The Most Fascinating Fear

“Something else I find fascinating, Thomas, is fear.” The Professor said, lowering his eyes.

I stiffened a little, taken aback. I tried to remain civil despite Dr. Klein’s odd non sequitur.

“Interesting,” I said, “but what does fear have to do with our topic of our discussion?”

“Obligate endoparasites,” Klein said. “infect their host internally and live out their entire lifecycle inside. They are completely dependent upon a host to survive, and their eggs are transmitted through ingestion of food or liquid.”

“Go on,” I said, taking another sip of wine.

“In Africa we used animals for study, purposefully infecting them to study the lifecycle of the parasites, as well as the effects on their hosts. The host organism gradually weakens over time as more and more of its energy is used to support the parasitic organism, often leading to death.”

“Most distressing.”

“Of course, in animals the psychological aspect is absent; but in humans we found they lived out the remainder of their lives in a sort of hopeless terror – one gained from the knowledge that they were infected and there was no cure; that they would weaken while something grew inside and took over, and that death was inevitable.”

“So, this is the fear you speak of, the fear which fascinates you? The hopelessness of knowing that death is inevitable?”

“No,” Dr. Klein said, staring into the fire. “The fear which fascinates me Thomas, is one I never witnessed in person – the sudden fear when a host first realizes they are infected.”

The Professor smiled unnervingly at me as I set down my wine glass, next to my finished plate.

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