The attack came. Elena fought for the tiniest bit of air. The world dipped and dived, darkening in front of her as the heat of blood rushed into her face. Her stomach threatened to revolt. She felt lightheaded. Breathe! Her lungs screamed. Elena inhaled, the air sharp and biting as she leaned against the rough brick wall. Her eyes flew open, and her face began to cool. When had she closed them? How long had she stood there motionless? Never close your eyes…He would claim you.
Elena stood there long enough to fight off the dizziness then set off at a run, her lungs yelling in protest. She could never stop running. No matter where she went he had always been there, hovering at the edge of vision.
The doctors had all tried to convince her that he wasn’t real, that he was a figment of her overactive imagination. They said if she took her medication he would disappear. Elena had stopped seeing the doctors. She had also stopped taking the pills they’d prescribed. The drugs had only prevented her from fighting him.
Who was he? They had asked, voices mocking. He was dread and doubt. He was everything anyone has ever been scared of, but his name was Panic. Panic, the most dangerous of emotions, there was no escaping his hold. You can only experience so much anger before you erupt, and only so much love before your heart breaks. But he—Panic was a black bottomless pit. Elena had known him since the very first time she’d wandered away from her mother at the grocery store. He had feasted upon her childish terror of being lost and alone. Panic was that strong tide of the ocean pulling you to crash against the rocks. He had owned her from that very first moment.
Elena’s feet slapped the wet pavement as she ran in the rain. Thwack, thwack, thwack. She had thought an early morning jog around the neighborhood would calm and clear her mind. Now, she realized that it had only exhausted her further. Every part of her body ached with fatigue. She hadn’t had a full night’s sleep in weeks, settling for short catnaps and large doses of caffeine. Elena knew that she couldn’t run forever. Eventually, her body would shut down, allowing itself the respite she denied. Until then, she’d take every step to avoid him.
As Elena approached her apartment, she slowed her pace, stopping just short of the front door. An unbearable weight dragged at her as she entered, and she fought to stifle another yawn. Each step took enormous effort, until she could go no further, and she collapsed onto the couch. Yawning widely, it occurred to her that a jog might not have been a wise decision, and her eyelids began their slow descent.
Everything was dark. He loomed over her, a silhouette against the light. How was that possible? There was no light in the dark? A familiar sensation began to rise, and she stifled a scream. He shifted closer. Suddenly, her dread was gone, and she felt safe. Safe? The question burst in her mind like a flare.
“Yes, Elena. Safe. Do you not ever tire of this chase? Always questioning. Always running. I’ve waited too long for you to stop running, Elena.”
His voice held a note that she hadn’t anticipated. Why had she run? Elena strained to look at him. Panic stepped forward again, his features now clear and defined.
She had never seen him. She had always fought to escape his hold. Why? The answer eluded her as she studied his face. His features were simple enough, pale skin and dark hair, but his eyes—oh, those eyes. How could Elena have forgotten them? They were the coldest, deepest blue she had ever seen. They could drive one mad.
“You remember,” he spoke again. His words wrapped her in thin tendrils of warmth and something she couldn’t quite put her finger on.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she stammered, her thoughts sluggish. The haze began to lift, giving her a small glimpse of things long forgotten. Just as quickly as it had come, the memories vanished, leaving her in a cloud of confusion. Elena drew her legs up, wrapping her arms around them for comfort.
“I scare you,” Panic said simply.
“Yes,” Elena whispered.
“That is why you ran.”
“Yes,” she replied.
“If that is true, then you should also fear yourself,” he said.
Elena met his eyes once more. They held a deep sorrow, stirring a long-forgotten memory.
“Why would I fear myself?” she whispered.
“Because, Elena, you are Fear.”
Her head swam, and she struggled to breathe. Centuries of memories flooded through her, images of love, hatred, power, and death. She collapsed.
Elena stirred. Strong arms cradled her. Arms that had built a kingdom only to see it smashed to pieces and begin rebuilding once more. Arms that held someone they’d lost, hoping one day for a reunion.
“I knew you would return.”
Elena leaned into his embrace, content. They had been reunited. There would always be a reason to run, but now everyone would be running from her. After all, Fear and Panic had always been lovers, a King and Queen ruling their court of terror.
An avid reader, Brieanne O'Reilly developed a love for all things Fantasy at a young age. It should come as no surprise then, that she attended Drexel University—home of the Dragons, and graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Digital Media. When she's not writing, Brieanne enjoys crocheting, singing karaoke, and taking out mobs in her favourite MMO.