like I was insane and said: “Are you trying to tell me you saw a baby panda at an airport?”
“A panda?” I said. ‘Great, another alien word.’
“Yeah, a panda, it’s a bear that is found mostly in southern Asia. Are you saying you’ve never heared of a panda bear?”
“Really?” He then shock his head and laughed a bit. “Well don’t worry, you won’t see it again.”
He was wrong. Two days of nearly nonstop driving later, we stopped in a clearing of a forest. Everyone started to work on the cars. Half an hour into the break, I saw something rustling the leaves in a nearby tree. I walked over to it and looked up. There in the tree was another panda sitting on a branch. It was eerily similar to the first. In fact I was sure it was the same one from the airport. But, how did it get this far? I don’t know but once again I had that alien feeling from before. It was a horrible feeling that seemed to sicken me to my very soul. Finally I couldn’t take its presence anymore. I started to shout at the top of my voice. I yelled for the little monster to vanish. All the insults I know burst forth from my mouth. I wanted nothing more than to be rid of this small, beast of a bear. After at least ten minutes of this I stopped to catch my breath. I fell to my knees, but kept my eyes locked on the bear. I blinked once, and it was gone.
“Hey!” came a voice from behind. “Hey, Jack!” It was my red-headed wife, Rose. She ran over to me. “What were you yelling at?”
“I… it was… oh, never mind it won’t happen again.”
“Ok, just tell me if something’s wrong, ok?” I nodded my head.
‘Rose’ I thought to myself, ‘I want to tell you, but I just cannot put it into words.’
After three more days of driving, we stopped just outside the forest in a rocky area. The sun was almost going to set, so we established our camping site. All the tents were up just as the sun sat. Rose and I sat in our tent to talk.
“Jack,” Rose began. “do you really have to do this?”
“It’s my job, so, yes,” I answered.
“No buts,” I interrupted. “I’ll be fine, just another stunt.” I moved forward, kissed her, pressed our foreheads together and spoke softly. “And another step closer to our future. With all the money we’ve been saving, we’ll be able to live the rest of our lives without working. Just you wait.” We kissed again, turned off the lantern and went to sleep.
I awoke. It was still dark and I was very thirsty. After getting my hand out of my sleeping bag, I reached out in the dark to find my water bottle. My hand was greeted by a cold, damp, spot of earth. I knew it was from my bottle, so I got out of my sleeping bag to get some water. I started walking to one of the cars. ‘Wait.’ I thought. ‘Didn’t I have a tent?’ I looked back and in the moonlight, I saw only my sleeping bag. ‘Odd.’ I turned around and where there were once cars, was empty space. ‘What the hell is going on here!?’ Then I heard a noise from the forest, like a giant footstep. There it was again, this time louder.
“You…” came an unknown voice from the forest. “I killed everyone and saved you for last.” Then came a monstrous roar from the forest. Then from the tree line I saw that panda beast was now a giant the size of a house. It reached out with its paw and grabbed me. I struggled in vain to get free as the beast lifted me to its face. Then it opened its mouth and started to cut my neck with its teeth…
I sat up back in my tent. I was sweating and panting as I realized it was but a dream.
After the last five days of our journey, we were finally at the Center. It was almost twice as big as the Grand Canyon. I looked around and saw the man working on the tight rope. It was just an inch thick and made of cheap string.
‘This could be bad,’ I thought. ‘If that rope snaps... what am I thinking? Just thirteen days ago I used the same kind of rope to cross the Grand Canyon.’ As I stared down to center, for just a second, that beast came back into my mind and I felt that unknown feeling once more.
At last the time came to cross the Center. I had that feeling once again and I couldn’t rid myself of it. As I walked up to the rope, I began to have second thoughts, but, I had no choice. I began to walk across the rope, slowly, steadily. It felt like hours between steps. When I was half way across I sat down on the rope to rest as always. I took out a book and a thermos filled with soup made by Rose just for this stunt. The book was just blank pages to make it look like I didn’t care about how high I was. I finished the soup, put the book and the thermos away, sat up, and started again.
Before I made two steps my body stopped working. I just couldn’t move! I stood there for what felt like hours, all the while, that feeling pulsed through me, growing stronger with every passing moment. Then, I lost my balance and fell. Somehow I grabbed the rope with my left hand. Everyone just thought it was part of the stunt. All of a sudden, everything went black for a moment. Then, oh then, I saw the beast at the other end of the Center. It began to chew through the rope. No one even tried to stop it, like they could have anyway. No sooner had it started than it cut the rope and I fell to the bottom. As I fell I thought about the feeling I felt and was feeling, that nameless sensation that I hated. Then, just before impact, I finally realized what it was.
“This is fear.”
I opened my eyes to find I was still hanging on the rope. It wasn't real! I reached up with my right hand and got back on the rope. Then, I don’t know how, I made my way to the other side. The moment I got three yards from the edge Rose ran to and embraced me. Everyone started to cheer, but I didn’t here them. I then whispered into Rose’s ear, “Honey, I’m retiring.”