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By Ray Higgs

When I first found my mother lying still, eyes closed and skin paler than porcelain I thought she had been a vampire. I was 10 when I saw those black pinprick dots on her neck, pumping fire and poison through her system, glaring out at me from her alabaster corpse. That’s what I told the paramedics when they showed up. She’d stand straight up in a moment. Sure, she’d be a vampire, but I mean who knows what they’re really like? Peaceful? Maybe they’re just people clinging to life. At least my innocent mind hoped that’s what it was. Hoping my mother was clinging on too. In the hospital waiting room my sister sat next to me with doctors telling her I was in shock and unable to deal with the trauma of what happened. That’s what was detailed back to me later in life anyway; at the time I was still rambling about Twilight and Dracula, too caught up in my theory to listen to the nonsense the doctors were talking.

Obviously, my mother never got back up. Spiders, apparently. A spider that shouldn’t be in the country. Full of venom, just like me after that moment. Instead of crying I became angry, went on an endless tirade of spider-squashing, crushing or burning every single one I saw until I saw a film that introduced me to my own worst nightmare. There were spiders twice the size of myself. My fear should have started when one killed my mother but I was too angry, too venomous too care. Seeing giant monsters on the screen changed that though. I cried at the tiniest spider after, as my own mortality dawned on me far too early.

Now they were everywhere. That’s what was reported on the news, they’d taken over the entire village and the ‘infestation’ was spreading. Not your everyday run of the mill house spider, barely the size of a penny, but monstrous ones. Ranging from the minute to the size of cats, cows, cars. Huge. And they were still growing, heading out from my tiny village and expanding their chaos across the entire county. The silken cages kept people trapped in their houses. Patrols with the eight-beat march stomped through the streets hunting and catching the stragglers and dragging them back to a nest somewhere, a snack for later presumably. It was endless slaughter on behalf of the horrifying arachnids. Venom and webs, pincers and strong, sharp legs: these were the weapons they had. Strength was in numbers, and the spiders were starting to outnumber the waves of defence until one day they gave up. Coming to the conclusion that the village was a lost cause. Better to start fortifying the next targets.

My house itself consisted of the webbed décor and pincer-click tune that went hand in hand with the main source of spiders. The mother, the leader, the biggest, had locked herself in my basement and there she brooded. Waiting. As isolated as me but no doubt far more content. The moment an infestation of the smallest monsters began I locked off the room, but that was two days ago. It escalated. And it escalated fast. They grew as my fear did: first there was only one, growing to a couple and within an hour a scuttling storm had claimed another room for their own. The scuttling turned to tapping, thumping, pounding, eight beats to it every time and building up in force, sending shivers down my spine and making my skin crawl. I’d step out to get some food and find the silken trail leading me to rooms littered with dead bugs, cobwebs and more spiders than I wanted to count. That’s when I made the executive decision to leave, get out while I could. But whether they were taunting me, trapping me, like playing with their food, or it was just a coincidence, there was no way out. Doors and windows were thick with layers of viscid silk that looked fragile at first glance but layer upon layer built up until it was unbreakable. Punches and tossed objects bounced off the barrier harmlessly, I was trapped. And terrified. My bedroom became a haven, as comfortable as it could be when the rest of the house was haunted by my worst fear. The spiders were invading from my bad dreams and sinking into all the happy memories I had of this house. This village even. They scuttled and stomped into the park I played in as a child, buried the markings of my height on the wall in a sea of silk, decorated the Christmas tree in the attic not with baubles but their evil spawn. Infusing themselves with my past and present, permeating the walls between nightmare and reality.


Ten years of pent up arachnophobia was unleashing itself from every pore of my body and overflowing. I was trapped in a cycle, frozen in fear and ravenous panic, jumping from paralysis and stillness to the quick pacing and unstable shaking, panic burning away at any part of me it could catch onto. Occasionally I’d think of people I knew, dead or dying or maybe one of the lucky escapees. There was no way of knowing. Thoughts I had were fractured and broken, never fully finished. Whimpers scuttled from my mouth in a harmony with the eight-beats along the floors and walls around my house that had seared and branded themselves into my mind.


But now that was going to change. My gas oven had been slowly pumping invisible death into the building. A petrol can from my garage lay drained on the floor, its contents emptied upon the walls and in my hand was a lighter. The spiders had taken my mother and pumped their poison through her veins. The last thread of my stability had snapped and I had my own venom coursing through my body, slowly fighting the fear for control of my brain. This would be my end too, dying at the hands of my fear. But killing the leader could help, cause chaos among the ranks. If they had ranks. The details were lost on me and my crazed, ravaged mind. I just had to burn her. All it took was a single spark, a twitch of my finger, and the place lit up like a Christmas tree.

Ray Higgs is 18 and in his first year studying English and Creative Writing at MMU. You can find him on Twitter @raylikeszombies

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aAh! Magazine is Manchester Metropolitan University's arts and culture magazine.

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