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ROB WAS spreading peanut butter on his toast when the saw the first spider. It skittered across the counter, straight towards the bread bag. The revulsion built in him and the fear damn near froze him, but he managed to raise his hand and flick the spider. A quick pishnook with his middle finger and the spider went sailing through the air, away from his breakfast.
At first, he felt relief, and as he heart rate returned to normal, he finished preparing his breakfast and walked to the table. He struggled with his ties to sanity when he recalled which way he’d flicked the spider. Yep, right at the table.
He remembered an internet article he’d read a couple of weeks ago that advised anyone dealing with an irrational fear, to stop, drop and roll, figuratively. The man had said, “Stop what you’re doing, drop a box over the part of your brain that is afraid and roll with the situation.” The writer suggested a form of self-hypnosis where you pictured yourself placing your fear in a box and sealing it up.
He’d thought at the time, that it was an idea worth considering to help him deal with his arachnophobia. But here at his kitchen table, with peanut butter smeared on his thumbs, it was an idea that quickly vanished under a heavy and oppressing cloud of white-hot terror.
He pushed back from the table, knocking his chair into the frame of the sliding glass door behind him. As the chair struck the door, a new terror arrived to erase any reasoning abilities he had left.
As the glass shook in the frame of the door, it disturbed a nest of infant spiders, and dozens of them rushed from their resting spots, out across the glass. The sun was shining so they were backlit, their shadows on the table, floor and on him made them appear to be much larger.
He opened his mouth to scream for help, for his wife to come and rescue him but before he could utter a sound, he thought of the babies running up his body and into his open mouth, so he snapped it shut.
Several seconds passed before a solution presented itself to him.
He ran to the cupboard under the sink and grabbed the aerosol can of disinfectant they kept there. He sprayed it heavily at the spiders on the window. Not only did it not kill them, it didn’t even slow them down.
Brilliance reared its beautiful head in his mind, and he retrieved the cigarette lighter his wife kept in the cutlery drawer for candle lighting.
He sprayed the can again, and this time he held the flame from the lighter just beneath the stream of spray and suddenly, armed with a flamethrower, he was a warrior, and he knew he could win this battle.
The curtains caught fire as he turned towards his wife when she walked into the kitchen asking, “What’s that smell?”
She screamed when she saw the flames, and he instinctively pointed the can of fire towards the noise he’d heard her make.
Instinctively. That was the word he’d use later to explain to the police officer how Beth had died in the fire that had burned their house down. It was an accident, but he felt certain the cop didn’t believe him.
The judge didn’t buy death by arachnophobia as a murder defence, and he was sentenced to life because of the particularly heinous and painful way he’d murdered his wife.
Once he arrived at his new, very-old-prison home, his wife’s brother spoke to a friend, a prison guard who ensured word got around that the already unpopular man who’d burned his poor wife to death was afraid of spiders.
There are a lot of spiders in old prisons.