I remember a time when my phobia was vaguely embarrassing, something I had to joke about so as to downplay in company. If others shared my fear to varying degrees, we’d chat and laugh, share anecdotes while pretending such conversations didn’t bother us.
Until those quiet moments alone, when one’s eyes start to search the surroundings in anxious forays. Until the inevitable happens. One gets in, proceeded by another.
It is spider season after all and those big knuckle beasts enter our homes uninvited. Paralysing people like me. Ruining entire evenings through fear, shame and an inability to react.
For other folk, it’s an easy task, pluck them up and pop them outside. For the likes of me however, its desperate attempts to discover resolve, break from a statue and deal with the leggy issue.
It transpires however that my phobia is justified.
My encounter with the strangest, ghastly spider, occurred a few nights ago. As I sat to watch television, lights off, full belly and relaxation nigh, I saw a spider move at speed from the corner of my eye.
It emerged from beneath the couch opposite, onto the rug and lurched its shambolic way towards me. I leapt from my own settee as it made its way under the furniture past my feet. There I stood, sweating, cursing to myself. Another night destroyed unless I dealt with it.
I plucked up the courage and got on all fours, daring to peep under the couch. Nothing, no sign. My eyes scanned the living room floor for movement. It was big this one, from the glimpse I had.
I swallowed hard, urging my body into action and crept from the room, locating a small pocket sized torch to illuminate the underworld of the couch. Pest spray became part of the armoury. I didn’t like killing anything living, but couldn’t cope with these creatures. I stepped back into the room, torch and spray at the ready, control wavering in my mind. Surveyed the underbelly of the couch and there!
I sprayed the pest killer generously, leaping back upon sight of the spider shifting, glowing white under the beam and with the poison I’d issued. There it was, rolling along…before I realised it was the cat’s hairball.
Sure it would crawl at me from another angle, I jumped on the furniture and shone the torch behind the sofa, spraying the contents of the can while covering the floor in a toxic coating. I surveyed the room from floor level, jerking under imaginary attacks. I could see no arachnid life, no twitching foul ball of legs and thick body suffering the consequences of my chemical warfare.
I was choking on the fumes so opened the window, leaving the room. A plot to wait a while, drink something stiff before returning to see its dying, or preferably dead, grotesque shrivelled form.
I saw nothing. I shone the torch and saw no flicker of movement. The whisky was beginning to relax me. Perhaps I should sit on the other sofa, try to enjoy what remains of the night. I sat down, laughing to myself with the absurdity of it all. The laugh sounded hollow and heavy to my ears.
I flicked through TV channels, mapping the floor in nervous bursts, still nothing. But I couldn’t relax so decided to go to bed. As I moved towards the TV to turn it off, the spider emerged from under the stand, hurtling with disgusting haste towards me. I yelped and tried to crush it with the nearest thing to hand, a cushion, but it moved past my blow with ease and scrabbled under the couch again.
I lost my temper, how dare such a thing ruin my night. Twice it had run at me. An attack!
A silly spider, come on. Get a grip.
I recovered the torch and took to the floor, shining it and finding the spider moving along the skirting board. This time I could see it clearly. Its legs extended beyond the skirting board to the wall. I surveyed my surroundings for something substantial to hit it with and end this saga.
But when I looked back it was nowhere. It had been heading towards the foot poufy before I lost sight of it. The poufy, situated between the couch and living room door. My heart sank as I looked at the foot rest, it had masses of thick dark hanging cotton strands, perfect for a spider to conceal itself in.
I jumped over the poufy, leaving the room, swearing and muttering to myself as I collected the weapon of all weapons. A vacuum cleaner! Try this on for size you son of a bitch.
I had the vacuum tube ready and started to prod the soft foot material, spinning it round gently, waiting for the monster to emerge with my other hand poised over the power button. It didn’t. Must be in those strands of cotton somewhere.
But alcohol had struck while my nerve had deserted me. I swore aloud, closed the door and admitted defeat before going to bed.
I fell into an uneasy sleep. I awoke in the early hours and could hear a far off scraping, shuffling and gentle banging. It was coming from the bathroom. I got out of bed and made my way towards the sound.
I turned on the landing light, remembering my new foe for fear of seeing it heading up the stairs or moving along the wall towards me. Nothing. The noise from the bathroom took my attention again.
I opened the door and froze. For there in the bath was a spider of despicable size. A vast hairy fat abdomen, sat plump on the base of the tub, while its legs thumped and scraped softly against the porcelain sides. Its rancid eight eyes stared at me through liquid globes of eternal night.
I awoke with a start, sheets drenched, the air filled with my own weak dying dream scream. A frail submissive sound that was as alarming as the nightmare itself.
That morning, I conceded and asked a friend to come over, help me deal with the pest. Hannah obliged. She turned over the foot poufy, banged it on the floor, nothing. Hannah is thorough, searching every nook and cranny of the house, including those I didn’t know existed. Still nothing. Finally, she calls me over to her. “I’m sorry my friend, but I think we might need to do some research on this one. Look I got to go, I’ve plans I can’t put off as you know, but I’ll come back tomorrow morning with an idea on what we’re…eh…you know, we’ll find it and get rid.”
I feel my eyebrows raise and skin slicken, “Idea on what?”
“Well I don’t want to worry you,” replied Hannah.
“Just by saying that, you have me extremely worried. I mean it’s a house spider. What more is there to worry about? I just wanted it put away outside. Put it in your fucking car and pop it on the passenger seat if you must, take it out for food, a movie. But just get rid. Now you are telling me you need to do research!? What is it?”
Hannah smiled nervously, “It’s as you say, just a spider. Look, relax okay, it’s a new species perhaps, or something. I really don’t know, hence the research comment.”
“How do you know it could be a new species if you can’t find it?” I snap back.
“Well I…eh…I found its exoskeleton. Some spiders need to shed in order to grow you see and…well that’s it. I’ve packed it away in my bag for further investigation is all, as I’ve not seen one like this before. No biggie.”
“Was it big? The exoskeleton?”
“No bigger than usual, silly. Right, I’ll see you in the morning.”
And off she went. I wanted to chase after her and give her a shake and insist on an informed answer. But then again, I didn’t want to know.
I managed to get some shut eye that night after hiding upstairs in the bedroom. I gathered all essentials. Nothing else to do but wait for Hannah’s return. Hannah was a researcher and studied various insect life, arachnids were not her expertise. But she was better placed than I and despite the attempts to downplay her find, I felt increasingly panic stricken by the hour.
I decided to book a hotel room, one of the cheap local ones until Hannah could return. I looked over to my bedside table and made to grab my phone when I saw it. An exoskeleton. At the bottom of my bed. I say bottom, it started at the bottom but finished half way up the duvet.
It looked wet.
I awoke, my mind had been playing tricks and I had again encountered a nightmare. This time I made for my phone in real terms only to discover I couldn’t move a muscle. Was this horror induced paralysis??
I tried to move but nothing. My muscles were dead and I could only move my eyes. Fear rushed my throat, as I imagined a huge foul spider on the ceiling ready to fall on and devour me. I looked round the night dark room frantically, insisting this was yet another nightmare. My eyes felt heavy, an attempt to leave this latest dream.
The sun is shining through the slats in the blinds and this time I can smell spring time air wafting into my room. Hannah is in the bedroom doorway, chatting.
She must have thought me awake for some time. Hannah tells me there is no need to worry. The eight legged invader found at last, she had grabbed it downstairs upon finding the swine in the kitchen cupboard, sat on a dinner plate. It was big, but she’d seen bigger. It was not, Hannah confirmed, a new species.
I smile and ask if she wants tea and cobwebs. Hannah walks over and strokes my face with her index finger, “You really worked yourself up over this you silly thing. I’m sorry I had to dash yesterday, but I had to eat a rat, the cat and well, you know how stubborn dogs can be. But now I have you and you have me.”
“Thank you Hannah, I appreciate it. I really love what you’ve done to my thorax.”
Hang on, this isn’t…
My eyes shift down to see my tightly silk sewn body. And there the appalling sophisticated beast sits, growing fat on my flesh. Its legs spread across the width of the bed, dangling over the sides. I can hear its claws scratching the floor. I try to yell as those black cherry eyes regard me with cold calculated hunger. It lifts a leg, presses it to my lips, parting them. It feeds it’s tarsus into my mouth as it investigates my throat and lungs, searching deeper.
Tears form, blurring my vision.
A momentous wrenching movement in my innards.
I try to scream, realising my bedroom window is open, allowing in the sound of passing cars, a crying child and a far off lawnmower. But no sound escapes me.
I hear a spitting gruelling noise as something falls from my mouth.
I am nothing but unadulterated silenced fear, enduring my own impossible death.
I hope Hannah doesn’t return to see this.