Marie’s House

She couldn’t recall a point in her life when she didn’t fear spiders, even though Mother always said, “Don’t worry, they’re more afraid of you than you are of them.”

Doubtful. She studied them, trying to ascertain whether that could possibly be true. Her intensity to verify or disprove her mother’s claim carried her into college. But it was while she was at home, on the toilet, that the incident took place.

Thoughts were busying her head that day. October always meant birthdays and celebrations, until now. Mother’s death changed that. She’d always known Mother would die. Had to be done as matter of senescence and statistics. She understood both well. But Mother was struck by a stranger with an umbrella, propelling her back down the steps she’d been climbing, and into the storm surge where hungry waves gobbled her up and passed her wave by wave deeper into the ocean. Her body wasn’t recovered for three months. She wasn’t Mother by then. More time was needed for her to transform in Marie’s head from presence to memory.

Which had nothing to do with the spider incident, except that she was distracted by grief’s weight. Mother’s house had become her house. Whether she wanted to remain in that house was the question. Something never considered before seemed almost certain. That surprised her. She’d always believed that she would leave Mother’s house. She had begun to think that it would be with a man, when she married. Then, perhaps with a woman, when she married. Or maybe, when she traveled the world, because she didn’t think she was going to ever marry.

But along came an American house spider. Comb-footed, yellowish brown with a dirty white abdomen. About a quarter inch in size. Large for the species and lighter in color so it was probably female. Common and nothing to be feared, on an intellectual level. It could have a painful bite. But, Marie still sometimes reacted to spiders on other levels when they surprised her. As this one did, landing on the back of her hand as she sat on her bum on the commode, crying about Mother and October.

Feeling it, she flinched. Seeing it, she screamed. Tried flicking the spider away. It rushed up her pale, almost hairless arm. By that point, four seconds had passed and calm was beginning to restore order to Marie’s intellect. But then the spider stopped. She bent to look at it more closely. It raised two legs at her. Like it was waving hello. Later, she wondered, was it actually casting a spell? Because it then disappeared into her skin.

That seemed wholly impossible and improbable, so Marie took forty-seven seconds looking for it, horrified that maybe it had fallen off her arm and into her crotch. She stood to finish her business, wipe her bottom, and flush the toilet, but she swayed. Light blue towels were on a rack to the toilet’s right. She lunged for that general area, missed and fell forward. When next she woke, she knew she was a spider. Not spider-girl, a human with spider-like capabilities. No, she was a human intelligence in a spider body in the corner of the bathroom that used to be Mother’s house, which was now hers.

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