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Gossamer

 

 

On Monday, he killed a spider. He scraped its guts off the bottom of his shoe before reluctantly putting it back on and shuddering. He knew it was just paranoia – he’d used the outside of the shoe after all – but he could still feel the tiny legs as if they were scampering over his foot. His cat Socrates distracted him from the ghostly sensation, meowing for the half open tin of food that was still sitting on the kitchen counter.

Reaching down with a smile, he pet Socrates and forgot about the spider.

He rolled out of bed on Tuesday, the sheets tossed around him in an attempt to cool down during the warm summer night. Half asleep, he trudged to the bathroom for a shower. But just moments before stepping into the tub, he looked down and jerked his foot back. Dozens of little, black, long legged bodies scurried across the white porcelain, fighting to scramble up the sides of the tub.

The phantom feeling of skittering spiders creeping up over his legs persisted even after he turned on the shower and kept it running after all the bodies had spiraled down the drain.

Wednesday morning, nearly every corner of his house was thick with webs. Empty ones fluttered in the breeze from the open windows. Hundreds of sets of eyes seemed to peer at him from others, thick with tiny black spiders. The vacuum made quick work of them, but, that evening, he realized he hadn’t gotten them all. Reaching under the lamp shade to turn on the lights that evening, he jerked his hand back and it emerged, sticky and threaded with web.

He ran to the sink, but seemed unable to erase the clinging, ticklish feeling of the web. Hands scrubbed raw, he took the vacuum to the whole house – much to his cat’s displeasure.

His alarm rung at eight on Thursday morning, but his room was still as dark as it had been the night before. He glanced at his clock – it was the right time – and groaning, turned around to face the window.

It was blocked, completely covered up by the crisscrossing strands of a spider’s web and the black and brown bodies of its creators. They’d formed a living wall between him and sunlight and, as he watched, he could see the spiders still building their barrier.

He ran out of the room, and locked the door.

The exterminator said he’d be there on Saturday.

That night he fell asleep on the couch, cocooned in blankets he hoped would somehow be a shield between him and the spiders. On the floor, Socrates didn’t seem to mind the invasion as he played with the curled-up body of a dead spider.

He didn’t dare open the door to his room on Friday. He checked every drawer, every handle before touching them. Every step he took came with a quick glance at the floor, everything he grabbed was scanned, and inspected. Even then, he fled the house without breakfast feeling violated, as if the spiders had crawled over him all night.

After some calls, his old college roommate agreed to let him and Socrates stay over. He pulled into the driveway, intent on picking up his cat and getting the hell away from his house. Everything else could stay behind. Hell, everything else could burn as long as it got rid of this infestation.

He swung open the door, and immediately knew he was too late. The spiders had already taken over the living room. Crisscrossed from corner, to couch, to cushion were thousands of webs, each with hundreds of spiders, gracefully skating the silken surface.

“Socrates!” His voice was muffled by the webs, but he heard the panicked response – a stifled, frantic yowling – call back. Wading into the room, he called out to Socrates whenever he wasn’t at risk of swallowing a web, or worse, a spider. He could feel the legs moving against his skin, the webs clinging to his hair. In the dim light from the doorway, he saw Socrates tail flailing from under the couch.

He kneeled, pulled Socrates free and ran. The cat was still hissing and spitting in his arms, fur matted with webs and one paw almost fully cocooned.

As he drove away, he didn’t care that his upholstery got wet, or that Socrates left deep scratches over his arms from the hosing down. He wasn’t going anywhere with those things still on him.

The exterminator said he’d never seen anything like it. The house was filled with poison, tented and treated all weekend. That Sunday, they came to clean up all the cobwebs and the spider bodies that had dropped to the floor, curled up in agony: the way all spiders seemed to die.

On Monday night, he was back in the house. The air held the acrid tinge of the exterminator’s poison, and he still couldn’t move, couldn’t open a drawer, couldn’t enter a room without first checking it for webs. In the end, exhaustion beat out paranoia and he opened up the windows, letting the smell, the stuffiness, the memories fly out into the night. After checking the sheets for a third time, he finally went to bed.

A warm summer breeze flowed throughout the house. A spider, sailing on a thread of gossamer, floated in through the window; the silken strand settling gently on his bed. It crawled over the bed, up his arm and across his cheek. He twitched at the feeling of the tiny legs scurrying across his skin and turned fitfully in his sleep.

But he did not wake up.