I scared myself on purpose for your reading pleasure
While driving down the highway heading east towards the country, I should have remembered the old adage: Those who go looking for trouble, find it.
At the time, I couldn’t remember if that line came from Proverbs or Patrick Swayze in Roadhouse. Either way, I was heading out to a corn maze with the full intention of getting lost. The initial goal was to go out there and create some content for the magazine. Something spooky, Octoberish, and smelling of cheap plastic and fog machines.
My plan was something different. More personal, and stupid. The hope was that by the time it got dark, and whatever chemicals were in my brain started to fire off, I would be able to scare the shit out of myself.
Alone, in a corn maze, in the dark, with some psychedelic cherry-flavored gummies. I knew it terrified me.
Afterall, when was the last time I tried to scare myself? Pushed myself out of the comfort zone? It was hard to remember while the setting sun began to bleed red against the smoky horizon. I have always been afraid of the dark. Nyctophobia, it’s called. That was important to this whole ordeal.
We got there somewhere between too late and too early. Too late, as in, we would only have 40 or so minutes to investigate the maze and see what it had to offer us. Too early, as in, it wasn’t nearly as dark as I had hoped. Neither would matter.
In the maze, I began to stumble over my steps and sweat in the bizarre autumn heat. I began to hear muffled manic laughter through the cornstalks. My two compatriots who brought me here lagged behind, watching me. And then, I got lost.
It’s a terrifying feeling when you can’t tell if you’ve been in the same place. The corn maze is déjà vu shuffled and put on repeat. It becomes even more terrifying when you’re unsure of how much time has passed.
“Well, I suppose we’d have to run off into the fields and make a break for it. Lest be chased down by a murderous flock of corn tenders.”
What if we stayed too long? Dear god, what if we were stuck for too long and someone came out here screaming something like:
“Hey! You’re not supposed to be here!”
What would we do then? Well, I suppose we would have to run off into the fields and make a break for it. Lest be chased down by a murderous flock of corn tenders. One of my compatriots had begun eating the corn. For some reason, out here in the maze, that disturbed me.
Eventually after slogging step-over-step for what felt like an hour, we reached a bridge that extended up over the corn stalks. It was a chance to parse a way out from a vantage point. The sun continued to set on us. It dipped its toes further into the bloody horizon. Soon, it would be dark.
I was getting what is referred to by frequent flyers of these sorts of journeys as “the fear”. First, you feel it as a sort of burning sensation in your stomach, and then it produces cold sweat all along your curdling gooseflesh. Your eyes begin to feel as wide as moons as you begin to understand you’ve made horrible, horrible decisions.
Coming here was a mistake.
But, we had to keep going. With each step, a passing sweeping feeling of utter panic would come over me. Eventually it would pass, and I would relax, but the next wave was always worse. As it grew darker, I grew more afraid.
“I was getting what is referred to by frequent flyers of these sorts of journeys as the fear. First you feel it as a sort of burning sensation in your stomach, and then it produces cold sweat all along your curdling gooseflesh.”
In a way, the fear of the dark is just the fear of the unknown. And, in that corn maze, I truly had no idea what waited behind each corner. I had no idea what was waiting for me after this four-year degree. I had no idea if I would ever accomplish any of the things I had set out to do. I had no idea if it would all be over in an instant.
What were the consequences of it all?
When we finally made it out of the maze, I was still terrified. I didn’t feel better until I was home, surrounded by comforts.
I had found what I had been looking for. The fear I had wanted, but all it reminded me was how uncertain everything in front of me truly was.