You all may have noticed there was no Day 9 yesterday. That’s pretty much thanks to the migraine I’ve been fighting the past two days. I do have meds I can take, and it makes it almost bearable to get work done, but I gave myself a break and let it go. I was actually not intending to do anything for today, either, but I came down to the office to check an email and a story idea popped up. I can’t promise it’s coherent or edited or free of typos, but I hope you will enjoy it…
Day 10: Spiders
It was just a joke, barely a thought. They were on the playground again—the one they weren’t supposed to play on. The jungle gym was old and rusted out in parts, but it was fine to play on, as long as you didn’t push it on the swings.
There were two metal animals shaped as seats, a tiger and a seahorse, mounted on heavy-duty springs. They were so old you could barely get them to move, and they kept talking about bringing a can of grease or something the next time they snuck out, but no one ever remembered.
Eloise, with the funny, old-fashioned name, had started hanging out with them at the playground. Or rather, they’d decided to defy town ordinance and parental warning and head down to the old park where they could each smoke half of the cigarette Bella’d stolen from her older brother’s pack and play on the sets that were too young for them, and too old for anyone in the town that cared about their children’s wellbeing. Eloise had been waiting there that first day, and they’d just kind of said hi and started including her in their conversations.
This was the old park, after all, as opposed to the New Glen Ridge Activity Field, all plastic and safety and shining off down the road. There was a soccer game going on over there today.
“Hey, Eloise.” Bella nodded to the girl, who was sitting on one of the faded red sections of the red and yellow merry go round. The paint on the railings had worn off long ago, making it hot to the touch on a sunny day, but now the day had clouded over and it wasn’t too warm for Eloise to stretch her arms above her head, holding onto the railing, as she used one foot to push herself along.
“Woohoo!” Genevieve screeched and jumped on the merry go round, hopping up into the center and bending down to grab a railing on each side of the open space. “Let’s see who gets sick first!”
Bella didn’t take the bait. Instead, she sat down across from Eloise, leaning against a railing, mirroring the other girl’s position. “What’s up? You okay?”
Eloise shrugged, rubbing her back against the metal pole.
“UGH.” Gennie flopped dramatically on her stomach between them, letting her head, shoulders and arms hang off the edge. “She always looks…” She trailed off and waved her arm up and down in Eloise’s general direction, as if to indicate what the other girl was wearing.
It was her usual outfit. Black skirt, black tights—not pantyhose, tights—black turtleneck sweater, and saddle shoes. Bella didn’t even know what they were called until she had described them to her mom, who’d seem surprised that they still made them, and that people still wore them. As always, Eloise’s hair was parted in the middle and pulled back into two long, black braids. It wasn’t that unusual of a hairstyle, not that Bella could tell. She wore hers cropped into a pixie cut, and Gennie had had her hair in locs since the seventh grade, so maybe it was what you did with long, straight hair.
Eloise rubbed her back against the metal pole again.
“Ha, you look like a bear in a nature video!” Gennie grinned. “All you need is some honey.”
It would have sounded insulting coming from anyone else, but Gennie had a natural infectious laughter that she turned as easily against herself, and even Eloise cracked a grin at that one.
“Rawr,” she said, making a halfhearted claw swipe with her curled fingers. “I want a nap.”
Now that the ice was broken, as it always did, their conversation picked up. Eloise didn’t talk as much as the others, but she would listen as they discussed kids at the school Eloise didn’t go to, or promise to make a shopping date once their parents started letting them go places with other kids again.
Gennie stayed on her stomach, picking up rocks out of the overgrown weeds and chucking them towards the woods.
“UGH, we need to go somewhere.” Gennie turned over and scootched herself up so she could lay on her back, resting her head on her hand. “I mean, how long is this going to—” She stopped and looked at her other hand. “Gross, what is that?”
The white, spherical object stuck to her hand, even when she turned her palm down.
“Oh, God, oh gross, it’s on me, it won’t get off.” Gennie sat up and started waving her hand around.
Eloise grabbed Gennie’s arm, arresting it in mid-flail.
“What is it?” Bella asked.
“Be careful.” Eloise’s voice sounded strange.
Gennie scrambled to a sitting position. “Hey, let go.” She wrenched her arm away, but Eloise didn’t let go.
“She is a mother,” Eloise said. “A mother of all.”
“Oh, come on.” Bella rolled her eyes. “It’s just a spider egg sac.”
And without thinking, she leaned forward and plucked it off of Gennie’s palm. Her friend scurried off the merry go round, dusting herself off in case any other unwanted visitors had hitched a ride.
“Ew, ew, ew. Bella, come on, let’s go back to my place.”
Bella wasn’t listening. Instead, she stared at Eloise, who had fixed her gaze on the sac held gently in Bella’s fingertips.
“Give them to me,” she whispered.
Bella didn’t know what she was thinking, it was more like a reflex, a joke that crossed her mind. “Sure, here they are!”
And she tossed the sac straight at Eloise’s face.
It stuck to her cheek. At first, Gennie began to giggle, and Bella smiled, waiting for Eloise’s reaction. But she didn’t jump up and down or get mad or cry.
Instead, the tiniest, thinnest line of black began to trickle out of the sac and make its way up Eloise’s cheek.
“Oh… oh my God, Eloise, I’m sorry.” Bella ducked under the railing and slid off the merry go round, taking a step toward the other girl.
Eloise held up a hand, and Bella stopped in her tracks.
The thin black line was joined by another, and then another, and finally a fourth line, all creeping and flowing up her cheeks. Two branched across her nose, seeking the white orbs of her eyes. White orbs that the black lines crept into. And now, Bella could see the tiny, individual moving dots that made up those lines as they climbed into Eloise’s eyes, creeping, crawling.
The white eyes that gradually filled to dark black pools, congealing, overflowing, seeking.
And now, Bella was backpedaling, Gennie was already running, the girls screaming, crying, stumbling away as Eloise stood, her skin bubbling with its dark carapace, growing, changing, stretching, bleeding.
“The mother…” Her mouth dripping with ichor, drooling around a set of pedipalps that waved, sensing. “I am… the mother…”
And a mother must feed its young.
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