We all have irrational fears that we cannot explain. In high school, my best friend was terrified of being hit by a train. The area we lived in was crisscrossed by dozens of different tracks so it was interesting to travel with her. She stopped before crossing any of them, even the ones with crossing gates and lights and bells. You couldn’t really trust those mechanical devices. What if the power was down and they weren’t triggered by an oncoming train? It was safer to stop and look both ways. If you were her friend, you got just used to it.
My daughter is afraid of toads. She can’t tell you why. She didn’t have a bad experience with a toad. She just doesn’t like them. They jump. They can hop from out of nowhere and startle you. Once, on a hike, she screamed when she saw a toad. My husband was sure it was a snake and was ready to save us all from certain death by deadly venom. It took what seemed like an hour for our daughter to catch her breath and say, “Toad.” The rest of the hike was rather quiet as she was sheepish (and silently counting all the toads she saw) and my husband grumpy.
I am petrified of being in a head-on collision. When I was first learning to drive, I would have nightmares of a car’s headlights coming straight at me and wake up shaking. Much to the annoyance of my family and friends alike, I will still follow someone’s grandma driving 35mph for a hundred miles rather than swing out into the passing lane. That may be a slight exaggeration. I might pass if there is plenty of daylight, the roads are dry, the passing lane is clear for as far as the eye can see, and no one tries to boss me into passing. Might.
Oh, and birds. I am scared of birds. It was quite the time when we took our daughter to an aviary. My picture with birds alighting on my shoulders should be beside the definition of bravery in the dictionary. I blame it on Hitchcock and seeing that movie when I was too young. My daughter has seen it and thinks it is hilarious. How could I possibly be afraid of birds after seeing those hokey special effects? Um, that’s why we call these fears irrational.
I have a friend is afraid of being buried alive. I have promised, if she dies before I do, that I will make certain she is really gone. I will pinch, poke, and prod. I will give her a hearty slap. I will slip a loud hiking whistle into her hand. I am not sure this has made her feel any better. Or maybe I can try what Elizabeth has in mind.
Elizabeth Stoddard has the same fear of being buried alive. Since escaping from the asylum where she was placed when she was sure she an ancestor from another time, Elizabeth has been put under a spell by Angelique. All Elizabeth can do is think about her death. She is certain she will be buried alive by her family. She dreams that she is in the coffin and can hear them talking, but she cannot speak or move or open her eyes. Her family believes she is mad, but they are trying to humor her in hopes that she will recover under their loving care.
But Elizabeth prepares for her eventual death. She is cleaning closets, picking clothes to be buried in and changing her will. She will leave her family completely penniless unless they agree to her demands:
· A coffin with air holes drilled where her head will lie
· A buzzer that when pressed will open the coffin lid
· A bell system, attached to the buzzer, that will ring throughout the entire mansion
My friend and I think these are reasonable requests…just like making train sensors standard on every vehicle and enclosing my car in a super- futuristic, indestructible bubble. I am not sure what we can do about those toads.