Terra stepped into the bathtub for her morning shower; a small gray spider was crawling up the side of the tub. She suppressed the primal urge to scream. Instead she took a deep breath and turned on the hot water. She grabbed the glass from beside the sink and filled it with steaming water. She poured it slowly over the spider, watching in fascination as curled its eight legs under its body and rode the water all the way down the drain.

Photo Credit: D. F. Roadifer

Terra stared after it for a few seconds before adjusting the temperature of the water and stepping back into tub. She went through her morning routine, completely forgetting about the death of the spider.

She was at her desk when the itching started on her right hand, in the webbing between her index finger and thumb. She unconsciously scratched at it as she tried to type up memos, returned emails and filed client information.

By lunch time, Terra had drawn blood. She didn’t understand why that one spot bothered her so much. She went into the break room and pulled out the first aid kit. She spread anti-bacterial ointment on the scratches and bandaged it.

It looked like it had started out as a bug bite but she didn’t remember seeing any bugs and it was the wrong time of year for mosquitoes.

That afternoon the middle of Terra’s back started itching, right in that place below her shoulder blades where she couldn’t reach. She rubbed her back against her desk chair but it just didn’t relieve the unbearable sensation. She couldn’t concentrate on her work, only on the relentless itching. It was so bad she wanted to cry.

By three o’clock she went to her supervisor and requested the rest of the day off work. She stopped by the pharmacy on her way home and purchased a spray the clerk recommended.

She headed straight for the bathroom once safely home, leaving a trail of clothing behind her. She flung her jacket over a chair in the living room, her three-inch heels left were kicked off in the hallway. She peeled off her blouse and dropped it by the bathroom door and she slipped her bra over the towel rack beside the sink.

Terra looked at her back in the hinged mirrors of the medicine cabinet. She gasped. A lacework of red welts spread across her back like a spider’s web. She sprayed the antihistamine across it, shuddering as the cold liquid hit the hot eruptions on her flesh.

The spray seemed to make the pain worse. Now it felt like bugs were crawling all over her. Terra suppressed the urge to tear at her skin. She looked in the mirror and barely recognized herself. There were dark circles under her eyes and her cheeks were flushed. Whatever was going on with her health, it wasn’t as simple as a mysterious rash. The fleeting thought to call her doctor skittered across her mind but disappeared as quickly as it came.

Terra crawled onto her bed, laying on her stomach without removing her skirt or stockings. She was feverish yet her skin burst into goosebumps. She had just enough energy to pull the bandage off the original lesion on her hand before falling back against her pillow. She looked at her hand, at the self inflicted scratch, still surprised at the damage she did to herself. She stared at the spot for so long she was watching when a tiny gray spider crawled out of the wound; she felt the sting of its venom dissolving her skin as it shoved and squirmed its way out, as if escaping from a flesh cocoon.

She wanted to do something, scream, crush it, anything to destroy it, but she couldn’t move. Terra was so paralyzed with fear she couldn’t close her eyes; she felt compelled to watch the arachnid crawl up her arm.

Then the single spider was joined by others, each crawling out of the hole in her hand. She couldn’t see it but she felt network of hives on her back split open and hundreds more spiders poured out of her body. Thousands of minute feet tap danced across her sensitive skin, pulling at every hair on her body, making her shudder.

She tried to scream but instead of sound, a flood of spiders escaped from her mouth. They covered her and the bed, spreading out until the room was carpeted in tiny eight legged creatures. Yet Terra still couldn’t move or look away.

Just when she thought it couldn’t get worse, the legions of spiders moved up the walls. She was boxed in by millions of spiders, all of them climbing out of her flesh and joining the ranks of their kin. When the first among them reached the ceiling they started spinning. Webs appeared in the corners of the room so quickly Terra barely had time to blink before the room was draped in spider silk like they were redecorating her room, turning it into their own den.

A single spider, ten times the size of the others, dropped from the ceiling. It turned around on its web until it faced Terra, its spinnerets keeping it steady. It stared at her and Terra could see her own face reflected in the multiple eyes of the large, round spider. The spider hung there, as if waiting for something from Terra.

Terra had an uncontrollable urge to apologize to the spider queen though she didn’t know why. “I’m sorry,” she whispered.

The claxon sound of her alarm clock awoke Terra from the nightmare. She struggled out of the ephemeral memories to turn it off. She sat up, shaking her head to remove the cobwebs from her mind, shocked to find herself still half dressed. She looked down at her hand and saw the scabs from the healing scratch marks.

She walked on unsteady feet into the bathroom. She turned to look at her back in the mirror; her skin was unmarred and there were no sign of the rash. She shook her head in puzzlement as she stripped off her skirt, stockings and panties. She stepped into the bathtub.

A small gray spider was crawling up the side of the tub. Terra looked at it and turned away. She could go one day without taking a shower.