“He thinks he can do what?” Dr. Lilly asked with a jovial smile. She would never joke about a patient in front of them, but she enjoyed a laugh with the staff when someone new came in. Her assistant, Fred, handed her a manilla folder for her next appointment as he explained.
“Another superhero wannabe. He says he can control spiders,” Fred said. Once the Dr. accepted the folder he waved and left the office; Dr. Lilly opened the folder to see her next patient. The picture showed a mousey man with neat dark hair and glasses; his name was Richard Ragno. After familiarizing herself with the info she needed, Dr. Lilly stood from the desk to meet with him.
She found him in the interview room sitting patiently at the table, drawing. His file did not indicate any dangerous tendencies; and, he was allowed pencil and paper to draw.
“Hello, Richard, I’m Dr.Lilly,” she introduced herself with a handshake as she sat down. She caught a glimpse of his doodles it seemed to be a mandala drawn out of spiderwebs and the number 33.
“Hello, doctor,” Richard replied. After their handshake, he picked up the pencil again and resumed drawing.
“That’s a very pretty mandala you’re working on. I see a lot of 33’s there, is that your favorite number?” she asked. Richard nodded vigorously.
“My absolute favorite,” he said without looking up to meet her eyes.
“Does that make spiders your favorite animal too?” she asked. He shook his head.
“Ew, no,” Richard made a sour face. “Spiders creep me out too much; tigers are my favorite animal.”
“So why aren’t you drawing tigers in there?” Dr. Lilly asked. A short, high laugh escaped from Richard’s mouth, it seemed unintentional.
“It’s difficult to draw tigers, spiders are much easier,” he said.
“That’s a fair point,” Dr. Lilly commented. “What about ants? I’d assume they’re as easy as spiders but wouldn’t creep you out as much.” Richard’s pencil stopped moving on the sheet, but he didn’t put it down. Instead, he looked up at Dr. Lilly and met her eyes for the first time. His entire demeanor changed in an instant.
“Spiders are better than ants,” he said cooly, almost threateningly. Then, he looked down and started drawing again.
“So, Richard, why don’t you tell me about why you admitted yourself? You wrote, ‘Severe Arachnophobia’. It seems to me that spiders ‘creeping you out’ isn’t all that severe, and you are drawing them.”
“I can’t risk seeing a spider. If I’m in the looney bin,-” Richard was interrupted by Dr. Lilly.
“Please don’t call it that,” she said. He gave her a curt nod, without looking up, and rephrased his comment.
“The asylum is a mostly controlled environment. It’s sprayed with pesticides and kept clean. It was either this or the hospital; I didn’t feel like hurting myself to get into the hospital,” he explained.
“And why can’t you risk seeing a spider?”
“Because I control them,” Richard said. “I can wiggle them like tiny fingers that aren’t attached to me, or do anything I need them to do.”
“That doesn’t seem so bad. Why are you scared if you can control them?”
“Because they’re CREEPY! Just the thought of controlling all those legs…” a violent shiver ran down his spine. “ugh.”
“So you’ve actually done it?” she asked. Richard nodded.
“Your plan is to avoid spiders for the rest of your life by staying in our facilities?” Dr. Lilly asked. Richard shrugged while doodling.
“I’m only 28, doctor. I couldn’t possibly plan the rest of my life. However, for the immediate future, it’s the best plan I have.”
“That was a lucid, well-thought-out response. Unfortunately, that works against you here. I’m sorry, Richard, this isn’t a hotel you check into indefinitely. We have limited space. There are other people out there with serious conditions that need help. We can’t take in someone that just wants to avoid bugs,” Dr. Lilly said. She stood from the table and headed for the door; as she reached for the handle she heard a loud crack fill the room. She turned back to Richard.
“Hospital it is,” he said. Half the pencil was on the table, the other half was in his hand. He was using the jagged edge to cut his forearm.
“NO! STOP!” Dr. Lilly shouted in a panic, and he did; he was already done. Bright red blood overflowed from the number 33 carved into his arm.
Then, spiders crawled out of the wound.