It wasn’t the darkness that made the attic unbearable, it was the things you couldn’t see in the darkness. Patricia scrambled over boxes and across creaking floorboards, ducked under rafters and dodged imposing shadows, all in the hopes of getting to the big box at the far side of room. With her tiny torch she could make out the words Bob’s crap scrawled roughly in permanent marker.
“Screw you Bob,” she said to herself.
She had put the box there a couple of months ago, when she had caught him cheating. She kicked him out, she threw whatever was left of his belongings into the box, and she hid it from sight in the attic. And now he was calling, asking for the box, asking for a favour.
Patricia wasn’t afraid of the dark. Still, she wished she’d put the box somewhere else, like the damp shed, or the storage closet, or a bonfire. Anywhere but the spider-infested attic. God she hated spiders. The thought of them made her skin itch. In the dark, they could be anywhere. They could be under her right now, or crawling onto her hands as she scampered around the room.
She immediately withdrew her hands from the floor at that thought.
“No one else would do this for their ex. I’m just insane, right? Just crazy old Pat rummaging around with eight-legged killers all around her. And for him. For Bob. The sex wasn’t even that great.” She felt an itch run down her back, a tingling of her skin from neck to ass. She tried to shake the feeling off, hurrying towards the box. “Just do this one thing, and then he’s out of your life forever,” she told herself.
The Christmas decorations her parents had given her were piled up to her right. To her left, a box of books she had been given by her brother for safekeeping while he explored the world with his wife. South America, he’d told her. And Australia. Places with spiders. Places she would never see. She bought him a camera to take pictures of everything. Everything but the spiders.
The itch spread down her arms and legs. She scratched roughly, but it didn’t help. “It’s all in your head,” she whispered. She didn’t believe herself. She pushed a box of family albums out of her way, and walked in a crouch towards the box of Bob’s belongings. She shined the torch into the box as she opened it. A trophy for chess. A few books. A framed photograph of them, a happy couple at her brother’s wedding. Everyone had liked Bob.
Patricia threw the frame towards the far corner of the room. She didn’t hear it smash, and turned her light on it. The frame hung in the air from her hand, a mess of wires running from her skin holding it up. She shook her hand, trying to loosen the frame, but nothing happened. She closed her hand over, and when she re-opened it a series of tiny threads ran between her fingers and palm.
“What the heck is going on?” she muttered. She placed the torch on the ground, only for it to lift in the air as she struck the threads joining her hand to the frame. They were sticky, coming with her fingers as she pulled away, but they didn’t tear. Patricia felt her breath get caught in her throat, and wheezing for air she felt the dust in the air rise.
With a sneeze, a thousand tiny threads exploded from her exposed skin, sticking to the walls, floor and ceiling. She tried to tear them away, but the threads only clumped around her hands and spread over her clothing.
The torch shone a web of shadows against the wall, over which she could a dozen tiny spiders crawling. She shivered, feeling a panic rise from her stomach. She squirmed, trying to pull away from the spiders. Her efforts were met with a tug from all directions as the threads tightened.
“Webs,” she whispered to herself. “I’m covered in webs.” She wanted to cry. She wanted to close her eyes and pretend none of this was happening, pretend the spiders were multiplying and getting closer. The problem was, she couldn’t close her eyes. The webs that had shot from her skin had held them open after her sneeze.
“Screw you Bob,” she hissed.
Patricia decided that she’d had enough. She’d had enough of Bob, and she’d had enough of being afraid of spiders. If she was going to be Spider-Woman, she was going to face up to her fears. She was going to get out of the attic, and she was going to punch Bob right in the face. That was it. That would fix things. Kicking him out hadn’t kept him out of her life.
And while he was bleeding, she would burn those books, and smash the frame with a hammer. She would clobber him with the chess trophy. Damn it, she would take her life back.
If she could just get out of the attic.
She tried to walk again, but the effort only caused her to fall over. Her webs caught her, clinging to her clothes, wrapping around her arms and legs as she twisted in an attempt to stand up. All the while, she became increasingly aware of another itch across her legs. She looked down, and in the weak light of the torch saw that the army of spiders had grown. They were making their way up her body, some slow, some fast, some with long legs that tickled, and others with thick and chunky legs that pattered up her leg.
She screamed, and a spray of webs shot from her mouth. Gasping, she sucked a clump of webbing across her face. Patricia struggled again, wrapping herself up in the webs.
That was how they found her, later, in a cocoon of spiders and webs, her eyes half-eaten, her mouth infested with eggs.