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The Childhood Fear of the Void

By [REDACTED], March 27, 2017

One night, when I was about ten (10) or so, I found myself laying on my bed, just scared of it all. While that bed had originally been the top bunk of a bunk bed I had shared with my younger brother, it had been moved across the room. I think the carpet was blue, I’m sure there are pictures somewhere but I honestly don’t care that much and I don’t think I ever will. I know for certain the bed was made of these black metal bars, I remember clearly our first cat always finding some way up to the top bunk and sticking her little head through the bars as she slept. Perhaps my first memory of that bed was another night, attempting to sleep, looking up at the top bunk when I was on the bottom, choking, not being able to breath. I imagined some particles of something falling from the top, coming down to choke me. Maybe there really was some dust or something there, but given my mental state it could really go either way. This all aside, where I had my bed then was on the other side of the room from where it has been a bunk, above a vent. It wasn’t like a good vent that was actually connected to the whole system, it was just a hole to the basement.

The basement was just a big empty, maroon, concrete void. Any sound would just echo and eventually reach anyone near one of those vents. There were definitely rats, rodents of some kind at least. We had shrews for sure, would find one dead every few days laying in the kitchen just in front of the refrigerator. That little cat that I originally was so scared of would murder them. Murder is the most fitting word here, or maybe its slaughter. Kill even sounds too humane, she is an interesting aspect of the whole ordeal that is my life. Some fairly rich folks had a couple of cats, for sure one was a show cat, who cares about the other, these cats had a litter. Now these rich people had to move for some reason or another and they were to get rid of all the litter but one. That one was the prettiest one they had, they intended to keep it, but they were unable to keep her as well. So they gave her to one of their employees, who then gave the cat to her mother, who was my fourth (?) grade teacher, and so the cat landed with us. She’s a very pretty cat, but at the time I was very against animals in general. Sure, I would eventually warm up to her, but for now the relevant factor is that she is a cat, and like many cats she enjoys the thrill of the hunt, merely a sport in which she could attempt to keep the prey alive for as long as possible. Maybe she would only do this when being watched, was it all a ruse? I only ask because the dead rodents I would come across on those fucking cold mornings because god damn Wisconsin, they were always completely intact… perhaps this is a censor in my mind. But there were certainly plenty of fucking creatures around, making noises, squeaking, scurrying, scuffling, just making a whole racket.

I was raised Lutheran. My mother had been shifted between plenty of churches in her youth and I think maybe my father was too, they did this before I was born as well, it wasn’t completely an ideological thing, it certainly wasn’t a spiritual one. They were looking for the sect they could stand being in, the church whose members they could bear to talk to. I guess they could never accept that the base nature of all sects is that they are filled with people who go to church, and also they were in the fucking Midwest, the more you describe it the more restrictive the whole thing becomes, there was any obvious limit to the amount of types of people they would come across. I assume they only decided on Lutheranism eventually since they were starting to have too many children to be able to so simply uproot their religion. I don’t think I ever really believed in any of it.

They made me go to private school, not like a good private school either, see, my dad had gone to college for computer engineering or some shit like that, he eventually dropped out but he had some decent understanding in the field, and made a living off of painting and construction sort of stuff as far as I can tell. Though, when we lived out there in central Wisconsin he had some tech stuff going. He did the IT stuff for the school I went to, I think that’s how they paid for my tuition, as well as both my siblings’. They gave me the option to transfer to the public school later on, when I was heading in to sixth grade, but that isn’t relevant right now. Point is I had been raised under the assumption that a god existed. My parents still push the idea of some sort of afterlife on me, I think its just some coping mechanism on their part. I guess I blindly followed up until that night, I never really had a reason to question it so I didn’t. But for some reason, I couldn’t sleep, and as I lay there, in the silence, the void spoke to me. It said nothing. It just echoed silence. So much silence.

It was overwhelming, suddenly calling into question one’s understanding of every aspect of reality, to realize in youth that there is no such thing as a god, and that death is the end, followed only by the void of nothingness. I would wish not to dwell on this, and yet I would continue to. You would think that having began this anguish so early I would come to accept the void, and I guess in a way I did, that being in the conscious, but the subconscious still holds on to that fear of death. Existentialism is something I could always handle in conversation from then on, just joking about how nothing matters, none of it needs to exist, yet on rare occasion, in times of particular despair, that overwhelming feeling comes back. I could feel it in my flesh, a burning sensation of loss of meaning, suddenly not wanting to handle the weight of existence and its lack of meaning. Almost just accepting death if only to get it over with while simultaneously fearing that I should ever have to experience it for myself. And from that the only sane conclusion I could derive was that I would one day learn to accept it in some older age, but that would not be yet.

When they asked if I would like to transfer to public school, I feigned the need for some time to mull over the idea, yet it was already so concretely decided in my mind: oh hell yes. The private school was small, a single hallway, two classes to a room, the only licensed teacher was the principal. Didn’t teach a thing that fucking mattered. I failed fourth grade math. this is shocking to those who watched me fucking decimate them in Calculus III senior year of high school. I was always sick, I’ve got a lot of physical problems, this is shocking to anyone that knows I haven’t really seen a doctor in who knows how long, but who is that on? As an adult I’m not going to take on responsibilities I’m not used to when I can barely sustain things like eating. They had me take a test to see if I should continue on with the being a year ahead in math and honestly I fucking owned that test, they were all like “you can totally be in algebra” but my parents thought that’d be too high a burden for me… ALGEBRA for fucks sake. And they just let that shit slide.

In fifth grade, we were all really into Bionicles, customization and shit, some real fun stuff, the girls were all into these pens that had bird heads on them, the difference was that while we would play with out Bionicles between and after classes, we would merely display them as some sort of monuments of superiority on our desks during, the girls would play with their fucking pens during the class. Anyway liberal’s ideas of equality are great: the girls were banned from having their pens in class and they argued that we should then not be allowed our Bionicles, this stupid fucking argument was accepted and Bionicles were banned in the classroom. No surprise, really, this is the school that banned Star Wars trading cards because some girl sold a few for money. Oh no, children learning the cruel reality of capitalism, damn. I would later find out they also banned Pokemon cards because they were ‘detracting from learning math’ because a game that requires basic arithmetic would undermine their ability to make basic things look harder than they are. I actually found this out in seventh grade from a kid who transferred out of that school to the public school I was then attending.

If there were any positives of that school it’d maybe be that there was the place of my first crush. I think her name was Taylor, it doesn’t fucking matter, this was like second grade or so. I do recall my parents, my mother, cracking jokes about me having a crush on a girl. They would make this a thing about basically any girl I mentioned in the future, so I would stop mentioning people by name, since like the majority of friends I would have were girls, at least through the end of high school.

That there public school had little of note. I got put in fun smart kid classes where I found out smart kids are actually dumb kids too, especially when you’re in the middle of nowhere. I would top every school standard test, except this one English one. I tested at a college level, but so did another kid. Cool, cool. We weren’t really friends. I didn’t have a red pen once because it was running low and I lent it to someone so when they didn’t return it I was all ‘whatever’ because it’d likely be out of ink anyway… I told that story to two different English teachers in seventh grade and one heard ‘friend stole it’ while the other ‘ran out of ink’ so I got a pink slip. In sixth grade I got 117% in English bc extra credit and I learned school was bullshit and reading books only mattered as much as telling people you read books. Valuable lessons.