Everybody, I don't care who they are or what they claim, has nightmares and fears, something that makes their skin crawl to the point they're uncomfortable even thinking about it. I was reminded of a couple of mine this week: zombies and sharks.
Now, I realize zombies are fiction, and they won't be clamoring into my house, yet every so often I have a nightmare about them that leaves me on edge and unable to fall back asleep. When it happened as a child (I can count three specific instances) I would have to sleep with the light on and spend hours staring at my door. One nightmare in particular was about a zombie in my closet that shambled out and chewed my face off. I took the closet doors down the next day with my parent's help after I screamed so loud I woke them up. They also bought me a nightlight, which lasted a week because I started dreaming about ghosts and angels coming out of it.
For some reason, my zombie dreams are incredibly vivid. It had been over a decade since I had one, but I think all my hours playing Diablo 3 this week, combined with talking about the Walking Dead and current news stories, brought on my most recent nightmare, where I was trapped on my bed, helpless as zombies ripped open my stomach, pulled out my intestines, and ate them while I watched/screamed. I dream in first person, so when I woke with a gasp I had to assure myself I was still intact...followed by a couple Our Fathers that for whatever reason calm my nerves after a nightmare.
The next day at dinner I also learned a bit about my fear of the ocean, lakes, any body of water not in a backyard. While I have no qualms about being on a boat or dock I rarely swim. I've never been submerged in the ocean; water up to my waist is the farthest out I've been, and even in a lake I hover around things I can easily clamor on to. I always assumed my paranoia of being a shark attack victim, meal for a crocodile, or being tugged under and drown by some sort of monster was because of watching Jaws and Friday the 13th at a young age with my older brother and his friends.
However, my mother told me about my swim lessons when I was three while we discussed my nieces learning to swim. I have no recollection but apparently while I was at the YMCA an older boy with a kick-board swam over the top of me, and I vanished underwater. All the mothers watching the pool from above started beating on the glass to get the lifeguard's attention, but he didn't seem to notice. By the time they ran downstairs I had been dragged out of the pool and was coughing up water. Needless to say, I refused more lessons, and I'm told I wouldn't go into a pool until years later, probably when I was tall enough to touch the bottom.
It's odd to me where fears derive and how they evolve--in my case, I almost drown as a boy and by the time I was on my senior trip in high school I believed I'd be eaten by a shark if I joined my friends in the ocean.
And at the age of 31 a nightmare about zombies can still put as much terror in me as it did when I was a child. It makes me wonder if fear is ever really conquered or merely subdued as we go about our day. I imagine the latter when I see grown women shriek and sprint away from a daddy long legs.