A new meaning to the phrase "Don't bug me"

Phobia --A not so irrational fear
by J K Brennan ©2012

"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 small.

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 pipe.

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 you."

"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 house.

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, raised a heavy boot, and drove it down hard. The thing didn't even twitch before I crushed it and squeezed its insides from its shell with a sickening wet crackle. White stringy slime and black flakes appeared around the edge of the boot. I stepped back, dragging my foot, and scraped the thing off. "If you hadn't bothered me, I wouldn't have bothered you."

I stared for another moment and walked to the front door, giddy with delight. I had to tell David. I smiled, threw the door open and rushed out on the porch. And there I stopped, fought, and failed, to swallow a whimper.

Crawling, turning, shivering, the oily bugs covered every surface. Patio set, the truck, garden shed, all layered in shiny black beetles. As I watched, a clump fell from a maple branch, and my bamboo windchime clattered for the last time, scattering bugs as it crashed to the ground.

"David, where are you?", I choked on the words and my legs crumbled beneath me. I turned toward the garage to call again, and I saw him.

He lay just beyond the porch, covered in bugs. Their thick blanket broke up as I stared; revealing blue cotton, pale skin, a shrivelled limp hand. They evacuated his body in moments.

"David.", I tried to say, but it was locked as a scream in my head.

Cold, numb, I somehow found my feet and went to him. As I dropped down again, all but one creature moved away. It shivered and buzzed madly, struggling to get free from a thin gold chain that had slipped between hard shell and flimsy fraying wings, trapping it.

I grabbed it; wrapped my fingers around bug and chain and ripped it loose. I felt it shudder and crack, before throwing it into the crowd of retreating bugs, trailed by a sparkle of gold. I released the scream, a horror without words, in rage without limits. Then, I saw his face and stopped. If I hadn't, I never would have. David didn't like screaming, he was.

Was.

I touched his cold skin. I brushed away his hair and stared at his open eyes, his slack mouth, waxy white features.

"David." I whispered. "I killed it, David. I'm not afraid of bugs anymore." I looked up from my dead husband, to the house, our house. It was theirs now.

Thousands, millions of black silent monsters covered every surface. A slow river of insects poured over doorframe and threshold, taking possession. That was the final straw. "Evicted am I? You just knock yourselves out you fucking bastards! Did you forget me? I'm right here!" I screamed. I raged, I cursed and pleaded until my voice broke.

I lay down beside David and held him, wondering why they wouldn't come to take me too, to ease the pain that scraped, clawed, and scratched at me with its inevitability. "I'm going to wake up soon. Any minute now.", I told David as I smoothed out a wrinkle in his shirt.

I pulled my legs up, dragging the heavy boots along the grass, and then I could smell it. A sharp, sickly bitter scent. It came from the shoes, from the remains of the one I had crushed. The bastards wouldn't touch me. I glared at them, empty of fear. "You fucking cowards!" I sat up and something eerily like a laugh escaped me, "We're not having such a great day, are we honey?" I refused to feel the burning behind my eyelids, and postponed any recognition of ache.

I eased my feet out of the death-marked work boots, grabbed them both with my usable hand and threw them. They landed on the porch and bugs nearby shuffled, jumped, or flew from the scent of death.

In the few seconds remaining, I rolled David onto his back, snuggled close, pulled his hand on to his chest, and braided our fingers together. I closed my eyes.

The sharp rustling started, increased, stopped. I knew what they were doing; they were shifting, preparing, then they would jump.

I waited. .

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Flying, stinging insects are a phobia of mine. I find them scary-not icky; just scary. That's why this little gem gets the honor of our Halloween offering. Tell newbie J K Brennan how much this buggy tale scared you on our BBS. -GM

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