By: Shontinique Uqdah
Fear is a pervasive emotion which is uncontrollable, unpleasant, and at times unexplainable. It is elicited by the vast world of the horrifying, which takes on many forms. We all have specific moments in our lives, which represent climatic moments of terror. Perhaps your horrifying experience manifested in the form of a paranormal encounter, an especially chilling story, or a particularly disturbing image, but the result is always the same: haunting and long withstanding fear. I am a fan of horror, and am just as shaken by a good ghost or zombie story as anyone else. I, however, am easily able to control my fear of less plausible, more supernatural horror stories by sticking by rules of survival: no scary movies alone or in the dark, stay out of basements, no Ouija boards, etc. In spite of the general efficacy of my rules of survival, there is one story which sends prickly chills through my body, tears to my eyes, and a suffocating fear to my heart. This story, which I will share with you all now, is self-titled “Tommy”. (I am presenting the story to you all in the same way it was presented to me.)
What would you do? A boy named Tommy is upstairs in his room sitting on his bed. His door is slightly cracked open and he hears his mom call his name. He comes to the door and opens it wider and again hears his mom call to him. “Tommy. Tommy, I’m in the kitchen. Come here for a moment.” He sets off down the stairs to his mom. As he reaches the bottom step, now midway between his room and the kitchen, he again hears his mother’s voice call to him, but this time from upstairs where he’d just come from. This time his mother’s voice calls out in a rushed, urgent, and pleading tone: “Tommy! I heard it too. Don’t go down there, that wasn’t me!” What would you do? Do you continue downstairs to the first voice that could be your mom, but could also be some unidentified “monster” trying to get you? Do you heed the warning of the second voice which could very well be your mom trying to save you from this unknown “monster”, but could also be a “monster” luring you upstairs, keeping you from the safety of your mom?
The way in which the story involves its listener is perhaps the most chilling part of this story. Although this is happening to “Tommy”, the “what would you do” element directly inputs the listener into Tommy’s position, forcing you to experience the story as Tommy does. Tommy has no age, no traits, no face, making it easy to imprint yourself in his position…eliminating the barrier of safety between oneself and the story…posing the threatening possibility that this could be you, this is you. How will you survive it? Although “options” are presented, it is clear that there is no right answer and no real escape. The fact that there is no real ending to this story makes it all the more frightening. It creates a blank page for your now scarred imagination to run erratic.
So, the question I pose to you all is: What would you do?