February 25, 2008
By Bethany Tillema, Grandville, MI

"The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear."- H.P. Lovecraft

I would classify fear into two parts, silly and serious. When I say silly I do not mean the bogeyman, because if you had a real reason to be scared of the bogeyman, like say an older sibling convincing you there was one and creeping into your room occasional at night for two years to prove it, then it is not a silly fear. When I say fears are both silly and serious I am talking about how long you were scared. Like when I was little, oh about third grade, my friend Jessie and I were playing in her backyard. Her older sister came running down the hill screaming “Turkey! Turkey!” We, of course, had no clue what she was talking about, until a 30 pound wild turkey came running at us, and jumped over our heads as we sat there screaming. All this took about 30 seconds tops. And I was scared of turkeys from then (October-ish) till Thanksgiving, when I was convinced that the turkey we ate was indeed the wild turkey that almost ran me and my friend over. That is a silly fear, I was not really afraid of turkeys, more the thought of them running at me. There are varied levels of this silly-and-serious scale, and I have decided to show you two fears are both slightly more amusing, and more serious.

Now if I tell you that I was, up until very recently, afraid of fish you cannot laugh. I have very good reasons for fearing fish, I mean, Lake Michigan seems innocent enough, but let me tell you, there are huge fish in there! Okay, that is a bad beginning, what I mean to say is that my friend Jessie and I went to the beach one day with her family. We played in the shallows and dared each other to go deeper and deeper into the lake. And to our total amazement we found that there are little strips of higher ground in the lake. So after that great discovery we decided to become full fledged explorers and see how far into the vast lake this sandbar, as I later learned it was called, went. You can imagine our surprise when we heard a call from the shore and realized that we went way too far out. When Jessie’s 6 foot 3 inches tall dad looked less then an inch tall on the tiny speck of land we could only suppose to be the beach we freaked! And in this confusion I seemed to misplace a foot and fall straight into the middle of Lake Michigan. As I began to regain my senses and swim to the surface the biggest fish I have seen in my whole life swam right in front of me and hit me square in the face. I flipped out, and by the time Jessie helped me back onto the sandbar two things had happened. A, I had become surrounded by a school of giant fish. And B, I was totally scared of fish. I am completely serious, have you ever noticed that fish do not blink, their eyes just stare at you. And their mouths are rarely ever closed, you can look into a large and pointy set of teeth, and while you are freaking out about the facts you just realized they seem to smile. Okay, I have to stop thinking about fish before I freak myself out.

And another fear that I am not sure if I am totally over yet is the fear of clowns. Not all clowns, just Pennywise. Pennywise of course being the killer clown from Stephan King’s horror movie and book It. Let me tell you I had no clue what I was getting into when I went over to my friend Alyssa’s house that night. Alyssa and I were in the basement playing the Crash play station game when her big sister came down. She popped in a movie and sat down to watch the movie It. What you have to know about their entertainment system is that it has small compartments where the play station t.v. and system went. Right next to and above this compartment there was the bigger space for the t.v. that played movies. So as Alyssa and I played Crash her big sister began to watch It. If you haven’t watched It I would not recommend the movie to you. But if you were convinced to watch the movie I would say watch the whole thing straight through, do not watch only the scariest parts. But was there anyone there to give me that advice, no. And it is not really like I had a choice. Ignoring screams and limb crushing sounds coming from a t.v. is very hard. So of course, Beth sees all the parts where the little boy gets pulled into the sewer and devoured by Pennywise, or the teenage boy gets pulled into a pipe so small that his spine cracks as he is dragged into the darkness where Pennywise feeds, all the while blood is dripping from his mouth. Or when one of the kids commits suicide in his bathtub, because he knew that Pennywise preyed on fear and he was totally afraid of him. I was so scared that by the time I ran home that night I was shaking and glancing over my shoulder to make sure Pennywise wasn’t following me. And to add the icing to the cake, I was only in the fourth grade.

To say that I was scared is an understatement. I actually thought that I was going to die. I thought that Pennywise could feel my fear and that he was coming for me. I had nightmares about it all the time. So imagine the joy I felt when my weary mind got a break from my constant nightmares, when my family and I went to Walt Disney World. We took a plane to Orlando, and showed up at our hotel weary after a full day of traveling. We got the keys to the circus theme room and all sank into our beds. So when I got my usual nightmare about Pennywise and him coming after me, I woke up in a cold sweat and heart racing. It is all I could do not to scream. There, at the far end of my bed was a white-faced, wide-smiling clown. I can only remember my mom waking me up the next morning. And to my horror there at the end of my bed was a white-faced, wide-smiling wood carved clown. I swear I have never been so scared in my entire life. And it was not just the fact that Pennywise ate helpless children, it was the fact that he could track you done through your fear. Franklin D. Roosevelt hit it on the spot when he said “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. But how do you get over the fear of the monster that found you because of your fear? That is what I want to know.

Needless to say I got over my fear of Pennywise and the fact that I thought he was going to kill me. Just as I got over my fear of fish. And turkeys. I guess my point in writing this was for you to laugh at my silly and serious fears and then take a good look at your own. Share them, and maybe have some other people laugh at them too. Sorry H.P. Lovecraft, fear may be the oldest and strongest emotion of mankind to you, but I don’t think so. Laughter is stronger.

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