Phobias come in all shapes and sizes. People can be afraid of clowns, string, cotton balls, and any other simple object or thing. For most, there isn't an explanation or an event to link to the fear… or at least none that they remember. As for myself, I can tell you exactly why I’m afraid of the number 48.
I was 16 when my parents moved from the city to a small town in upstate New York. Our house was nice enough. I had my own cozy little bedroom and didn't need to sleep in the living room like I had in my old apartment.
Living in a new house is always a little strange of an experience. For the first few days, you freak out at the littlest noises and when you wake up you don’t realize where you are for a few moments. I had always considered myself brave, and wasn't at all frightened of sleeping in my room. This all changed after about two months.
I don’t remember what happened in the dream before it first happened. All I remember is the very end. Nothing but darkness for a few moments before a barely audible voice mutters a number. 48. As soon as the number was said, I woke up. It wasn't a jolting violent way of waking up, but it was abrupt. I shook off the dream as nothing more than a dream and carried on my way.
A few weeks later, the same thing happened. Nothing but darkness before the slow muttering of 48. Since it was the second time I had heard it, I was able to pay more attention to it. The voice was weak, but delicate and had a certain air prior sweetness. However, there was something very off and very chilling about the voice. Once again, I woke up abruptly after the number was spoken.
After just a few days, it happened again. I was started to feel paranoid, as I had never had any form of a recurring dream before. I couldn't stop thinking about that number. The more I thought about it, the more I would hear that soft little breath of “48” in the back of my head. As the weeks went on, the dream began to occur more and more often until it happened every night. Right before I would wake up, 48.
It never changed, and yet it disturbed me a little more every time it happened. I could be having the happiest dream in the world, but eventually, darkness dropped and that voice spoke. One night, my dream contained nothing more than an image of the closet across my room. The image stayed for what seemed like hours, UN-moving. There were no other events in that dream other than that closet. Until after what seemed like an eternity… darkness... 48.
My closet was pretty large in comparison to my room. It had always seemed like a nice dark and quiet place to sit and think, but after the dream, I couldn't help but think of that number whenever I’d reach for clothes. I was beginning to become tortured of not only the number, but now the closet in my dream. Sooner or later, every night was the same. An eternity of the closet, darkness, 48.
I desperately wanted to conquer my irrational fear since I could barely sleep. So one day, when there was plenty of sunshine bathing my room, I decided to face my fears… or at least the closet. I opened the door wide and found a nice spot in the middle of floor underneath my hanging shirts. I breathed in and out and sat back. There was nothing to be afraid of. I had never seen my closet from this angle, and I noticed something out of the corner of my eyes.
A little compartment was tucked near the closet door entrance on the inside. Since light didn’t shine on this area and one could only see it from an inside angle, it was a great way to tuck away money or valuables or anything secret. It wasn’t the best hiding place, but it was hidden enough for people to miss it. I reached inside and found a journal, and an old-school VHS camcorder.
I started with the journal. It was written by a high-school aged girl who lived in my room just a few years before my family moved. The journal was extremely paranoid. The first entry stated that she wanted to keep this journal in case anything happened to her.
She kept talking about a man who would stare at her every day when she would leave or enter the apartment complex. He would stand across the road in his dark coat. The man wouldn’t follow her, he would just stare. As the journal went on, she became seemingly more and more psychologically disturbed. The way she described his stare was so increasingly detailed and disturbing that it would make my skin crawl. The girl would hide from his gaze by sitting in her closet, either writing in this journal or counting in her head. Counting was the only thing that she said would calm her down. The journal didn’t have an ending. Just a final entry detailing the man’s stare.
I opened up the camcorder and placed the tape in my old VHS player. I recognized the inside of my closet, though it was mostly dark. The light from my room peeked through, barely illuminating the girl placing the camera in the space where I found it. Her eyes were wide and she moved in silence. She stared at the door for a few minutes without making a sound.
Finally, the door burst open and a man in a dark coat leapt on top of her. He grabbed her throat and began to stab her violently, again and again. I could see her mouth move every time the knife went into her. I hid my eyes and listened closely. The man in the coat was completely silent. All that was audible was a slow strangled voice counting.