Adult Fear / Literature

  • Nineteen Eighty-Four, which became even scarier with the passing of the Patriot Act, and every store these days is full of security cameras, or the kinds of private information available to the people who run social networking sites, or that employers have figured out how to access said information. There are real-world countries that emulate the "we are watching you and if we catch you expressing any rebellious thoughts we will brainwash you into submission or kill you" style of Oceania, such as the infamous North Korea.
  • By the Shores of Silver Lake, one of Laura Ingalls Wilder 's Little House books. Baby sister Grace gets lost on the prairie. To child readers, it's a somewhat tense scene. For grown-ups with children of their own, it's absolutely horrifying. Grace is found, in a perfect circle of violets. Laura is certain that it's a fairy ring, but grabs her little sister despite being creeped out. It turns out to be a buffalo wallow; the way buffalos roll in the dirt breaks up the prairie grass and aerates the soil perfectly to encourage the violets to grow.
  • Fahrenheit 451 centers around a dystopian United States where literature and basically literacy itself are taboo and entertainment is derived from the ersatzes of television devices that many residents are addicted to; Mildred in particular is so addicted to her television walls that she and her husband Guy have no love left between them. Think about what books are banned at the schools you've gone to and by your country's government, as well as the addictive, apathy-inducing properties of television, video games, and the Internet.
  • The Impairment is set at a university which is at the center of a two year long streak of unsolved serial murders and it's grown so horrible most of the students have been reduced to crazy levels of paranoia and are desperate that they'd gladly see the freshman whom is the prime suspect (and of whom we're placed in the perspective of where we see not only is he innocent, but watched as the latest murder take place) take the fall if they can sleep easily.
    • The revelation that becomes apparent to Kyle when Bret Cameron makes it abundantly clear that the students are nothing more than inevitable collateral damage as his company, a supposed section of the Government that deals...with matters the public are better off not knowing about, and even when he concedes to Kyle's demands to help save students from the coming massacre, we the readers already understand that pretty much, it'll be at the best a very bittersweet victory as students will inevitably die.
    • Something horrifying to take into account, most of the parents of the students of the university have endured sleepless nights fearing their child will become the next victim in the line of murders. By the end of the book, almost all the parents fears come true when the entire school is given the axe at the conclusion of The Mildwood University Massacre .
  • In the first book of The Thrawn Trilogy, from the Star Wars Expanded Universe, Leia is pregnant. She spends some time brooding about whether the twins will turn out like her father, and whether evil skips a generation. More explicitly, Thrawn's Nohgri commandos pursue her all over the galaxy, seeking to capture her without the use of Stun Guns. Stun guns would make these things simpler, but they can induce miscarriage. Meaning that they want to catch her and her unborn children. No matter where she goes, the Nohgri find her, and her escapes get narrower each time. At one point she realizes that Chewbacca and her other defenders would probably be killed, but not her. She'd be taken before Grand Admiral Thrawn, who would smile, and speak politely, and take her children away.
    • When Leia has her third child, the reborn Emperor Palpatine chases after her and the baby so he can replace its soul and take over the infant's body. He doesn't want to kill the baby — he wants to replace it.
  • Coraline. For children, it has fairly standard Aesops about being careful what you wish for and being wary of strangers. For adults, it's about how failing to pay attention to a child can result in the child's kidnapping and death. Word of God states that this was intentional, and indeed, was Gaiman's primary reason for authoring the story — namely, scaring the pants off parents while leaving kids merely a little creeped out.
    • In the movie, it becomes a sobering moment for children (even teenagers) when Coraline can't find her parents. The first time staying alone in your house can be a scary thing. In Coraline's case, she doesn't know where her parents are, if they're even coming back, or what will happen to her. The scene with the pillows in the bed is both heartbreaking and oddly terrifying.
  • In Freaky Friday, near the end of the book, Annabel comes home to find that Boris let her brother go out with a girl he didn't recognize. It turns out to be her mother in her body, without her braces and with pretty clothes.
  • Occurs in, of all places, Goosebumps. Specifically the Night of the Living Dummy series. As several people, along with the blogger himself, pointed out on the snarky Goosebumps blog, the Night of the Living Dummy series may be creepy as a child, but as an adult, a completely different layer of creepy reveals itself. The living dummy in question is obsessed with making preteen girls (and it's always girls, never boys in these books) into his slaves. When they refuse, he punches and slaps them - a rare act of physical violence for this series - and knocks one girl unconscious. In Bride of the Living Dummy, he goes further, demanding a 12 year old girl as his bride (instead of the female dummy), and calling his violence against her a "love tap". From adult eyes, it takes on a whole new meaning that flew over our heads when we were kids, with some really disturbing subtext...
    • In the TV adaptation of Night of the Living Dummy III, it is shown that Slappy has demonically possessed or at least is using his powers on a young pre-teen boy. The effect is no less creepy than it was with the girloilers.
    • A Night in Terror Tower is also a notable example, as its two child leads are lost American tourists in London. They find they have no acceptable currency, they are completely at a loss for their parents' names or physical descriptions, and, to top it all off, they are relentlessly pursued by a ruthless man who's actively trying to kill them. And adding onto that, it's revealed that they're actually a pair of royal siblings who were sent into the future, without anyone to help them, in the hope that they'd be able to escape being executed.
    • In general, Goosebumps really delves into this trope by virtue of being a series where children are constantly victimized, threatened, stalked, abused, or even killed; and every adult is either completely powerless to help them, or is involved with the horrific plot at hand.
  • Stephen King draws on this a lot. The Shining, for example, deals with Jack Torrance's fear of hurting his wife and son, of failing as a writer, of becoming crazy and/or an alcoholic, etc.
    • The image for this trope comes from The Film of the Book of King's Pet Sematary which is, as heart, a prolonged riff on the very adult fear of the death of a child. In fact, what gives the book its emotional gut-punch is the knowledge that everything goes to hell just because Lewis Creed loves his little boy... a bit too much.
    • In From a Buick 8 Sandy Dearborn just told the kid about the titular Buick and was too late to realize, what kid had in mind. Next time he sees him inside the Buick, with a canister of gas, lighter in one hand and gun in the other, ready to launch a suicide attack on parallel world. On top of that car telepatically taunts him, saying, that it will teleport a child into another reality, simply because it wants to.
    • Literature/It is, naturally for a horror story where the protagonists are children for most of it, built on this, but there's a unique Fridge Horror aspect to it. Since the story starts with the characters as adults and then follows their recollection of their childhood together, some of the most awful, frightening things in the book come from the perspective of only having context for horrible things after you've outgrown childhood innocence. Special mention goes to Beverly's mother asking if her father has ever been "inappropriate" with her: she has every reason to suspect that her husband is lusting after their daughter and it's strongly implied that he did, but Beverly doesn't understand the question and she can't be more specific without revealing the reason she asked in the first place. This leaves Beverly's mother unable to get a straight answer or strong-enough basis to accuse her husband, and Beverly doesn't realize the implications until long after IT has had an opportunity to threaten her with it.
    • The Jaunt enirely built on adult fear. Scariest thing is how sudden it is - one second you sitting in a waiting room with your children, getting ready for teleportation and telling astory to pass time - next your son is gone insane, it's partially your fault and there's nothing you can do about it.
  • A Clockwork Orange: In addition to the aforementioned elements shared by the movie, the book features, among other things, a chapter in which Alex rapes a pair of young girls, and graphic descriptions of the World War II footage he is forced to watch as part of his "treatment".
  • Two Weeks with the Queen is told from the perspective of the young Colin, who takes a long time to understand what's going on. However, the focus on the book is still a very adult fear: living knowing you are going to lose your brother (Colin), your child (his parents), or your life partner (Ted).
  • The Harry Potter series, despite being aimed at children, has plenty of moments that scare the parents more than the kids, and a lot of them have to do with child abuse, Parental Abandonment, and not being able to protect or take care of your own children. Most of this probably came from Rowling's own fears as a mother (and especially as a single mother, having broken off an abusive marriage).
    • In the very beginning of Deathly Hallows when Hermione has to erase all of her parents' memories of herself so Voldemort can't torture them for information, it gives a parent a sense of failure to protect their child, that they're weak and powerless.
    • It's very easy to see why Molly Weasley goes full Mama Bear during the Battle of Hogwarts. After all, we saw her Boggart in the fifth bookher family dead. She lost her two brothers in the last war, one of the twins has just died, and the daughter she so desperately wanted after having several sons is apparently the next one...
    • Fenrir Greyback. In the book he just manages to edge out Bellatrix Lestrange in the bone-deep creepiness category. In the movie he's downright disturbing, especially with Hermione. This was entirely intentional on Rowling's part.
      • Notably, there's the fact that Greyback prefers attacking children, partially to get back at any parents who angered him and partially because he enjoys corrupting children young and having them grow up to hate regular people. We find out in the sixth book that he bit Lupin when he was very young, and the books make it pretty clear that being a werewolf put huge mental, emotional, and physical strain on him, plus the fact that (due to discrimination against werewolves) he's generally unemployed and dirt-poor. Greyback set him up for this life because Lupin's father offended him.
      • Made more rage-inducing when you read the full story: Lyall Lupin (the father) had suggested to his incompetent superiors a very simple test to prove that Greyback (who recently murdered two children) is a werewolf, not a muggle as he falsely claimed: keeping the suspect under custody till the next full moon, is 24 hours. Despite the idea being sound and the Werewolf Registry lacking in efficiency, the superiors laughed at him, causing him to declare all werewolves as "Soulless, pure evil". While said insult might not apply to all werewolves, it fit Greyback perfectly, who turned Lyall's five-year-old child into what he despised. IOW, the government's incompetence can ruin your and your loved ones' lives.
    • In the first part of the final film installment, Greyback's part is downplayed... but they play up the character of Scabior, one of the snatchers. To children in the audience, Scabior is frightening because he's feral-looking, gross, cruel, and hunting down the main trio. To slightly older viewers, particularly women, he is... a lot more frightening because it's implied he intends to rape Hermione.
    • The flashbacks to the night Lily and James Potter were killed. The two died in total fear, but doing their best to protect their infant son. In the end, they weren't able to hold back the guy who broke into their house at all. If it weren't for The Power of Love and Lily's Mama Bear Dying Moment of Awesome, they would have had no way to protect baby Harry at all.
    • When you're a kid, the scene in the first novel with Harry seeing his family in the mirror is interesting and sort of sad. When you're older it kind of makes you want to cry.
    • Xenophilius Lovegood is a whole lot more tragic in Deathly Hallows because of this. "They took my Luna, and I don't know if I'll get her back!" The poor guy nearly blows up his house trying to catch the trio, but not out of ill will towards them... but only so he can save his poor daughter from being imprisoned by Death Eaters.
    • Narcissa Malfoy's most prominent and sympathetic role in the story comes from her attempts to save Draco from the power of Voldemort. So much that she managed to lie to the face of Voldemort so Draco would live.
    • In the fourth book, Harry is trapped in a room with someone he thought he could trust, a teacher no less. Only for said person to try to murder him.
    • Order of the Phoenix: there's a catastrophe looming in the horizon but the government is too scared/incompetent to do anything about it so it just decides to pretend it doesn't exist, manipulate the media into discrediting those trying to warn people about it, send bureaucrats to force institutions to toe their line which has the side effect of leaving people less prepared for the catastrophe and finally just start arresting people who keep talking about it. And at the center of it all is Umbridge, who is nothing less than a walking personification of incompetent, cruel and power tripping authority figures everywhere. Small wonder she is one of the most loathed villains in all of fiction: unless you live an extraordinarily charmed life, you either have or will encounter someone like her, whether it's a boss, a teacher, a government, even your family.
    • From Chamber of Secrets:
      • Imagine what Molly Weasley must have felt when, in the middle of the night, she found three of her sons gone, with no note or anything explaining where they went or why, and the family car gone as well. Granted, they did have a good reason for sneaking out, but her anger at them for doing so is completely justified.
      • The Weasley parents get word from Hogwarts that their twelve-year-old daughter was kidnapped into the Chamber of Secrets. Since nobody knows where the chamber is, there's pretty much no chance of finding her and everyone generally has to assume that she's dead. Thankfully Harry and Ron find the chamber in time, but it was still very close. Then, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley find out that this all happened because Ginny was befriended by a stranger who she thought was a kind person interested in her well-being. In reality, not only was he completely manipulating her and using her for his own gain, but he was a younger version of the genocidal Big Bad of the series.
    • Harry gets to see no less than three people he knows well get murdered before his very eyes: his Fire-Forged Friend Cedric in Goblet of Fire, his Godfather Sirius Black in The Order of the Phoenix and his mentor Dumbledore in The Half-Blood Prince. While the former was done by the Big Bad, the latter was by one of Harry's teachers, which made Harry so furious that he tried to assault him in revenge. Strangely, the latter is relieved a little because Dumbledore knew he was going to die sooner or later and actually asked Snape to deliver a Mercy Kill. Then again, being fated for a near-future death (such as from a terminal illness) is an Adult Fear for the victim and those they know in and of itself.
    • The Death Eaters-run Ministry in Deathly Hollows, which involves the hunting of Muggle-born wizards and witches. It's a terrifying parallel to real-world scapegoating dictatorships past and present.
    • Any time when it becomes terrifyingly clear that the Hogwarts teachers are powerless to protect their students. This is especially prominent in the seventh book, when Hogwarts is essentially run by Death Eaters. There's one horrifying part where one of the Carrow siblings suggests letting students be tortured by Voldemort to cover up a mistake he made. McGonagall firmly tells him she won't allow it, only for him to smugly inform her that she doesn't have the power to stop him. Fortunately Harry is able to knock him out. Not forgetting how part of the new curriculum involves casting the Cruciatus Curse on First-Year students with detention slips.
  • In Terry Pratchett's Hogfather the entire reason the Boogeyman, the living embodiment of the "monster under the bed" type scare, became the Tooth Fairy was to protect children from real monsters like Teatime.
  • Thud!. Sam Vimes has a son, and he's going to be home at six o'clock no matter what to read Where's My Cow? to Young Sam. He has nightmares about not making it. He also has nightmares about coming home to an empty crib because of the enemies a police chief makes. In this book, he makes some more.
  • Imajica has an extreme example, as the fear becomes a painful reality. The child under one's protection gets abducted, raped (or worse) and killed right in front of it's protector. Let's just say he has trouble dealing with it.
  • Many of Bentley Little's novels deal with these sort of themes, including the nullification of personal identity (The Ignored) and the destructive power of consumerism (The Store).
  • The premise of The Lovely Bones is based on the worst possible outcome of the "Oh, shit. My kid was supposed to be home hours ago; what if they're dead?" fear.
  • The Anita Blake series has an example of this in the first book, Guilty Pleasures. Anita is hopping through, having a genuine Worthy Opponent moment with Jean-Claude, who can actually roll her, if briefly. Then she meets Nikolaos. Nikolaos doesn't try to convince Anita that she's seeing something she isn't. She tries to convince Anita that she is someone she isn't. And Anita is conscious enough to realize what's happening, but not quite enough to stop it on her own. It's a boogeyman doing bad things, yeah...it's also someone putting you in a position where even someone who was as calm as Anita was incapable of fighting back, and has no reason to expect help. Oh, and Nikolaos looks like a child, and was springing between innocent and B-Movie villain before that.
  • Battle Royale (and by extension, Survival of the Fittest and any other works based off of it). The plot revolves around a middleschool class being sent on a deserted island and forced to kill each other. And there's nothing you could really do about it, as well; two of the adult characters protested against it in the book and manga, resulting in one getting brutally killed and the other getting raped to silence her. Yikes.
  • Thomas Ligotti's short story "The Frolic" plays into both this and existential terror with the walking, talking slab of undiluted Paranoia Fuel that is "John Doe". Think of the worst thing that someone could possibly do to a child. Now, think of someone who does this. Often. Someone that does this without even knowing that it's even slightly wrong. Someone (or rather something) that may not even be human. His capture, he says, is merely time for him to rest. Now, imagine that, for what ever reason, he just knows that you have a daughter...
  • A Little Princess is about a young girl named Sarah who is forced into a life of servitude after her father dies and leaves her apparently penniless and with no other living relatives. And his closest and most trusted friend and business partner believes it's his fault that he supposedly lost the fortune and drove his friend to die. He wants to find his friend's daughter (Sarah) and take care of her because he feels he owes her father that much, and is worried for her safety. But he has no idea where she even is, or even if she's within the country! His search for her lasts years. It's even worse in Cuaron's movie version, where her father is alive and living next door, but due to his injuries and trauma he's suffering from memory loss. When Sarah is running from the police and hides in the house, she recognizes him and starts crying and trying to get him to remember her as she's dragged away to be arrested. He remembers her at the last minute, but still!
  • Although Joffrey Baratheon in A Song of Ice and Fire is one of the most hated characters in the series, his death in the books is uncomfortable for many parents because of the very realistic desperation and grief of his Smug Snake of a mother, Cersei, neatly triggering the fear of one's children dying and eliciting sympathy for both. In the following book she sees her son Tommen choke on a little wine at his wedding feast and nearly breaks down in tears as she relives Joffrey's death. For one horrifying moment she thought her second son had been poisoned as well.
    • How Catelyn's husband is executed, her oldest daughter is forcibly married to the enemy, her youngest daughter disappears off the face of the earth, her younger sons are killed by something they thought they could trust and their bodies are hung from the wall of her castle (Which isn't true, but doesn't exactly help her situation), and it ends with her seeing her eldest son Robb being horrifyingly killed in front of her. And then she also gets killed off. No wonder she Came Back Wrong.
    • Poor Sansa is every brother/father-figure's worst nightmare of "What would happen to you if I'm gone?" After Ned gets executed in front of her, Sansa almost gets raped multiple times, is beaten and stripped in front of a court that's too terrified of Joffrey to help her, and nearly gets framed for treason after Joffrey gets poisoned. Luckily, she escapes the vast corruption of King's Landing... to the home of the man who openly pined for her mother, and Sansa is stated to look just like Catelyn. Luckily, her older brother Robb is going to save her from... oh fuck, did he and Catelyn just get killed at her uncle's wedding?
    • Arya Stark, Sansa's sister, becomes a different kind of Broken Bird, going from a Plucky Girl to verging on a socipathic killer, having a list of people she's planning on killing for both justice and Revenge that she recites every night and training to become one of the world's greatest assassins. She's about 9-10.
    • Viserys and Daenerys were orphaned at a young age and forced into exile with a knight who was loyal to their family. When the knight died, they were forced to live on the streets, spending every day struggling to get by and living in fear of assassination.
    • For the people of Slaver's Bay, Dany's conquest is this. A sudden military attack destroyed most of the infrastructure, the revolutionary changes have the economy in tatters, the government is in complete disarray, and millions of people are homeless or dying of The Plague. Also subverted because the common folk consider her a benevolent messiah, but the fact that the masses blindly follow a charismatic leader without realizing her role in their privation might play this trope straight again.
    • Akin to the Harry Potter example; the crux of the whole series is that there is a possibly civilization-ending ecological disaster on the horizon, but the people in power are either outright indifferent or too busy with their petty politicking to do anything about it.
    • The prequel novellas The Princess and the Queen and The Rogue Prince are full of people losing their children and grandchildren is horrific ways, but the worse has to be the "Blood and Cheese" incident: Queen Helaena was held prisoner in her mother's bedroom by two assassins known only as Blood and Cheese. Cheese commanded her to choose which of her two sons they would kill, Jaehaerys or Maelor, and said if she didn't choose fast they'd rape her daughter Jaehaera. Terrified, she chose Maelor, so Blood killed Jaehaerys instead, leaving Maelor with the knowledge that his mother had chosen him to die. Understandably, Helaena was left in a near-catatonic state and eventually committed suicide.
  • Bridge to Terabithia, period. The idea that a cheerful, friendly, imaginative and full of life child suddenly dies in a freak, senseless accident ( best swimmer in a class drowning in creek shallow enough to walk through) is utterly terrifying to parents, especially since said child did nothing to deserve death. "Bonus" points for this being the only child.
    • Another terrifying point is that the whole is Based on a True Story. It was a lightning in reality making it even more tragic. One minute that little girl is happily playing on a beach, the next there is a corpse...
  • In The Stones of Green Knowe, the protagonist, Roger, at one point sees what he thinks is his own village being massacred, with his family slaughtered. Despite the fact that Roger is only a child in the story, this would have been a very realistic fear for anyone at the time the novel takes place (the twelfth century), as well as in parts of the world today.
  • Die Wolke ("The Cloud") by Gudrun Pausewang describes what would happen to a country if a nuclear plant would go fully caboom.
    • Pausewang is very fond of this trope. Compare also: Die letzten Kinder von Schewenborn (The Last Children of Schewenborn), which describes the aftermath of an implied nuclear war with all its horrors (the protagonist's family save his father dies one after another while suicides, murders, radiation sickness and starvation deaths happen all around him), and Der Schlund (The Abyss), which is set in a Germany that falls pray to another fascist regime a la Third Reich. The protagonist here loses her entire family to the regime and essentially commits suicide-by-proxy at the end.
  • The Hunger Games centres around Katniss who takes on a motherly role for her young sister prematurely due to her father dying in a mining accident and her mother's ensuing depression. To feed the family she breaks the law and increases her odds of being picked for the deadly games. But because this is a Crapsack World, the sister is picked for the Games anyway, so Katniss volunteers as sacrifice, knowing she'll never win and her family will be left without a provider. Harrowing enough but then her younger sister dies in the revolution Katniss starts - likely at the hands of Katniss' best friend.
    • Just the thought of it being your kid chosen for the Deadly Game...
    • Outside of the Games themselves, there's the fear of mental illness making you unable to care for your children. Recovering, and knowing that your kids nearly starved to death while you watched and did nothing, knowing that your daughter doesn't even trust you anymore. The horrible guilt- and unlike the Games, it actually happens.
      • A torture method that takes your most treasured memories and poisons them, making you fear the people you used to love to the extent that you want them dead. Oh, and there's no known cure.
    • For Katniss herself this trope is a big part of forming her personality and her outlook on life. She doesn't ever want to fall in love because she's seen what it did to her mother to lose her father. She's even more adamant to never have children because they might get reaped. Even after the Games are over and the rule of Snow has been overthrown it takes fifteen years for her to get over that fear and start a family. She also spends a long time ignoring/denying her feelings for Peeta.
  • Three Days by Donna Jo Napoli focuses on an eleven-year-old girl visiting in Italy with her father. All is well until he suffers a heart attack while driving and passes out...and then the girl ends up being kidnapped. So now in addition to watching her father get a heart attack and probably die while they were driving and she was right next to him, she's trapped in a stranger's home, surrounded by people who don't speak any English, in a strange country that she doesn't even know her way around.
  • From The Raven: What about never being able to see someone you love - ever?
  • The Knight and Rogue Series has a woman who collects mentally handicapped children to experiment on, since the law is more likely to miss perfectly normal kids or adults.
  • Warrior Cats deals with this a couple times. The forest is dangerous, so it's always frightening to the characters when a young cat disappears... one mother has to deal with the fact that her daughter's hindlegs are paralyzed so she'll never live a normal life and might die early... another mother's kits go missing, and she's forced to realize that her mate may have kidnapped them to live with him.
    • There's also the scene where a kitten is seized by a hawk, carried off into the sky, and nobody is fast enough to stop it, even though they see it happening. We never see that kitten again.
  • Those That Wake had everyone forgetting about teenage Laura, even her parents. And at the end of the book, they still don't remember.
  • School Crossing, by Francis King, is about a child-hating headmaster bitter after being sacked from the school where he worked. Whenever he drives anywhere near the school, he begins seeing the ghosts of children on the crossing outside. After being told by a doctor that he is hallucinating and should drive at the ghosts to prove they're not real, he does - only to run over and kill several children. The "ghosts" were a premonition. This is a fear instantly understandable to anyone with kids or who drives anywhere near places where children gather. The author has stated that he began having nightmares about it after acquiring a large, powerful car that he found difficult to handle.
    • The doctor who gave him the advice presumably didn't handle the outcome very well, either.
  • House of Leaves has many scary things going on, most noticably the Nothing Is Scarier aspects. But perhaps the most insidious facet of the book's creepiness is the fact that these terrible things are all going on in a family home. And then the children start changing. And also the claustrophobia, and the steadily escalating insanity that's probably the only thing of these that's actually happening.
  • Fay Woolf's short stories "Slowly" (about a child being trapped beneath a fairground ride - engineers try to free him but then discover the machine sliced him into a pile of body parts, which rain down upon the rescuers) and "Sideshow" (about a boy suffocating to death during a party game at a school fair.) The events of both stories are described in such a way as to hold off the full horror until the end, and they are reasonably unlikely to happen - but still perfectly plausible and possible. Not fun for any parents reading.
  • Someone Else's War examines the life and world of a child soldier from the inside out. It's a harrowing read in its own right, but if you have children of your own, you will find yourself unconsciously putting them in Matteo's place. Or Asher's. Or Otto's. Or Ruth's. And weeping with terror. And then you remember that there are really children going through this.
  • Słony from Kroniki Drugiego Kregu has to hide his daughter on a remote island and be very careful with any visitor he has in order to keep her safe from an organization that would otherwise kidnap and experiment upon her. The organization finds out anyway and forces him to spy on a bunch of people or they will kidnap, rape, and force her to give birth to children they will further experiment on. No wonder the guy spends his night obsessively checking if all of his children are alive in their beds.
  • Galaxy of Fear mostly serves up Goosebumps-style horrors, but not entirely. Tash and Zak Arranda are kid survivors of Alderaan and lost everyone there. In Eaten Alive Tash is shown to have some degree of separation anxiety/abandonment issues, half believing that if she's parted from her one surviving family member, he'll die too. After Alderaan she sank in despair, only deciding to engage with the world because her brother was there and needed someone to watch his back. The book skims over her reaction to everyone, including Zak, disappearing later. City of the Dead has Zak going off by himself and apparently dying; he wakes up at his own funeral and hears her crying, but can't move or speak himself. This book mostly has him as the viewpoint character and he's more concerned with paralysis and being Buried Alive, so again Tash's reaction isn't given any focus... but it's pretty awful to think about.
    • In The Nightmare Machine, Zak has to face a number of fears thanks to the titular horror, and it takes his worst fear to escape it.
    "My worst fear isn't being attacked by technology, or eaten by a rancor, or even losing Uncle Hoole. Tash, my worst fear is losing you!"
  • The Emigrants is full of this thanks to it's near-documentary depiction of a group of people who emigrate from Sweden to America during the mid-19th century. The fear of not being able to feed or clothe your children, your children dying from hunger or disease, sailing across an ocean knowing that some of the passengers will die during the journey, fear of being a stranger in a strange land and not speaking the language so you can't communicate even if your life depends on it... The list is very, very long.
  • Honor Harrington:
    • Imagine going away on a business trip, leaving your lover behind. Then, while you're there, your best friend shows up without warning, to tell you that your lover was just murdered. Then you find out that it was an enemy of yours, the same man who tried to rape you once, but you didn't tell anyone about. In other words, the love of your life is dead, and you're responsible.
    • Worse than that. The Harringtons knew that when their little girl joined the Navy she may one day be killed in battle—but having her captured by the enemy and watching her execution on TV is one of the most heartrending passages in the entire series—even though, by this point, the reader already knows it's completely fake.
    • During the Oyster Bay sequence, one brief POV is a father traveling with his children. He has just enough time to realize that a) his children are going to die and b) that he can't do a damn thing about it.
  • A Shadow Girls Summer Of Love And Madness has Eliza being kidnapped by someone her mother, Kala just invited into their home. Kala is killed by the kidnapper and dies not knowing if her baby will be taken to safety.
  • The Bell Jar contains a Young Adult Fear, when Esther realises that while she is intelligent, she doesn't have any idea what to do for a career and fears that life is passing her by. This will hit close to home for many teenagers and twenty-somethings.
  • Ivanhoe: Being part of a subjugated race? Check. Having arrogant aristocrats able and willing to do whatever they want to do to you with the approval of the law? Check. Having a Corrupt Church tell you that you are supposed to be subjugated? Check. Being mocked because your ancestors lost a battle? Check. Having ones loved one kidnapped by a would-be rapist? Check.
  • In the Aunt Dimity series, once Lori becomes a parent, these sorts of fears start to figure into her reactions. This gets a humourous treatment when she's an overprotective new mom, but it also drives her more serious investigation of the possible pedophile in Aunt Dimity: Vampire Hunter.
  • A Long Way from Chicago touches on things like losing one's house or become penniless and destitute. It doesn't help that the second book is set during The Great Depression. The second book also has a frightening chapter where Mary Alice has her first encounter with a tornado, and hides in the storm cellar with her grandmother and their pets.
  • In ''A Macabre Myth of a Moth-Man, Nina spends an entire year missing her boyfriend and wondering why he isn't contacting her and if it's somehow her fault or even if he's dead. The boyfriend was taken advantage of by a pharmaceutical corporation, illegally experimented on, and basically was broken so badly he felt he could never go home again.
  • The first six books of The Black Company series deal with the Company combating various Evil Sorcerors and following a pair of grand quests. The seventh book, Bleak Seasons, deals with the annalist's personal tragedies while enduring a siege, grappling with famine, disease, and betrayal.
  • For a sweet, charming series of rhyming books for children, the Madeline series is full of parent fear.
    • Madeline - The little heroine comes down with a sudden, life-threatening illness that requires emergency surgery.
    • Madeline's Rescue - She falls into the Seine and nearly drowns.
    • Madeline and the Bad Hat - A little boy is mauled by a pack of dogs and just barely rescued with serious injuries. (Granted, he brought it on himself by provoking them, but still...)
    • Madeline and the Gypsies - Two children. Accidentally left behind at a carnival. At the top of the ferris wheel. In the middle of the night. During a thunderstorm. And by the time the adults realize they're missing and (presumably) hurry back to find them, the carnival people have already left, taking the kids with them. Readers know that they're happy and well cared for by the gypsies, but Miss Clavel certainly doesn't.
    • Madeline in London - A horse runs away with the same two children on its back.
    • Only Madeline's Christmas, the last book by the original author, avoids this trope.
  • Happens in the Tortall Universe, sometimes as a result of previous protagonists reaching adulthood.
    • Daughter of the Lioness: The main reason George won't let Aly become a field agent in the spy corps (despite her skill and desire for it) is because he knows exactly what dangers spies face and he couldn't protect her. Word of God says he took her to a meeting with a contact as a little girl that ended with knives drawn.
    • Provost's Dog: Hoo boy. First, you might be unable to feed your family. Second, you might be so hard up for a job that you have to take a really shady one and then get killed at the end of it, leaving your loved ones penniless and thinking you've abandoned then (the Fire Opal murders). Third, if you do have some item of value and sentiment, your child might get abducted to extort you for it and killed if you don't pay up (Shadow Snake). Fourth, your child might be sold into slavery—maybe even by your own spouse or lover, as nearly happened to Beka's sister. Fifth, you might wind up with a wallet full of counterfeit money and not only is it worthless, you could be tortured or executed if you accidentally pass them on (Bloodhound). Sixth, Domestic Abuse.
  • In Natalie Mooshabr's Mice, Linpeck's mother is absolutely terrified when Mrs Mooshabr, a person employed by the state agency Care of Child, appears in their home and says she was asked to investigate and make sure Linpeck won't roam any more.
  • In The Pied Piper of Hamelin, the eponymous character rids the town of its rat infestation, but is denied the gold he'd been promised in return. In response, he lures their children to go with him, and their fate afterward varies depending on the version - but in almost every take, the children are never seen again.
  • In Pinocchios Sister, It's even lampshaded at the start of the book that the "scary story" in the book isn't about monsters under the bed. Where to begin? Being ignored by your parent, being deserted by your spouse, realizing your child is missing...
  • Lolita: An adult man has a sick sexual attraction to young girls, kidnaps his (Conveniently an Orphan step-daughter), rapes her, and kills a man who also rapes her. Not to mention Domestic Abuse, Abusive Parents, Death by Childbirth, and a horrible case of Villain Protagonist.
  • The Reynard Cycle: Isengrim's lover, Hirsent, can face down Chimera with aplomb and marches off to war without hesitation, but she is terrified by the prospect of miscarriage. Understandable as she has already lost two children. She becomes very protective of Pinsard as a result.
  • The king and queen watch their oldest, favorite daughter die in horrible pain on her wedding night in The Kingdom of Little Wounds. Sophia is only the first loss, and by the end only two of the original seven children are left.
  • Losing Christina is packed full of adult fear due to the psychological nature and setting. Two teachers play psychological mind games on innocent young female students. The main character, Christina puts her self in really serious danger through much of the series. The first book she has to save her friend, Anya from drowning her self by running through a dark cold and rainy night in the second book she slips into school in the middle of the night and is nearly crushed by retracting bleachers. Later another one of Christian's friends, Dolly is kidnapped and Christina and Dolly run for their lives to keep from drowning out on the mud flats. And in the third and final book she and another girl, Val, are trapped in a house that is burning down.
  • In Wings of Fire, Thorn has her infant daughter stolen from her, by someone she thought she could trust. She searches for years to find her. This all happens in a Wretched Hive, during a civil war.
  • Parental Substitute Darry in The Outsiders was terrified of the idea that his younger brothers Ponyboy and Sodapop would be taken away to a boy's home if he was found negligent after their parents' deaths. And when Ponyboy ran away after the argument Darry had with Ponyboy, Darry worried himself sick, not knowing if he would see Ponyboy again.
  • The Giver:
    • Seeing your friends and family indoctrinated by the government to the point that they no longer know how to think for themselves.
    • Your loved ones being euthanized without your knowledge.
    • Jonas asks his parents if they love him. They don't even understand the meaning of the word.
    • The Giver's relationship with his daughter Rosemary. He must give her the memories, she can't handle it, and it hurts her to the point where not only does she ask to be Released, but insists on injecting herself.
  • Good In Bed features a pretty unnerving example, for a work of Chick Lit. Cannie Shapiro becomes pregnant, and eventually has a confrontation with the father's new girlfriend in an airport bathroom. During said confrontation, Cannie falls and strikes her pregnant belly against one of the sinks. After a lot of bleeding and undergoing a hysterectomy, she very nearly loses her daughter, Joy, because of a forced premature birth. There's an especially depressing scene where Cannie finds Joy, who is tiny and struggling to breathe, hooked up to a ventilator. She laments that she's so close, and yet unable to hold and comfort her daughter.
  • Spectral Shadows has a few instances of this. There's the reason why Christine lost her memories, and Father Mouse massacring the school full of innocent Webbertonian kittens would work.
  • MARZENA: What would be scary enough to put in a horror book? I know let's talk about money! And Jobs! in a world where even robots are out of jobs, and not to mention the incoming Robot Nazi economic apocalypse. Is there anything worst to fear than another global recession? Well, if you're a mind doctor, then what about one of your patients showing up in the news as a mass murderer? "You should at least be feeling something by now." Or maybe you are just yourself Alexithymic and don't know your own feelings?
  • Faerie Tale: One of the protagonist's children becomes horribly ill, and the doctors are mystified and unable to help He's been replaced by a changeling.
  • Ingrid, the middle school-aged protagonist of Echo Falls Mysteries gets put through a lot of situations that would make these books painful to read for adults, but she always gets out okay.
  • Crystal Arbogast's short horror story "Hobnail" uses this rather subtly. It involves a young girl and her mother being followed home by a headless corpse, but it manages to derive most of its scare potential from how the girl finds out at the end: after she gets home safe and sound, she overhears her mother telling her father that she could see the corpse the whole time, but refused to say anything to the girl because she didn't want to frighten her. In spite of its overtly horrific elements, the story is essentially about the very real fear of our parents lying to us to protect our innocence.
  • In Dora Wilk Series, Bogna is terrified that her son will inherit her supernatural abilities - I See Dead People and Vein-O-Vision - leading to him being shunned by his peers. To make matters worse, over the course of the story he's attacked by magic wind. Both she and mother of another attacked child are terrified - how can you arrest wind?
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society is full of this, both in-verse and to readers. Mr. Benedict doesn't like risking the lives of a bunch of children but realizes that his tasks can only be done by kids. The main characters are constantly in danger. A day after deciding to join Mr. Benedict and his friends they nearly get violently kidnapped in their own home. Constance, who is an incredibly precocious two year old, gets electrocuted and stuffed in a bag. She's fine in the end but still. Oh, and by the way, there's a man out there who is kidnapping children and taking away people's memories, while broadcasting secret messages designed to prevent anyone from searching from them. After all, "the missing aren't missing, they're only departed."
  • The Fairy Rebel has several.
    • After Tiki promises to help Jan have a baby, Jan and Charlie are very worried that Tiki will get mixed up and cause the baby to be born with very strange hair or skin colors or otherwise with strange powers.
    • The entirety of Bindi finding the magic wand counts. Jan's feelings about leaving it lying around are explicitly compared to leaving a gun or bottle of poison out in the open, but she's so frightened by it that she can't bring herself to move it. Under the influence of the wand, Bindi lies to her mother and her friends, starts associating with a boy at school who is clearly not nice, and shoplifts candy bars. Her mother only learns about the dark power influencing her daughter when Bindi is trapped in her room, being buried under a mountain of toys she summoned, screaming for her mother. Jan can't get the door to open and can't do anything besides call for Bindi and ask what's wrong. Making it even worse is the fact that Jan has an injured leg and can't run quickly when she hears Bindi screaming. The narration compares it to how it always seems to be impossible to run in a nightmare.
    • The fairy queen's treatment of her subjects is a disturbingly realistic depiction of brainwashing and abusive relationships. There's no magic involved. The fairies are just told to love her and to not be lonely or unsatisfied and to act as the queen wishes. If they don't, she locks them in unsafe places and sometimes forgets about them, leading to their deaths. Tiki and Wijic accept this as a completely normal and reasonable way of living. Near the end, it's revealed that the queen punished them by cutting off their supplies of magic and leaving them starved and in rags. Even then, they both seem completely unaware that something bad's happening, with Tiki apparently convinced it's winter. It's not until they see each other that they realize the queen's hurting them, at which point Jan nearly breaks down over their treatment.
  • The villain in Shaman Blues is a ghost who can strangle people with its Mind over Matter powers. It targets newborn children in a hospital and the staff is powerless to stop it.
  • One of the recurring theme of Heretical Edge Children being taken away from their parents, or parents having to leave their children behind for their safety.
    • In particular, Flick's mother Joselyn cannot catch a damn break with this. She's been forced away from no less than three of her four children over the course of her life. And there's not a lot of solace she can take in being near her fourth kid for... a number of reasons.
    • The Akharu warrior Tiras had to leave his wife and daughter behind in order to fight a war against a race of enemies that would kill them for being part Akharu. He hasn't seen either of them in over two hundred years. Centuries later, his wife Jiao gave her younger daughter (by a different man) up for adoption in order to protect her from Heretics. She was worried enough that she didn't even name her baby for fear of leaving any trace that could connect them.
    • The Obituary Writer, being a novel that addresses the subject of death and loss, is naturally full of these moments. Among them include a neighborhood child being abducted and killed, Vivien's pressing fear that her beloved died during a disaster or is left stricken with amnesia, and Claire losing her unborn baby as a result of an impulse-prompted sledding accident.
    • Haiden and Sariel Moon were both flung literally worlds away from their twin children, one of whom was also sucked into the same dimensional portal that took them. They haven't been seen in a decade.
    • An argument could be made that Crossroads Academy and Eden's Garden kidnap their Bystander students. That's probably how their parents would see it if the schools didn't modify their memories to make them think they sent their kids to a prestigious private school (Crossroads) or a military academy (Eden's Garden).

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/AdultFear/Literature