Things I Was Afraid of As A Kid:


(Tell them about seeing sharks at an aquarium when you were very little, trying to talk about them in a complex way, but it only coming out as “sharks have sharp teeth, and they gnash gnash gnash,” tell them about the jellyfish that had washed up on the beach that spring you visited your grandpa in Florida, you were a tween by then but when you touched one with your toe you still screamed like a baby. Tell them about watching some family friend petting a baby stingray, how you hated their gaping mouths and their flat bodies, and you still hadn't forgiven them for Steve Irwin.)


(Tell them about finding your half eaten dug up dead pets as a kid. Tell them how the coyotes only got to the legs for Monday and Sissy, but seeing that still changed your relationship with every fried chicken that would come after. Tell them how you found Amber, with only her back half left and fur scattered around the grave. Tell them how you ran away and called your mom and dad. Tell them what it was like, watching your dad rebury them under the darkening sky. Tell them how he put them under storm windows to keep the coyotes away. Tell them about how you could hear the coyotes, out in the woods each night. When they were hunting, you could hear the sound of their howls as they travelled along the trees, chasing their next meal.)


(Tell them how you thought quicksand was going to be much more of a problem as an adult. Perhaps it would appear around the corner on your way to work, and you’d be trapped, best case scenario you'd be late and your outfit would be ruined and it would be nobody’s fault but your own. Tell them how you mistook sinkhole reports for weather reports. Tell them how quicksand is only scary when nobody is there to save you.)

mistaken identity,

(Tell them about the time you kept wandering off on your kindergarten field trip to Abe Lincoln’s cabin, how you kept finding another field trip, and sticking with them, then wandering off again. Tell them how you wandered away so many times you eventually wandered back to your old group, at some playground, tell them how the chaperone grabbed you and shook you and told you that you could never do that again, tell them how of course you got lost right after, but you didn't know until everyone went to get their bags by the tree and yours was by a completely different landmark. Tell them how long after you were worried you'd get grabbed and shook and pulled into a different field trip, then be stuck living a whole other life.)

being turned into an animal by a witch,

(Tell them about the YMCA camp counselor that was turned into a centaur. Tell them how they would take all the young campers to the creepiest part of the grounds after nap time and tell ghost stories. Tell them how easily you believed them. Tell them about the witch they made up that tested experimental spells on campers. Tell them how all the counselors claimed to be part something or other. Cat, wolf, lion, bear, horse, always the kinds of animals you wanted to be, never frog or pig or giraffe. Tell them how you told your parents the scary stories the counselors told you and they said ‘well they look pretty human to us.’  Tell them about reading Kafka’s Metamorphosis in high school, and being incredibly moved, and a little bothered that nobody else was, tell them how you didn’t really like horror at the time, but this story, this story scared you, woke you up a bit. What scared you wasn’t the idea of becoming a cockroach, it was the nuance, the specificity to the fear it expressed, with the transformation and the being cast aside, the misunderstandings, and finally the idea of being a burden, and only a burden. It was so specific, you had thought you were the only one that had felt it. Maybe you were human after all. That scared you too.)


(Tell them about the woman you thought haunted your basement. About how the previous owner was moving because the house was too big since his wife had passed. It wasn’t that big. Tell them about how there was a waterbed down there when you moved in, and how your parents dismissed it when you suggested that might have been the bed she died on. Tell them how you imagined dying on a waterbed, and you imagined her still on that water bed every time you went down there. Tell them how hard it is to move a waterbed out of a basement. About how you have to drain it, slowly, so the basement doesn't flood. Tell them how you thought about jumping on it for a while, but you worried that the ghost wouldn’t like it, or that your toenails would pop it, which would upset both the ghost and your parents. Tell them about how you would plead to her not to startle you, and that you would be out of her space as soon as you got this or that from the storage under the stairs. Tell them how fast you ran back up to the first floor. Tell them how you wanted to move your room down there, for the cool air, and because secretly the dark woods out your window at night scared you a bit more than the friendly ghost haunting your basement. Your parents made you prove you could sleep in the basement by making you sleep down there for three nights before you could move your stuff down. Tell them how you swore you heard her the first night. Tell them how what you actually heard, you would discover as a teenager, were rats scurrying in the ceiling, which was technically the floor, and how you saw one fall through an open ceiling tile once, but in the darkness you could have sworn it was her. Tell them that she never really bothered you again after that first night, tell them about moving your bedroom down there, tell them about pretending to talk to her, tell them about telling her everything.)

growing up.

(Tell them about how you haven't, or maybe you have but you don’t know what that means, but people tell you that you grew up that time you subleased an apartment and you and the renters got kicked out two weeks later, and you had to find a place on your own. That you grew up when your friend went off her meds and drove you mad with self doubt, and you left her behind, because you had to. That time you saw a girl for a month and then watched as she devoted her soul to the legal battle against her rapist. The time past it all when you handled it yourself and realized slowly you are now the one burying the half eaten pets in the sunset, and someday you’ll be the ghost listening to a scared teenager tell you everything.)


Quinn Koeneman is a Writer, Illustrator, and Social Artist. Koeneman was born in the suburbs of The Windy City and grew up in the cornfields of rural Illinois. He graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in May 2016 with a Bachelor in Fine Arts. Koeneman has done work with Whole House Reuse in New Zealand, and shows in Chicago with the Trialhood collective, and has also worked with Indi Go Gallery in Champaign. This is his first published writing. Koeneman also works as an advocate for autistic rights, and incorporates neurodiversity into his Social Art. He has written for Wrong Planet and spoken on panels on the topic. In his free time, Koeneman sits perfectly still, staring at a blank wall as if someone had flipped an off switch. He does not sleep.

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