I must be losing my mind. Since getting to school, I’ve been feeling the sensation of small legs crawling all over me. I swat repeatedly at my skin, insisting to my sister and friends that there’s a creature on me. I only succeed in irritating them. I shiver nervously. As I pass people on my way to class, my twitching and muttering increases, attracting the attention of those around me, who stare and whisper.
No points for popularity, I guess.
I scratch my arms again, feeling the invisible touch of spider silk. I begin doing a rapid pat-down of my clothes and books, certain that an eight-eyed demon is around somewhere. My sister had originally believed me when I claimed something was on me; she’d dusted me off and searched through my hair, only to find nothing. She refused to continue searching despite my begging, declaring me an annoyance, and suggesting that I practice my acting. I reach my science classroom and sit down, shuddering and scratching my arms when the teacher brings out a glass cage with a single creature in it. A jumping spider. As the tiny thing crawls along the enclosure, I feel the skitter of phantom legs creeping down my spine, causing me to shudder in disgust.
My head starts to ache as the science teacher begins to ramble on about the characteristics of the arachnid species. In pain, I make a noise that the teacher mistakes as a disruption to their class. My blood’s pounding so loudly in my ears that I can’t hear anything the teacher is saying as they start to lecture me on the rules of the classroom. I feebly point to my head during their enraged tirade. The teacher looks confused as they continue talking, but soon I am pointed to go outside, presumably to visit the nurse.
Nausea rolls around my stomach as I stagger out of class, the lights unbearably bright behind my eyes. Unconsciously, I try to ease the ache by tapping against my forehead. The headache vanishes. I tap my head hesitantly once more, only to feel better than I did before the headache started. I turn, about to return to my class, but stop. I remember the disgusting eight-legged creature that is being handed around in that class. I rub my arms again, my skin tingling with the feel of webbing dragging across it. Ignoring the bad feeling in my gut, I decide to skip school and return home.
As I make my way home, I keep having the sensation that a spider is crawling all over me. I blame the science teacher. Who in their right mind would permit students to handle such a creature?
I know it was just a jumping spider, but still!
I open the front door a bit and call out, but there is no reply. My mother isn’t home, which surprises me because I had expected her to be upset by my sudden early arrival from school. I start looking around my home, but my headache keeps coming back. I tap my head again, hoping the headache will vanish as before, but it persists. I touch it more forcefully, as if I were knocking on a door. This time, the agony that had begun in my head turns fuzzy, making me feel like I am walking amongst clouds that hum with electricity. I give up trying to find my mother and go to bed, glad to get some rest and get rid of the recurring headache. As I lay in bed, I begin to recall the spider from science class. All eight of its gangly legs were waving around. Each of its several eyes were staring at me indifferently and coldly, with each pupil’s darkness concealing the eye’s true emotions.
I shudder at the thought. The hairs on my arms rise as the tingling sensation returns, and I start to scratch all along my limbs, leaving dark red marks. I just know there is something on me. But when I pull back my hands, I stop. My confused gaze lands on my fingernails. I could see fragile spider web bits hanging from my nail, so fine they were barely there.
I was right. I wasn’t insane!
I take a closer look at my fingernails, but my movement causes the spiderwebs to break. I look down at my arms and legs, where red scratch marks are already fading. They are covered in fine, silky cobwebs that are intertwined with the hair on my body. I stare, unable to take my eyes off the web that is forming all over my body. The ache in my head starts to return, but I can’t knock my forehead to stop it because I am so transfixed with the new threads that have started to sprout on my skin. I scratch at my face once more as I feel numerous legs scuttling across my flesh. Yet, this time they continue. I start scratching and tugging at my clothing because I feel like something is crawling all over me. I spring up and dash to the bathroom mirror as my fear increases. As I stare at my reflection, horror fills my bones and I scream.
My head throbs at the sound of my voice, but my image in the mirror is worse. Spiders had woven webs all throughout my hair, tiny little babies dangling on threads. My skin was pale and lined, like the creatures themselves had entwined it together. As I continue to stare and scream, the lines in my face split and hundreds of thousands of tiny pink spiders swarm out, blinding me in their eagerness for freedom. I scream even more than I did before, but it doesn’t matter.
Author: Rebekah Pouw is a 3rd year creative writing student. She loves writing stories especially in the fantasy genre. She also loves dabbling in mythology writing stories based on them.
Artist: Zoe Hawker is a multi-disciplinary student artist working with sculpture, installation, and painting. Her self-reflexive practice aims to decode the absurdities of our current culture.
Editors: Brock Scholte and Fernanda Bustos Venegas