Book Review: “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker

Gift of Fear Chapter 1: The Gift of Fear

In the beginning there was nothing. And then, everything. You are not sure how long it took for things to get from here to there, but eventually all existence came into being. Everything began with a spark—a tiny flame that burned brightly until it caught fire and exploded in a burst of light and heat and sound and life itself. Then, life started again.

And so it went, over and over again. And so it will go forevermore. There is no end to creation or destruction; there is only change and repetition. Life continues endlessly because life always finds a way to survive and thrive in whatever form it takes. Life never dies, even when death seems like the most logical thing to do—even when death appears inevitable.

Death is merely another opportunity for life to evolve.

Life does not have a master. Life is eternal, and its cycles are endless. But life’s cycle cannot continue forever. Eventually, some creatures rise up against the natural order of things and try to alter it in their own image—to break free from the bonds of time and space and defy nature’s laws of entropy and entropy itself. These creatures are not alive like you are.

They do not adapt and they do not choose. They force life to bend to their will, but in so doing they lose the very thing that life embodies. Life is choice.

You can feel it all around you. You can see it in everything and everyone all at once, even though no one thing or anyone is more important than any other. You can hear it in the sounds all around you, from the deafening roar of a massive forest fire to the tiniest cricket’s song. You can taste it in the ash that fills your mouth and nostrils. You can smell it in the smoke that stings your eyes and sears your lungs.

You know what it means to be alive.

You are alive.

And you are going to live.

You are covered from head to toe in soot and ash. Your lungs are filled with smoke, and the world around you is on fire. You can’t see more than a few feet in front of your face, but you can feel the heat of the fire all around you. You can sense it chasing you, stalking you. It is hunting you.

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It wants to consume you. It wants to turn you to ash. It wants to erase you from existence.

Run! Run! Run!

You have no idea where you are or how you got here. All you know is that everything around you is trying to kill you. You need to get away. You don’t know why, but you feel like you’ve been through this experience before—like you’ve been through this countless times. This isn’t the first time you’ve faced insurmountable odds and deadly peril, but you can’t let yourself fail.

You have to survive, no matter what. If you can just find a way to beat the odds, you know you’ll make it out of this alive.

You have no idea how much time has passed, but the flames are all around you and beginning to overtake you. The smoke is suffocating. You can barely breathe. You stumble and fall to your knees, gasping for air. You reach out desperately, searching for anything that can help you, but there’s nothing.

Just flames and death.

Suddenly, you see a hole in the ground ahead of you. It’s small, just big enough for a person to crawl through. Fire is starting to lap at your heels and you’ve got no choice but to either crawl into the hole or be consumed by the flames.

But something about that hole feels strangely enticing. It tugs at something inside you. It calls to something deep inside your soul. It whispers to you, drawing you closer. You can’t resist it.

You have to crawl inside. You have to surrender yourself to it.

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That’s when you see the bones. Tiny, human bones. The remains of a person just your size. You don’t know how you know, but you can see now that this hole wasn’t dug by hand. This hole was made by something with claws and fangs and a insatiable hunger.

The smell of fresh blood and carrion grows stronger as you stare into the darkness. You can feel its eyes on you, watching. Waiting.

Desperately, you begin to crawl forward on hands and knees into the blackness before you. You don’t know where it leads, but you’re certain that you have to get through. It’s your only hope of escape.

Suddenly, the ground begins to crumble beneath you. You scream as you fall, tumbling through the earth. You can’t see anything around you, but you can still hear the firestorm roars and rumbles above you.

Then, suddenly, the earth stops falling out from under you. You stop falling and find that you’re in a chamber far beneath the surface. The chamber is filled with bones—the bones of humans just like yourself. Some of them bear horrific wounds where the skin has been flayed off the bone or the bone has been shattered completely. Others have been chewed and eaten away.

Still more have been crushed to a pulp or completely desiccated.

But these aren’t normal human bones. You can see that they’re much smaller in size, the size of children. These are the bones of children, hundreds of children. You’ve fallen right into a monster’s den.

And then you hear the growling.

You turn around and see the creature that’s been hunting you. A creature of nightmare, perched atop a mound of bones atop a chasm deeper than anything you’ve ever seen. It’s scales can turn invisible, rendering it completely invisible to the naked eye, but its glowing red eyes give it away. It has the body of a serpent, the head of a wolf, bat wings, and a scorpion’s stinger on its tale. It is eternity’s predator—the oldest and most terrifying of beasts.

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It is the Beast of Darkness.

And you are lost.

The Beast of Darkness is one of the three main antagonists of Season 2 of Darkenfold. It dwells deep beneath Claw Tooth Canyon, luring in prey with its hypnotic gaze and consuming the poor souls who stumble into its domain. It is one of the most dangerous creatures of the Gargoyle Realm for a number of reasons. It’s capable of altering its scales to match its surroundings, making it almost invisible. It is a predator that can sense life in otherwise barren lands and has the ability to fly.

It is also a creature that has survived since the very dawn of time; even the eldest of creatures fear it.

It is the only creature in existence with the power to hypnotize with its gaze. Those who stare into its red eyes become completely entranced, falling under the monster’s control. Those under the Beast’s control are driven to a suicidal state; they’ll walk right off of cliffs or into the jaws of its pets.

The Beast is a creature of magic and legend; it cannot be harmed by mortal weapons. The only way to kill it is to drive a blade through its heart—a nearly impossible task when it can make itself invisible at will.

However, one does not need to kill the Beast to escape it. The creature’s very old, and no immortal can last forever. When it dies, the magic keeping it alive will fade away, and the Gargoyle Realm will be freed from its terror.

As a beast of darkness, the Beast is linked to the Darkened Realm, and as such can telepathically communicate with them. It uses this ability to force the Darkened to dive into suicidal charges, using them as an endless food source.

You’ll have to defeat the Beast in order to free the Darkened from its tyrannical rule.

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You are forced to stare into the Beast’s eyes, falling under its powerful gaze. Your lifeforce is slowly being drained away, but you feel no pain. You’re too entranced by those blood-red eyes…

Soon, you’ll be just like the rest—a lifeless corpse in a cavern of bones.

Do you have what it takes to survive?

You’ve made it past the first stage of being a gladiator. The second part involves becoming an apprentice to one of the many trainers who work in the Academy. Depending on your performance, you could be a lowly cleaner or one of the main event fighters who fight for the entertainment of the masses and the enjoyment of the Sovereign and her advisors.

You’re put through your paces over the next few months. It’s a grueling process, and you’re pushed beyond what you ever thought you were capable of. Your days are long and difficult, but your trainers are fair and just. They have no sympathy for weakness, but they aren’t unnecessarily brutal or sadistic.

You learn how to fight with various weapons. You learn how to track enemies through forests and escape magical traps. Most of all, you learn how to survive the many dangers of the world. In time, you and the other recruits are transported to various locations throughout the world. Some are put in the jungles of Zalan, some are put in the frosty mountainous region of the Regnik Foothills, others are put in remote areas of the Vengeful Desert, etc.

You’re sent to a particularly harsh location in the Kelgian Plains, which are known for their strong winds and vicious predators. For the first few days you struggle to build a shelter and stay alive. Your other goal is to try to signal one of the passing airships, which fly overhead several times each day.

You almost give up hope, but know that if you do, it’ll only make things worse when the Nightmare Tyrant finally comes for you. You redouble your efforts to survive. You try hunting for food, but the local predators are too quick and agile. You begin to track one, determined to figure out which one it is so you can plan a trap.

Eventually, you discover that it’s a species of invisible predator known as an Windslayer. They’re difficult to track, but once you notice a few strands of invisible hair caught on a nearby thorn bush, you have an idea of what you’re up against.

You prepare a trap for the creature and, luckily, manage to capture it. You prepare to head home.

You’re running low on food and have no fresh water, but you know that if you can see the airship, then they can see your signal fire.

It’s a long shot, but you begin to march across the rolling hills as quickly as you can. By the time you get home, you’ll be completely dehydrated and exhausted, but this is our only chance of rescue.

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You begin to march across the hills, keeping an eye on the airship which is passing by on its regular schedule. As you crest a hill and begin to walk down the other side, you suddenly trip over a rock and fall to the ground.

You try to get up, but your body is drained of all energy. Your vision begins to darken, and you can’t even move your limbs. You’re not gonna make it…

But maybe you’ll survive. Just this once. You close your eyes and wait for death.

Some time later, you open your eyes and find yourself lying on a metal table in what appears to be a medical bay. You’re wearing a plain white robe, and your body is completely hairless. You feel a sharp pain in your upper back, but the dull ache in your lower back has been eradicated.

You’ve been altered.

The door opens and you turn your head to see who it is. A tall man wearing a white coat walks inside. His face is shrouded by a dark hood, making it difficult to see his facial features. Two long ponytails draped with strips of cloth hang down from either side of his head. He walks towards you, and you can see that he’s young, probably not much older than you.

“Ah, you’re awake,” he says in a dull yet deep voice.

You try to get up, but find that your arms and legs are tied down to the table. All you can do is turn your head and speak. “

Who are you? Where am I?”

“You’re aboard the airship Amenophis,” he says as he picks up a clipboard hanging on the wall next to the door. He looks at it for a second before turning his attention back to you. “…and your name is Mr. Mol.”

“That’s not my name,” you say in a panic, “That’s not my name!”

“It is now,” he says, “It’s the name on your new identity.

How do you feel?”

“My back hurts. And… I’m kind of scared.”

He puts down the clipboard and walks over to a cabinet. He takes out a small syringe and fills it from a bottle on the cabinet. “This will help with the pain, don’t worry. This is your arrival dose. You’ll get used to it in time.”

He walks back over to you and quickly pushes the syringe into your upper arm. The needle prick is the finest sensation you’ve felt in a while. Although the ache still remains, the sharp, stabbing pains you had been feeling have faded away within seconds.

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“It will take at least two weeks for your body to get used to the hormones and nanomachines. In time, your body hair and esophagus will grow back, but for now we’d like you to remain naked. And as for the esophagus, it should remain closed unless eating very soft foods.”

You try to pull your hand free from one of the ropes binding it to the table. It’s no use. “

What is this? What’s going on?”

“You were selected by the government to become part of the Project. But you are still free to refuse.

Do you accept?”

You look at your hand, rubbing your wrist against the coarse rope that binds it. The only way out is through acceptance. “

What happens if I refuse?”

“You’ll be free to go back to your life.”

And the side effects?”

“They’ll wear off over time.”

You look at the door. You could make a break for it, but you’d have to get your clothes first. “I accept.”

“Good choice,” he says with a warm smile. “It’ll be tough, but I know you’ll be able to handle it. We’ll go over some rules and such before you fully join. For now, just relax as I get you ready for the next phase.”

The man in white begins to walk back towards the cabinet on the other side of the room. “Don’t worry, this won’t hurt… much.” He says with a hint of sadism in his voice.

You watch as he pulls out a long, thin needle. No, not a needle. A scalpel.

“This will just take a minute.

Try to hold still, would you?”

He slides the scalpel carefully under your toenail. You shudder in pain and press your foot down, but the rope keeps you firmly in place. He eases the blade under your toenail and gently taps it with his finger before pulling the scalpel forward.

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You breath in sharply through your teeth as he peels your toenail back. Warm blood runs down your foot and into the infirmary bed. He grabs a small pair of pliers and uses them to pull the thin strip of toenail from your flesh. You grit your teeth and squeeze your toes together. He chuckles softly as he places the bloody strip of tissue next to you before moving onto the next toe.

You feel the sweat trickle down your back and bead across your forehead. You watch as he prepares to repeat the process again and again.

By the fifth nail you’re shaking from the pain and anxiety. Your stomach is in knots and your head feels light. The man in white grabs a small cloth and dabs at your bloody foot. He picks up the last strip of toenail and smiles warmly at you as he holds it up for you to see.

Sources & references used in this article:

The Gift Of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us From Violence by G De Becker – 2002 – Little, Brown and Company

Protecting the gift: Keeping children and teenagers safe (and parents sane) by GDBT Stechschulte –

The Gift of Fear–A Book Review by G De Becker – 2013 –

BOOK REVIEW-III by C Taylor – Journal of Integrated Studies, 2017 –

Destruction of innocence: The Friedman Case: How coerced testimony & confessions harm children, families & communities for decades after the wrongful convictions … by MS Sondhi – Indian Philosophical Quarterly –

A philosophy of fear by G de Becker, E Horowitz – A White Paper of the National Center for …, 2013 –

Praise for LEFT OF BANG by L Svendsen – 2008 –

Bibliographical essay on fear by G de Becker, J Navarro, WS Lind –

THE COURAGE OF FEAR by WN Brissett – The Hedgehog Review, 2003 –