Short Fiction Sunday: Philemaphobia

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It’s like this, but with spiders. 🕷

Before we begin, we should note the title. What is Philemaphobia? Looking up online, it’s the fear of kissing. At first glance, you might find these a bit silly and humorous. How can anyone be afraid of kissing? Well, a lot of these phobias are a little more nuanced than running into a corner and screaming at the sight of one. Some people may not be aware of them, and are often subtle fears.

So what does kissing have to do with spiders? A lot actually, especially for this tale.

This week’s short story is Philemaphobia by Josh Pearce, narrated by Nika Harper, as featured in Cast of Wonders. You can listen to it here. It’s spooky season, and now, it’s the return of the Silver Claw Inn Spook-a-thon. Well, it hasn’t been a marthon in a while, but the name kinda sticks. Plus “spooktacular” is kinda overused.

Anyway, this does contain some creepy elements, including spiders, so just note that when listening to it. Anyway, let’s get to it.

Philemaphobia (AKA the fear of kissing)

The story follows Amanda, a regular high school student who is going about her normal life when her mouth becomes painful enough to keep her silent, especially when her crush was around, but it turns out that the supposed silence is more than she would ever bargain for.

A genuinely creepy tale that, while doesn’t go full on frightening, makes for a nice campfire story (hey, Are You Afraid of the Dark? is back, maybe pitch this kind of story). As you read (or listen), you fully understand the name and the imagery surrounding it. Spiders, kissing, it all makes sense. That’s the joy of this type of story. You have no idea what to expect, but you’re curious enough to find out.

As some who is terrified of spiders (despite having one *glances up* or HAD one in my room), I can sense the fear of such an ordeal. Something about them strikes fear into mere mortals despite their small size. The eyes, the eight legs, the hairy limbs. The mere thought of one, especially tarantulas crawling all over you or, God forbid, come out of your mouth while doing ordinary attacks, let alone an entire brood of them.

This story definitely captures the fear factor. Trying to hide her supposed illness is a challenge for her considering all the bullies she has. Thankfully, this didn’t happen in the school, though it would have been more entertaining if she had. This felt like a missed opportunity. Imagine going to class one day and your classmate decided to barf out an army of spiders. Imagine the chaos. I mean, bullying’s already a theme (as are most school stories, let’s be honest), so why not cause as much chaos as possible. Granted, the horror might not be as intense, but it sure would have been quite the sight.

Her mother did feel that barfing out spiders was natural for a teenager, though she may have thought it was puberty and not a horde of spiders. Though assuming she knew about the spiders, that does raise a few questions. Did her mother know about this? Why didn’t she say anything. Wouldn’t Amanda as a child have known about such a thing? Reading it over again, it was possible she seriously thought she was going through puberty (talk about coming of age), but my mind tends to be curious more than it needs to. A spider mom would be cool, if creepy.

The relationship aspect definitely adds to the suspense. Seeing her try and survive even one day of school is an ordeal in and of itself. Having her mouth bandaged up, resembling a spider’s silk covering her, added to the creepyness. She was afraid to kiss her because of what she had feared was inside of her mouth. Imagine this spreading if it had gotten out of hand. A spider laying eggs inside of this girl’s mouth, and adding the fear of a first kiss being ruined because her crush didn’t know? Sounds like a recipe for disaster :3

As far as the story itself, there’s not much else to say. it feels very much like a Goosebumps/Fear Street type of ordeal and one I would definitely see adapted into a TV anthology of sorts. Definitely a spooky tale for halloween. Do give this a read when you can, but definitely listen to the podcast version. Guaranteed to give you the creeps on Halloween.

That’s all for today. If you liked this post and want to see more, I have a Ko-Fi page set up. Why spend three bucks on a Starbucks Coffee when you can help support hard-working authors like me? Every bit helps and keeps me going. So thank you, and remember, the inn is always open.

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