Born with Fear

Born with Fear

A Story by Kaya

A lecture stirs up bad feelings.


Jake sat beside me in the lecture hall, a scowl fixed on his usually easygoing countenance. I was worried; he’d turned so suddenly morose with the lecture topic. Usually the way he was chewing absentmindedly on the end of his pencil would have me in a fit of unrequited lust. Today it just left a deeper impression that something was wrong. His fist was clenched so tightly that his skin was turning white around his nails. As strong as he was I was amazed he wasn't bleeding yet but his arm was the only part of him that had gone so tense. He sat the way he always did, completely relaxed and at ease. If you didn't know him you’d have no idea how close to the edge he’d apparently been pushed.

Shifting slightly in my chair I turned back to the lecturer, yet another invited guest speaker trying to win the nature versus nurture debate. Psychology was definitely where I wanted to be, I’d known it for years, but the complete denial that there could be a middle path was infuriating. This guy was no better, insisting that nature took complete precedence over any form of nurturing. His slides, drawn from his own research was showing a clear correlation between neurological impulses and fear in infants. It was fascinating, although I had doubts when it came to his variables.

“… As can clearly be seen. So we’re running a bit behind today. I’ll hand you back over to your lecturer, but I’ll be attending all of the tutorials this afternoon. Please save any and all questions until then. I look forward to hearing your questions. Thank you.”

A brief spattering of applause broke out across the room as he stepped back from the bench. A quick glance at Jake making me more glad than ever that the lecture was over. We joined the masses of people in the rush to the door, walking with an easy silence to our usual spot on the grass. Since our first lecture together last year we’d made a point a putting an hour break between our lectures and tutorials; time for us to go over the content together and get our opinions straight before offering them to our tutor.

“That was interesting.” I hedged, after waiting for him to offer up an opinion. He tilted his head back from where he was sprawled in the grass below me; his head just inches shy of my lap. He raised an eyebrow before sinking back into his comfortable sprawl. I laughed quietly.

“I take it you disagree?” The silence spread out for a while unbroken, he lay still but it seemed forced somehow. He seemed cagey, like a tiger in close confines, just waiting to break free. It made his voice a shock when he finally spoke.

“I had a sister.” He sounded calmer than I’d expected, so it took a second for me to understand what he said. Jake was an only child, I’d met his parents, been his date to a cousins wedding. Jake didn't have a sister.

“Her name was Amelia. It’s one of my earliest memories, just playing outside with her. She was so pretty and she always played with me, even though I was so much younger than her. I remember one day she went on a holiday, she was gone for a week. I didn't mind, mum and dad had to work really hard or something, so I got to stay with my grandparents. I got to play with my cousins. After the holiday everything was different. She got to sleep in all the time and she didn't have to go to school anymore, even though I did now. I was jealous.

She wasn't allowed to play outside anymore, she stayed inside and played girly games with her dolls, but she let me play too, so I didn't mind. She told stories so she’d make up adventures, and I’d act out all the parts. Every night I’d climb up onto her bed and she’d read me a story. Everything was different, but it was ok. It was normal still.” His voice broke and he paused. By now I’d reached out and pulled his head up onto my lap, gently stroking his hair like I did for my younger sister. Urging him silently to continue.

“Mum and Dad were always busy at work I guess, they were always really stressed. They yelled at me a lot, I thought they didn't love me anymore. They didn't want me around Lia; they treated her like a goddess. They gave her everything and they treated me the same was as always.” He bit his lip. “People always forget how much a six year old knows. I knew that they looked at her like they did when we did bad things, but they still gave her everything. Even though everything was normal, I remember starting to get scared. I started waking up with nightmares; I’d hug Lia at night after she read to me and I’d beg her not to go anywhere.

She looked fine, at least to me. I was six, I didn't know what wrong, but I know something was happening. I knew someone was going to take Lia away and I was scared even though I didn't know why.”

The longer he talked, the emptier his voice got, it had dropped into a monotone, and yet it screamed with loss. I wiped at my cheek with my shoulder, trying to get rid of the tears without moving my hands away from him. I needed to comfort him for my sake as my as his by now.

“I was still six when they took her away. Mum sat me down and told me that Lia had gone to a beautiful place where she’d be happy and where there were lots of children to play with. I remember crying, because I couldn't understand what I’d done to stop Lia from wanting to play with me. I begged Mum.” His voice broke off again and he shook himself slightly.

“Humans aren't born fearing.” His voice was strong again, with just an edge of his earlier fragility. “At most they’re born with the capacity for fear. Babies aren't scared of snakes until they get bitten; they aren't scared of fire until they’re taught to be. I was never scared of Lia going away until that look in my parents eyes, that tension taught me to be. I don’t care how many tests’ he’s done, that man is wrong.”

He rolled away from me, sitting up and pulling out his notebook. I looked down, closing my eyes to mask the pity I knew he’d hate. I felt him grab my hand in thanks that I knew he’d never vocalize.

“Ok. He’s wrong. We can use the snake and fire as an example and I think I saw the same mistake in his parameters that we found in Prof. Hoffmann’s last week.” He squeezed my hand tighter.

“Sounds good. I’m not sure if you caught it but I don’t think it’s conclusive without a variable to test the fear reaction in comparison to the mono reaction.”

I nodded, noting it down before we lost it to another train of thought. He smirked and I saw the Jake I was used to.

“We’ll have him on the ropes in one tutorial at least.”

I laughed, watching him closely. Next week we started mental illness, maybe for once I’d feel safe enough to tell someone the truth. 

© 2013 Kaya

Author's Note

Hey guys,
So i'm blocked.... I'm always blocked lately which sucks. My new lecturer however spent an hour telling us that we couldn't use that as an excuse. That if we sat down and wrote every day it would start to flow the way it does when we're inspired, only we would be able to command it. I have my doubts, but please any comments are welcome.

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An interesting interaction; very relatable for many people, both the characters, and the discussion on fear. A solid cliffhanger; if slightly contrived, or rather, it lacks a clear build up--although it does seem interesting how it compares to the discussion on fear. The main issue I am seeing here lies in your punctuation. You are missing commas and semicolons to separate clauses, and natural breaks in speech. Try reading it aloud, and see where you pause, and where this is needed to make the syntax more natural and meaning more clear. I also noticed some missing apostrophes, from where words should have been possessive. All in all, there are not many errors or mistakes here, just a few tweaks in a copy-edit and you should be good. It's also a subject I enjoyed.

Posted 7 Years Ago


7 Years Ago

Thank you :) I probably won't be going back to edit any of my old work but I definitely agree with y.. read more
Nusquam Esse

7 Years Ago

I figured as much; there would be no purpose in editing something so old unless you intended to publ.. read more
I think that at one point or another we have all decided brashly to simply throw caution to the wind and see where the winds take us.

Posted 8 Years Ago

Beautifully written, as always. And a wonderful cliff-hanger. I love those (if you haven't figured out by now).

He tells her a very poignant, heart wrenching story from his childhood and then uses it as an example for their argument with the speaker. Very complex feelings going on here. Your writing is always so full of feelings and emotions. Your characters have such vulnerability.

One big typo - "I needed to comfort him for my sake as my as his by now". ???

I have no advice as per your writers block. I've been feeling that way with my art lately, though not 'blocked' as much as uninspired. Almost like I don't care anymore.

Posted 8 Years Ago


8 Years Ago

Exactly!! Lately I've had the feeling that its all been done, that all the plots in fhe world have b.. read more

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3 Reviews
Added on February 27, 2013
Last Updated on February 27, 2013



Brisbane, Qld, Australia

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