Nhi Le, 130 TESS
I see it out of the corner of my eye. THERE! The skittering shadow stops my heart cold. It crawls over my extension cord. Now, it’s under my backpack. My entire body freezes, and my heart skips a beat before it starts again. I take in a shaky breath and pause. Go to kitchen and grab the can of Baygon! Wait, no. Grab the heavy Thai grammar book. Crush it! I hesitate too long, and it scurries across my floor. Now, it’s hiding under the desk. An involuntary yelp escapes my mouth, and I scare myself. My mind replays its long, high-kicking legs moving across the tile. My heart speeds up.
Maybe, it’s left the room. That hope calms my syncopated beats. Every two minutes, I glance under the desk. My bladder groans. Okay, Nhi. It’s just a spider. Go use the toilet. It’s probably crawled back through the ceiling. I turn on my phone light and creep towards the dark living room. I scan the floors with the light. One step across the threshold. I look right. It’s clear. I look left. THERE IT IS ON THE WALL. My heart stops again. My body buzzes. The light casts its shadow long down the wall. I scream again. Run! Five leaps, and I turn on the living room light. Okay, breathe. One, two, three. I lift my eyes. I glance at it quickly before flicking my eyes back down. Large, brown, the size of my palm. My body won’t stop shuddering.
Alright, walk past it, get the Baygon. Or, get the Thai grammar book. I take a second to try to calm myself. No. I cannot make myself go near the spider. It will follow me. I’ll get stuck. That hall is dark. The book is better. I sprint back and grab the book. Turning around, I walk slowly to the door. I pause at the doorway. It’s there. Beyond the threshold. You can do it. Clutching the book, I breathe in. Half step, quick twist, and I launch the book. I shriek and close my eyes. The book thuds on the ground, and my eyes shoot open. I shout expletives in my head. The dread seeps in because I barely clipped a leg. Now what?
I’m too cowardly to get closer, which means I can’t pick up the book. Go grab the next heaviest book. My heart thumps like the hooves of a running horse. My body starts to sweat. Surely, my neighbors are awake. But, they’re not. They’re asleep because it’s nearly two in the morning. I search through the stacks of handouts and guidebooks. I weigh the heft of the EAP (Emergency Action Plan) book. No, Nhi. You’re a warden. Then, I find my volunteer handbook at the bottom. Again, I go back to the doorway. I peek around the corner. This time, I stare at the spider. I will my heart to slow and for my fear to disappear once and for all. I throw the handbook. I misjudge the weight, and the spider falls to the ground. Be. Brave. I inch over to pick the book up. One, two! Thud! The spider is frightened. It’s running away! Quickly, I pick up the book again. With momentum, I leap high while swinging my arms down. Smash! I stare down breathing hard, my eyes wild. A pregnant pause. And then, I back slowly into my room. It’s over.
But, it’s not. I take a moment to find some courage, letting five minutes pass. Then ten. Just do it! You’re about to burst. My kegel muscles have been working overtime, and they won’t last much longer. I grab the some tissues off my desk. I walk towards the book and peel it back. To my dismay, it’s not stuck to the back cover, but plastered to the floor. Usually, the legs curl up, and it becomes a tenth of its size. Not this one. This one is completely splayed out. Ugh. This is far more contact than I wanted. Whimpering, I have to turn away as I smush it between the tissues. As I stand up, I notice one leg had fallen off. Let the geckos eat it. I hold the tissue-wrapped spider in front of me and rush down the hall to drop it in the trash.
Finally, I can use the toilet. My body is still on edge. I glance around the corners. I sit down and let go, my pee and adrenalin rushing out in sync. I walk back to my bedroom, depleted. I give that leftover leg wide berth as I pass. Shivers running down my spine from another killing. I sag into bed. It’s over. For now. Turn off the lights and go to sleep. I push myself up to flick the switch off and then lay down. Clutching my blanket to my chin, I stare at the dark ceiling. I try not to replay the events of the last thirty minutes, but when I close my eyes all I see is that spider on the wall. It’s long legs and jerky movements. My eyes fly open, readjusting to the darkness. Soon, I can make out the faint lines of my ceiling. There are more of them. Just beyond the ceiling. Mentally, I count all of the holes in my house. Each crevice they can crawl through. They’re up there. Waiting. Stop it! Go to sleep. I squeeze my eyes shut and will the sun to come up quickly.