my eyes open to white ceiling. blank, empty, alone. my ears strain to hear just the lightest creaking or softest footstep or the constant ticking of a clock. there’s nothing. wait. I hear it. ringing. no. it’s just the paralyzing silence. nobody’s home. my heart kicks a beat to match the haunting melody of fear repeating over and over and over. my eyesight blurs, black spots staining perfect white canvas. I don’t realize I’m crying until salt runs down my cheeks and onto my lips. Autophobia. suddenly, I’m a kid again. loud voices telling me I’m wrong. This is disgusting, they say, crushing my sandcastle back into the ocean. it wasn’t enough. I’ve failed. I stumble through the sand, frantically searching for success. I stray further and further from the crowd of people, until I can’t hear their harsh words, but they’re still repeating in my head. I fall to the ground, sharp pain from the voices splitting my head into pieces. Atychiphobia there’s music blasting from speakers, reverberating against the gym walls, decorated with limp streamers and color changing lights. it’s hard to think about anything, aside from censored lyrics of Ariana Grande. I forget why I came in the first place. the crowd’s cheering in the center, and I feel alone leaning against the wall. my friends surround me, pushing me towards the circle of adrenaline junkies. I push back, trying to resist, but they’re too strong. lights flash in my eyes, I can’t see anything except mountains and seas of people, screaming, laughing, in my face. are they laughing at me? I can’t move, my hands tremble, words surround me. what’s she doing here? that’s so embarrassing. MOVE OUT OF THE WAY! come on, dance! don’t stand in the middle of the circle. do something… but all I can do is stare at my hands. I want to run away I want to cry I want to go home but I’m frozen, cocooned by my own fear. Sociophobia I hear it. Do you hear those whispers, too?
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