“Be afraid. Be very afraid.”
I woke to the sound. It took several seconds to focus. I had been sitting in an easy chair reading a book on the Battle of Little Big Horn and had fallen asleep. I thought I was alone, since the rest of the family had gone grocery shopping. The voice had come from nowhere. “Be afraid,” it said again.
When I could focus, I saw what seemed to be a replica of Gandalf from the movies made of the Tolkien books—a wizard. “Close your eyes,” it said, “and be very afraid.”
“C.W.” I said, “what the hell are you doing?”
“Sush,” the voice said. “You are asleep, and you are very afraid. Go ahead. Give in. You are very afraid.”
Crap. There go a peaceful few moments. I straightened in the chair, closed the book, and stared at this apparition. “What the hell are you doing?” I said again.
“Now you’ve gone and ruined everything,” it said.
“And just what are you practicing?”
“Mind control. I have this new job.”
“Jumping Jehoshaphat.” I said. “What kind of job do you have now?”
“A political one.”
“A political one doing what?”
“Scaring people,” he said. He raised a hand in front of my face and rotated it. “Now close your eyes and be very afraid.”
“But I’m not afraid,” I said.
“You have to be,” he said. “My job depends on it. Do you want me to hear those dreaded words?”
“What dreaded words?”
“You’re fired! Now close your eyes and be very afraid. The French are coming to take your daughters.”
“I don’t have any daughters.”
“Oh?” he said. “Have they already been here, those fearsome French?”
“The French don’t come for peoples’ daughters in this country.”
“Oh yes,” he said, “they will. So be very afraid. And I must take your guns.”
“I don’t have any guns,” I said.
“So be very afraid when they come for your job.”
“I don’t have a job. I’m retired … comfortably retired.
“They will come and make you go back to work,” he said. “So be very afraid.”
“Afraid of what, exactly?” This seemed to catch him off-guard and stopped him for a moment.
“Just afraid,” he said. “You accept the emotion and we’ll fill in the blanks. Be afraid. Be very afraid.”
“You might be the one who should be afraid, if my wife comes back and catches you like this.”
“Be very afraid of her,” he said. This seemed to inspire him. “Women are our biggest fear. A strong woman is the work of the Dark One and she will lead him to you. Be very afraid.”
“A strong woman is more fearsome that demons,” he said. “But we will save you from her.”
“We will. So be very afraid, but know that we can save you and make your home happy again.”
“My home is already very happy.”
“Be afraid,” he said. “Be very afraid. We are the strong ones. Be very afraid and trust us. Be afraid of the strong woman, but trust in us to save you from her.”
Just then, I heard a car returning. It stopped in front and I heard the sound of a car door opening.