An Alarming Idea
by Pete Langman
It was a spider. Not your average-sized spider, but one that might reasonably be called ‘fucking mahoosive’ if those two words were in any way capable of accurately communicating the thoughts that ran through Bill’s mind as he was confronted by a grinning arachnid approximately as large as a VW Beetle. ‘I fucking hope this is a dream’ was actually his first thought, followed quickly by a quite detailed, if remarkably rapid, reflective disquisition on the irony of his estimating its size by reference to the aforementioned VW model rather than the more usefully named Alfa-Romeo. Perhaps, he wondered, had it been a giant version of one of the more sleek water spiders rather than this bulbous black beast … but, well, there were more pressing conundra. How come it was grinning was perhaps the most unsettling question. After all, it seemed perfectly normal to populate his dreamscape with a car-sized beast boasting fangs the size of, hang on, where were its fangs? Oh, of course, a grinning spider would be fangless, but how, then, would it … oh my god, say it ain’t so …
Having comprehensively cornered the now fear-frozen Bill, the spider grabbed him with its front legs, pushed forwards its spidery bum and wrapped him in silk from head to toe. Bill was in a tight spot all right. The spider, having hung up its prey, now advanced upon it, grinning. It opened its mouth.
‘Nooooooooooooooo …’ Bill felt a sharp pain on the side of his face. It would be over soon, surely?
‘What the fuck did you do that for?’ Bill rubbed the cheek his girlfriend Angela had just slapped.
‘You were singing?’
‘That’s the word I used, yes, though god knows you’ve no voice.’ She said. ‘Coffee?’
‘Thanks.’ Bill took the steaming mug from her hands. ‘You slapped me round the face because I was singing in my sleep?’
‘I tried shaking you, turning you over … you were in deep.’
‘It could have been psychologically damaging, if I had been having a nightmare.’
‘Well, were you?’ Bill hesitated. ‘Well, let me tell you something, chum, I could’ve been psychologically damaged if I’d listened for much longer.’ Angela started to sing. ‘I’m a barbie girl, in a barbie world, life in plastic, it’s fantastic …’
Bill shuddered. ‘I was singing Aqua?’
‘Damn right. I’d been trussed up by a grinning spider the size of a VW Beetle which then proceeded not to bite me and suck out my life fluids in the traditional spidery manner, but chose rather to drain me of the will to live by singing 80s disco cheese at me.’
‘Barbie Girl was 1997.’ Bill stared at Angela, now mildly perturbed at her knowledge of Scandinavian pop. ‘I wonder what your darling Siggy would say about that dream.’
‘The same thing he’d say about every dream, that symbolic interpretation cannot be achieved via a key, but only by deep conversation with the dreamer.’
‘Whatever.’ Said Angela. ‘Best you get ready for your clinic. I gotta run. Dinner on Thursday?’
‘Sure. I’ll have Suzy book us somewhere.’ Angela turned to leave. Bill called after her. ‘I’ll have her call you.’ He received a dismissive wave.
Bill was 37, handsome, and a one-time wunderkind of the fields of psychology, psychiatry and psychoanalysis. His PhD on subliminal hypnosis had revolutionised the field. Bill himself had successfully controlled the behaviour of a blindfolded and earplug-wearing subject five feet away from him, much to the chagrin of the powers that be, who had denounced him as a charlatan and blackballed him. This was primarily an act of petty jealousy as while the theory was unimpeachable, it turned out you actually needed some talent to perform this minor miracle: talent was something the powers that were lacked in any meaningful sense. Bill was reduced to private practice, albeit an extraordinarily lucrative one.
He and Angela had been seeing each other since the occasion of his thirtieth birthday party. Angela had, if he remembered correctly, woken him up the following morning rather more delightfully than with a slap to the face. Bill suddenly realised he had stopped walking. He had had a revelation.
‘Now that would be something!’ He chuckled to himself and walked on.
The day’s clinic was busy, full to the brim with what he and Suzy, his faithful secretary-cum-fixer, called the exotic neurotic. Rich ladies, mostly, mostly craving the attention and validation their richer husbands devoted to the art of making money. Bill was exceptionally good at smoothing their furrowed brows, soothing their troubled vows. More to the point, he was a veritable genius when it came to placating the endless streams of yapping fucking dogs. The richer husbands were especially appreciative of this gift. For today’s clinic, Bill cordoned off 75% of his intellectual capacity. While the 25% was concerned with his clients, the lion’s share of his not insignificant genius was devoted to his new project. He worked late, and by Thursday’s dinner date he had a working prototype.
The maitre’d slid the chair under Angela’s elegantly long and slender legs as they folded that she might sit.
‘I do wish you’d at least call me yourself. Sometimes I wonder if I ought go out with Suzy rather than you.’
Bill smiled. ‘Sorry, my love, but I’ve been working on a new project. Something really exciting.’
‘Oh?’ Said Angela. ‘Do tell.’ The Sommelier showed them the wine.
‘I asked for the ’95. And the Premier Grande Cru Classe.’ Said Angela.
‘Of course, mademoiselle.’
‘Anyway, do tell.’
‘Does it really make a difference?’
The Sommelier returned. ‘Chateau Chasse-Spleen, 1998, Premier Grande Cru Classe.’
‘Perfect. But we’d like the ’98 as well.’
‘Mademoiselle? The ’95 is the superior wine.’
‘I know that, Claude, and you know that, but this oaf needs educating.’
The Sommelier smiled. ‘Bien sur. I will decant them both and write the year on the base of each, yes?’
‘You know me too well, Claude, you know me too well.’ She turned to Bill. ‘Spill, Bill.’
‘When I’ve finished testing.’ Said Bill.
Angela stood up. ‘Gotta pee.’ She said, and walked off.
Bill looked at his watch and at his smartphone. 8.02. go pee. It read.
Ten minutes later, Angela tossed an olive in the air and caught it in her mouth. Bill read 8.12. pop olive in mouth.
By the end of dinner, he was grinning from ear to ear. His new invention, the All-Action Alarm Clock, worked. And how. The next morning, he was woken by the smell of bacon. The following morning, by the sight of Angela doing naked yoga. It was a triumph.
Bill decided that on Sunday morning he deserved a treat. He programmed the AAAC and slept the sleep of the just.
At 7.34, Bill was gently awakened by a feeling of warmth in his groin. To be more specific, by the feeling of a pair of lips and a mouth giving him a morning blowjob like none he’d ever received before. It was extraordinary. As he came he looked down to his girlfriend. ‘Oh baby, that was … Nooooooooooooooo!’
The phone rang, the ansaphone kicking in. ‘Hey baby! Went for an early morning run. Remember mutti’s coming to measure for curtains, and she’s always early.’
Bill simply stared into space.
***Pete Langman would have been one of the great Dickensian ne’erdowells had he been born in Household Words rather than Hitchin. One-time professional guitar slinger, he holds a PhD on Francis Bacon (the other Francis Bacon), an ECB level two Cricket Coaching certificate and a White Fish swimming badge from prep school. Oh, and Parkinson’s disease. Author of Slender Threads, Black Box, and The Country House Cricketer, he blogs at petelangman.com and tweets@elegantfowl. Pete lives in Brighton with a recalcitrant ginger cat. *****