Nothing to Fear

📅 Published on May 22, 2021

“Nothing to Fear”

Written by Micah Edwards
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on CreepypastaStories.com are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

ESTIMATED READING TIME — 8 minutes

Rating: 8.50/10. From 2 votes.
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“Tell me about the first time you remember being scared.”

Duane hesitated.  “It’s stupid, you know?”

“Nothing’s stupid, Duane,” Dr. Earles gently admonished.  Earles was a balding man in his early sixties, with thin glasses and a neatly-trimmed, mostly white beard.  He very much looked the part of the kindly psychiatrist.  “We all have fears.  We all have traumas in our past.  We can’t get past them if we don’t address them.  We build walls to try to protect ourselves from them, but what we end up doing is providing those fears with an impenetrable fortress from which to attack us.

“We’re going to break down that wall, Duane.  I’m here to help you.  Not to judge.”

Duane shifted uncomfortably on the sofa.  “Yeah, I know.  It’s just—I know.  It’s not easy to talk about, is all.  It’s stupid.  Sorry, I know what you said, but it feels stupid.  It’s childish.”

“And you were a child, Duane.  It’s okay.”

“Yeah, but I’m not now, so why can’t I get over it?  Why has it built into this anxiety that has infected my entire life?”

“It’s okay, Duane. Take a deep breath, please.”

Duane took a deep, shuddering breath, and the psychiatrist continued.  “It’s the wall you’ve built that’s giving the initial trauma its power.  We’re going to take it down together.  I guarantee that you can do this.”

“Okay.  Okay.”  Duane took another deep breath. “It’s…the first time I was scared, I was…three?  Maybe still two?  It’s my earliest memory, and it’s distinct.  It’s like a short film.  I think my next clear memory isn’t until I was six or so, and even that’s a little fuzzy.  This one’s crisp, though.  I remember everything. I can even tell you what outfit I had on in it, it’s that clear.”

“Duane,” said Dr. Earles.  “You’re stalling.  If you’re not ready to talk about this, we can try again later.”

“No!  No.  I came here to talk about this, to talk through it, and I’m going to.”  Once more, Duane drew in a deep breath, holding it.  He closed his eyes and clenched and unclenched his fists.  “It was a jack-in-the-box.”

Duane opened his eyes and stared at the doctor, daring him to laugh.  Dr. Earles looked on dispassionately.  “And it popped up and scared you?”

“It popped up and terrified me.  It was a trap, a betrayal.  It was supposed to be a toy!  It was a brightly colored block with happy scenes on the sides.  I remember banging on it with my chubby little hand and laughing at the noise.  And then my mother showed me the crank and how it played music when you turned it.  I tried to turn it, but I couldn’t move it smoothly, so she took over.  She turned the crank, and it played a happy little tune.  I laughed and clapped my hands.  And then, in the middle of the song, the box suddenly erupted, and a horrifying snaky thing flew out to attack me!

“I fell over backward and screamed and screamed.  That’s where the memory ends, doc—me flailing on the floor and screaming forever.  My mother must have scooped me up and put the toy away.  She was a good mother.  But I don’t remember any of that.  I just remember the betrayal, the terror, and screaming.”

Dr. Earles nodded, taking notes.  “Did you ever talk about it with her?”

“No. I never talked about it with anyone.  When would I have?  Any friends I made in elementary or middle school would have laughed at me for being a baby.  My family would have just told me to get over it.  High school, college—you just can’t say ‛a jack-in-the-box scared me so badly that now I sleep with the lights on.’  To what, a girlfriend?  Yeah, that’d be a good relationship starter.  So no, I never told anyone.  Not until now.”

“And how does it feel?” Dr. Earles inquired.

“Honestly?  Worse, I think.  I thought maybe there’d be a sense of relief, but there isn’t.  I feel like I stirred something up.  I don’t usually have the nightmare anymore—I used to dream about it constantly, this monstrous version of the thing—but I feel now like I did when I would wake up from that.  This heaviness in my chest, like something’s coiled around me and constricting, making it hard to breathe. This isn’t better, doc.”

“It’s okay,” said Dr. Earles encouragingly.  “It’s normal to feel fear at this point in the process.  Or dread, or even panic.  The important thing is to work through it.  To meet those feelings head-on, to let them wash over you, and to discover that you’re still standing at the end of it.”

“So how do I confront this?”

“Wait here just one minute,” said the doctor, getting up from his desk.  He left the room, leaving Duane alone.  Duane looked around the room awkwardly, feeling like he was somehow prying by studying the items on the doctor’s desk and the books on his shelves.

“Here,” the doctor said, returning.  “I want you to look at this.”

He held out a small, brightly-colored metal box toward Duane.  Duane recoiled, leaping off of the couch to press his back against the wall.

“Why do you have that?  Where did you get it?”

“I keep a toy chest in the waiting room for my clients with small children.  I thought there was a jack-in-the-box in there.  Go ahead, take it.  You know logically it won’t hurt you.  Work through your fear.  It starts here.”

Reluctantly, Duane took several steps to close the distance to the doctor.  He reached out and took the cold metal box in his hands.  Pictures of clowns and circus animals decorated four sides of the box, and a big smiling clown face graced the lid on top.  Its grin made him shiver.

“Look at the box,” Dr. Earles encouraged.  “Turn it around.  It’s harmless, see?”

Duane turned the box over in his hands, keeping carefully away from the crank on the side.  The bottom was bare tin, shiny and dented in places.  The entire thing was about as unmenacing as could be imagined.

“How do you feel?” asked Dr. Earles.

“Better,” admitted Duane. “A little better.  This…this is the first time I’ve touched a jack-in-the-box, I think.  Since the first time, I mean.  It’s nothing.  It’s just a tin box.”

Speaking the words emboldened Duane, as if saying them made them true.  He looked down at the box. The clown’s grin no longer seemed so menacing.

“Good, good,” said Dr. Earles.  “Now, give it back to me.  I’m going to open the lid.”

Panic gripped Duane again, causing his fingers to clench around the box.  The metal creaked under his grip.  “No!  Don’t.  I’m not…I’m not ready for that yet.”

“Pass me the box, Duane,” soothed Dr. Earles.  “I won’t turn the crank.  I’ll pop open the clasp at the top and open it slowly.  There won’t be any sound; it won’t pop up.  We’re just going to look at the puppet inside together.  And again, if you can’t or don’t want to right now, we won’t do it.  You’re doing very well right now.  I think we can go further today, but if you disagree, we don’t have to.  This is your choice.”

“No,” said Duane.  “No, I can do it.”

His arms trembling, he reached out to hand the box back to Dr. Earles.

“Very good,” said Dr. Earles, taking the letter opener from his desk.  “Now, I’m just going to pry this open, and…here we are.”

Dr. Earles opened the lid slowly, keeping his hand on top to prevent the spring from flinging it wide. Duane shut his eyes for a moment, but forced them open when he realized what he was doing.

Sticking out of the box was a small clown puppet dressed in red, yellow and blue.  It had a hat with a pom-pom on the top and two gloved hands spread wide.  It smiled like the image on the top of the tin. Objectively, there was nothing terrifying or alarming about it.

Still, the thing sent a chill down Duane’s spine that he couldn’t quite suppress.  Even Dr. Earles’s soothing voice didn’t fully ease the horror that he felt.  He knew it was illogical, knew it was absurd, but that changed nothing.

“Doc?” he asked hesitantly.  “Would you put it away now?”

“Of course, Duane,” said Dr. Earles, suiting action to word.  “You’ve done extremely well today.”

Duane breathed a sigh of relief as soon as the clown was back in its box.  “Thank you, Doc.  I know it’s silly, but I think that’s enough for now.”

“I told you, Duane.  It’s not silly.  You’ve made great progress toward taking down that wall.  You’re going to solve this.

“Here,” the doctor continued, holding out the jack-in-the-box.  “I want you to take this home with you. You don’t have to do anything with it if you don’t want to.  You can even put it in a closet if you have to. But I’d like you to put it on a shelf where you can see it, if you feel comfortable doing that.  We’ll work on turning the crank next week, during the next session.”

Duane took the jack-in-the-box from Dr. Earles with only minor trepidation.  “Okay, Doc.  Can do.  I’ll see you next week.”

“Very good,” said Dr. Earles.  “Please confirm the appointment with my secretary on your way out.”

* * * * * *

That night, the dream came again, for the first time in years.  Duane was sitting cross-legged on a floor, turning the crank on a jack-in-the-box.  The music tinkled merrily out, echoing in the empty space around him.  Suddenly, the box popped open to reveal—nothing.  An empty hole, waiting there under the lid.

Suddenly, taloned hands grabbed him from behind, pinning his arms.  Duane shouted as unseen assailants picked him up, their claws tearing his skin, and dumped him headfirst into the box, now grown large enough to contain him.  He crashed to the floor, and before he could right himself, the light streaming into the box cut off as the lid was slammed shut.  Duane scrambled to his feet and pounded on the lid, shrieking.  Although it was utterly dark, Duane could feel the walls of the box pressing in around him as they slowly grew smaller, tighter, crushing him into a tiny space in the blackness forever.

Duane awoke with a start, blankets twisted around him and soaked with sweat.  His nightlight shone reassuringly, illuminating the room with its dim glow.  The walls were in their normal places, comfortably far away from him.  Duane’s heart slowly dropped back to its normal speed as he relaxed, shaking off the nightmare.

As he looked around the room, Duane’s gaze fell on the doctor’s jack-in-the-box, sitting on a bookshelf on the far wall.  It taunted him with its harmlessness, seeming somehow mocking in the night.

All at once, after years of fear, Duane had had enough.  Feeling resolve rising up in him, he stepped out of bed, crossed to the jack-in-the-box, and took it down from the shelf.

“You’re just a stupid children’s toy,” he told the grinning clown on its lid.  “You’re nothing.”

He took the crank in his hand and began to turn.  The familiar notes to “Pop Goes the Weasel” spilled forth, steadily progressing through the tune.  Duane felt his fear begin to return, but he stolidly pressed on, determined to see this through to the end, to show himself that there was nothing there.

Abruptly, the lid popped free, flying open to reveal—nothing.  No clown, no spring-loaded puppet like he’d seen in the doctor’s office, but simply an impossibility of darkness.  Unlike in his dream, however, this darkness spilled forth, an inky mass overflowing the box and obscuring his hands from view.

Duane shrieked and tried to drop the box, but something clamped his hands in place.  He felt the pinpricks of thousands of tiny teeth along his hands and arms, and still the darkness flowed forth, racing up his arms and dripping onto the floor.  Duane could feel scales now, rasping tentacles slithering across his skin, tightening in coils around his wrists.  The biting intensified, and his hands grew slick.  Although Duane could no longer see them at all through the darkness, the pain told him that it was his own blood, running freely from a thousand minuscule cuts and being eagerly lapped up by something within the darkness.

Duane screamed and flailed his hands, but they were firmly stuck to the box.  He tried to turn and run from the darkness, but where it had pooled at his feet, it latched on, sending sharp spikes through the tender flesh and pinning him to the ground.  Off-balance, Duane fell backward, crashing heavily to the carpeted floor.  He saw stars, and then nothing as the darkness flowed over his body, tearing and rending as it went.

In the darkness, Duane screamed and screamed.  It went on for a very long time.

* * * * * *

“I appreciate you being able to see me so quickly, doctor,” said Jeanette.  She twisted the strap of her purse nervously in her hands.

“Your timing was good. I recently had an opening become available,” said Dr. Earles, smiling genially at her.

“I will say, I thought you’d be older.  You can’t be more than mid-twenties.  Have you been practicing long?”

“Oh, I’m older than I look, Jeanette,” Dr. Earles told her.  “I’ve been practicing for quite a while.  I find that helping other people keeps me young.”

Rating: 8.50/10. From 2 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Written by Micah Edwards
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Micah Edwards


Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on CreepypastaStories.com are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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