The Spider in You
By Sean E. Markey
23 March 2009
We kept our god under the sink, in an old aquarium, so it wouldn't spill its web all over the house. We didn't tell you because you were so curious. Our daughter: you are like an otter, or a hummingbird. How would you stand against such a monster as our god?
We took you to the shore, and watched you play in the surf. You don't notice how special you are, but everything else in the whole world does. The salty ocean spray always falls toward you. When the sun is out, its beams always find you, the heavy center, the pollen-coated middle; you are always so much brighter than everything around you.
We put you to bed and opened the cabinet under the sink, careful not to wake you or upset our god. Did you know spiders can hiss? Well, not all of them, but this one did. You turned in your bed, dreaming of the blue and red crabs that hide in the piles of rock at the beach. You call them "jellies," and only you know why.
We lit candles around the spider's glass. It reared up against the flame, and in the candlelight it truly looked like a monster.
We asked for good health, for good fortune. We opened the top and tossed in mealworms and cold crickets. The bugs rained down on the spider's fat body, and it turned on them in a rage. While it ate, while its mouth made dark, wet sounds, we broke down:
Be kind to our daughter, we pled. Be easy on her. We love her so much. We loved our children before her, but your poison stopped their hearts, and we did not watch while you wrapped them in your sticky web that smelled like honey, filled our house with the scent of flowers for months while you feasted, hiding the rotting stench. Each child was sicker and sadder than the last, hearing you eat while in the womb, knowing what was in store for them.
We finished our plea, gave our offering, and put the spider back under the cabinet, because it was not time to test you yet. We blew out the candles, put our faces to the floor and wept. You were five, and you would meet the spider soon.
Do you want to know what happened to the others? We named our first child Mahlina, and she had eyes like the ocean. She was the happiest child I'd ever seen. So happy, so full of love. She cried when she saw our god for the first time. It was my first time handling the spider. I'd been there when our old neighbors Hollyanna and Zavier treated their child with their own god's sharp little kiss.
Mahlina cried when she saw the imperfect body, its eight legs scrabbling wildly against the glass. It hungered for her. It knew her already, and it wanted her. Mahlina screamed when I took the spider from its tank, while your father held her. Shhh, honey, I reassured her, be still. It only hurts for a second.
Some people have an allergic reaction to their god's venom. When I was a little girl, my brother did. We left the house for four months while my parents' god consumed his body.
I'll spare you the details. Mahlina was highly allergic. My dear little girl, my horrible monster of a god. She did not make it, and our god only took two months to finish her off.
We were more nervous with the second child. His name was Phendon, and he was always a sick boy. I knew he wouldn't make it, but he survived the first bite. It takes three; if you survive three, you are strong for the rest of your life. You will be successful and able to handle your own god someday. You will have been blessed.
Something went wrong with Phendon. He developed a rash around the first bite a week later. Black spots appeared. At the end, he didn't even look like my little boy anymore. His skin hung from his bones. His eyes turned an ugly shade of yellow, and he forgot how to speak. He couldn't even say goodbye.
But you, you are different. And not just the way the world seems to spin around you, to gravitate toward you. You asked me once who we were hiding, and you looked all day. I could never bring myself to ask if you were searching for our god, if its language of spit-and-hiss found its way into your mind. I might have known, though. Everything else found its way to you.
We had a third child. I don't want to tell you this. We had a third child before you, named Ennison. Ennison was the opposite of you. Where you are the center, pulling everything toward you, Ennison was at the edge, falling toward a heaviness he would never understand. We heard noises one night, but dreamed the reason for them, and we didn't know anything was wrong until the morning. Ennison had fallen toward our god. He had been exploring, maybe he had been hearing the god's voice. He got the aquarium out, turned the spider loose.
We found his body the next morning, covered in turquoise-silver web, our little black god the size of Ennison's fist, crawling around like an actor that owned the stage.
We conceived you that morning, wrapped in grief like blankets against the cold, the storm of the deaths that came before you. It took the whole length of my pregnancy with you for our god to finish consuming Ennison.
When it was time for your first test, I already knew how it would go. I knew, because every day, I would find you sitting in front of the cabinet, where we kept our god. One moment you were playing by the window, the next you were gone. Memories of Ennison flashed into my mind like bullets. I ran into the kitchen, knocking things over on my way, banging my shin against the table. And there you were, reading a book and sitting cross-legged in front of the cabinet. You looked back at me confused, then continued on. It didn't happen just once, but all the time.
You didn't cry when the spider finally bit you. We took the spider out and shut the door so you couldn't run away. But I knew. I took the spider out and walked over to you. You watched it come and you didn't flinch. It opened its legs like an embrace and latched onto your arm. Sank its fangs in. You looked up, as if to see if everything was okay. Everything was so okay.
You didn't even blink. And when we were done, you went off to draw pictures of the god, shapes I could not understand. Your wound dripped poison and blood for a week, but it didn't slow you down.
The second bite went the same way, and I told your father, "This is it. Our little girl. The one we get to keep," but he looked at me like I should know better than to have hoped. I should have; we'd lost three children before you, but I wanted it so badly. We wanted it to be true, for you to stay. We were almost afraid to hope for it.
We had to lock the cabinet between the second and third tests. We caught you trying to get in twice. What were you trying to do? You called it your "pear." What does that mean? So many questions. I was so scared for you, scared for us that we would lose you.
The third bite is always the worst. If you survive the third bite, then you are strong, and are blessed, and you go on from that moment and everything works out. More or less. More or less it balances out over a lifetime. That's the way it works.
When the time came for the third bite, we were sweating, swearing, crying. The night before, we stayed up till dawn with our god, giving offerings, pleading.
Please spare her. Please don't take her from us. She's so special.
You're so special, honey.
I brought the spider close while your father stood behind you. We both prayed like we were dying.
You smiled; you laughed. We were a collective wreck, and you were laughing. You said "pear." Its legs twitched in the air, trying to get closer, to find some purchase to get to you. I could feel it. Some people claim they hear the voice of their god. The truly religious claim to speak to their god always, day and night. We had never heard our god's voice before that moment. It didn't even speak words, just desires. It wanted you. We had such a greedy god; we were not blessed with a god that held moderation in its black heart.
Hopeless, we whispered our goodbyes to you, but you didn't even notice. After you said "pear," you snatched the spider from me, held it in your bare hands, and took a bite. I nearly died. My daughter, my special little one, killed our god. Why would you do that?
It bit your tongue. You closed your teeth together. Its legs spasmed. Its dark guts ran down your chin, dripped onto your white dress.
You didn't swallow what you bit into. You dropped the body back into the aquarium, where it fell and bled out all over its webs. You spat, and the half-chewed upper body of the spider fell to the floor. You opened your mouth, and I saw its jaws buried in your tongue. You scraped at them with your little fingernails, and pulled them free.
You couldn't talk for days afterward, but we knew what you wanted. You pointed at the door and said something that sounded like "elly." You wanted to go to the beach, to see the crabs and play in the cold water.
You killed our god! You killed all our plans, and you didn't even pause for it.
Now, you laugh as the hermit crabs drag their heavy shells through the shallows; you pick up smooth stones the waves wash ashore. We can tell you like this new place.
Do you remember the rocks that crashed through our windows right before we left? Or how you cut your feet on the shattered glass? Maybe you don't remember how angry everyone was, how they gathered around our house and demanded we give you to them. That's why we had to find a new home. We would do whatever we had to, because we'd promised each other we would not lose you, our special girl.
You will do great things someday. Doors will open for you that are not open for anyone else. Maybe you will rediscover magic, or find the cure for death. Everything struggles to find you, just like our god, just like the salt spray, the silver fish that crowd around you in the water, the smiles that fall upon you from every face you pass under in this new land.