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Into Your Fear by Rachel Spicer

artwork by AI


My footsteps echo down the empty hallway, sounding hollow and eerily quiet as I make my way to the school gym. My footsteps are accompanied by another set: my friend, who walks beside me, heading towards the same fate. Fear settles itself on my shoulders, forcing me to drag my feet, putting off the inevitable. Fear doesn’t hold a strong place in my life, and it doesn’t always hang around my consciousness, but since I was young, I’ve always had a strong anxiety about needles. As a child, it would take three nurses to pin me down as I received vaccines, screaming my heart out as if the needle was some scary monster I was trying to dissuade.

My fear is not without cause, originating from a traumatizing experience when I was younger. My brother had pushed me into a play set, cracking my front tooth in half, which then had to be removed by a dental surgeon who held little sympathy for my plight. I remember few things from that day, only visions of a new stuffed animal, a masked man getting close to my face with a needle, and walking out to the car with gauze in my mouth, unable to voice my complaints. I have hated needles ever since.

I am walking into a situation that is putting me right into the jaws of the monster. I am going to donate blood, something that has always seemed off the table for me. I’ve always wormed my way out of having bloodwork done. I have never gotten a flu shot. Yet here I am, trying to conquer my fear. I walk through the doorway, finalizing my decision.

I feel the blood pumping through my veins as I quietly give the woman at the desk my information. I clasp my sweaty hands in my lap as my knee bounces up and down. I glance over to my friend, who similarly holds a fear of needles, and I give her a weak smile as she shoots a thumbs up. Soon enough, we split ways, heading behind the cubicles to get our vitals tested.

I immediately begin a steady conversation with the nurse, disclosing my terror as she gives me a knowing smile. She takes my blood pressure, the cuff squeezing my arm almost as tightly as the fear that I feel is squeezing my lungs. She picks up a small device and holds it to my middle finger before pressing down a button. Without warning, a sharp pain slices through my finger and I move to yank my hand back from her betrayal, but her grip holds strong. I watch in fascination as my blood beads up before she fills a small piece of plastic with it and deposits it into a machine. I try to inhale, my lungs expanding as if more oxygen will somehow calm me down. I exchange a few more words with the nurse as she takes me to a chair and sits me down.

I spend a long time in that chair, waiting for a needle to come and harass my arm. My veins, as if feeling my anxiety and wanting to help, decide to bury themselves in my arm and away from the nurse in red scrubs with a dark beard trying his hardest to win this game of hide and seek. I sit, again chattering away to distract myself from the constant probing at my arm. The nurse was poking me in the soft part at the juncture of my elbow, where if you hit it wrong, pain slithers its way up your arm and into your shoulder, and pins and needles dance across your finger. After five minutes of the nurse distracting me, he finally finds a vein that hadn’t managed to scurry away and hide with the rest of its friends. I chew on the inside of my cheek to keep my fear from clawing its way out my throat and making itself known.

I turn my head the other way as he approaches my arm with the needle, giving me a soft-spoken warning. I pull away at the slight pinch in my arm, but the pain isn’t that horrible. I feel my shoulders relax before a blanket of heat drapes itself around my neck. Thoughts worm themselves into my head, ideas of my blood slowly draining out and my life leaving my body. I feel my breaths begin to shake and my words start to slur. The nurse looks over at me and sees my ashy color, rushing forward to lay me back and put an icepack on my chest. Everything sounds fuzzy, as though I’m listening through an old pair of headphones. I try to speak, but my tongue feels heavy and I can hear that my words don’t come out quite right. I look around, annoyed at what I’m sure is about to happen, half tempted to encourage the nurse to keep taking my blood if I pass out. Everything suddenly tints yellow and the world takes on a static look. I close my eyes and lean my head back to battle the oncoming wave of nausea.

I don’t remember having the needle pulled out of my arm. I just sit up and glance around, noticing the tight pressure of the bandage around my arm. I can’t help but feel defeated as I sip on my juice box, sweat running down my back. I still feel shaky, and I’m not sure what I missed, but I know there is a gap in my memory. I passed out, and I can’t help but feel defeated because of it.

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