Escarli is afraid of the dark. German appears absent. Yuri tips into rage at the smallest upset. Mental malaise in Venezuela is growing, a hidden anguish adding to the litany of ills ravaging the country.
A nationwide blackout, unprecedented in scale and length, only worsened the psychological descent for Venezuelans as they watched cash machines and water pipes shut down for lack of electricity, and their homes plunged into darkness.
The outage lasted five days, to Tuesday this week. But the trauma goes on, giving some residents a haunted look -- people tottering on the edge after four years of political and socioeconomic crisis.
"There is desperation," summed up Jorge de Avila, a 38-year-old store employee who lined up at dawn to buy canisters of cooking gas in a dangerous poor district in the southeast of Caracas.
Stefania Aguzzi, a psychologist heading a free mental health association that consults by telephone, said many Venezuelans are "suffering with enormous sadness" that could "become depression very quickly, with anxiety levels that would turn chronic."
The blackout was a dramatic blow on top of a deteriorating situation for the country of 30 million inhabitants who are reduced to daily protests and struggling to survive against a tsunami of hyperinflation and lack of cash, food and medicine.
For days it paralyzed the country, knocking out bank card terminals in shops used to electronically pay for what goods were available, forcing citizens to increasingly turn to the ony currency available: dollars.
Water pumps stopped working. Some hospitals without standalone generators collapsed.
"We're in a bad way, and on guard because there's looting going on, some establishments are being robbed. There is tension. Police are firing shots, running after those people. You lock your doors but don't know if they're going to turn on you," said Gabriela Martinez, a 37-year-old administrator.
For Mayaro Ortega, a psychologist and researcher at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, "this state of chronic emergency is a risk factor for developing post-traumatic stress."
When someone is incapable of securing basic necessities and personal safety, they can fall victim to panic attacks even while outwardly appearing calm, she explained. "Children are the most vulnerable."
- 'I feel afraid' -
Escarli, a nine-year-old girl with shining dark eyes, fears the darkness the blackout brought.