The Great Q-tip Phobia


Another writing prompt story from my writers group.


Prompt: Imagine the most harmless, least frightening thing you can think of, and write about someone who’s deathly afraid of it.


“What the hell Julie???  I thought I told you never to bring these damn things into the house!” I shouted as I ran from the bathroom, my hands trembling as my whole body suddenly felt hollow inside.  “Get those stupid things the hell outta here!”

“What the hell is it with you and your Q-tip phobia?” she asked irritably as she brushed past me roughly and grabbed the box of those horrid, cotton tipped death machines from the sink.  “I need these for my makeup, and to clean my ears and stuff.”

“No!!!  Don’t you ever stick those things in your ears!!!” I shouted, cringing as she walked out and shook the box in my face just to be an annoying bitch.  I hated it when she was in a mood like this.  It was then that I realized that a few of the dreaded things had fallen out of the box, and one of them had landed on my shoe.  I squealed like a little girl and scooted down the hall so fast that I slammed into the wall, and then slid down into a crouching position, cowering in fear as she looked at me and shook her head in disgust.

“Ok seriously, what the hell is wrong with you?” she demanded.  “This just isn’t rational.  There’s gotta be something behind this phobia of yours.  Maybe you should get some therapy.”

“I don’t wanna talk about it,” I said, cringing as I glanced down at the floor where I’d been standing.

“Come on, just tell me what it is.  Maybe it’ll help to get it out,” she prodded.

“It’s just…”

“What?” she asked.

“Q-tips killed my father,” I said as I closed my eyes and relived the horror of that day in my head for about the millionth time.

“What do you mean Q-tips killed your father?  How the hell could Q-tips kill anyone?”

“He was playin’ around with me when I was a kid.  I was only about five at the time.  He used to goof around, putting ‘em in his ears and up his nose and stuff, and then he’d chase me around the house.  Well one day he was chasin’ me around, and he tripped on a toy I’d left on the floor.  When he fell, the Q-tips he had up his nose got shoved all the way up, and then his head bounced and one of the ones he had in his ears got jammed in and ruptured his eardrum.  Mom rushed him to the hospital and they pulled ‘em out, but they didn’t get all of ‘em.  There were still pieces broken off inside, and they got infected.  He was in massive pain for like two days before the infection spread into his blood stream and killed him.”

“Oh my god, why didn’t you ever tell me that???” she asked, suddenly quite sympathetic to his condition.

“I try not to think about it.  It’s been living in my head since I was five, and all I can think is, why didn’t I put my toys away?  If I’d have only put my toys away, my father would still be alive.”

“Well you can’t keep living like this, so we’re gonna have to cure you of this thing once and for all,” she said as she pulled out some Q-tips and started shoving them into her ears and up her nose.

“No!!!” I shouted as I got up and ran toward her.  “Stop!  Don’t do that!”

“See, they’re harmless,” she said as my sock-covered feet skidded along the hardwood floor.  Unable to stop, I unintentionally slammed into her, sending her sideways into the wall.  The Q-tip in her ear hit the wall and got shoved deep into her ear canal, and as she screamed out in pain, she spun around, lost her balance, and fell face first onto the floor.  The Q-tips in her nose were driven deep into her sinus cavity, and she was knocked unconscious.

Unable to cope with not only what I’d done to her, but with the flashbacks I was experiencing about my father, I curled up into a little ball and leaned against the wall of the hallway, mumbling to myself incoherently as I watched her choke to death on her own blood.

The police didn’t charge me with anything because they didn’t know what to charge me with.  They knew I didn’t insert the Q-tips into her nose and ears, but they had to do something with me, so they took me into the hospital for a 72-hour psych eval, which ended up turning into a much longer stay.  Maybe someday I’ll be able to believe that it was all just a coincidence, and that Q-tips really aren’t all that dangerous…or maybe, just maybe…that conviction will only get stronger as the body count of the unsuspecting Q-tip users continues to grow exponentially.  Only time will tell I suppose.