Fear. Writers try to ensnare it in words all the time. It's our job to try to find those words that will make readers' hearts race, their palms sweat, and their hairs stick up on the back of their necks. An entire genre was created for those who couldn't get enough of the heeby jeebies, and even if you don't read horror, every writer uses the tool of fear at some point or another because every character has fears, desires, goals, and the like.
I thought I knew fear. I've experienced some terrifying things before. When I was six, I fell into the adult deep end of a very large hotel swimming pool. I was terrified that I was going to die, and if one of my family hadn't seen me fall in and dove in to get me, I may have.
When I was 12 or 13 I was hiking with my dad one day and fell off the trail and off the mountain. The only things that stopped me from rolling and crashing to the bottom was a patch of briars that I bounced into.
A couple of years later, when I was hiking with my step brother on a camping trip, we became surrounded by coyotes.
However, I never really knew fear until a few months ago. I was talking to my girlfriend on the phone. We weren't quite dating yet -- we were in that awkward "basically dating, but still not official" stage, when suddenly she told me that she was watching the news, and some pretty big storms were brewing. I was at college, so I was more concerned with her, but she was more concerned about the ones brewing near me. As I spoke to her, I was slightly concerned, but nothing more than the typical, "Man, I hope the storms don't get too bad."
Well, is the storm progressed, she was placed under a severe storm warning, and then a tornado watch. I became a little more apprehensive, but tried not to let it get to me. My dad died about a year ago from tornadoes, so I have a new found respect for their power. I know what they can do -- I saw his solid oak and stone log house. It was gone except the foundation.
As I continued to talk to her, the "watch" progressed into a "warning." Then, she told the sirens went off. My heart leaped into my chest. She had to go into their shop so that she could be away from windows. She lived in a mobile home...this could end badly.
I had two things come to my mind. I had to talk to her, because she was crying and hysterical and her mom was rocking back and forth in the floor praying and frantic, but I also worried for my family, because my mom and brother were in the same town. However, my mom could console my brother, and my girlfriend had no one, so I talked to her.
Now, I've been terrified, before, but I knew nothing of real terror until this moment. Nothing has ever made my heart stop more suddenly, or my blood run colder than these words: "I can see it."
In those four words, I felt my entire life go away. More than that, I felt my sanity break down. My mind shattered. I stopped breathing, my legs gave out, and the only thing holding me up was the fact that I was leaning against my bed. I was silent, speechless, and in complete and total shock. I finally came back to my senses when my girlfriend said in a fragil, tiny voice, "If you could say something to talk me through this, that would be great, because I'm kinda scared right now."
I was instantly talking. I told her everything would be alright, I told her that nothing was going to happen, she would be fine. I told her all these things, but I didn't believe a word of it. I had an empty feeling in my soul. I could feel a blackness hanging around me, and I felt hopeless as I was witness to everything I loved being torn from me.
After a few minutes of talking, it was over, and my girlfriend got in her mom's car, and her and her mom went to go check on a few things. She heard word from her mom, who was on her cellphone, that the tornado hit the court house, which is just a few blocks from my family's house.
I immediately began calling my family. I couldn't get a hold of anyone. My mom's line was dead, my grandmother's line was dead, and when I tried to call back my girlfriend, I couldn't get through to her either. I was completely and utterly cut off from everyone I loved.
As the minutes dragged on, each second counting off a thousand years, I became convinced that everyone I loved was dead. My stomach twisted into knots, I doubled over, and I cried. I cried with everything I had. As tears streamed down my face, I looked up at the sky and begged God to let everyone be okay.
For 30 minutes, the longest 30 minutes of my life, I called the same 5 numbers over and over again: my mom's cellphone, my house phone, my grandparents house phone, my brother's cellphone, and my girlfriend's cellphone.
Finally, I got a hold of my girlfriend, and while I was relieved, I wasn't consoled. I still hadn't heard from my family.
Just when I was about to go into a full hysteria, with my girlfriend doing her best to console me, I heard my phone beep. My mom's cell. Like a flash, I switched lines, ecstatic to hear from them. Not only were they okay, but there was no damage done to our house. The tornado hit, literally, 2 blocks away, and went in the other direction.
I missed my college classes that day and went home for the weekend early. My town was decimated. Hundreds lost their houses, and a good portion of the town was just gone. It will never be the same again. I could see signs of the damage a couple of miles before I even got there.
The first place I went was to my girlfriend's house. It was then and there that I told her it was ridiculous of us to try to fight it, that I cared about her more than I've cared about anybody in a long time, and that I wanted her to be my girlfriend. Obviously, she accepted.
Next, I went to my grandparents house, because all the roads leading to my house were damaged or covered with debris so badly that no one could get through. I met up with my grandparents, and then found a tiny back road that I used to sneak past the cops and the National Guard and went home, and hugged my mom and my brother, and then we went to go see how my aunt fared the storm, all the while, my girlfriend and I called friends to make sure they were okay.
I'm so glad that everyone I cared about not only is totally okay, but none of them suffered any damage to their homes.I've never really understood fear, but after that night, I know it. I've seen it's face. I almost lost everything I love. I'll never take my family for granted again.