Fear FactorTimothy Bradford
After the endless cable trellis of death lined with yellow flags waving like the garland of vomit out of a mouth that had said, “No fear;” after the actual beard of bees, 200,000 venomous barbs loaded on little fighters, all nicknamed “Stinger” by their mother, the queen; after a snack at the entomologist’s café, where a sad, sagging species of a man cries quietly in the corner as another young body wolfs down his prized Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches; and after the endless Plexiglas boxes and mazes, all locked at one point or another, all lowered, slowly, at the speed of breath, into cold, cold water lit for the cameras, it’s time for the fear factor to kick in. A quiet bar on a sound stage. A set. A set up. A father enters. The father you’ve never met. You have to sit on adjacent bar stools and talk about what happened to him. What happened to you. No alcohol is served. The set is locked for an infinite duration. You must find some resolution. His eyes are black, smoking guns, his mouth a Scylla of words, his head just a balloon. Or an older sister who lost you in the woods when you were young, before you were kidnapped and raised, violently but alive, by bears and wolves. You must have a proper tea with her, and one wasp will be released into the room for every drop spilt. You must ask her why she spent so long at the mirror in the bathroom before coming out to a sky as blue as your eyes without you. Or a girlfriend who left you because of the distance, a boyfriend who left you for his own cold, wet pain—the LSD is FDA approved for the show’s use, and it kicks in as you are both hung by your heels to honestly work things out before you can be released. Never mind the tiny, gnawing mouths of rainforest ants. Nothing compared to what spills out. Or yourself, left in the warm dark of your own skin, twisting like a flag in the vomit-laden wind of thoughts, with a healthy rash and a hard concrete floor to aid in the self-made inquisition, the healthy bastinado, the cat-o-nine-tails’ mental rise and fall until you drop the illusion of yourself and your pain, or the signal that you quit, a white, dimpled golf ball marked “Titleist” that bounces like what’s left of you.
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