“The itsy bitsy spider went up the water spout.
Down came the rain, and —” the kids sang.
“Die, spider, die!”
Whack. Whack. Whack.
“Aunt Pammie!” Bella and Nick said.
“I’m sorry, but the only good spider is a dead spider,” Pam said while carefully holding the newspaper with spider guts as far away as possible. “Uhuhuhu-uhuh.” She shuddered.
“Mom said we don’t kill spiders. They eat other bugs.” Nick frowned. Pam could tell he was wondering if, somehow, he was going to get grounded over it.
“That’s insane, Nick,” Pam said.
Bella shook her head. “Don’t be stupid, Nick. That’s not it. Everyone knows if you kill a spider its mother comes back and steals your soul.”
Pam sighed. “That’s even more insane. What is your mother teaching you guys?”
Both kids skipped away, laughing. “The truth, Aunt Pammie, the truth,” Bella shot over her shoulder.
A whisper, a breath, woke Pam. The clock blinked 3:01 a.m. She brushed at a stray hair as it tickled her cheek.
“Shit!” It was a spider.
With a flip of her wrist, Pam sent it onto the covers. She stumbled out of bed, falling as her leg snagged on the covers.
Twined around her leg, sparkling in the moonlight, was spider silk.
“What the …?”
She hit the floor and beneath her spiders of all shapes and sizes scattered and reformed. Like an undulating furry blanket they covered her.
Oh God oh God oh God.
Choking, she tried wiping the spiders off while ripping at the web on her leg. It wouldn’t come off as she scrabbled up and onto the bed. A line of spiders the size of her face skittered toward her. Each one was covered in iridescent fur and stared with bottomless eyes.
Oh God oh God oh God. They’re after my soul.
She squashed two as she rolled across the bed toward the door. When her bare feet hit the floor there was crunching and something warm and thick oozed between her toes. A faint, high-pitched scream wrapped around the room.
“This isn’t happening. This can’t be happening.”
The screaming went on, grew in pitch as she stumbled to the door. It was coming from the spiders, and Pam slammed her hands over her ears as the screaming grew into something else.
“One of us. One of us,” the spiders chanted.
Oh God oh God. Have to get out. Have to get out!
The door was blocked—covered by webs woven over and over each other. As she shook the white silk, thousands of tiny red-spotted spiders burst out and ran up her arms. Above, stirred by the reverberations from the door, tarantulas dropped from the ceiling.
Pam’s screaming couldn’t block out the spider’s words.
“One of us, one of us. You killed one of us,” they said.
She spun, eyes wide, trembling all over, short of breath.
“Please,” she sobbed. “Please. I’m sorry. I won’t do it again. Please. Oh, God.”
Don’t take my soul.
Skittering, flittering, chittering, twittering—black furry bodies swarmed. Up and over her eyes, they blinded her. Up and into her mouth, they drowned her.
“One of us. One of us,” they sang.
Pam stared unblinking at the man. “You don’t understand,” she said. “You can’t. You really really can’t. Do you know what’ll happen? I mean really really really happen? They know and they have friends. Family. Lots and lots of them. You wouldn’t know just looking at them but,” Pam laughed until tears rolled down her cheeks. “I don’t know anymore. Is the only good spider a dead one? Or is the only good spider a live spider?”
Movement behind the locked window casement caught her eye. A brown spider with spindly legs wove an intricate pattern on its web.
“SSSSSSsssssssssshhhhhhh.” She tried putting her finger to her lips, but the restraints held fast.
“They’ll hear me. If you listen you can hear them. Can’t you hear them?” She said to the man who shook his head and approached with a half-filled syringe. “Can’t you hear them?”
The needle entered her arm and the world’s edges blurred. The spider winked. Pam smiled.
It hadn’t been her soul they’d been after at all.