As a writer of fantasy, I’ve always had a fascination for horror. I love fantasy and sci-fi, and fiction and fables. I’m used to reading and seeing vampires and zombies and killer robots and monsters and creatures in my fiction, and they don’t scare me, precisely because I know they aren’t real.
Human depravity has always disgusted and scared me, for obvious reasons.
I have the same ‘real-world’ fears like everyone else – loved ones dying, mortality and pain and destitution – but then I also have some fears that have always seemed irrational to me, leaving me feeling like I suffer from a fear for no good reason.
Claustrophobia is one of them. No matter how much I tell myself there’s no reason to be scared, millions of people do the same scary thing I’m about to do (going into a cave, a tight, dark space, a tiny elevator) without breaking down, sometimes I do end up toeing the line between maintaining a calm public persona and freaking the f*ck out. (Getting stuck in a broken-down elevator for twenty minutes in the dark being one such memorable occasion.)
And then there are the fears that make no sense.
I grew up in Dubai. Born and brought up in the United Arab Emirates, if it’s one thing you get used to in Dubai, it’s seeing the creek. The Dubai creek is a body of water in Dubai that divides the area of Deira from Bur Dubai, and they still have little boats, called abras, that ferry people across from side to side. As a kid, it was a grand adventure to me and my brother, to be ferried across in the teeny little wooden boats.
Somewhere during that nebulous time when I was ‘growing up’, I read illustrated versions of ‘Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea’ and ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’ by Jules Verne.
The tales were gripping, and the artist did full justice to Verne’s descriptions of prehistoric colossal undersea monsters.
You can see where I’m going with this.
So one evening on an abra, I lean over the side and look into the inky depths of the water two feet away from me, and I wonder – what if there was a huge man-eating sea monster right under us, staring back at me, but just invisible because the water was opaque in the night?
Especially water that’s so deep it’s practically opaque.
I always thought it was a fear unique to me – and don’t we all seem to think we are unique and the only ones to feel and thing anything, even things as strange as this? But then one day when I was on the internet, reading scary short stories, someone mentioned a fear of the deep.
Some random internet browsing later, I found out that I had what was deemed a legitimate fear – thalassophobia.
Thinking about it, I guess it stems from a very primal fear of the unknown and unseen. It just struck me as an irrational fear to have (back when I thought it was a personal quirk) because the sea isn’t really as mysterious, any more. These are not the days of ‘Here Be Monsters’ on our maps, humanity has sailed the world and we keep exploring more of the ocean bed everyday.
You can imagine how freaked out I got when I went to a movie at Imax in Hyderabad one day, and they had a trailer for the 3D version of…’Prehistoric Sea Monsters’.
There was actually an overhead scene of a lake – and an aquatic dinosaur lunges upright out of the water to snap
at the camera you!
I guess it does make me feel better to know that I’m not alone in this. Which is one of the reasons why I love the internet so much. You can type literally anything into the search bar – ‘hate Jennifer Lawrence’, ‘does crystal really shatter by singing’, or ‘underwater monsters freak me out help’ and you will find someone, somewhere in the wide world of the web that shares your sentiments exactly.
Another thing about this fear is that I do know it is pretty baseless, which allows me to indulge it by looking at beautifully done (no doubt about it) pictures of sea monsters like these and freaking myself out for a little while. It’s like riding a roller coaster, I guess – you get the rush but none of the actual danger.
Although, now that I’ve put this out there in the universe, I can almost feel Murphy’s Law bending the universe to push me into a situation where I will be somewhere in the middle of the ocean, miles from a visible shoreline, with only the inky deep surrounding me…
And I couldn’t even throw myself overboard to have a quick death.
And for anyone else who wants to freak themselves out worse: here you go.
[mood| distressed ]
[music| Help! : The Beatles]