“Good morning,” said the man on Debra’s doorstep. He had the confident square jaw and immaculate suit of a salesman, except that he was holding a clipboard rather than a suitcase full of knives or a bag of cleaning products. His hair had to be fake, or at least professionally styled; it was too perfect. “Are you a registered voter?”
“I might be,” replied Debra. “What’s it to you?” She kept her door open as little as possible to prevent this stranger seeing inside her home. It wasn’t that her house was messy or dirty, but she valued her privacy more than most.
“My name is Vitelli Pisco and I would like to talk to you about the risk of invisible spiders.” He held his hand out. “Come and shake my hand. You can trust me.”
She hesiated, then squeezed her hand out to meet his. “Debra Bates.”
“I know.” He brandished his clipboard officiously. “D Bates, 8 Convention Place, date of birth fifth of May seventy eight, two children…” he reeled off names of her family, her income, even that she had three points on her driving licence.
“I’d like to know how you got all that information,” she muttered, a little shocked.
“Public record Miss Bates. It’s all very legal, I assure you.”
“I’m not sure that -”
“Regardless,” he interrupted, “I’d like to inform you about a very real threat to you and your family. A very real and dangerous risk to everything you hold dear. Do you understand, Miss Bates?”
“What is this dangerous threat?” She opened up her door a little.
Vitelli looked sincerely serious. “Are you afraid of spiders, Miss Bates?”
“Yes I am.”
He smiled. “Most people are. What is it particularly that scares you about spiders?”
“I guess it’s the way they look,” Debra replied. “I mean, eight long spindly legs and eight eyes! They look evil!”
“Exactly!” Vitelli beamed. “What if I told you that there was a species of spider that is completely invisible, Miss Bates?”
“Invisible?” Debra frowned. “You mean they’re transparent?”
“No. These spiders are completely and utterly invisible! They cannot be seen and cannot be touched. What do you think of that, Miss Bates?”
“I’m not sure,” Debra said. “I mean, if they can’t be seen, how do we know about them?”
“We just do,” said Vitelli quickly. “Now, which kind of spiders scare you the most- big or small?”
“I suppose big spiders scare me the most.”
“Well Miss Bates,” replied Vitelli, “these invisible spiders are fuc… arehuge! I mean, they’re as big as your hand, if not bigger!”
Debra crossed her arms. “OK, even if there are invisible spiders, what threat do they pose to me and my family? Could I feel one if it was on me?
“So they can touch me but I can’t touch them?” Debra scowled. “That doesn’t sound right.”
Vitelli sighed. ”Miss Bates, our top scientists have been studying invisible spiders for many years. They do know what they’re talking about, and I can assure you that these spiders are very real. Yes, we can’t touch them. Yes, they can touch us. We’re trying to keep you safe. Don’t you want us to protect you and your loved ones?”
Debra shivered despite her doubts. “I’m still not sure if I believe you. I mean, no-one’s ever said about invisible spiders before. Are they a new alien species or something?”
“Yes. I mean no,” corrected Vitelli quickly, “they’ve always been around but we’ve only just discovered them.”
“But your scientists have been studying them for years, you said.”
“A few years. Not many, maybe two or three, Miss Bates. We’re trying to keep you safe. Don’t you want us to protect you and your loved ones?
“Has anyone ever died from an invisible spider? Are they poisonous?”
“What? I guess so. We don’t know for sure. Anyway, we need to grant the Prime Minister absolute control…”
“So,” interrupted Debra, “if we don‘t know whether they’re poisonous or not, why are they such a threat?”
“Um…” Vitelli studied his clipboard for a few seconds. “They could be deadly, and if there’s the slightest possibility that they’re harmful, we need to wipe them out. Don’t you agree, Miss Bates?”
“They might be harmless then?”
“Would you take that risk?” Vitelli rummaged around in his pocket. “It’s better to shoot first then ask questions later, don’t you think? Imagine if the first person that an invisible spider killed was your loved ones! Remember, we’re trying to keep you safe. Don’t you want us to protect you and your loved ones?”
“I don’t see a threat, Mr Pisco,” said Debra. “I think you’re causing unnecessary panic.”
“Miss Bates! Imagine a spider killing your sons, and your entire family! Would you want invisible spiders wiped out after that?” Vitelli’s phone rang out from his pocket. He answered it, his face a collage of emotion as he spoke. “Yes? Oh really? Totally dead? You‘re telling me it could be the first death from invisible spider? Tell the Prime Minister,” he glared at Debra, “but we can’t take action without the public’s unwavering and patriotic support.” He stuck the phone back in his pocket and held his hands out. “Talk about a co-incidence! That was the Secretary of Health. We’ve had a death that -”
“-could be invisible spiders,” finished Debra. “I agree that it is a co-incidence.”
“Look Miss Bates,” Vitelli thrust the clipboard at her, “we need to give the Prime Minister complete and absolute power of the military and finances to keep the country safe from the threat of invisible spiders. We need to do this now before anyone else dies. Sign here and play your part in keeping this country safe from spiders. Remember, we’re trying to keep you safe. Don’t you want us to protect you and your loved ones?”
Debra looked at the clipboard; well, what if there were invisible spiders? It did sound like a joke, and yet the Government were worried enough to take it seriously. She took the offered pen and paused. There were a lot of words on the document, phrases that immediately baffled her relatively simple mind. Well, she was only one person, and the Government needed a lot of people to sign up to this idea – scientists and lawyers that were probably more informed about this topic than her. They’ll refuse to sign if there was anything underhand about this. She scribbled her name on the line and handed it back to Vitelli. “There. Now what?”
He ripped the top sheet off and tucked into his jacket pocket, then waved his hand in the air. Two policemen marched down her path and grabbed her hands. “We are going to protect you from the invisible spiders, Debra.”
“What are you doing?!” The policemen attached a large black bracelet to her left wrist, then branded her right hand with an ink stamp. “Let me go!”
“Be quiet, you’ve just signed up to this! The bracelet will record your vital signs and location just in case you’re attacked by these nasty invisible spiders – and they are very nasty, Debra. The stamp will simply help us identify you in case spiders… do something?”
“This is ridiculous! Take this off my arm immediately!” She tried to slip the bracelet off but it was locked on tightly.
“This is for your own good, Miss Bates. Remember, we’re keeping you safe. Don’t you want us to protect you and your loved ones?” Vitelli grinned and pulled Debra to one side. “In you go, men. There’s two boys and an elderly lady in the house to tag and stamp. Oh, and watch out any invisible spiders that might be lurking in there!”
The men laughed.