Snippet: All the Things You Fear

The fear of nightmares, of monsters under the bed, of the boogeyman in the closet: those are childhood fears. Childhood fears evolve, don't they? One fears spiders, snakes, dogs, heights, enclosed spaces...

Or of things more exotic. No matter.

The little old woman cowering before me, humpbacked and--what's the word for when fatty substances go bad?--rancid. Her son had insisted that she be the first test subject--or victim, should the serum fail. Cure or kill, he was an amiable patron.

"Mother," he held her struggling in his arms as I pulled her hospital robe and gown away from her buttock and swabbed the area with alcohol, "hold still." I administered the dose. "How long?" The old woman yowled like a cat. She'd been driven beyond words for years.

He already knew the answer. "Would you like a dose yourself? I have a second here; your mass approximates your mother's. You carry the same--"


I shrugged. You've heard the cliche. "The only thing we have to fear--" I said.

My patron failed to respond. I'd ceased to be human to him long ago; I was only an instrument, a thing, an embodiment of his panaceal Science. He led his mother away. I would have liked to hold her for observation, but he, irrationally, had refused.

The only thing he had to fear was--what's the word for the fear of hypochondria?

I must bone up on my latin.