The way I always saw it, there are two kinds of fear that every person has. Fears that are spur of the moment and fears that truly leave impacts. There are those of us who embrace the split-second fears and appreciate the shots of adrenaline to the head and chest- you see them lining the streets of theme parks during the Halloween season, or watching horror films in the dark late at night. Jump-scares and tight spaces create a sense of fear, certainly, but this sense disappears once the park is left and you remember that it's only a film. We typically associate this kind of fear with vengeful ghosts, sadistic demons, psychotic killers wearing hockey masks, and occasionally a turtlenecked dream stalker.
True fear is more difficult to come by. It’s not something that’s appearance alone repulses you. It’s something that the ideas and motive behind chill you to the bone more than the simple vision of it. Many times, these fears are not even physical things, but ideas in themselves. The loss of a loved one, for example, or a feeling of loneliness, can be more terrifying than any homicidal monster. I was never one for jump scares, and tended to compliment the costume rather than be afraid (which led to some awkward Halloween Horror Nights). But true fear can strike even the hardest mind. When people ask me what I am afraid of, I always answer “nothing”.
It’s not that nothing in the world scares me. It’s that I find nothingness frightening. As a person who appreciates background noise and is used to sounds and sights, floating forever in a white void with nothing to see or do, stripped of everything that made you who you were, is utterly terrifying. And no better place exemplified that then my 24-hour stay in that room.
The first thing they did when I arrived at the hospital was strip me of all my possessions “so nobody could steal them”. I lost my phone, my clothes, and even my lucky necklace. I replaced it all with a numbered bracelet and a green hospital gown, like everybody else. Then I was escorted to my room.
You know how most hospitals have a bunch of stuff to keep their patients occupied while they stay? TVs, books, etc.? Well, it turns out that my room did not have such luxuries. My room consisted of a bed, a sink, and medical equipment. Not many nurses came in to talk with, either-and so I was left with nothing but my own thoughts. And what I discovered frightened me. This hospital room, in its own way, was everything I hated and feared in the world. The loss of everything that made me, well, me.
I had lost my individuality to the doctors who made me remove all my possessions that defined who I was. I lost my sense of self-reliance to being forced to have nurses do everything for me (including walk me to the toilet). I lost the respect I had worked so hard to gain when my parents were called. And I lost everything that kept me from thinking about things that frightened me. In a way, I had walked into my own personal hell-and did it willingly.
It was in all this loss that I discovered my worst nightmare. It wasn't death or the afterlife that I feared anymore, that kept me up at night- it was the thought of there being nothing after death. I'd take an eternity of torture over an eternity of nothingness any day.
Most people picture Hell as the fire and brimstone image that the religious stories have burned (no pun intended) into our minds. A place of screaming, hellfire, and never-ending suffering, all courtesy of Lucifer himself. We imagine it as a place crawling with demons, worms, and beings that can only be described as nightmarish. But is that suffering really all that awaits?
What about the masochists who enjoy suffering? The sadists who take pleasure in others suffering? Surely there's some other way to punish the sinners who wouldn't mind being cast into the fiery torture chamber. But as it turns out, there are different perceptions of Hell. One of which, I know all too well. And I discovered it during my stay in the Flagler Hospital.
It's not the noise that I'm scared of anymore. It's the silence.