Childhood fears (and grown-up ones)

My story “Aliens” is now free to read on the website of Mobius: The Journal Of Social Change.

Despite the title, this isn’t a story about visitors from outer space. Instead it’s about the things children (and their adults) hear and think they understand, and about the price we and our neighbors pay for our misunderstandings.

As a kid I listened eagerly for information from the mysterious world of adults and sometimes put it together quite wrongly. I was five when we went to an aquarium where I read a fact sheet about sharks which said, among other things, that you were more likely to be struck by lightning than bitten by a shark. I decided this meant that lightning strikes actually happened rather often, and I decided that parents usually didn’t tell kids this because there was absolutely nothing the adults could do to protect kids from lightning strikes so they just tried to keep us from thinking about the danger… I spent months screaming and hiding under my bed during thunderstorms (which I had previously enjoyed) before my mother finally got me to explain this and told me what the fact sheet had actually been getting at…. Very fortunately I never developed the particular fear which makes Bella C’s life so difficult in this story.

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