Ever been scared out of your wits? Yes and no…

English: Pizza slicer or cutter

English: Pizza slicer or cutter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Have you ever known sheer terror? That heart-stopping feeling where you know there is a high likelihood of shuffling off this mortal coil? I know of one time when I felt that fear and another when I should have, but didn’t. In general, I am a stranger to fear. Sure, I get nervous before I give a big presentation or just before I do something which is important to me, but that’s not true fear. That’s its close cousin, known in this country as the collywobble or the heebie-jeebies.

In hindsight, the time when I should have felt fear was on an aeroplane. Myself and a colleague were on the way back from a regular trip to India. We left it too late to book a direct flight, so the plane was on final approach into Dubai. Everything seemed normal. The seatbelt signs were on and we descended nicely towards the airport. The flight was only half full and everyone had plenty of room.

All of a sudden, the plane violently climbed and veered left.

From the galley, we could hear the sound of something crashing to the floor. An overhead locker burst open and a bag flew out. I looked at the aircrew strapped into the jump seat in front of us. One of them looked very nervous indeed. The other was in frantic conversation on the phone to someone (maybe the cockpit). She put the phone down, signalled to her colleague and they both made their way to the galley.

The plane shook violently now and descended again. A man released himself from his seat, clutched his chest and screamed for help in a language I didn’t understand. The stewardess told him to get back to his seat. He promptly collapsed in the aisle and they dragged him into the galley. I should have been scared out of my wits, but wasn’t. I felt cool as a cucumber and turned to my colleague and made a joke about whether this was it. Were we about to meet our respective makers.

It was almost as if I knew that this wasn’t the time.

The time I came face to face with fear and looked him right in the eye, was on another trip. Maybe I should stop flying. Myself and a colleague were in an airport waiting for the flight home. We ordered a pizza whilst we waited for the plane. At some point whilst eating this pizza, a tiny piece of crust broke off and lodged itself in my airway. I couldn’t breathe. At first I thought it was temporary, but after a minute or so of not being able to catch a breath, I started to think I might die.

My colleague stood up and looked around the place. He had purpose in his eyes, like he knew exactly what to do. Just at the moment he leapt into action, my airway cleared. I could breathe once more. We both relaxed as I slowly caught my breath. Once I felt almost normal, I asked my colleague in a croak what he planned to do in that instant before I stopped choking.

He told me he was looking around for a sharp knife with which to slit my throat open so I could breathe. It was then I felt true terror.

I once had a religious experience

10-sided dice are used for games requiring per...

10-sided dice are used for games requiring percentages. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I used to run a thriving games club in our local town hall. We mainly played board and card games with the occasional foray into a war-game or roleplaying game. The town hall is only a short walk from where I live so I used to walk there and back. We had no storage at the club, so I usually dragged along a large kit bag full of games that we could choose from.

One evening, I was walking home carrying the kit bag as usual. Up ahead of me was a man leaning up against the wall smoking a cigarette. He was a good 6 inches taller than me and he had big shoulders. He had a skinhead haircut and exuded menace. He might have been waiting for a bus except that the bus stop was 30 yards further up the road.

As I walked past him, he said something to me that I didn’t quite catch. I didn’t really want to get into any kind of exchange so I just mumbled something non-committal and hoped that inertia would keep him there smoking his cigarette. When I was about 10 paces ahead of him, I heard him stamp out his cigarette and start walking up the hill behind me.

I needed to cross the road to get home anyway and I wanted to know if he was following me so making sure the road was clear I quickly crossed the road. I heard him cross behind me. I was anxious now, running through the possibilities in my mind. What was I going to do if this came to an altercation? Mother Nature wasn’t very kind when handing out my physique, so there was little hope of me outrunning him and even less of me coming off as the victor in any kind of scuffle.

I came to a junction. Normally I would turn off the main road into a quieter residential street. This time though, I carried on up the hill. There was a petrol station up ahead and maybe that was where he was heading. We walked past the petrol station and he was still there behind me. His pace quickened and my stomach started to churn.

A plan formed in my mind. I would throw the kit bag at him and run like hell, hoping that he was more interested in the contents of my bag than in doing damage to me. I heard him close behind me and braced myself. As I turned to face him, a car careened off the road beside us and came to a screeching halt in between us.

The man ran off.

I peered into the car, my legs like jelly. The window came down and inside there were three nuns. Not women dressed up in fancy dress – honest to goodness – nuns. They asked if I was OK and told me that they had seen the man and they were convinced he was a sinner. I agreed and thanked them. They offered me a lift, but I declined and made my way nervously home.

If it hadn’t been for their timely interjection, it could have been a very nasty business.