Imagine being chased down a narrow corridor by several mangy starving bloodhounds expectorating flesh-burning acid with each breath. You make sharp turns, you fling obstacles in their path, you fly recklessly to god knows where, yet always you feel their pursuit inching closer and closer no matter how fast you run. Such is the dread of quals: driving you to exhaustion and then going for the throat.
Imagine teetering on the edge of an icy cliff, an abyss yawning below and sheets of snow obliterating your vision. Completely blinded by the stinging frost, you must inch your way by feel alone, never quite knowing if the ice supporting you will crack and cause you to hurtle to you doom. Such is the dread of quals: the constant fear of death lingering over your every action.
Imagine coming to consciousness without use of your eyes. You are bound naked to a table and you cannot move your limbs. You hear hushed voices speaking unintelligably. You feel something, maybe it's spiders or centipedes, crawling all over your body, over your eyes and into your mouth. You hear the whirr of some machinery as it inches closer and closer to your abdomen. Such is the dread of quals: complete helplessness while others determine your future.
Imagine being in the control of some petty deity, the natural laws dependent on her will. You find yourself slammed into the ceiling, while space and matter twist around you. Everything you look at spirals into a blur. And, then you feel your own body start to rend apart, the bonds holding your limbs together snap, liberating your organs. Such is the dread of quals: the very forces of nature line up against you.
Imagine being the slave to some maniacal master. You toil in the scorching fields all day, and then return to be beaten for work that you hadn't completed, that no human being would have been capable of completing. Your food and shelter withheld until you finish a task impossible in the allotted time. Such is the dread of quals: adequacy is a figment of imagination.
Imagine the ultimate terror. No physical bonds restrain you but you cannot move. Your legs feel as if they were melded in the ground. The hair stands up on your neck, yet you don't know why. You think you hear something, something approaching in the darkness, a thump - thump, but it's only your heartbeat, it's pace all the while quickening. You constantly expect something to approach, with gleaming teeth ready to rend your body in two, but it never comes. It's just you, alone in the darkness, with the ultimate terror. Such is the dread of quals: it is in its essence indescribable yet palpable.