House of Spiders

I was being watched.

At least, that’s what it felt like, which was ridiculous, because I lived alone in a townhouse with my blinds closed and deadbolts on all my doors. Still, that didn’t stop that cold, slow tingle from oozing across the back of my neck; the one you get when you’re subconsciously certain that something’s got its eye on you.

I tried to ignore it and stay focused on my design project, the deadline of which was looming, but it was persistent, like an itch under my skin, and no amount of redrawing lines or fixing color palettes would make it go away. Finally, with a frustrated sigh, I set down my tablet pen and I spun in my chair.

A scream, high pitched and surprised, immediately escaped me.

A small spider had been sitting in the middle of my office floor, just behind my chair. By the time I’d gotten up with a rolled up magazine in hand, it had scurried out of sight, to linger and lurk and continue watching me safely out of squishing range. I shuddered and sat back down slowly, the magazine still clutched in my hand.

God, I hated spiders.

I turned back around and resumed working, but it wasn’t long before the hairs on the back of my neck were standing up again and my concentration wavered towards thought of an eight legged creature skittering towards me with venomous fangs raised and ready to bite. It gave me enough of the heebie jeebies that I abandoned my desktop, packed up my smaller tablet and laptop, and left for the library.

“I’ll bring you back a nice can of raid,” I muttered over my shoulder as I shut the front door.

Right before it closed completely, I thought I caught sight of something moving very slowly and subtly across the entryway.

I couldn’t believe I was letting a little bug mess with my head so much. It was unbecoming of an almost 30 year old man.

I did pick up a can of insect spray on my way home after a few hours of working at the library, but I just dumped it on the little table beside the door and forgot about it in favor of making dinner. I figured I’d know where it was next time I met my eight legged nemesis.

Over the next few days, the feeling that I was being watched persisted, growing into a tangled, almost paranoid knot in my chest.

Work’s getting to me, I told myself, I’m too stressed.

I was also extremely isolated, having recently moved and not really gone out of my way to meet new people. I thought the combination of non-stop work and loneliness was overriding common sense. It didn’t help that, every time I turned around, I’d see that little spider scuttling off into some crack or crevice the moment I laid eyes on it.

I started calling it Stinker. Giving it a name made it seem a little less creepy and, since it had yet to act out my worst nightmares of injecting me with a paralytic venom and slowly sucking out my insides, I was starting to think maybe it didn’t really want to eat me after all. First chance I got though, I still planned on stomping it flat.

It was 3 AM, the day before my big project was due, and I was putting some finishing touches on my design before I called it a night. The slithering certainty that I wasn’t alone had returned, stronger then than it had been before, and I gripped my tablet pen in a white knuckled hand.

“Knock it off, Stinker,” I grumbled, hoping the sound of my own voice would help ease my nerves.

Behind me, from the darkness of the hallway outside my office, I heard something growl very softly.

I stiffened and my breath hitched painfully in my throat and, with agonizing slowness, I turned my head to look over my shoulder.

Stinker was in the middle of my floor, the same place it’d been the first time I’d seen it, but this time, it’s back was to me. It was facing the doorway, front two legs raised slightly while it swayed back and forth, almost as if it were threatening something.

I followed its multi-eyed gaze to the doorway.

It was empty.

When I looked back down at Stinker, the spider had disappeared, probably back to its preferred hidey hole between the wall and the filing cabinet.

I spent that night sitting upright in my computer chair, the office door shut and locked, and my bloodshot eyes trained on it. I didn’t get any sleep until well after the sun was up, and even then it was only because I nodded off against my will.

I woke up when I slid out of my chair and hit the floor with a resounding thud.

I sat there for a long time, conflicted and confused, but mostly afraid. I could almost have believed that I’d just dreamt the growl up, that it had just been my overtired mind playing tricks on me or that the townhouse had just been settling, but Stinker’s strange reaction kept playing over in my mind.

Something had been out in the hallway; I was sure if it.

Calling the cops didn’t seem wise; I didn’t think they’d take nicely to a full grown man trying to get them to investigate strange nighttime noises. I didn’t have any friends to talk it over with and I didn’t want to call my parents and make them worry that I was going crazy. I was really only left with one option.

I turned to the internet.

There are a lot of rabbit holes that one can go down online and I found myself wandering through everything from conspiracy theories to new age mumbo jumbo while searching for things like spider mythos, animals that hate spiders, and “can a spider tell if my house is haunted?”.

Spiders are government spies!

8 Ways Using Spider Webs Can Improve Your Life

Your house is talking to you; are you listening?

It seemed like a hopeless endeavor until I started stumbling across posts on various forums from a user named SproutsMom. She rambled a lot, heartbreaking stuff about her daughter who had been missing for a few years, but in between walls of text about loss and how she wished she’d listened, she talked a lot about spiders.

Her daughter had been obsessed with their garden spiders, especially a big one that she said was the queen. The queen apparently kept her safe. It wasn’t until after the little girl’s well meaning grandpa killed the queen spider that tragedy struck.

I googled the poster’s username, which she seemed to use for everything, and spent all afternoon following it from site to site, forum to forum, reading about her experience with something she called the “not nice”, all the way to some obscure cryptid-seeker’s site. There, instead of being told she was making things up for attention or viewed as a mother driven mad by grief, people were responding with suggestions.

I’ve heard of these things, not as “not nice” though. The guy I talked to called them creepers, said they’re the things you see out of the corner of your eye when you’re alone. According to him, they live in shadows, where we can sense them, but not really see them until we’re truly scared. They only attack people when the person is by themself and only when you look at them. Sorry about your kid. I guess she looked.

creepers? only know them as lurkers. sounds like the same thing tho cuz of the spiders. they hate spiders! dunno why

They don’t like the webs. They get tangled up in them and the spiders eat them. If you’re good to the spiders they’ll be good to you.

I read through pages of their responses. Not nice, creepers, lurkers, whatever they were called, everyone agreed on three things; they hunted people who spent a lot of time alone, looking directly at them was a death sentence, and the only thing they seemed to be afraid of were spiders.

Despite the fact that no one had actually gotten a good look at these “not nice”, a couple people included drawings with captions like, I only saw this for a split second because I didn’t want to look for too long! My tarantula was with me too or This guy was in the background of a photo, pretty sure it’s what you’re talking about

The pictures varied in quality and style, but a few things remained the same throughout: the creature was always thin and black, had a long, gaunt face, and pale yellow eyes. I was sure a lot of them drew on each other for inspiration, but it was creepy nonetheless.

The last post I read said, To really keep these things away, you need a queen, like the one SproutsMom mentioned. Other spiders will be drawn to a queen and the more you have, the less you have to fear from the creepers.

I shut down my browser and leaned back in my chair, dragging a hand down my face. These people were talking like they’re experts on something that probably didn’t even exist! I couldn’t be buying into any of that crap, I thought as I dragged myself upright and out of my office. I just needed a nice hot shower and some coffee to get my head on straight.

I’d barely made it up the stairs before I had the distinct, unnerving feeling that I was being watched. I started to turn to glance back down at the foyer.

They only attack people when the person is by themself and only when you look at them.

I froze. Every instinct in me said complete the turn, assess the danger! But I kept picturing those drawings with their sunken faces and yellow eyes and I couldn’t do it. Even when the bottom step squeaked as if someone (or something) had climbed on it, I couldn’t look.

“Stinker!” I shouted as I dove headlong into my bedroom and kicked the door shut behind me.

Even if I didn’t really believe the small spider would come to my call, it was nice to be reminded it was in the house at all.

When I emerged some time later, it was with my head down and my hands around my eyes and I made a stumbling mad dash for the front door. Once inside my car, I looked up the nearest pet store on my phone and sped all the way there.

I hated spiders, always had, so I had never expected to find myself standing in front of a series of terrariums, trying to figure out which of the half dozen tarantulas I wanted to take home. They were all already on the larger side, each as creepy as the last, and I had no idea what would make one better than the other.

A little girl was standing next to me, also staring at the spiders while her mom was talking to a nearby sales associate. She was humming, smiling, completely unafraid of the arachnids in front of her.

“Hey,” I said, trying my best to sound friendly, “you like spiders?”

She glanced up at me and nodded once shyly.

“If you had to pick one of these, which do you think is the queen?”

The little girl eyed me for another moment and then turned back to the tarantulas. She considered each closely, her face almost pressed against the glass of their enclosures, until finally, she pointed to the one in the lower left corner. It was the largest one they had.

“Her,” she said confidently.

Two hours later, after a crash course on keeping a spider by one of the sales girls, I was home and setting up my new pets home in the corner of my office. I was careful not to touch her as I opened her box and let her crawl out into her terrarium. She was unhurried about it and just having my hands so close to her made my skin crawl. I hoped this would be worth it.

While she acclimated, I took a seat at my desk and tried to distract myself from the fact that there was a huge spider mere feet from me with work.

I did look over at her from time to time, mostly to make sure she hadn’t escaped, and, at one point, saw a familiar small critter crawling along the side of her tank.

It seemed Stinker had accepted his new queen, and others would soon follow.

Spider sightings at my house, especially in my office, became a fairly regular thing. I was still a bit creeped out by them, but we seemed to have a mutual understanding: just leave each other alone and all will be well. The only one I interacted with at all was Majesty, my tarantula, and even that was limited to cleaning her enclosure and feeding her. For the most part, she just liked to watch me from within a little rock cave I’d gotten her.

And she wasn’t the only one watching.

Sometimes, the hair on the back of my neck would start to rise slowly and the cold certainty that something was behind me would set off all my internal alarms, but I never turned. I just kept my head down, kept doing what I was doing, and I’d wait for it to pass. It never took long.

I knew that it, whatever it was, a lurker, a creeper, the not nice, was biding its time, waiting for a time when the spiders wouldn’t be there.

But every time that watched feeling faded and I was able to look over my shoulder again, there was always at least one little stinker sitting contentedly on the floor behind me and I was grateful for my house of spiders.

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