Deathwish 055: Laura

Editor Matty Byloos, Editor's Choice, July 17th, 2017

"My grandma had it too; snake-fear."

Laura Deathwish Nailed Magazine


Snakes. The worst and I’m sure of it, slithering toward me. I’m sure because why else would I be scared of snakes, scared beyond any other fear?

Fear is often explained through cavemen: some deep, faraway, mostly fictional ancestor needing this fear. It used to be useful so we have these useless remnants rattling around in each of us now, sending a jolt through us every time a spider reaches its spindly legs up between the mattress and the wall. But I want it to still be useful, for it to have been useful all along, my jump at anything slithering, even hair down the drain. I want the roundness of the story, the phobia , to have good reason, an omen. I want my fear to be wisdom or a magic bigger than me.

My grandma had it too; snake-fear. So does my mom. Maternal line, something dumb about Eve, something about women, something about family.

In the hospital, my grandma, on painkillers, got wide-eyed, got so scared, saw little men, little people, saw creatures moving around the room. She looked at me and said, “Don’t move, he’s right next to you.” My mom there, looking between us, her daughter, her mother, all of us scared together, in different directions.

When I imagine it, it’s a pit of them like in Indiana Jones, and I’m falling in. I’m at the zoo’s reptile house and there’s an incident, a cage left unlocked. It’s a pet on the loose and I’ve gone down to the basement, am leaning to lift laundry out of the dryer, a fatal uncoiling from the beams or pipes above me. It’s the worst and I want it. Partly because it would make my lifelong fear make sense. Also, I’m afraid to slip unremarkably into it. Just gone, against a backdrop of white, sheets smoothed out, no horror to imagine besides the regular one that hits all of us.

My grandma died after a lot of hospital stays. No snakes. Just the white, clean room. Machines beeping, nurses’ soft-sneakered treads.

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To read the previous installment, “Deathwish 054: Katie”, go here. To participate in Deathwish, find details here.

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Laura was born in Bellevue, Kentucky and currently lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


Matty Byloos

Matty Byloos is Co-Publisher and a Contributing Editor for NAILED. He was born 7 days after his older twin brother, Kevin Byloos. He is the author of 2 books, including the novel in stories, ROPE ('14 SDP), and the collection of short stories, Don't Smell the Floss ('09 Write Bloody Books).