Estimated reading time — 13 minutes
Hyelophobia, also known as the fear of glass.
This complicated word is the name of one of the demons that torments me, makes my fingers tremble and makes me want to sink far into the earth. Living in a culture where glass is so common-place is borderline torture, simply looking at it fills my mind with images of shards cutting into my flesh.
And to think that only a few years ago, I was working with glass as a hobby.
To begin to understand my crippling fear and the day where my life went (pardon my language) straight to hell, you must first understand my relationship with my grandfather.
My grandfather was an old glass-worker who was kind of notorious in the local neighborhood for his misogyny; it is unknown when he first developed this condition as he obviously must have gotten it after he had sired my father. The fact that he hated and distrusted women wasn’t something new or even hidden necessarily; my parents had been very forthcoming in my early teens when they had explained why we never visited my grandparents.
It wasn’t really a big deal since they lived on the other side of the country and we barely saw each other.
I still have vivid memories of hiding somewhere when he entered the room that I was occupying. The times I was in his presence I always felt like spiders were crawling on my body and the few times our eyes met I saw something disgusting in his eyes. It was like I was filth, something that he scraped from the bottom of his shoes. He never touched me in any way, something that I in hindsight am very grateful for, but at the same time I still hated the way he looked at me and the other female members of my family.
The one thing that we did agree on was art and the beauty of the varying pieces of artistic glass that he had both made himself and bought from other artists in many varying countries. I have always admired those sculptures and I swear that these small moments in his gallery, or the Glass Cabinet as we always called it, must have been the only times that his eyes were not filled with hatred and disgust. We had very similar tastes in design and ironically he was the one who inspired me to begin to take up glass-working myself, I was nowhere near as skilled as he was and he more than often had only criticism to give when he saw my work. But I am not ashamed to admit that one of the happiest moments of my life was when I found out that grandfather had bought one of my pieces and added it to his collection. It was like he acknowledged me as an artist.
Sadly these moments were rare and far between, not to mention that it always made me sick to hear him talk about other females around me. I won’t deny that a good chunk of my vocabulary of words that are not meant for polite company had their origins in his ramblings about the female population in general. He seemed to especially have a hatred for tomboys, stating that they were, quote unquote, “trying to be something they were not”. I constantly felt like I was near a bomb that was seconds from exploding when I was near him, I was always afraid that I was going to be the one who took the blow once the fuse ran out.
Anyway, my grandfather passed away peacefully in his sleep after a time of illness a few years ago and there was a large debate over what they were going to do with his collection since there was nothing truly specified in his will about it as a whole. Some of the more valuable pieces already had a set destination, whether it would be a family-member, an artist, a museum or an art-gallery. However, beyond that there were at least 50 individual glass-pieces that nobody knew what to do with. Ideas were sent back and forth between the family-members until they finally agreed to hold a large auction to hopefully get at least something out of it. Some of the pieces had already been given out amongst the family as per my grandfather’s wishes, I wish that I could say that I was surprised when I never got one. Even though I might have been one of the few females that he tolerated to some extent, an extremely short list that I only shared with my grandmother as far as I knew, I was still female and he would never trust a female with a piece of his treasured collection. I was a bit sad though, there was this one piece in his collection that I had always liked that was going to be auctioned off. I was a bit reluctant to let it go, but I knew that I had to get over it. It was just a piece of glass after all.
The auction was held in my grandfather’s house a little bit out on the countryside somewhere in October, in the Glass Cabinet because where else would it be?
Many people came, my grandfather was sort of a local celebrity despite of his less than desirable habits and there were even two guys from the local newspaper there. A lot of people from the art-world showed up of course and some other important-looking people who I couldn’t quite place a name on. My grandfather’s pieces of art were sought after and I had a feeling that the value of his sculptures would rise now that he was dead, kind of morbid but that was the way that the art-world worked. I was talked into wearing a dress since my mother was the host and the caller, I was supposed to be presentable. Not anything fancy necessarily, just something a little extra.
It was an open auction so anyone was technically welcomed but there was one person that I mentally wished should have stayed at home.
Namely one of my aunts who seemed to have left her mind behind in a time that is very different from our own. She was one of those ‘proper’ ladies who always knew best no matter the subject in question and her word was basically law for anyone in the family. Luckily I only saw her during family-reunions but I still wanted to stay as far away from her as possible. She always looked down at me for no clear reason, at least not amongst all the other various things that she considered to be wrong with me. She looked down at me for being an artist, for being a teenager, for my way of speaking, for my figure and for all sorts of stupid things.
During the auction she did nothing but complain and act unpleasantly in many ways. Several people had already lodged complaints against her and I was one hair-length away from throwing her out by force. My mother tried to talk me out of it, having grown up with that horrid woman as a regular visitor had led her to her constantly making excuses for my aunt out of fear, but I had enough. One more complaint and she was going to be removed from the property. Somehow I had the feeling that grandfather would have approved.
Things went pretty well for a while and many of the items found new owners, I was almost enjoying myself and so far there hasn’t been any horrible incidents.
Yet despite the nice company if you casually discounted the aunt that I mentioned earlier, I felt this horrible tension in the air. Some kind of unknown force was spread out throughout the entire room. I found it harder and harder to breath, like a great pressure was making it harder for my lungs to take in air. I felt the hair at the back of my neck standing up and a massive headache was forming the longer I stayed in the room.
I looked up at the podium and saw that the piece that I had made was about to be sold, I heard my mother call my name as the creator of the piece and the air suddenly trembled.
I was shaking with fear, something was terribly wrong. I barely registered the woman who won the bidding as the aunt that mentioned earlier who had a smug expression on her face. She was probably going to sell it on eBay for a paltry sum just to spite me later, obviously not aware of how little I cared. I managed to find an empty chair and was barely able to make my way over to it before my knees gave out. I felt a great heat spreading throughout the room and I began to feel ill. My father saw my almost fever-like state and quickly brought me a glass of water. I let the cooling liquid soothe my throat as I rapidly look around for this unseen threat. I could barely hear my father asking if I was okay but my mouth was suddenly unable to form words and his words were hard to hear, as if he was trying to talk to me while I was underwater.
The silence was suddenly shattered and I turned my head so quickly that it probably was some kind of miracle that I didn’t get whiplash. My eyes traced all over the room in frantic movements and my ears were trying to locate the origin of the sound. I finally spotted my aunt who was lying on the floor with a large bruise on her cheek, a young man that I didn’t know standing over her and the glass-piece in shards on the floor.
I wasn’t that upset if I may be frank, it was one of my early pieces. But there was something about the shards of glass on the floor that said something horrible to my subconscious. I suddenly felt this overwhelming feeling to get out of the room, to run away.
I started to try and edge towards the exit, never taking my eyes off of the man who was now walking slowly towards my aunt who was spluttering all sorts of nasty curses as she tried to rise. He slapped her hard across the face and sent her to the floor once again. I would have cheered him on for finally telling my aunt where to shove it if it hadn’t been for the disturbing look he had in his eyes, a look that was scaring me. Then, to my absolute horror, he began to strangle my aunt. His hands were clasped around her throat in a cast-iron grip and despite my aunt doing everything in her power to make him let her go, including kicking him in the “private” region, he didn’t let up. I was frozen in fear and couldn’t move a muscle despite every single thought in my head telling me otherwise. After a while the woman stopped struggling and her hands fell limply to the floor. Her eyes were like glass and her face had a eerie blue tint. There was no mistake, she was dead. To my shock, nobody moved a muscle.
I looked around the room and saw something in the eyes of all the males in the room, including my own father, that sent shivers down my spine.
It was a look of disgust, hatred and loath. The same look that once inhabited the eyes of my grandfather. But now there was something else there as well. A spark, no, a fire. A fire of rage.
Chaos broke out as the men suddenly charged at the closest person of the opposite gender and began attacking in a brutal fashion. Violence was all around me and I was clumsily dodging attacks from all directions. My dress had been torn to shreds but I didn’t care, I was busy trying to avoid becoming the murder-victim of my own father.
I saw that a path through the crowd had opened and I booked for the door, I punched and kicked like I never had before to get through. I even knocked out a teeth or two from one of the old guys who had been trying to stab me in the back with a large shard of glass from behind on the way out. As I ran past the glass-pieces that never had the opportunity to get sold, they exploded without warning and I cried out as shards of glass penetrated my skin.
I ran down the stairs in a desperate attempt to reach the front door. I suddenly heard a loud scream and I was barely able to get out of the way in time before the body of my mother smashed into the marble-staircase, her head cracked open from the fall. I quickly picked up her handbag in some possibly naive train of thought that it might contain something useful and continued to run. I could hear loud incomprehensible words of anger from a voice that vaguely sounded like my father behind me but I sadly didn’t have the capacity to care, not now at least.
I took one last look at the carnage behind me and it was a sight was never going to leave my head.
It was a complete bloodbath, bodies were strewn all over the room and the men that weren’t busy hunting down the surviving women were howling and screaming profanities into the air like they were possessed by demons. The crimson light of the setting sun that flowed through the windows made it almost look like the room was on fire and it only served to highlight the blood that was spread out all over the floor.
I managed to get the front door open and I ran into the yard as I frantically looked around in my mother’s bag for the car-keys. I thankfully found them stashed away in a side-pocket and I just about managed to get into the car when I head shouts that confirmed that the savages had realized that I was trying to escape. I got into the car and locked the doors while I was trying desperately to start the vehicle. I heard them banging against the glass on the windows and I prayed to God that there was enough gas in the tank to get me far away from all of this madness.
The car suddenly sprang to life and the men turned animals jumped back at the noise, I put the pedals to the floor as I sped away as fast as the car allowed me to. I didn’t have a driver’s license yet but I wasn’t that far away from taking it so I knew how to drive well enough and besides, this was an emergency. I could hear them screaming as I went down the road and I didn’t dare to look into the back-mirror, all I knew was that I needed to survive and that meant to get out of this place as quickly as possible.
I don’t know how long I spent on the road before I finally felt safe enough to pull over and look over my injuries. The cuts thankfully weren’t deep and I was honestly amazed that my wounds weren’t more serious in nature. I had never been a fighter, I was too gentle. I picked up my mother’s bag that I had haphazardly thrown on the seat next to me and began to rummage through it to see if I could find something to cover up my wounds with. I did thankfully found some plasters and a pair of tweezers so that I could get the shards out; my mother had always followed the old motto of “always prepared”.
As I was looking through the bag for more useful things I accidentally pulled up a photograph that brought tears to my eyes. It had been taken on the last family-vacation and seeing it now, after having lost everything, I put my head against the steering-wheel and just cried.
After a few hours I heard someone else pulling over and through my blurry vision and shaky hearing I was barely able to register the sound of somebody asking me if I was okay. I couldn’t get any words to rise to the surface, my throat felt clogged up and the only thing that came out of my mouth was more sobbing. The voice left and then came back a few minutes later, she (I was now aware enough to realize that the voice belonged to a woman) told me that her husband was calling an ambulance and that help was on the way. She began to gently rub her hands in circles on my back and I felt the mental floodgates opening. In between sobs and cries I tried to tell her about the events that had transpired, I couldn’t keep it in. The woman didn’t say a single word and simply kept me company until the sirens in the distance confirmed that the ambulance had arrived. I was led to the ambulance by one of the paramedics and I quickly fell asleep once we started our journey towards the hospital.
I stayed asleep for three days and I got a visit from the police the day after I woke up. I was scared at first that they wouldn’t believe me, that I would get blamed for the murder of so many people simply because as far as I knew I was the only witness. However the officers had quickly put my mind at ease by telling me that the footage from the security-cameras in the building supported my story and that I wouldn’t get in too much trouble for my little stunt with driving without a license because I had clearly been in a life-threatening situation. They had sent a patrol down to the house as soon as they got my story from the woman that had helped me. All the men had still been in their crazed state of mind when the officers arrived, in the time that I had been gone the possessed guests had begun to turn on each other and as such more people were added to the body-count. Somehow the officers hadn’t been effected by the bizarre forces that had caused this massacre to occur and the survivors had been taken down and put under watch.
Strangely enough, a few hours after the sun rose the next day the men that had been taken into custody somehow awoke from their trance and they had been horrified when they learned of what they had done. They apparently had no memory of what had happened after the piece before mine had been sold and there was no evidence for the police to go on other than the fact that all of the men, or at least those who were still alive and able to make their statements, had heard a voice whisper in the back of their heads once they had entered the gallery and that the voice had suddenly risen to a scream when my name had been called.
A lot of people were called in once that came into light; psychologists, exorcists, some kind of special officers that dealt with unusual cases and even a priest. I was interviewed many times, especially about my grandfather, and in hindsight I can’t thank the police enough for keeping the media away from me as much as they could. I had enough on my plate already, I don’t need them causing trouble for me too. I only got interviewed by one newspaper and the guy had been very professional, he even let me see the finished article before it was released to make sure that he didn’t misinterpret anything. I had heard a lot about how ruthless the media could be and I must have been really lucky to have gotten one of the few media-people with some actual decency.
The only concrete conclusion that the police gave me in the end was that something had driven these people into a strange case of temporary mental collapse. They were going to release some statement about a gas-leak or something to the press and in all honesty I couldn’t blame them. Modern people were nowhere near as superstitious as the people of old and if they released a statement about people getting possessed then people would start to examine their sanity.
It was somewhere around this time where my crippling fear of glass sunk its claws into me for the first time and refused to let go. I remember that a nurse one brought me a glass of water one morning and I freaked out, vivid images of the horrible scenes that I had witnessed flashing before my eyes. I was quickly sedated and then examined by a psychologist for several days afterward before he gave me the diagnose that I mentioned earlier and said that I needed professional help. I strangely enough didn’t feel insulted, watching myself going crazy over a glass of water said quite a lot. I also began to fear men around this time as well, constantly fearing that the thing that happened back at grandfather’s house would happen again. I would refuse to let men near me, even for medical treatment.
I was taken to the mental clinic that would become my home for the foreseeable future and where my home still is today several years later. My fear of men doesn’t bother me as much anymore. I still don’t want to be left alone with a man of any kind but I can at least let the hospital-staff and the psychologists near me now. I think that I am getting used to their presence and my psychiatrist says that there is a good chance that my androphobia, as the fear of men is called with a fancier title, will fade away eventually with therapy.
My fear of glass, however, is an entirely different story. During the time that I have spent here it still hasn’t gotten better. They had to give me a special cell and have my therapy-sessions in certain rooms because I kept screaming at the glass in the windows. My drinking-glasses are all plastic and I eat my meals in a special room, the glasses that the others are drinking out of kept freaking me out. I have been prescribed some calming medication and it does help to a degree, but I don’t ever think that I will be able to look at glass the same way again.
I am still scared, scared that the glass is going to shatter and cut open my skin…
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