Diagnosis: FEAR

“Dr. Anton Strah M.D. August 12th, 2011, 8:46 am. Patient #34, Mrs. Johnson, will arrive shortly for her appointment. This will be our 9th session. Mrs. Johnson has shown significant signs of debilitating fear and phobia. She is scared of her future, fearing for her well being in the days to come.”

The man placed his recording device gingerly on a polished end table. He sat in a tall leather chair, his right leg draped over his left at the knees, exposing a few inches of pale, imperfect skin above the sock. His age was starting to show in new colorations across his body, but his lean face still clung to a somewhat youthful complexion and his gray hair projected experience and intelligence rather than an air of depreciation.

Leaning against the right armrest and pursing his lips with effort, the doctor burrowed into his pants pocket for a tobacco pipe and matchbox. He lit the Revyagin and, waving the exhausted matchstick through the air, he sat back with a sigh. His posture eased as he puffed. A few moments later, still staring reflectively at the far wall, he continued speaking to the empty room.

“In paranoia, Mrs. Johnson has closed herself off from the world, keeping communication to an absolute minimum. She has begun to lash out violently at the people around her. Over our few sessions, she’s regressed to more instinctual behaviors. There is much more to unearth here, but current findings and theories are as follows:

“Mrs. Johnson’s fear, along with all previous patients, follows a natural progression that begins with anxiety. This first stage is quite common. Anxiety is a wide-spread occurrence in society. It is one of several emotional manifestations of what I’ve come to call the Fear Index: Anxiety – Fear – Horror – Terror.

“Experienced emotions progress sequentially—one building upon the other. There are many variables that affect the speed of progression along the Index, some examples of which are re occurrence, personality traits, life experiences, and sobriety levels, but the sequence always remains intact.

“In some cases—let’s call upon Mrs. Johnson’s reactions of horror during session 2, for example—it seems the initial emotional reaction is from the top end of the Index, but with close examination the theory still holds. The stages are indeed experienced consecutively, simply at an accelerated pace. After all, one cannot experience horror without anxiety, nor terror without fear. The logic behind the Index becomes clear when each stage is defined.

  • Anxiety = Stress caused by minor and/or subliminal worries or problems.
  • Fear = Amplified anxiety from unknown dangers, real or imagined.
  • Horror = Fear coupled with knowledge; knowing what dangers will or are happening.
  • Terror = Horror with understanding, realization of helplessness and lack of control; the danger is imminent and inevitable.

“Physical variances within my patient group seem to have had no affect on the uniformity of their reactions. The noted physical characteristics are as follows: gender, nationality, age, height, weight, and physical deformities/limitations. Unpredictable variances have occurred, however, from psychological characteristics, which are, of course, more difficult to identify and catalog without more extensive analysis. Therefore, I have decided to allocate more time in that area.

“Taking Mrs. Johnson, again, as an example, she has displayed a fascinating speed variance in her Fear Indexian manifestations based on Motherhood. Her own distress yielded more subdued reactions than in the situations which focused on her offspring.

“This variance has also occurred in other patients and their array of relationships, indicating a solid pattern of behavior. Even in documented studies where the direct distress was greater than that on the familial connection, the pattern persisted.”

Dr. Strah fell silent for a moment. Puffs of smoke danced and whirled before his calm blue eyes like ethereal projections of the gears working in his mind.

“It never ceases to amaze me, this contradiction that all humans have in fear and violence. We try like Hell to avoid problems and stress. We run from confrontations and shelter ourselves with paranoia and antisocial tendencies. We scoff at the military. We shake our heads at the news. But we watch. Oh yes, we watch. And they continue to feed us violence and fear, because it’s what we want. It’s what we crave: rubbernecking at car crashes, dangerous sports, bloody horror movies, stunt videos gone wrong, snuff films, war after war after war. It’s clear we can’t live without fear and violence… our lives would lose value and become utterly meaningless.

“Ah, but I’ve run off track. So… today’s session with Mrs. Johnson will pick up where session 8 ended. I anticipate the three days between sessions has served as a period of recuperation for her, and a catalyst for amplifying the direct link to her phobias through reflection.

“I also anticipate that it will take little prodding to send her up the Fear Index. Once at top of the Index, her comprehension will be documented and discussed in the hopes of seeing improvement in her current destructive and rebellious behaviors—the road to acceptance.”

A buzzer cut through the doctor’s thoughts, humming sharply on the phone next to his recorder. With calm slowness, he tapped the embers from his pipe and propped the sculptured briar against an ashtray. Depressing the illuminated button on his phone, he answered the call. “Hello, Edward? Allow me a moment in preparation then please bring her in.”

“Of course, Doctor.”


Dr. Strah, with recorder in hand, walked around the leather chair and back to a massive desk. The path beneath his shiny Oxford shoes changed from carpet to tile with a sudden clacking rhythm. A nearby coat rack supplied him with a white clinical jacket. Depositing the digital recorder on the desktop, he opened the upper-most side drawer and tugged twice on the latex glove box, as if pulling tissues from a dispenser. With sounds of stretching rubber, he pulled on the gloves and laced his fingers for a snug fit. Then, he pocketed a vial of clear liquid and a syringe before closing the drawer.

The double doors behind him opened as Edward wheeled Mrs. Johnson into the room and positioned her at the center of the tiled flooring. He was impeccably dressed and groomed in a manner identical to the doctor; black and white semi-formal attire topped with an earth-toned sweater and lab coat, slicked back hair, short beard, even the rubber gloves. He was the spitting image of a young Dr. Strah, if one could only ignore the thick scars that ran down his cheeks like streaming tears and the vivid oddity of his hetero chromatic eyes—bright blue in his right and vibrant green in his left.

Edward walked around her gurney, locking the wheels and checking the straps. Satisfied, he placed a gentle hand on her shoulder and leaned in to offer her a warm smile before going about his work throughout the room.

A bright light kicked on as the doctor stepped over to the gurney. He held up the syringe, filling it with liquid from the vial. “Mrs. Johnson,” he said, leaning close. “It’s good to see you again.” She squeezed her eyes shut. He pumped the hammer on the syringe, shooting a stream of morphine into the air. “Let’s begin, shall we.”

Bringing the needle down in a swift, sure arc he injected himself—eyelids fluttering as the cold tingling rush coursed through his veins. He moved his eyes across the room in a slow sweep of fascination and wonder. Eventually, they settled back on the woman and he smiled in a wide jackal’s grin. “Much better.”

Edward wheeled over a cart brandishing an array of metal tools that shot a band of reflected light across Dr. Strah’s face.

Mrs. Johnson’s quick breaths neared hyperventilating levels. Tears ran down, collecting in the curves of her ears. Her gag only allowing muffled vowels and whimpers.

Selecting a scalpel from the tray, Dr. Strah spoke with a calm passion.  “As always, please depress the appropriate button to indicate your emotional level. And remember, this is for posterity, so please… be honest.”

~ Tyr Kieran

© Copyright 2012 Tyr Kieran. All Rights Reserved.

15 thoughts on “Diagnosis: FEAR

  1. I love this story, my friend! You have caught some of my suspicions regarding the inexact science of psychological trauma and treatment. Hmmn. At least the shrink dresses well.



  2. Welcome to the Damned family, Tyr – a fine first post! You nailed the human psyche on its head: incapable of digesting fear, dread & violence, yet entirely unable to cease feeding upon it. Let’s feast on your story again, my friend, as you ready those metal tools…


  3. I’m honored to be a part of such a twisted and talented group! Thank you for the compliments, it does a lot for the ole black heart! I’m tempted to continue these characters into another tale, but that will have to wait, I need to rid my mind of some other poisons first… but maybe in time for my next POD post!


  4. Fantastic mix of sterile imagery and wicked intent. loved the ‘tears…collecting in the curves of her ears!” Totally saw it and remembered how that feels. Keep up the kick-ass writing.


  5. Good story, and I liked the twist. However — no offence, darling, but you cribbed those last lines from The Princess Bride nearly verbatim. That’s not cool.


    1. Helena,
      I intentionally quoted The Princess Bride at the end as a nod to the film and it’s wonderful dark undertones. I have a credit notation on the original file, but it didn’t carry over to this post, my fault and bad form. Thank you for bringing that up. And, thanks for reading!!!


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