Dread is the first and strongest of the . . . kinds of fear. It is that tension, that waiting that comes when you know there is something to fear but you have not identified what it is.
— Orson Scott Card
Imagine that you’re a perfectly healthy 25-year-old woman.You live on your own, hold a job, work out five days a week, and love music and books and spending time with friends.Normal, right?
Then imagine yourself on a Sunday.You wake up, make breakfast, then go to the gym for your weekly swim.Afterwards, you shower and head to the mall.You walk around for a while, buy a couple of books you’ve been wanting and a really great pair of shoes.
Later that evening, you’re relaxing with the Sunday night crime dramas.As you get up from the couch to get a drink, you feel light-headed.You were lying down and got up quickly, so you don’t think much of it.But the sensation doesn’t go away, and you realize it’s the same sensation you had one summer night three years ago:Whether you’re lying down or sitting up, you feel like if you laid your head back, you might not be able to lift it back up; you’re disoriented.You call your brother, because he’s the one who took you to the emergency room that night three years ago, and you ask him if they did anything for you then other than run some tests and send you home where you slept it off and felt fine the next morning.He says no, so you decide it’s nothing.
As the night wears on, though, the dizziness worsens, your head starts to pound, and you notice that the people on television are starting to sound very far away, and very high-pitched.Now you’re worried, because you lost the hearing in your right ear as a little girl, and the thought of losing the hearing in your left ear is unbelievably frightening.It’s now 11:00 at night.You call your brother back and explain your symptoms, trying not to cry.He’s in North Carolina, though, and can’t help you himself, but he wants you to go to the ER.You shouldn’t drive, due to the dizziness, so you call a friend to come get you.While you’re waiting, you page your regular doctor, who calls back and, after hearing your symptoms, diagnoses a likely inner ear infection and says to come see him in the morning.You decide to go to the ER anyway.
The ER is empty and you’re seen fairly quickly.The doctor asks for the symptoms, and looks in your eyes, nose, and ears with his little light.He’s clearly stumped.He can’t see anything but a small amount of fluid in your right ear, and he tells you to go home and take Sudafed to drain the fluid and ibuprofen for the headache.
You call your parents when you get home to let them know what’s happened, and what the doctor said.They tell you to keep them posted and that they love you.You turn out the light and go to bed, unaware that you’ve heard their voices clearly for the last time.