© 2019 Helen: a literary magazine

Unraveling

by Ingrid L. Taylor

The black widow made her home on my front porch, behind a pillar where she was shielded from wind and weather. She spun thick gray fibers that stretched to the wall of the house, more platform than web, and displayed a hanging graveyard of crickets and flies.

There was a concrete lip around the bottom of the pillar, under which she dozed through the heat of the day. Every night while I was sleeping, she extended her web right up to the edge of the front door, and every morning when I stepped outside, I destroyed half of it. I always left her enough to rebuild. Which she did, every time, with a tenacity that left me in awe.

I told my husband about her, and he nodded without looking at me, his fingers working the Xbox controller to the sounds of explosions and gunfire. I left him alone. He was generous and paid our bills, and he required nothing in return but space. It was I, after all, who was unable to fulfill our contract, the promise to be an equal partner. The disability payments only covered a fraction of our expenses.

The car had come out of nowhere, crushing my left side and wrapping my bone and muscle in an intricate puzzle that had to be untangled, cut by excruciating cut.  The pain that had taken root inside me had exiled me in my own home. I no longer saw friends, no longer went out to movies or coffee. Driving was out of the question—all I could hear was the screech of brakes, the twist of glass and metal. That I was alive was a miracle, but it was not a sustaining one.

I tried to be gentle with the world, to lessen my imprint. I practiced yoga and stopped eating meat. My body shrank, and I floated like a shadow.

I took my morning coffee on the front patio and watched the spider. She moved on sharp legs with deliberate precision, unfazed by the damaged human who hovered nearby. She patrolled her web with an artist’s dedication, a warrior’s confidence. If I waited there long enough, some of her power, her fearlessness, would seep into me. My body, impenetrable in her black armor.

One day, she fell to the ground and performed an eerie dance in the sunlight. Her legs tapped the pavement in uncontrolled jerks as she moved first toward me and then away.

I found my husband in the garage.

“Something’s wrong with her.”

“Who?” He was cleaning a wrench, paying careful attention to the crevices.

“The black widow.”

“I sprayed.” The canister on his workbench looked like something every garage should have.

I sat with her while she died, folding in on herself like a collapsing star and revealing the red scar on her abdomen.

In the days that followed, I bore witness to her web’s unmooring. As its tattered edges floated in space, I felt my own body unravel.

This piece received an honorable mention in Molotov Cocktail's animal themed flash fiction contest