Phobia -A not so irrational fear
By Jenny K Brennan
Part 1 of 2
Go directly to Part 2 here.
“Kate, don’t look.”
But, I had to look. I sat on the floor with the vacuum next to me, poking at
sticky cobwebs in a cupboard with the hose. I needed a break anyways, so I
killed the machine and made the mistake of looking up.
David stood rigid at the sink, an expression on his face I had never seen
before. I turned my gaze to see what he stared at and froze; the insect
above him dominated my narrowing vision. I wished to sink into the floor had
it been possible, would have been very comfortable between floor joists.
Until David took care of it. He always did.
Illuminated in unforgiving clarity by the afternoon light, the bug clung to
the cupboard corner. It was the size and shape of a kiwi cut in half
lengthwise, sleek and oily black. I couldn’t see its legs under its dome of
bisected exoskeleton, and didn’t care to.
Without looking away from it, David reached a hand toward me. I placed the
end of the vacuum hose, a hard plastic pipe, in it. He moved it into
position and nodded. I pushed the button, realizing as the machine started
whining that it simply wouldn’t work. The bug was too big, the pipe too
He poked the insect with it; there was nothing wrong with the suction so it
should have, in the least, trapped the flat black thing on the end of the
Its reaction was instantaneous: It convulsed and shivered, whirring fast,
its biological motor in overdrive. It jerked away from the plastic and
jumped. I shrieked. The shell unfolded, sprouted wings, and launched my way-
droning, hissing. I screamed, ducked and dived, scrambled on all fours
behind David and then stood. Shuddering and flaying my arms about my head;
I could do nothing but whimper: “Get it! Get it! Get it off me!”
“Hey, easy, honey.” David’s voice registered only when he put his arms
around me. “It’s not on you! Sweetie, it’s not!” I cowered in his arms, and
opened my eyes, allowing my arms to drop away from my head only when I could
see for myself that it was so.
“Holy fuck!” David breathed and held me tight. He reached down, shut off the
vacuum, and sighed. “I guess I need to take care of that, huh?”
The thing sat silently in the corner, where dry wall met drywall, just above
the wayne-scotting, protected by the shallow ledge, a small shelf filled
with crystal trinkets on one wall, and a framed wedding picture on the
other. “I can’t get it there.” David said. “Not without…”, he trailed off.
I knew what he meant. That was not a bug that could be easily squished in
paper towel, nor flattened with fly swatter. This thing was unreal; it was a
bug from hell. I could still hear the vicious humming; still feel the
displaced air as it swept passed. I took a deep breath and nodded.
“I have spray in the garage. It should work. Kills everything.” I chose not
to hear doubt in his voice.
David understood. Spiders, flies, Daddy longlegs, wasps, earwigs, ants. He
accepted my fears. I loved him for not making fun of me when I panicked, for
his patience. And the terror eventually eased. These days I could clean off
cobwebs, and hear a bumblebee fly about without screaming. I understood
David’s oft repeated words: “If you don’t bother them, they won’t bother
“Do you want to come?” He mumbled. I stood stock still and shook my head. If
I let it out of my sight, I wouldn’t know if it got away… He nodded. “I
know. I’ll just be a sec, ok?”
I trembled, but allowed him to ease from my grip. “If I don’t bother it.” I
said with more conviction than I felt. “Go.”
He kissed my forehead, let a hand linger on my shoulder, and then stepped
through the doorway to the hall.
I pinned the insect with my eyes, daring it to move, begging it not to.
I listened as David opened the front door and stepped onto the porch. The
door closed and I was alone. With that. thing.
I watched it. It still didn’t move.
David’s steps faded. I cursed our decision not to connect the garage to the
The creature shifted, emitted a shrill rustling, and stilled. My heart
hammered, every muscle burned with adrenaline, I was paralyzed by fear.
“David, please hurry.”
It jumped, unfolded its wings, and came at me. I screamed, flung my arm as
I stepped back. A hard thud against my hand silenced its frenzied droning. A
searing pain spread across the top of my hand, but quickly turned numb.
Astonished, I stared at the thing as it sat on the floor like a large black
pimple. I held my arm to my chest and backed away, breathless, as I couldn’t
seem to find air between heartbeats.
Keeping my eyes on it, I reached around the doorframe and grabbed a pair of
boots from a shelf. David’s, big, clunky, bug-crushing work-boots. Just what
I needed. I glanced from boots to bug-too far to throw.
“Now, you just stay right there.” I wheezed. I fumbled, couldn’t seem to
grip the boots, or feel anything below my left wrist. I glanced at my arm
and quickly looked away. There was no time for it now. Fear would have to
wait. I had a job to do. Keeping my eye on the bug, I pulled the boots with
my other hand, and stepped into them.
“Don’t move.” I hissed, taking a step. My left hand grew numb from
fingertips to elbow, skin waxy white. I felt no pain, just an icy tingle.
“This won’t hurt one little bit.” I stepped closer.