I was just thinking about frightening things - I am working on a comic about nightmares with a chapter on being terrified into silence. I watched a documentary about selective mutism on the bbc iplayer for research, and thought: whew, I really can imagine that, finding yourself unable to speak even though you can.
I was terrified of speaking as a child (although I did speak). I find it kind of strange if people can't imagine being unable to speak, at least some of the time...
Back then I was very chatty at home, but I just couldn't speak to strangers for a time. It wasn't shyness, it felt like weird animal noises would come out of my mouth if I'd said anything to anyone's face and that would be the end of the world then. I could have slapped them on demand or given them flowers - but speaking: no way.
One day I decided to just ask the next stranger I passed on my way back from school a question. I stopped when I saw a man doing some gardening and without allowing myself any further thought I hollered at him full tilt: "Can you tell me where the nearest bin is please because I need to throw away my chewing gum!"
He frowned at me and turned his back. "Hello? Hello?" I shouted, just because I could, and he went back indoors, probably thinking something about those young offenders starting earlier all the time. I skipped all the way back home because I was so happy... because the first thing that had come into my head had actually been totally stupid, and I'd shouted it like a fool, and that guy had disliked me for it, and it could hardly have been worse and it was ok.
But I often had to trick myself into talking even after that. Sometimes in class I got around it by just calling into the room ("Does anyone have a tissue?") instead of talking to whoever sat next to me. Or else I just concentrated on how funny it was that the other people had no idea what an achievement it was that I was talking to them at all, and how they'd never know.
In fact, one reason I moved to the UK was that I thought: well, speaking English is no big problem, no one expects me to be good at that for starters.
These days, I've pretty much forgotten about feeling scared. Except when I have to give lectures. But I manage anyway. Hah! And still I'm always thinking: funny, I am standing here feeling like all the words in the world might rush back into my mouth and make my head explode, and all you see is someone standing there saying "...Hello!"
Anyway, enough about me already, I recommend the documentary, I liked it very much and I don't normally enjoy that sort of thing.