Peristerophobia This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

June 18, 2011
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There is a shadow in the distance. It’s hovering, flexing, fluctuating. Smaller shadows swoop out and rejoin the mass. What is it? The shadow — it’s coming closer. It isn’t a massive shadow. It’s a flock.

Their eyes… Their eyes… They’re red. I stare in horror as the monsters race towards me. “Turn around,” I command myself. My body responds with a violent quiver of fear as beads of sweat begin to march across my body. I collapse. “RUN,” I shout to myself as I desperately urge my body to move. It’s all to no avail. They are upon me — flapping, clawing, and shrieking … pain.

I jerk violently awake, gasping, drenched in sweat, with much protest from my neck. I flail my arms around in every direction at imaginary beasts swarming around me. “It was a dream,” I realize, relieved, still quivering as I recall the dream in horrific detail.
The fear of pigeons.
When I first developed this phobia, this deep-seated fear, I spent my days holed up at home, hoping to find safety from pigeons, yet still haunted in my nightly dreams by the flapping beasts. You may be laughing, and I suppose this phobia does sound incredibly ridiculous, but I promise that this is said in all seriousness. Here’s my story:

It was a normal day in the summer of 2002, just a week after I graduated from second grade. I made my merry way towards a playground nearby my house, just as I had done nearly every day since summer break began. Upon arrival, I inspected the entire park and, having done that, raced towards my favorite part of the playground, the monkey bars. After fighting with the other kids over a spot at the top of the bars and winning it, I stared out lazily above the park, with a pleased smile on my face as I watched the other kids stalk off to other parts of the playground. A slight breeze swept past the playground. I followed the path of the breeze as it rustled past the leaves of the trees and my gaze settled on a flock of pigeons gathering in the corner of the park. Excited, I quickly made my way down the monkey bars and raced as silently as I could towards the flock as I planned my grand intrusion upon their engagement.

I ran into the flock of pigeons, shouting and flailing my arms. The pigeons began trying to take flight but, with their path blocked off by the fence, they had nowhere to go and the pigeons frantically began to hover, pumping their wings up and down as they attempted to gain altitude. Unfortunately, I was stuck amidst all that. This was not the fun and excitement I had imagined. All around me were gray, dirty blobs, flapping and brushing past my face. One flew over my head and its grotesque, gangly, and withered claws caught in my hair, uprooting a few strands.

I couldn’t fight back. Every time I turned, seeking refuge, another mass of horror was there, waiting. I began to sob, crying out for my mom. I curled up into a ball on the rubber mat as tears, mingled with sweat and a little blood, rolled down my face.

“Were they still there? Are they still going to attack me?” Questions raced through my head as I buried my face into my knees, the sound of flapping wings playing in a loop.

After what seems to have been forever, they left, or so I thought. I tilted my head to the left and peeked out to check. That’s when, suddenly, a shadow surrounded me. I looked up and saw it — the shadow. It was large, angry, menacing. I was blinded by the sun that hovered tauntingly behind it.

“It’s the pigeon leader. It must be back to kill me,” I thought. “Never. I won’t allow that to happen.”

I lunged at the shadow, sobs renewed. I kicked. I scratched. I bit. I couldn’t win, though. The shadow grabbed me. It pinned me to the floor.
“I’m going to die,” I thought. I sobbed harder. That’s when I heard it, though — a whisper.
“What is that?” I thought. I listened harder.
“Look at me… Look at me… LOOK AT ME.” It’s coming from the shadow. I looked and I was shocked. The shadow wasn’t the pigeon leader come to attack me. It wasn’t going to kill me. It was only a stranger that had come to see if I was alright. I cried. When I finally reached home, I holed myself up in my room as I listened resentfully to my parents laughing as the stranger recounted what had happened.

Flash forward — to this day, many people I know tease me about this irrational fear — peristerophobia: the fear of pigeons. Although I no longer quake in fear as I catch sight of a flock of pigeons in the street, I still go out of my way to avoid being near them. I would be perfectly fine with continuing my life with this condition, but I really do wish living in New York, with its pigeon-infested streets, didn’t make living with this phobia so difficult. The pigeons are here to stay and so, too, it looks like, whether I want it to or not, is my fear.

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