Being alone can sometimes be uncomfortable and unpleasant. In some cases, it can even be dangerous. Tristan Summers was alone but was in no danger as far as he knew. He planned it that way. He needed time to think, time to get away from the mind sucking pressure of work, time removed from the blizzard of bills and obligations and, time to escape the emotional battles that divided his soul between a woman who betrayed him and another woman who betrayed another to be with him. He could almost feel his mind at work as each piece of information was announced, processed out loud among various brain cells and then debated incessantly by his conscious. It felt like he could feel the gears of his thinking turning slowly and grinding against his skull. It seemed as if his head was expanding under the steady pressure of work, women and the world. He wished for a spare brain, one that could be stored in a closet or refrigerator for times like this. Even when he slept, the mental battle continued interminably. There was no peace in his life, only conflict, misery and complications. Nothing made sense. Now, at least he was alone. There weren’t two or three people pulling him in different directions. With only thoughts as companions, being alone can be a learning and growing experience. It can bring enlightenment by giving time to think, time to sort out the pieces and time to lick wounds. Loneliness can be a friend to those who have no companions. It can be counted on to be there always. Tristan believed that now he would have time to sort things out without any outside interference. If his wife knew that he was not out of town on business but at their cabin in the countryside, she would be furious, not because he lied about where he was going but because he had actually demonstrated that he could make decisions without her help. Tiredness penetrated his skin and settled in his bones like a lead weight. His shoulders slumped and what dignity that remained left at the door. His once lively body was gaunt, thinned by worry and stress. He looked unhealthy. His face was unshaven, his hair uncombed and his clothes were wrinkled. He looked like a man coming off a drunken binge. Though he felt drained of all natural energy, a nervous apprehension seemed to animate him. It was as if he was expecting someone or something, but company was the last thing he needed or expected. Still, it was an ominous feeling. A dark agitation altered his perception of himself and everything around him. His brain was in overdrive and he couldn’t find the off and on switch. He figured the cabin with its rustic external appearance and its tranquil interior would provide a relaxing setting beneficial to soul searching. The fine pattern of the varnished woods and the smell of pine could take the melancholy out of even the saddest man and invigorate his spirits. The cabin lacked for nothing in modern conveniences, yet it managed to project a solid woodsy atmosphere. There was a large hearth, a solid oak and glass gun-cabinet, a hand carved dining table that would seat twelve with no problem and a variety of animal trophies lining the walls of the cabin that were included with his purchase of the idyllic log home. Yvonne, hated it and that was a main factor in his choice to come here. The only thing he added since its purchase was a hot tub and a gas starter for the huge hearth. He planned to leave the cabin that evening after three days of examining his soul and his character, but he found when it came time to leave that he had no answers and had raised more questions than he could ever answer. Not only did he not solve any problems, he didn’t get any rest and felt worse now than he did when he arrived at the cabin three days earlier. His nerves were on edge and he was fighting a ringing headache that had remained with him for the past week. Attempts to rest ended in frustration and confusion rather than relaxation and comfort. Dropping his face into his palms, he grasped his head in both hands and rubbed it like he was polishing a bowling ball. Then, suddenly, he stopped and sat with a faraway look in his eye that many people associate with absentmindedness. He didn’t know how long he had been staring at the wall when he became aware that the hair on his neck was standing on end. He shuddered involuntarily and yawned deeply trying to draw all the oxygen in the bedroom into his tired lungs. Off in the distance he thought he heard an engine running. Not a car engine, but more like the sound of power tools. Suddenly, a wave of coldness passed through him and his ears started to ring. It was a ringing that only he could hear. His body temperature fluctuated mildly and his heart picked up its pace. He knew what was about to happen. He felt it immediately. Although there were no noticeable outward signs, he sensed it. He knew the moment it crossed the threshold and entered into his consciousness. He tried to ignore it. He knew there was no sense in trying to do anything. He knew that he couldn’t stop it. It was too powerful and now it waited in the shadows waiting to take him. It would not come quickly. That was not its way. It thrived on fear. Fear motivated it. There was no escape. Where could he go? There was no place to run or hide. All he could do was muster his courage and confront the inevitable. He resigned himself to its torturously deliberate approach. There was no doubt that it would come. And, when it came he knew he would eventually succumb to its power. He could not escape it. Without warning, he felt a shadow brush across his mind. It had started. It wouldn’t be long now, he thought as a numbing sensation tingled his fingertips. Again, he felt the shadow skim across his thoughts. This time it had weight. He could feel it. A thin film of perspiration broke out across the bridge of his nose and his eyes batted from side to side. A sharp pain lanced through his chest almost taking his breath away like a heart attack. The insides of his palms were beginning to sweat. Again, the shadow passed. This time it lingered for a few torturous moments before it faded into the periphery of his thought. It was toying with him. A cold sweat encased his upper body with a grip that was cool as an undertaker’s, yet hot as a sultry night in New Orleans. He tried to reinforce his courage but he knew it was too late. His heart pounded desperately in his ears and ground dangerously in his chest. His heart was racing with anticipation; pumping adrenaline to his body and making itself beat even faster. He knew he couldn’t hold out long at this pace. He would try but deep inside he knew there was no use. He was overmatched. In the end, the battle would be fought but the outcome was already written. The only choice was surrender. Suddenly, the room tilted and light flashed in at a bizarre angle. His equilibrium was fading as quickly as his consciousness. Wrapped in its dark embrace his chest heaved for breath that would not come. It covered his face, his nose and his mouth. He was suffocating slowly. For a brief moment, his mind flashed to an old memory. He remembered hearing of people who had near drowning experiences saying that at some point the experience became pleasurable as your mind separated from reality and entered into the world between life and death. He was hoping that moment would overtake him soon. It was not to be. As if in anticipation, the darkness eased just enough to keep him breathing. It had never been this bad before. He couldn’t break free. Still, he managed to find enough strength to throw off its hold long enough for him to stumble to the door of his bedroom. Sweat covered him and the veins in his face stood out like tree roots. His clothes were wet with perspiration and his breathing was ragged. Nevertheless, he pushed forward. Sliding along the wall, he slipped toward the front door. “If I can just get outside,” he thought. He was burning up but his skin felt cold and lifeless to the touch. His eyes were glassy, fully dilated and filled with fear. It wasn’t a normal fear. It was a deathly fear that saturated the body with venomous intent. Fear of this type is tangible. He could smell it, taste and even hear it. It seemed as if hours passed before he made it to the front door. That’s when its full force brought him to his knees. The dark shadow engulfed him and wrenched his skull in an iron embrace forcing his brains together like hammering a square peg into a round hole. The pain was excruciating. Tears streamed down his face and the taste of metal made his mouth water with savorless saliva. He would never make it. His breath was coming in short gasps and his vision was blurred. The contents of his stomach burned in the middle of his throat, but there would be no relief for it. It would remain there while his heart raced in his chest like a car out of control on the hills of San Francisco. A wave of vertigo swept over him. He could barely keep his feet. He tried to keep going but at last, his muscles were no longer under his command. He couldn’t move. Laying on the floor he felt it cover him moving slowly from his ice cold feet and up his body in a flash of liquid heat. It didn’t matter now. It would all be over soon. Then, with a startling finality, it came fully out of the shadows and confronted him face to face. His heart beat an unsteady rhythm as he looked into the soulless eyes. He had seen it before but never like this. Suddenly, the thought of his nine millimeter automatic in the solid oak and glass gun cabinet came to focus in the fuzziness of his mind. He was close to it, but just as quickly as the thought jelled, it faded because he knew he wasn’t close enough to get it even if he could make his muscles come back under his control. It was over. He didn’t have a chance. He was helpless before it and realizing that the fear left and was replaced by a rueful resignation. As the darkness settled over him, he realized he never had a chance. It was over before it began. He embraced the darkness as it and he faded into blackness. Amun-Ra Anxiety Attacks go unreported in the black community although it is estimated that nearly 15% of African Americans suffer from this debilitating disease. Much of this under reporting is due to black culture that deems mental illness a personal weakness. Check with your doctor if you suffer any of these symptoms seen in this story. Even though it is exagerated--it is real!