Sometimes it's there, at times when I expect it the least, making me wake up with a gasp in the middle of the night, body jerking into an upright position in an instant.
It's dark in the room and I can't see, but of course I know where I am.
My roommate rustles his blankets; I guess I've woke him up.
"Are you alright, Shuuhei-sensei?", he asks, voice sleepy and low.
I clear my throat quietly.
"Mhh. Umm… yeah. Sure I am."
Of course I'm not. But I don't want to annoy him any further. I feel awkwardly sorry for having disturbed his sleep already.
I hear a yawn, blankets rustling again, a mumbled something that might have been a "glad to hear" spoken towards the wall instead towards me.
Only seconds go by until I hear him snoring. He's gone back to sleep thinking that I'm fine.
I'm not at all.
I'm still sitting in my bed instead of lying there, my heart racing and my body trembling.
The fear is still there, seizing me, possessing me, making breathing hard and noisy.
It's not the darkness, not at all. I've been comfortable with that for a long while now. But still, I feel the need to turn on the lights, to shush away those shadows threatening me, lurking around in the corners of the room like wild animals ready to lunge at me anytime.
It's pictures I see, from the past of mine, awful memories replayed in a nightmare. Sharp claws reaching out for me. That red, gloomy light. Then red in front of my eyes, drips on the ground. A red shadow blurring my sight, blurring the huge creature in front of me.
I'm not afraid of hollows. Not at all. I can take on several of them at a time even without using my sword. I don't have to be afraid.
But back then, I was.
I wasn't inexperienced, but still quite young, and simply not able to handle things alone.
When it chased me inch by inch with me unable to see straight, I felt for the first time what is called agony. Fear of death. I didn't feel any pain, I couldn't feel myself at all; the only thing I felt was fear, panic, telling me to run and save myself and the others from dying.
The fear I feel now is exactly the same, except for the fact that I cannot run away. It forces me to sit still, to not make a sound, when all I want to do is jump to my feet and flee.
I know there's nothing to be afraid of.
But still, I am.
The fear starts spreading around me, wrapping around me like an invisible hand, holding me tightly and squeezing my throat shut.
I get aware of even louder snoring, and for a second or two I feel like whimpering due to the injustice of my roommate sleeping quietly while I'm suffocating on my own thoughts.
I know I can make it stop. I just don't know how.
It's hard to think clearly, but I finally succeed. I tell myself the standard facts; that being scared is nothing bad, that fear is useful to tell you to be cautious about something, to be aware of danger.
But right now, there is none.
If only my body would realize this.
I lift my hand, reaching up to my cheek, slowly brushing my finger across it.
They're still there. Of course they are. They've been there for ages, and they'll always be.
I follow the lines with my finger increasing the pressure, wondering that the touch doesn't hurt. I push harder against the scratches on my skin, rubbing across them rather than just touching now, but still, there is no reaction, there is no pain.
They don't hurt. They never do.
Yes, they were wounds back then, quite painful ones, but now, they are not. They are just scars.
I lie back to the mattress, finally calming down.
Experiences, painful back then – now they're just memories.
Injuries, painful back then – now they're just scars that don't hurt.
I hated them a while ago, and from time to time, I still do. But I guess I should be glad I have them.
The scars, I mean. And the memories, too.