“I like spiders,” a familiar voice said. Dan blinked, looked up, and saw Summer standing at his desk. He raised an eyebrow.
“Do you now?”
“Yes,” she said shortly. “I love them, really.”
Dan had no idea what would make anyone, let alone his colleague, proclaim their love for spiders of all things, but he never claimed to understand Summer. He closed his laptop and joined his colleague to go to the cafeteria. They sat down on opposite sides of the same table. “You love-” those two words shouldn’t be next to each other, “-spiders?”
“You don’t have to believe me,” she said petulantly.
Dan rummaged in his bag in search for his food. “Well good,” he said. He plopped his lunch box on the table. “Because I don’t.”
That question didn’t deserve an answer. There was nothing lovable about spiders. Nothing. And he knew for a fact Summer was scared of them. He gave her a look.
“Fine,” Summer said. She slumped in her chair dramatically. “Fuck, I’m so scared of them.”
“I wish I wasn’t though.” Dan had to give her that one. “They’re useful to catch flies, they bring a good aesthetic into the home…”
What aesthetic? Abandoned-house chic?
Summer continued, “I keep hoping a spider would just come along to eat all those fucking mosquitoes.”
“You do know mosquito nets exist for a reason, don’t you?”
“Of course I do, I have a nice purple one.” Of course she did. “But that doesn’t help me when I’m playing games at my desk, does it?”
Dan held up his hands. “Fine, fine you have a point. But don’t you have spiders inside your house sometimes? You could just, I don’t know,” he had to suppress a shudder, “leave them.”
Summer nodded. “In theory, but when one actually crawls over the wall or ceiling, I flip out. I don’t scream or anything, but I- It’s so difficult to describe.” She furrowed her eyebrows, deep in thought. “Something comes over me. I get jittery, my mind races and I can only focus on the spider. The way it moves,”
Dan’s mind drew inward.
“those eight legs slowly moving,”
He saw the legs in his mind’s eye, dark like the night, as big as his fingers,
“so regularly yet alien-like.”
crawling over his white walls,
“It’s worse when they have those thin long legs that you can barely see.”
crawling towards him,
“Those creepy shadows. You can’t even tell which is the shadow and which is the spider.”
A twisted void the size of his hand, uncaring of his terror, unmoved by his screams.
“Oh, I hate them.”
Those last words, lamented at the ceiling, snapped him out of it. His breath came short. He pushed his shaking hands under his desk and controlled his expression before Summer looked back at him. She looked at him curiously, something must have shown on his face. He grinned to hide the terror he was still feeling. “I thought you liked spiders?”
Summer glared at him. He sighed in relief. She hadn’t noticed then.
Summer’s words stayed with him the rest of the day, even at home they still bounced through his head. He kept a suspicious eye on the wall where a few months ago that huge spider sent him screaming.
He shuddered at the memory. He left the kitchen and turned on his tv to distract himself. If he didn’t think about it, it would be fine.
It wasn’t fine. After only half an hour in bed, he kicked off the covers and went downstairs. He couldn’t stand it anymore. He couldn’t shake the image of large, crawling shapes on his walls, on his sheets…
His mind calmed slightly when he looked at his white kitchen wall. Completely white, no black shapes anywhere to be seen. He pulled out a chair and sunk down. He’d just sit here until he felt calm enough to go back to bed.
He woke up with a scream and immediately lost his balance, rolling off the chair, only catching himself with his hands on the floor. Shaken, he peeked over the top of the dining table. White, empty. With a sigh of relief, he stood up. A glance at the clock showed him it was early, but not early enough to go back to bed. He resigned himself to getting ready for work.
If he expected to be free from spidery thoughts at work, he was wrong. Summer regaled him with the whole ‘exhilarating’ tale of her spider capture. Dan consciously controlled his breathing to prevent her from noticing anything was wrong. He shuddered when she explained how it crawled into the glass.
“And, eh, what did you do with it?”
“I just put it on my desk, I didn’t want to go outside in the cold.”
Dan stared at her for a moment. He rubbed his eyes. “In your bedroom?”
He shook his head. “Never mind.”
Later that night, Dan sat in the living room nursing his third wine when he got a message. He looked at his phone. It was from Summer.
Dan nearly hurled his phone at the wall. It was a photo of a spider, zoomed in as much as possible, with the caption; ‘he made a new home in the corner of my kitchen! Isn’t he just adorable?’
With carefully controlled movements, he put the phone on the table, pressed his finger on the corner of the image — not touching the spider — and pressed delete.
He spent the rest of the night in the kitchen.
Summer didn’t talk about her spider the next day, and apart from a minor hangup where Summer asked him about the bags under his eyes, work was much better.
“Nightmares,” was his curt reply, to which Summer told him to stop watching horror movies before bed. Dan didn’t bother correcting her.
Throughout the day his nerves began to die down. When he readied himself to go home, he was feeling almost normal again.
This feeling lasted until dinner, when he got another message from Summer.
18:21 ‘He caught a fly!’
18:21 ‘Oh, now he seems to be drinking its blood.’
18:22 ‘Wait, I’ll take a picture.’
18:22 ‘Please don’t, I really don’t care.’
18:23 ‘First of all, Rude. Second, I’ve already taken it, so I’m sending it.’
Dan turned his screen off. There were a few more messages, but he didn’t read them. He did not want to see Summer’s stupid spider sucking the fluids out of a fly. How she could think these creatures were beautiful, or heaven forbid, cute, he didn’t know.
Not looking at the picture didn’t help his imagination though.
As the days wore on, Dan’s sleep continued to suffer under Summer’s now daily reports on her spider. Correction, spiders. She’d been able to adopt a baby tarantula from a local breeder.
He was doing so well before. He hadn’t had a nightmare in weeks! But now all his progress was thrown out of the window. The bags under his eyes grew bigger, his hands developed a permanent shake with all of the caffeine he had to drink to stay functional and his mental health suffered the most.
He saw them from the corner of this eyes. Spindly legs waving at him from just outside his vision. The jitters wouldn’t stop. He was constantly on edge. He knew rationally they were just hallucinations caused by his lack of sleep, but his fear wasn’t rational.
He wondered sometimes what would happen if he actually found a spider in his house. He might just have a heart attack.
He didn’t ask Summer to stop. Exposure therapy was a thing, right? Maybe if he listened to Summer’s ramblings enough, he would find an appreciation for spiders as well? It was the only thought that kept him coming back to work every day. And maybe the added incentive of saving up for therapy helped as well.
Dan startled awake as his head hit the kitchen table. Dark shapes moved through his bleary vision. He blinked a few times and rubbed his head. The dark shapes went away. All except one. He froze in his seat, his eyes focusing on the unmistakable form of a huge spider. It wasn’t a nightmare, it wasn’t a hallucination, it was real.
Slowly, it moved one of its finger-sized legs.
Dan sprang up, getting tangled with his chair and falling on the floor, hard. He ignored his bruised hip, sprang up and ran to the other side of the room. He turned, not wanting to look, but having to know where it was at all times. It was lower on the wall now, nearing the storage cupboard.
It was huge. The size of his hand, fingers included. In the early morning darkness, it cast an even bigger shadow on the white wall. But the spider itself was worse than the shadow. It was pitch black, that same void he remembered from those months ago. A creeping, undulating void steadily moving behind the cupboard.
He had to get rid of it, but he couldn’t get himself to move. If he did, he might lose it somewhere in the house.
He glanced around, looking for anything that could help him, but there was nothing When he looked back, the wall was empty. His eyes burned into the wood of the cupboard. He couldn’t let it escape further.
Overcome by a sudden rush of daring, he strode to the cupboard and pulled it away from the wall. He peeked around it, only to find more empty wall. There was nothing on the back of the cupboard, nothing on the sides, nothing on the front…
He tried to look underneath, but it was too dark. He sprinted upstairs, coming back with a torch not even a minute later. He shone it underneath.
Fear gripped him and squeezed his heart and lungs. His breath came short. He scrambled away from the cupboard, frantically looking around at the walls, the ceiling, the floor, the table. Nothing was safe. It could be anywhere.
He must have blacked out for a bit, for the next moment he found himself back in the kitchen, a stack of old papers in front of him, lighter in his hand. He took a shuddering breath, a twisted smile pulled at the corners of his mouth. That should do it.
He set the papers alight.
Posted elsewhere: r/nosleep