Fear is very interesting to me. One of our earliest and most basic emotions, fear evolved to protect animals against rational fears. Fears such as predation, starvation, dehydration, humiliation, over-taxation, and The Situation. For some reason, however, the part of our brain that controls fear can go haywire and develop all kinds of irrational fears that we call phobias. There are phobias for just about everything, and very few of them make sense. There is arachnophobia, which, of course, is the fear of going to Iraq. I guess this one makes some sense. There is claustrophobia, which is the fear of Cuban dictators dressing up as Santa. There is agoraphobia, which is a fear of inconvenient truths. Inconveniences are inconvenient, but they shouldn’t be scary. And, very strangely, there is xenophobia,
which, obviously, is the fear of X’s that sound like Z’s. Even the word frightens those poor folks…
Seriously.. why do we have X’s that sound like Z’s? I remember being a little kid and, you know how they have the pictures to associate sounds with letters to help you better understand that certain letters make certain sounds?… well when I was a kid, “X is for Xylophone”…. What?! But Z is for Zebra! What are you trying to pull, English alphabet?! Now, they’re still confusing children with X. The stupid cards we used to teach our kids said, “X is for X-ray”…. How idiotic is that?! That’s like saying “T is for T-rex” or “A is for A-Team”..?! X’s only sensible utility is in the middle of or at the end of words, such as fox, box, toxic, fax…. Why can’t we just teach it this way?!…….. I digress.
Back to fear. As a young boy, I had mostly normal fears. I remember being afraid of the dark for a period. I remember a time on Halloween when my mom took me to a haunted house and I was screaming, terrified the whole time because the monsters looked so real. I remember getting up out of bed one night and coming out to the living room to ask for a drink of water, or something, and my folks were watching the movie Salem’s Lot. I caught
a glimpse of the blue vampire monster one of the times I got up, and during another time, I saw the part where the vampire kid was tapping at the other kid’s window asking to let him in. I got up several times that night, screaming about how something was tapping at my window. I think a tree must have been hitting the window, because I know I heard tapping! My poor mother.
As I got older, these silly fears dissipated, and I began to enjoy watching scary movies and going to haunted houses. My mom managed a video store for a while when I was in early highschool, and my buddy and I would go over there many weekends to pick out a couple of cheesy horror flicks. She was very cool about it. I think she even suspected that half of the reason we watched them was for the obligatory and gratuitous topless female scene. My teen years were sad. But recently, I saw something that brought back that old familiar, yet completely irrational sinking feeling in my stomach. A demon from my childhood. I was going to one of my brother’s favorite hangouts this summer to have some beers and shoot some pool. It’s one of those places where every square inch is filled with some type of random picture, trinket, or etched message. It sort of tries to have a generalized Revolution-era retro theme. Well, when we got upstairs to where the pool tables were… I felt some retro fear. Cue a picture of my face fearfully looking at something while the background drops back and some frightful sound fills the air. There, lying against the wall was a….. radiator.
Vertical, corroded bars of white hot malevolence. It eyed me as I dared to step nearer, filling my mind with memories from my youth. I remembered what it used to say to me. The Radiator gave me a knowing wink and an evil smile. I ran to a phone. I called my old childhood friends and implored them to honor our vow to destroy it if it ever returned. Mostly what I got was, “Who am I talking to?!.. Destroy a radiator?!.. Are you stupid?!” They apparently did not share my fear….
… I bet at this point some of you are wondering why in the world I am afraid of a radiator. Some of you younger folks are probably wondering what a radiator even is. And I’m pretty sure all of you are wondering why you bother reading this stupid blog… It’s not easy to explain my fear. I recognize that it is irrational and I have briefly “researched” to see if
there are others with this affliction. It just so turns out… that there are not. But there are a couple that are close.
I discovered a Yahoo Answers chat in which a person named Annoyanc… wondered, “I have the bizarre fear of space heaters setting my house of clothes or something on fire or getting burnt by one. I am prett sure this is unusual, so there probably isn’t a word for my fear, but from using root words, what could be a word for “fear of space heaters”? To this query, mrsbratt kindly replied, “You’re right, there is not a specific “phobia” name for this. The closest thing would be a fear of fire which is Arsonphobia or Pyrophobia. If you wanted to creat your own name for this, it would be something like Spaceheaterphobia. LOL”…. LOL, indeed mrsbratt. After reading this, I now have a fear of terrible grammar and spelling. mrsbratt would probably call that Terriblegrammarandspellingaphobia. LOL.
I was also initially intrigued when I found something called radiophobia, thinking it might be close to what I have, or, even better, a fear of radios. Because that puts a funny image in my head of someone cowering in a corner from a radio screaming, “WHERE ARE THE VOICES COMING FROM?!?! WHY IS IT TALKING TO ME?!?” And then I imagine the person running over, picking up the radio, and repeatedly smashing it into a wall… As it turns out, that is not what radiophobia is. Radiophobia is the fear of ionizing radiation. Like x-rays.. and now we’ve accidentally come back half circle, isn’t that cute?!… I do not have radiophobia. I, perhaps, had it for a brief period of time when I was trying to understand it in chemistry class, but not anymore.
No, my old fear of radiators appears to be unique. Allow me to explain it. Finally.
The old school radiators that I’m referring to were often in schools or housing apartments that my family would live in. We moved around a lot, so some places had them, and some did not. Each one was the same, though. White.. Metallic.. Deadly. At first glance, it looked innocent enough. And it played the part- “Hello, friend. I am the provider of warmth. I am bright and inviting. Allow me to ease your chills.” But eventually, “chills” is exactly what it provided. I discovered the truth. Its bright white color was not inviting. It was only that color in order to make the corrosive brown spots more noticeable. And the dried, cooked blood of former victims. And at night…. when the moon shone upon it through the window, illuminating it in an eerie white-blue glow, I could almost hear its laughter as the demon within grew stronger. Oh, there was a demon. A demon of fire and of malice. It took every opportunity it could to injure small children.
It had a hard metal frame with jagged edges. I think it was made of the hardest material known to man. And it was often super hot… A death machine. You could hear its giddy anticipation as kids ran by it, hoping for someone to trip and leave flesh upon its hungry grates, “Come on, kiddy. Cooome oon.” And when a child fell and landed just shy of The Radiator, peering at his near-death, “Aaaaawww!! Just a little closer. I almost had you!” Sometimes a child would be backing up, distracted at play and find the cruel touch of the demon heater. With a “SSSSS!” it seared its unsuspecting prey, leaving a painful red mark and tears in the eyes of the burned. “HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!! I got you, you little bastard!!!”
The monster loved to see pain. And not just physical pain. It wreaked psychological pain, as well. One might think that the danger was limited to the immediate proximity of the beast. But it knew how to play with your mind. From its space along the wall, it would taunt me. Even when it wasn’t talking, its natural sounds served only as a threat. Some would produce a “ting”, others a “tick”. When the gas shut off, the sound would come rapidly at first, “ticktickticktickticktick”, and then begin to slow down in a creepily non-rhythmic manner, “tickticktick..tick..tick….tick..tick…..ticktick…tick..tick…..tick…….ticktick…tick…..tick”; eventually slowing… grating to a very gradual halt, “tick……tick…………..tick………………..tick .…………………………..tick”.. Most people probably heard just ticking. While I lay in my bed, frightened under the covers, I heard mockery. Perhaps it was supposed to be my heart, slowly coming to a stop. Or maybe a cruel metaphor for my life, with a clock winding down. Either way, the Radiator knew it was torturing my mind. It grew off of my fear.
Perhaps you could understand my fear. I mean, Stephen King wrote a horror novel about a 1958 red Plymouth that killed people. Certainly a radiator is more terrifying than that.
Our family was lucky. We all escaped before the evil imploded our home. When we moved to a hotel, my dad took the radiator and pushed it outside of the door… If you didn’t get that reference, then here is the shortest clip I could find of the ending of Poltergeist. Poltergeist Ending (damn, it cuts before the hotel scene.. oh well)
As an adult, I have attained a different perspective of my fear of radiators. The Radiator made me stronger. I am a parent now, and see a new generation of fearless children with little respect for anything, running around ruling our country. We need to bring back The Radiator. Children today are spoiled. They need some element of danger.. of authority in the house. Too many parents refuse to implement discipline in their homes. The Radiator will not shy away. What I once saw as a demon, I now see as Apollo. The sun god was respected and revered for his power in providing light and warmth. And feared. Bring back The Radiator. Bring it back….. Oh my god.. did that Radiator in the retro bar brain wash me?!?! It did!!! IT’S STILL IN MY HEAD!! IT’S………
heh heh heh heh…. You’re mine now, Golden Boy. Sleep tight.
Bring me back, bitches!!!
Come on baby…don’t fear the heater
Baby burn my hand…don’t fear the heater
We’ll be able to fly…don’t fear the heater
They all float down here, child.. they aaalll floooaaattt!!!