It wasn’t until my early 30’s that I developed my arachnophobia. As a kid, I had what most would consider to be only a rational fear of the eight-legged pests. I didn’t particularly like spiders, but I wouldn’t say I was exactly petrified by their presence either. I viewed them mostly as a mild nuisance. Just one more insignificance on a long list of creatures practically designed to be squished by bigger things, like myself.
This admittedly arrogant perspective remained with me until I moved into a moderately sized house that sat about half an hour from anything. Truthfully, the home was nothing special. It was an old, single story farmhouse caked in dust when I first found it. But I was taken with its rustic architecture and seclusive nature. When I called the realtor to ask about pricing, they informed me that the previous owners had been trying to sell the property for ages and were excited to see someone finally taking an interest. As a result of this, I was able to get the place dirt cheap. It was only a few days after my initial call I found myself signing the paperwork to become a homeowner. I probably should have suspected something was off with the previous owner’s eagerness to rid themselves of the place, but I shrugged off any suspicions I did have as paranoia. Something I would soon regret.
Anyhow, I spent the next week or so cleaning the absurdly large amount of dust and cobwebs that absolutely coated the structure’s insides. Soon enough, the place was in a livable state and I moved everything I owned (which wasn’t much) in. For a few weeks, life in the new house was great! I adored how far away I lived from any other people. I was able to spend many days just sitting on the porch and taking in the beauty of the countryside. The inside of my home was equally as cozy and despite having no lights around me for miles, I had never felt more safe. It wasn’t until I was laying in bed one night that my sense of stability slowly began to unravel.
I was nearly asleep when a strange scratching sound caused me to jolt upright in bed. I sat there for a moment, letting the rhythmic scuffling noise play out as I attempted to pinpoint its source through the darkness. The scraping seemed to engulf me from all sides. My head swiveled in every possible direction as my eyes strained to peer through the thick layer of black that covered my surroundings. The sound didn’t intensify, but neither did it decrease.
Finally, after a few minutes, I reluctantly reached to my bedside and groped blindly for the lamp switch. Almost as soon as the weak light dimly illuminated the room, the noise ceased.
I looked around in confusion, already beginning to wonder if I’d been dreaming. Having just recently moved in, there wasn’t much in the way of hiding places in my room. I checked under my bed and behind what little furniture I did have, but found nothing out of place. Just to be safe, I did spend a few minutes checking the doors and windows and even the other rooms to make sure there wasn’t an animal or something that had found its way into my home. When I didn’t find anything, I returned to bed exhausted and ready for sleep. I decided the scratching noise must have been an animal that had gotten on my roof or something and figured I’d just deal with it in the morning.
I laid my head back against my soft, inviting pillow and stared at the ceiling, waiting for sleep to take me again. I was just about to switch off my light when I saw something blemishing the bumpy, popcorn surface of the ceiling. Gazing upward through weary eyes I tried to make out its exact shape until I finally came to realize what it was. A crack. A relatively large one at that. I stood up on my bed to get a closer look, my legs wobbling from the uneven mattress struggling to hold me upright. Upon closer inspection, the crack appeared to be a few inches in length and about a half an inch in width. Even when shining a light into the fissure, I couldn’t see an end to its depths. Only a black abyss seemed to reside within.
Was this here before? I thought to myself. I couldn’t recall seeing it when I did my first sweep of the house or when I was cleaning it from top to bottom. Surely I would have noticed something so obvious? The only explanation is that the old house must have a leak of some kind. It had rained a few times since I moved in so I figured it may be possible.
Wanting to check if the ceiling would show any signs of dampness, I absent-mindedly brought my finger up to it and began gently poking at the edges of the crack. There was indeed a softness to it, but not quite a wet one. It was more like a squishy soft. As I poked and prodded, I noticed slight movement in the darkness of the hole, I moved my face closer as I squinted to try and make it out. Suddenly, small, white hairs extended out of the edge of the crack, only a few centimeters from my finger tip. I poked at the wall a little harder, causing the odd bumpy material to make a small squelch. Almost as soon as my finger planted itself firmly, a form darted out of the hole in its direction.
On reflex, I quickly pulled my finger away, narrowly avoiding contact with the thing that crawled from the fissure. It was immediately obvious what had tried to make a meal out of my appendage. Sitting fat and angry against the ceiling, close enough for me to see its mandibles snap, was a large, white spider. I recoiled in disgust upon the realization. I’d never seen a species like this one. Its legs stretched and arched far from its body, and its abdomen was bulbous and round. The thing’s entire body was almost the exact shade of white as the paint that covered the interior of my home. I shuddered, its unusual appearance making the hairs on the back of my neck stand at attention.
As I stared at the hideous thing, it turned itself slightly until the front of its awful form faced me. It appeared to be looking at me, as if daring me to try poking at its nest again. I might not be a genius, but I wasn’t stupid enough to put my skin anywhere near the disgusting arachnid’s maw again. Instead, I carefully stepped down from my bed and shuffled around the floor, my feet searching for my shoes. All the while, I kept my eyes on the fat abdomen of the creature. Its body shifted with each movement I made, as if the thing was still watching me. I began to feel an overwhelming sense of nervousness. It was as if I was a fly, trapped in the monstrosity’s web and waiting to have my insides sucked out of me through sharp, jagged fangs.
Just as my panic began to get unbearable, my feet finally kicked at what I’d been feeling for, my shoes. Slowly bending down and picking one up, my anxiety began to turn into courage. I didn’t understand why I was so afraid of some little spider. But now with a proper weapon in my grasp, I felt my fears evaporate. Slowly, I climbed back on the bed, still in the staring contest of my life with my uninvited roommate. “Say goodnight, little bastard,” I said. Then, I swiftly swung the bottom of my boot up into the ceiling, directly nailing the spider. It didn’t even stand a chance. The horrifying form that previously sat like a bloated king over my bed was now nothing but a bloody stain against the white paint of the ceiling.
I stood there, nodding to myself triumphantly. Deciding I’d had enough adventure for one night, I stepped down from my bed and set my shoe back next to the other one. Then I covered myself in a cocoon of blankets and feeling safe once more, I quickly fell asleep.
Unfortunately, that night was only the first of many spider sightings in my home. Over the next week or so, I had found and smashed at least one or two nearly identical little creeps each day. They seemed to be lurking in every other corner of my home. Under the kitchen sink, in the hallway closet, on the spare bedroom wall, you name it. I nearly had a heart attack one night when I took a trip to the bathroom and found an especially plump one resting on the underside of the damn toilet seat. It seemed that no matter how many I killed, more would show up.
As the days passed, I grew an irrational hatred for the horrid little creatures. Each time I saw one it filled me with an instinctual rage. There was no longer a fight or flight response, only fight. I must have killed over a dozen as the week went by. As my patience for them dissolved with each execution, I found myself disposing of the eight-legged monsters in increasingly cruel ways. The first several I simply smashed. But I soon moved on to spraying them with a puddle of powerful bug spray. Then I resorted to smothering them with white vinegar. Watching their shriveling bodies burn and bubble had begun to fill me with a sadistic satisfaction.
My anger toward the uninvited things was only exacerbated by my lack of sleep. Every night that week I would wake up to the same scraping sound I heard the night I found the first spider. Each time I would switch on the light, however, the noise would abruptly stop. Still, I found myself on edge as a result, and often had trouble falling back to sleep after I was woken, if I managed to at all. What’s more, I could swear the crack on my ceiling was getting larger. Every night that I was pulled from my sleep from that hideous, obnoxious scratching, I would instinctively look at it. But each time I was met with nothing more than the pitch black that sat between the lumpy paint.
One night, I was woken by that horrible sound once more. Instead of immediately looking up at the fissure in the ceiling as I’d done the previous several nights, I just lay there, irritated. All I could bring myself to think was the question of how long I would have to endure this nightly ritual before I could manage a single night of decent sleep again. Listening to the sound as it snaked its way eerily from wall to wall, I felt my breathing shallow. I allowed myself to drink in the sound as my anxiety quickly rose in my chest. A symphony of thumping, scraping, and scratching took hold of me, squeezing my throat like a noose. My arms and legs began to crawl and an itchy sensation worked its way across nearly every inch of my skin. Every ounce of my nerves screamed at me to move, to scratch, to relieve myself of this torment. All it would take was the flip of a light switch and I knew the warmth of the lamp would soothe all my ailments. But I refused. I didn’t want to let the noise win. I had to beat it. If I gave up now I feared I would never be rid of it.
The itching across my skin began to burn and I nearly choked on my own spit after not swallowing for too long. Finally, after every ounce of my will had been expunged, I simply couldn’t take it anymore. In one quick motion, my arm shot to my side and switched on the lamp. Immediately, the sound stopped. My eyes were locked with the malignant crevice above me before the light even had a chance to illuminate it. Unlike every night before, however, there was something strange seeping from the fissure. At first it resembled dust, but more…solid. As I gazed upward attempting to wrap my head around what was happening, I realized the itching sensation I’d felt before illuminating the room hadn’t stopped. If anything, the feeling had only gotten worse. I thoughtlessly scratched at my neck only to feel something wet squish underneath my fingernail. I quickly glanced at my finger to see a bloody mess wrapped around its tip. My eyes widened in terror at the realization that what I was watching fall from the ceiling was not dust and I quickly threw my blanket off myself. A horrified gasp reflexively crawled out of my throat as I saw dozens of tiny white spiders chaotically swarming up my legs and abdomen.
I screamed and leapt out of bed in an instant and ran to the bathroom. Without taking the time to remove my night clothes, I slammed my way into the shower and turned it on, spraying each and every last inch of my body with scalding water to ensure no spiders remained. I didn’t stop scrubbing until my skin was raw and bleeding.
This was the final straw. I couldn’t take the torment of these tiny beasts any longer. I slept in my car for the rest of the night and as soon as the sun rose, I called an exterminator. I told them about everything. About the noises I’d been hearing, the crack in the ceiling, and even the details of the spiders down to the color of hair on their asses. Over the phone, the exterminator told me they’d never seen any spider like the one I described, but said that it could be a rare species. It didn’t matter to me, I just wanted them out of my house. I told him I’d pay extra if he could come out the same day. Thankfully, he agreed.
I remained in my car as I waited, just staring at the building I used to call home. It was only now that the events of last night truly began to sink in. I had killed an immeasurable amount of arachnids in my life, but never any that acted like this. Their positions seemed so calculated, so strategic, so…intelligent. It was almost like they were aware of what they were doing to me.
I tried to shake the thought from my mind as I continued to gaze upon the house they’d turned into a nest. I’m not sure how much time passed as I sat there, but eventually, a yellow van with the words, “Taking care of your persistent pests since 1982” pulled onto my property and parked adjacent to my vehicle. I’m not sure if it was because he didn’t expect me to be sitting in my car, or the fact that I was basically in my underwear that caused the frightened expression on his face as I stepped into his line of sight. I reiterated my situation to him. To his credit, he stood there and listened with a mostly straight face until I had finished my near hysteric rambling. When I was done, he puckered his lips and nodded, as if he’d seen something like this before. I wasn’t sure whether to be relieved or disturbed.
Regardless, he put some kind of mask on, grabbed some equipment, and told me to give him about half an hour or so. I watched him walk confidently into my house as I tried to keep the thought of him being eaten by a horde of spiders to myself.
After returning to my car, I waited anxiously, checking the time every 2 or 3 minutes. When thirty minutes passed and he hadn’t come back, I began to grow more nervous. I chewed on my finger nails for another five minutes as I tried to be patient. Then, another five minutes went by. Then five more. I was beginning to think my paranoid thought of him being eaten by spiders wasn’t as far-fetched as I’d originally convinced myself. I stepped out of my car and called for him, but heard no response. I called again, louder this time and unable to keep my voice from cracking with fear. Still nothing. I grabbed a fistful of my hair and took in a deep breath, trying to rationalize why he was taking almost twice as long as he said he would.
I waited until a full hour had gone by, but he still hadn’t come out of my house. I let out a dramatic groan. I didn’t want to enter the building until it was safe, but if something really had happened to the poor bastard I couldn’t just leave him in there. I cautiously stepped toward the ominous structure, reciting, “left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot…” as I got closer to it. I inched my way up the porch, causing the old wood to creak as if screaming in protest. Slowly and methodically, I reached for the door. I called for him one last time and waited for a moment. When I didn’t hear anything, I took a deep breath and twisted the knob. As soon as I heard the click of the latch, the door suddenly swung open. I screamed and fell back away from the door, readying myself to be swarmed by thousands of tiny legs. But instead, I heard a small chuckle and an apology. The exterminator stood in the doorway, his gut shaking from laughter as he reached a hand down to help me up.
“What the hell took you so long?!” I asked, both frustrated and embarrassed. He explained to me that he was making sure to spray in every nook and cranny he could find. He wanted to be extra sure that he’d covered the whole place and did a second sweep when he didn’t see any spiders.
“What do you mean you didn’t see any spiders?!” I asked in disbelief.
“Well, just that. I searched high and low but I couldn’t find even a cobweb in there.” He said, seemingly unbothered.
“That’s impossible, I’ve been seeing them every day for a week! And a whole damn swarm of them fell down from the crack over my bed last night!” I nearly yelled.
“Yeah, see, that’s the other thing I wanted to talk to you about. You mentioned over and over on the phone about that crack in your ceiling, but I didn’t see any cracks.”
I stared at him, a look of bewilderment plastered on my face as he continued. “I thought maybe I just misunderstood about its location, but after double checking all the rooms in there, I’m still not exactly sure what crack you were talking about. I sprayed the corners of the ceiling though, so you shouldn’t have to worry too much about the little critters up there anymore.”
“No, no, the thing is enormous! There’s no way you didn’t see the crack going halfway across the ceiling!” I protested.
He just raised an eyebrow and responded in an accusatory voice, “How about you take me in and show me this thing? Because I’ve got no idea what the hell you’re talkin’ about.”
“Fine, I will!” I stormed into my house, my nerves temporarily calmed from my confusion and irritation.
The exterminator walked closely behind me as I made my way to the bedroom. I swung open the door and pointed at the ceiling, without looking. “Right there! Look!” I said, a bit smugly. He looked at the ceiling, then back at me. An eyebrow raised in confusion. “I think maybe you oughta look for yourself,” he said with a hint of concern.
“It’s right there…” the words caught in my throat as I turned to look at the ceiling over my bed. To my confusion, there was no crack to be seen. Only a lumpy, shotty looking paint job stretching across nearly the entire length of the bedroom.
“Wha…?” Is all could utter. I felt a hand on my shoulder. “Listen, man, sometimes people with a great enough fear of spiders get little infestations in their homes, and their mind thinks up all kinds of crazy junk in response.”
I looked at him, wanting to be angry at his patronizing tone, but unable to shake my confusion. “Don’t worry about man, you said you woke up with a bunch of spiders on ya? It was probably just a nightmare driven by seeing a few spiders over the last week. I sprayed this place top to bottom so you’ve got nothing to worry about! Why don’t you get yourself some good sleep and I’ll get outta your hair.”
I found myself unable to argue as I stood there in shock. Wordlessly, I paid the guy and led him out of my home. He thanked me, giving me one last sympathetic look before driving off in his van, leaving me standing alone in my driveway.
It took me a little while after that, but eventually I ended up back in my house, gazing vacantly at the lumpy ceiling in my room. Had I really just imagined everything? Was the crack really never there? Did I actually even see any spiders? Was I losing my mind?
As I stood there pondering over the possibility of a gas leak in my house, a familiar sound began reverberating around me. Glancing out my window, I saw the sun was setting already, and the room quickly became blanketed in darkness. The noise grew louder and louder and with it, so too did my anxiety. My eyes bulged and darted back and forth in a desperate search for the source of the unbearable symphony. There was nothing on the walls and nothing on the floor. That left only one place left to check. But, it was impossible, how could it still be coming from above if there was no crack in the ceiling? I soon got my answer. I slowly lifted my head toward the once fractured shelter above me. My eyes watered and a silent scream of agony nearly dislocated my jaw as my psyche attempted to make sense of what I was seeing.
The area where the crack previously sat began to shift and contort as I gazed upon it. The ceiling began to squirm and writhe in a flurry of quick, chaotic movement. It took me a moment to understand that it was not paint that had covered where the blemish once was, but rather an indeterminable amount of tiny, white bodies. Spiders scurried and stepped over one another as they parted along the dark void, the commotion causing some to rain down onto the floor. Within seconds the tiny abominations had separated, leaving a deep fissure far thicker than the previous night. I stared, mesmerized, into the chasm, no longer concerned with the insignificant little things that scurried around and over my bare feet. Despite the amount of small horrors that fell from both within and around the now gaping hole, my focus remained upon something deeper in the blackness. Something that simply could not fit within the few feet that existed between my ceiling and the outer roof of what I had previously thought was my home. And yet, there it hung, like a predator eyeing its next meal.
A large, fat oval of white engulfed the impossible depth of the ceiling. Arched rods stretched in eight directions far beyond what my perspective could conceive. Two, massive tusks snapped with disgustingly quick, precise, hungry motions. And eight, equally ravenous orbs gazed down upon me like I was but a helpless ant, trapped in a spider’s web.
Both of us remained transfixed on one another for a good long while. Our staring contest reminded me much of the one I’d had with the first spider I’d seen in that house, only this time, I hadn’t a boot large enough to smash my opponent. Only now did I realize that the spiders were not the uninvited guests to this house. This was their home, and I was the intruder.
No sooner that that understanding hit me, the enormous monstrosity made just the slightest of movement toward me. I broke out of my trance and immediately ran for my life. I could feel the splatter of dozens of tiny bodies exploding underneath me as I did so, but I did not stop to concern myself with them. I bolted down the hall as more spiders crawled from other squirming cracks that were suddenly appearing on the walls and ceiling. I swatted them away as they landed upon me and kept running until I finally reached the door and slammed through it. I thanked the gods I still had my car keys on me and hopped in my car, speeding off before I’d even shut the door.
It’s been years since that night, and I still haven’t returned to that house. The only reason I continue to make payments on it is so no one else has to live the nightmare I barely survived. I’ve thought about bulldozing it, or even burning the damn place to the ground. But honestly, I’m afraid to even go near there again, and even more afraid of how those damn monsters would react to me destroying their nest. They can keep the place for all I care. That being said, there is no telling how many more places these horrors have made their home. If there are two things I’ve learned from this experience, it’s to never kill spiders, and don’t ever sleep under a crack in the ceiling.
Credit: Oliver Hamel
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