Halloween is a time for Poe and Stephen King and slasher films. Sadly, I tend to be generally unaffected by horror, so I don't have any scary books to recommend.


Instead, I decided to share a recent frightening experience.


As a woman who commutes by bike, often quite late at night, always alone, through deserted streets and unlit paths fringing woods and silent fields, I consider my deepest, darkest, most paralyzing fear to be entirely natural:




When I was about two years old, my dog was sprayed by a skunk.

So many baths.

So much tomato juice.

And nothing helped.

Our poor dog didn’t understand why no one wanted to hug him any more, why he wasn’t allowed to sleep on my bed, why we all backed away as soon as he appeared.

I can still see his eyes, still feel that uncomprehending stare, loaded with betrayal and reproach, searing my face.

And that horrific smell is embedded in my two-year-old memories.


If a phobia is defined as an “unreasoned fear,” then this is not a phobia. Can you imagine your life, Post-Skunk? No one would want to come near you. You'd have to get special dispensation to work from home. And that's not even considering the fact that you'd have to smell yourself 24/7.


And there are skunks on the trails.

I’ve seen them.


A few nights ago, I was biking along when I heard a rustle up ahead. As my bike light moved over it, I saw, to my horror, the tell-tale white and black stripes. The creature raised its head, blinking in the beam of my light, and stared at me.


Paralyzed with fear, I stared back.


Then I slipped off the path and into the grass, making as wide an arc as I could, chanting “ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod” the whole way.


My pulse didn't slow down for several minutes after that.


I'm always surprised that skunk attacks feature so rarely in the horror genre.