Graveyard For Phobias by Tiffany Meuret

Fiction

There’s something about the shower curtain that makes you pause before pulling it back, as if all the perverts of your imagination pop out of the shadows just to watch you shave your armpits. So you stand a few seconds, dripping and cold, before sliding it open to grab a towel. Normally, there’s nothing there, and you exhale and dry off. Today, you aren’t as lucky.

There’s a spider. A smallish spider.

Frozen on the opposite wall, it’s inch long legs spread out as if to pounce. Perhaps no bigger than a silver dollar, you plant your feet to the porcelain tub while checking your mental rolodex of ways to get the fuck out of there with minimal property damage and/or without the thing laying eggs in your ear by spitting them at you or something. It could happen.

A decision strikes in a rare moment of clarity—run, screaming if possible for maximum effect, out of the bathroom, and cram a dirty shirt into the crack at the bottom of the door. Wait it out. This sounds perfectly reasonable.

The spider moves one leg (arm?), methodically testing your resolve. Crawling up the wall one step at a time.

And you snap. Shit shit shit shit, the words exhale like icy anxiety all the way to your nearby bedroom, returning with a shoe, but instead of smashing the thing while your adrenaline is piqued, you clamor into the bathtub again.

The spider was still small, maybe about the size of a softball. Your shoe was plenty big enough to handle it. But the spider, defying gravity as the hellish things are wont to do, was growing.

It scaled the wall, unconcerned with the workings of your neuroses, sensing the upper hand.

Your knuckles hurt the way you’re squeezing that smelly old shoe for dear life. The spider is as big as a dessert plate now. It’s spindly limbs grip the rough drywall with ease, the fibers on its body visible from your place in the tub basin. Sleek and ugly, the spider is as assured as your are manic.

There might be eggs. You think about throwing the shoe at it, but what if the babies on its back spray out like fireworks on impact? A thousand tiny, rapidly mutating spiders just…everywhere.

It stopped now, testing a limb on the slick surface of the bathroom mirror. It moved silently, but still you hear every movement like stiff fabric rubbing against itself, like peanut shells being crushed under feet at your roommate’s favorite barbecue restaurant.If complete panic had a voice, it’d sound just like the chitinous skittering of a spider.

It’s legs were thick as straws now, big enough that even from a distance you can pick out the individual hairs. Foot to foot (Do spiders have feet? You still haven’t determined whether or not they have legs instead of arms, so this line of questioning might be presumptuous), it’d grown the size of a dinner plate with no indication of stopping. The ghostly visage of the creature cast shadow-like against the closed door of the bathroom as the spider hovered over the vanity lights above the mirror, large enough now that it could do so without burning itself against the glass.

You have to do something—throw the shoe, start a fire, plug all the drains and leave the faucets running on high. Drown it out. Insurance ought to cover that.

But it’s looking at you now with its multifaceted eyes, every single one a slick, glassy black. It’s waiting for you to flinch. Its abdomen is the size of a basketball. It could smother a puppy.

A door opens and closes from somewhere else in the house, and all the tension pulling your muscles so taut, the pressure grinding your teeth so hard your eyes water, it just explodes in a flurry of panic. Somehow, the shoe escapes and goes flying towards the mirror while a disembodied voice shrieks and shrieks, becoming ever shriller as the shoe connects, smashing the only two functioning vanity bulbs, and casting the bathroom into a complete, windowless dark.

Matching your phobia step for step is the soft thudding of eight, arachnid limbs as thick as tube socks. A stomping noise approaches from farther down the hall. Another spider, you think. A monster. Something huge and pissed off.

It’s difficult to hear anything as the door opens, what with all your screaming, but soon a familiar voice chips away at all the noise.

“Oh no. Another one? Oh shi—”

The spider launches itself alien-like at your roommates faces. Limbs go flying, scrambling to get away. And you sing the sweet song of total hysteria, naked, curled in the fetal position in the bathtub.

Thwap! Thwap thwap thwap!

It was over as suddenly as it began. Your roommate hovered triumphant over the dog-sized spider carcass. “It’s okay,” she says. “I got him.”

Picking it up by a limb, your roommate yanks it out of view, down the hall. The back door opens and shuts, and your hear the faint sound of a shovel scraping at calcified dirt.

After fifteen or so minutes, the back door opens again. “You can come out now. It’s buried.”

Dragging yourself to wobbly feet, you stumble from the bathroom and wrap a towel around your nakedness. You have to see. So you head towards the back door.

Your roommate points through the window overlooking the yard. A fresh burial mound looms in front of so many others, patted and tamped down by the blunt side of a garden shovel. They’re nearing the patio now, a little too close for comfort.

“We should move,” you say, clutching the towel close.

“It’s not like there won’t be spiders wherever we go.”

“I know,” you say. “But the cemetery is almost full.”

Behind you, the ceiling fan whips a loose piece of paper across the tile floor, caught in the current. Shuddering, you exhale a long breath that never seems to end.

 

Biography
Tiffany is a writer, mother, and OCD sufferer from Phoenix, Arizona. Her work has been published or is forthcoming with Four Chambers Literary Magazine, MoonPark Review, Collective Unrest, Shoreline of Infinity, and others. Find her on Twitter at @TMeuretBooks or her website tiffanymeuret.com

Image: unsplash.com