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Fear Factors

During an October 14 “StorySlam” (, people will be invited to talk about their fears. Here are some of ours.


A Tickle on the Leg

A bedbug showed up on a couch, which panicked me. Then I looked under my mattress and found more than a hundred blood-red adults and translucent nymphs on the bed frame, a nasty, horrific sight. I realized, suddenly, why my legs always itched. My skin might literally have crawled, too; I felt tingly in the worst possible way.

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The internet said to keep sleeping in my bed or they’d infest adjoining rooms in search of blood. It took months to get rid of them, during which every frayed sheet thread, every tickle of air, and even dreams would toss me into a slapping frenzy. 

Lying in fear, I worried also that my girlfriend or roommates (both new) would kick me to the curb. 

Thankfully they didn’t. Dan Hernandez


Walk of Fear

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On a recent visit to San Francisco, I walked from my hotel to a bar — through the Tenderloin. Some parts were a bit sketchy, but no bigs to a girl who grew up in New York City before it was a strip mall. Then I turned a corner, walked about 20 feet and found myself on a block with the streetlights knocked out, storefronts abandoned, and a powerful smell of feces and rot. Ragged, stooped figures in the shadows muttered and grunted. If I slowed my step or averted my gaze, if anyone got a hand on me — it’d be like a zombie movie and I’d just ... disappear. The hundred yards or so stretched on. Finally, I got to the next block, which not only had lights, but a damn Chipotle. I drew a breath for what seemed like the first time in five minutes, and it occurred to me that I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been afraid just walking down the street. Lissa Townsend Rodgers


Mushroom Brain Slip

One October night in 1992, I was tripping on psychedelic mushrooms with a friend. The UNLV campus was affably breathing and sloshing all around us. My friend dashed off for a moment behind a building, laughing impishly — but then a second version of her appeared right in front of me! It was a glitch in reality’s program. My world shattered as I realized that concepts like space, time, cause, and effect were mere veils concealing a horrifying maelstrom of chaos and senselessness! Dumbstruck with terror, I walked the city alone until dawn, convinced that this glimpse behind the cosmic curtain had driven me insane. Andrew Kiraly


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Almost Died Naked in Oregon

Veronica and I got to Cougar hot springs in Oregon, and took off our clothes; nudity was allowed. For two Ohio people, nudity was super exciting. For an hour we sat in the hot springs, feeling really good. As we walked to the car, we saw two people sitting naked on the edge of a lake. I told Veronica, I bet I could swim across the lake. I jumped in, naked and full of youthful energy. But then my body cramped up, went into total shock. The lake was deeper than I expected, my feet touching nothing. It hit me: Something bad is happening. My organism is in trouble. I somehow knew I should flip on my back and keep my mouth above water. I floated and paddled my hands for what seemed forever. Weird thing is, I couldn’t make noises with my mouth, like my mind was too busy. System overload. When I got to land, I started vomiting. A person working at the park told me that being in the super hot water, then going into cold water threw my body into shock. Noah Cicero


One Wrong Step

Apprehension begins on the fourth rung. Clammy hands fumble with looped wires of red and green lights. Seventh rung: Twelve-thousand beads of sweat cover my hairless head. Tenth rung: Arms tremble, legs quake, and a violent pulse pounds in my throat. Top rung: Cling to stucco as a quivering foot makes uneasy contact with the ladder. The little wire hook just six inches away recedes as I thrust a gelatinous arm toward the gable. Shirt shudders over my increasingly palpitating heartbeat, and the once-incipient panic is now in full crisis mode. I retreat down the ladder and wait out the surging storm of my vital signs. The process repeats until four hours into a 30-minute job, I hang the last light, and I’m never doing this again. Scott Lien

As a longtime journalist in Southern Nevada, native Las Vegan Andrew Kiraly has served as a reporter covering topics as diverse as health, sports, politics, the gaming industry and conservation. He joined Desert Companion in 2010, where he has helped steward the magazine to become a vibrant monthly publication that has won numerous honors for its journalism, photography and design, including several Maggie Awards.