There are some things that most of us fear. It’s a fact of the human condition. We share a sort of odd, primal collective consciousness that makes us jump when something moves in the shadows. This law of humanity also dictates: the stronger the power of our imaginations, the more we have to fear. This means very different things for different people, and there is something of a gap between this law’s influence on children and its influence on adults. Often times, it seems the monsters of the adult mind spring from experience and the knowledge of small, probable realities like “if I do not go to work, I stand a fair chance of losing my job, and in this economy I might not be able to replace it, and I will not be able to pay my rent, bills, tuition, and health insurance, and if I am diagnosed with some sort of dangerous and terribly expensive disease three days after my payments lapse…” and so-forth. Adult imaginations turn people into worrywarts and lead to nervous disorders and ulcers. Adult imaginations also pick up on words like “disembowelment,” “genocide,” “miscarriage” or “epidemic” in novels and set adult guts clenching in horrified sympathy, whereas children generally read the words and absorb only a very general impression of “bad,” even if they know what the words mean by dictionary definition.

Children, in general, are more likely to fear things without understanding them than to fear things because they understand them. This doesn’t necessarily mean they have more to fear than adults, but it means that their fears are enormously (and rather metaphysically) difficult to allay. Without anything concrete to cling to, children must face their childhood monsters with pure, unadulterated bravery or not face them at all. What’s worse, when the monsters are real, children are smaller, weaker, and generally less equipped to cope.

I am pretty convinced that this is why children so often make the very best storybook and folktale heroes. When children are brave, they are brave against some overwhelming odds.

In Heather Ingemar’s short series of short stories, Collecting Dreams, the main character is one such child heroine. Isabelle, a 10 and then 12 year old orphanage ward, is courageous in the face of the unknown, and she is also courageous when facing the steep and awful price of her brave actions. Isabelle’s monsters are all too real, and what’s worse, one of the monsters Isabelle faces is the one she herself might become. Without giving any more away, let’s just say I absolutely loved this tiny little (less than 60 page!) book, and highly recommend that you all go storm the gates of the Drollerie Press bookstore to get yourselves a copy, especially if you like faerie-style children’s horror.

Anyhow, if you’re a grown-up, it’ll not only entertain you for a fast-paced half hour, it’ll frighten you with something far more interesting than income tax and the rising cost of healthcare, and perhaps it’ll make you remember why, at an earlier point in your life, those sorts of things weren’t scary at all.

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