My therapist suggested I write this out. I guess reliving that night and putting my experiences on paper will help me get over the trauma.
A few years ago, I was in a motorcycle wreck. Broke my left tibia and fibula, shattered my right patella, got a greenstick fracture of my left femur, multiple fractures in my pelvis, breaks in almost all my ribs, and two broken collarbones. I was immobilized from the shoulders down by a heavy body cast. They told me I was lucky.
My wife, Violet, was supportive and nurturing. She never once complained about having to care for me. She cooked all my meals, kept me company, and emptied my bedpan without grimacing. About two weeks into my convalescence, Jenna called us, bawling, because her college roommate died. Vi had to leave immediately and be there for her. Vi’s sister, Kathy, was going to take care of me.
When I woke up the following morning, Vi was off to get Jenna. Kathy was there, cheerfully making breakfast and talking up a storm as she helped me with my more embarrassing biological needs. Like her sister, she never made me feel ashamed. She left around 11 that night and told me she’d be back at dawn.
I like to sleep with the TV on. For some reason, I find it comforting. I’d drifted off while the game was finishing and only woke up when I felt something thud against the cast on my chest. In the flickering light of the television, I saw a huntsman spider staring back at me. She was bigger than most of the ones I’d seen around here; maybe the length of a rugby ball. My breath caught in my throat and every muscle in my body fired in an attempt to push the thing off me. I couldn’t move.
I started yelling at the spider, hoping it might scare her away. She wasn’t frightened. She turned around, exposing her abdomen to me, and I gasped. Her back and belly were covered in babies. They rippled like windblown fur as they moved over their mother’s body. The huntsman turned back toward me and walked closer to my face.
Before then, I’d never thought about spiders having a scent. This one did. It smelled like wet dirt, sort of like how outside smells after a rainstorm. The smell intensified as its long legs reached my face. I squeezed my mouth and eyes shut. Its prickly legs advanced, first to my lower lip, then my nose, my eyelids, and finally my forehead. Its leg-span stretched from ear-to-ear, hairline to chin. Its thick, heavy body ran from my chin to right between my eyes. And it stayed there.
I tried to hold my breath. To say I was horrified was an understatement. I wished I was dead. I prayed to be dead. My prayers went unanswered as it walked a little higher, letting its abdomen brush against my nose.
The huntsman immediately buried its fangs into my forehead as her babies streamed from her abdomen onto my face. I shrieked. Tiny spiders crawled over my cheeks, squirmed through my beard, and hid in my eyelashes. I thrashed my head back and forth in an attempt to get them off me. The mother moved onto the pillow by my right ear and bit my cheek. It felt like a wasp sting. Then she ran over my shoulder and pushed herself through the tiny opening of the cast by my armpit.
At this point, I was screaming uncontrollably. A sea of baby arachnids explored my nostrils, hair, and were starting to find my ears. I felt a tendon or ligament or something snap as I thrashed, sending white-hot pain through my neck. Trying to move my head after that was excruciating.
As the babies dispersed throughout my face and head, the mother explored under the cast. To this day, I have no idea how she was able to compress herself to fit underneath the thing. She wandered over my chest to my stomach and down to my groin. She exited the cast by the hole nearby, only to move back inside by my legs. She stopped at the underside of my knee. And that’s where she stayed.
When Kathy arrived in the morning, I’d somehow fallen asleep. I guess the exhaustion brought on by the horror I’d experienced forced my body to shut down even though my mind was still soaked in terror. Oblivious to the events of the night before, Kathy shook me awake. I started screaming again. I felt the huntsman behind my knee. She must’ve been sleeping, too, and was startled awake by my yelling. She bit my leg over and over as Kathy tried to calm me down and tried to get me to fill her in on what was happening.
By the time I was able to tell her, she looked like she was about to faint. I’d always considered myself somewhat of an arachnophobe, but Kathy’s fear of them was light years beyond my own. She called emergency services, and they sent a couple guys who were able to coax the thing out and kill her. In the end, it was anticlimactic.
Vi came home with Jenna later in the day and Kathy and I told her about my night. Neither of them were able to listen to the details. A family of arachnophobes. Time went by and my broken bones knitted together and healed, and eventually I was back on my motorcycle. Every night, though, I dream about the huntsman staring at me. I feel her young streaming across my face and up my nose and around the gaps of my teeth. Whenever there’s a quiet moment, I hear them scratching at my eardrums, and I’d swear that every time I clean my ears, I’m pulling out eggs.