It wasn’t flat-out run-for-your-life screaming. It came in short bursts and long pauses. Another scream escaped the bedroom, where I could see her standing on the queen bed. Carmen. My wife. She looked like she would’ve levitated if she’d been able.

Seated in the lounge, it was a straight shot down the hallway into our bedroom—past the bathroom door and the archway across the hall which led into the living, dining, and kitchen areas.

“Babe?” I asked after the third scream. She didn’t answer, but I could see her on the bed cringing away from something. I smiled, shook my head, and set my book aside before I stood to see what was up. Or down, as it was.

“What is it, babe?” I asked when I entered the room. She looked over at me, relief plain on her face. I almost smiled again.

“There’s a—” She pointed toward the vent in the floor. A black spot rested on the edge, just out of reach of the air.

“A spider?” I asked, staring at the spot. She nodded and threw a tissue at me. It fluttered from her hand and landed two inches in front of her on the gray bed cover. I snatched it up and walked over to the vent. I wasn’t sure it was a spider. Or anything. Probably just lint.

I knelt next to the vent and studied the thing. It didn’t move, but was kind of shaped like a spider.

“How long has it been since this moved?”

“I don’t know,” she said and took a step back. “Five minutes?”

“You screamed a minute ago for no reason?” I turned to look at her.

“Don’t take your eyes off it!” She shrieked. “It’ll go hide and attack us while we sleep.” She whispered the last sentence like saying it aloud would signal the end of the world. I looked to the vent again, shaking my head.

“I thought it moved earlier,” she said. “The air turned on and I could swear the thing squirmed.”

“The air came on and it moved?”

“I’m sure of it.” Carmen took another step back on the bed and sat down, nodding firmly. Her long raven hair waved with the motion, and her wide dark eyes were serious as death.

“I think it’s just lint,” I said with heavy skepticism. I prodded it with a finger and it didn’t move.

“No.” She pointed a finger at me. “It is most definitely a spider.”

I sighed and picked it up with the tissue. Just lint. I held the tissue toward her to show the thing was not living and never was. She shrieked.

“Keep that monster away from me!” She curled away from my outstretched hand into the fetal position on top of the pillows.

“It’s just lint,” I said quietly. I avoided the argument I wanted to make about how spiders are not even close to being monsters, but the thing about Carmen was that she had her own ideas about things. More than most people. Everyone has their own view of the world, but Carmen’s was exaggerated and vivid and fantastic.

“I don’t care what you think it is, Ryan, I know it’s a spider.” She didn’t move from the fetal position, so her words were mangled and distant. “Just throw the damned thing away and be done with it.”

I couldn’t argue with that. Regardless of whether it was lint or a spider, she clearly would not be satisfied until the tissue with the thing was flushed into the sewage.

“You got it, babe,” I said, and did away with the tissue as she’d asked. When I returned to the room, she was sitting up and staring at the ceiling. “Is there another?” I asked. She was hugging the sheets close, so I thought it was a no brainer and followed her gaze, just where the wall met the ceiling.

“No,” she said kind of dreamily. “I was just thinking about how the length of this room is likely the height as well.” She tilted her head to the left and squinted at the ceiling. “Essentially, we live in a glorified shell. How do you feel about that?” Carmen smiled and looked at me.

“I feel like you need to get a new hobby,” I said. “Staring at walls clearly is doing nothing good for you.”

fiction prose Writings

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