The Degeneration of Fear

Konstantinos Doxiadis

It was, by then, far too late.
The looming shadow had set
And with it, that soft winter breeze
Just sharp enough to penetrate the cloth


Yes. The darkness had set
The forest an interminable mass
And the path wound up the mountain
Curling its way round the trees.

He had told himself
He had said, ‘No.
It shall not be like this.
It shall not.’

But come dusk, his blood would curdle, and stretching out, he’d make his way home. Day after day he forced himself to delve into the depths of the forest. ‘I am the keeper,’ he would say, and ‘I am the keeper,’ he would repeat, his voice tinged with fear. ‘I can’t be afraid.’ And day after day he’d get off the stump, his leaden feet dragging him away. It was only when he reached the gate, and the heavy iron key had clanged in its hole, that he would say,
‘Tomorrow
Tomorrow
Tomorrow’
Chanting himself to sleep.

He knew he would not stay. No. He could not stay, and in the depths of the night, this small admission brought him solace. Further solace still, the fact that his impending sleep would erase all traces of such thoughts.


In truth it was nothing
An arbitrary plot of land
Freed, from the shackles of the trees.

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And while it wound and twisted its way around the dirt, cast in a perpetual shadow -


There were no turns.

No, the path was one, and to take it was to keep it. To follow, was to remain. It was the same by nightfall. Just darker. The shadows, heavier, and the warmth, no longer there.

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There was no longer a path
No longer a forest
Just black.


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So it was, one fledgling evening, that he drowsed off on his stump.


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‘It’s nothing. There’s nothing here. It’s all gone dark. Relax. Yes, I’ll just make my way to the gate. Yes, like this’ he kept his eyes on the ground, arms, by his side (for, in truth, he feared to stretch them out) and step by tentative step, walked along the leaf-covered path. He started off slowly, letting his eyes adjust, careful to avoid the undergrowth on either side. But then, unable to contain himself any longer, he cast a fleeting glance over his shoulder. First to the left, then the right, then the left again, and then, he ran. His feet had never felt lighter, arms, driving by his side, breaths coming out in ragged, stabbing, gasps, the cold air penetrating his lungs.


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It was like this that he reached the gate, just a few minutes later, heaving with exertion. Hands fumbling into his pockets, fingers numb from the cold, he gripped the key and shoved it in the gate, twisting with all his might. Finally, at the sound of the reassuring clang, he broke into a smile, and squatted to his knees.


‘It’s just a forest,’ he laughed, ‘there’s nothing there. Nothing at all.’ Righting himself with a groan, he set off, along the soft, dim glow of the streetlamps.

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In the forest, the moon shone
A waning sheet of pale light
Flecking the air with dust
Casting matter onto darkness
Weaving colour out of form
And the path gleamed white
Yes, that trail of dirt
Spun out of thin air
Out of mere air
Flowing down the mountain
Curling and twisting
All around the trees


And the shadows skirted through the clearings, taking care to avoid those sharp, sharp, slivers of light. Whispering to each other in glee,

  ‘Here’
‘No. Here.’
‘Here!’


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