Jacob sat in the driver’s seat of his car and waited. Staring through the windscreen he could see the house, with the white front door almost hidden in shadow. It was there, he knew. And it was waiting too.
Jacob lived inside the house, and just outside the house lived The Spider.
Jacob was not afraid of spiders. He wasn’t their biggest fan, but accepted that they were as much a part of the planet as he was. He did his best to keep them out of his house, but generally tried to leave them be. He wasn’t afraid of spiders, as a species. But then there was The Spider. The Spider was different.
It lived behind the gas meter box outside his front door, hiding in the daytime. Its web was faintly visible in daylight, a gossamer net spun from wall to wall. At night the corner in which it hung was shadowed and almost always dark. There The Spider waited, every night. It hung from the invisible strands of its web, a darker patch of the surrounding darkness, and it waited.
Jacob did not like The Spider. He was reluctant to admit to fear, but he felt sure that it was malevolent in some way. He knew what The Spider was. He had seen its dark, chitinous shape before. The Spider was a False Widow.
Some years ago, Jacob was putting the bin out late one night, ready for collection the following morning. This involved a short walk down the side of his house to the gate, the brick wall of the house on his right, an old wooden fence on his left. The gate is padlocked, and so in order to unlock it, Jacob activated the torch on his phone… He froze as the light of the torch cast a strange, alien shadow on the fence next to the gate; an oval body, framed by eight angular, vicious looking legs. Jacob stepped back in horror, and the monstrous shape shifted crazily… Sense returned almost immediately. It was just a spider casting a shadow, nothing more. It was in fact less than an inch in size, including its legs. Calm once more, and growing curious, Jacob moved carefully closer.
He was expecting a garden spider, with a large abdomen, intricate and strangely beautiful speckled colourings of brown and white and black… But the spider was brown, so dark a brown as to be almost black. Its abdomen was round, and on it there was a pale cream mark, which looked almost like… Jacob blinked, looking closer at the mark. It was no trick of the light; on the spiders dark body, almost glistening in the torchlight, was the pale image of a skull.
Jacob had not put the bin out that night. He felt sure he was overreacting, but he did not wish to pass that strange spider’s web in the darkness. For it was a long fence, and if there was one, there could quite easily be more. Many, many more…
Sitting in his car, Jacob remembered that night. He remembered, too, his curious researching online, trying to discover what the spider was. He was sure that it was nothing to be concerned about; this was England, after all… After only a few searches he discovered his answer. The spider was a False Widow. A relative of the famous Black Widow, but not deadly. It did, however, bite. It was, in fact, the most poisonous spider in the UK. And it was living on his garden fence.
Exterminators could do little about spiders, they told him, especially those that lived outdoors. Just keep an eye on it, he was advised. So time passed, and Jacob learned to manage the situation; he made sure he took the bin out during the day, when the spider was hidden away. And sometimes he would warily walk along the fence at night, torch shining bright, looking to see if his unwelcome guest was still there.
Jacob stopped worrying about the spider. In two years he had only ever seen it in that same spot; the other cobwebs, on the fence and elsewhere, seemed to be home to friendlier species than the one by the gate. There was no need to fear one single spider, after all. But then he discovered that the False Widow by the gate was not the only one. Then Jacob discovered The Spider.
He had been leaving the house one evening, going out to see a film with friends. As he stepped out of the door, he caught a movement in the corner of his eye, by the white box on the wall that held the gas meter. A scuttling, scurrying movement just visible in the light spilling out of the front door. He turned his head, and thought he saw a thin, angular leg disappearing behind the meter box. A dark brown, almost black, spider leg… Jacob looked at the wall, and could just make out a web spun across the corner, an invisible platform between the bricks. False Widows were orb-weavers; they did not make ‘traditional’ cobwebs like garden spiders… Could it be?
All evening, Jacob found his thoughts returning to what he had seen, and despite himself he began to worry, knowing it was foolish. He argued with himself as he drove home that night.
After all, even if it was another False Widow, it was still outside.
But it was right next to the front door.
It wasn’t likely to get in, was it?
But it could…
It’s just a spider.
But it’s got instincts. Spiders like warm places. The house is warm.
If it got inside it could find a nice warm spot, and lay its eggs…
Jacob walked warily up to his front door that evening, stopping a few feet away. He’d left the hallway light on, and it spilled through the frosted glass oval in the front door, cutting into the darkness. He peered at the corner where he had seen the movement earlier, and could make out… something…
Slowly, reluctantly he pulled out his phone and switched on the torch function. Bright light pierced the shadows and revealed a small, dark, malevolent shape floating just above the meter box. Its body was black brown, and on its abdomen was a pale mark not quite in the shape of a skull…
So it was that Jacob saw The Spider.
The Spider did not move, did not react to the light. Slowly Jacob moved forward, coming level with The Spider, and it did not move. He slowly slid his key into the door, and as he twisted it and then turned the handle, The Spider finally reacted, perhaps feeling the vibration through its web. The Spider scuttled rapidly to the wall, and in a moment it had squeezed itself behind the meter box, out of sight. Jacob watched the wall for a few moments more, then went into the house, locking the door behind him.
Jacob stared out through the windscreen and sighed. That first encounter had been three months ago. Since first seeing The Spider, his wariness of it had grown. He never saw it during the day, but as soon as night fell, once its lair was wreathed in shadow, it emerged and hung there in the darkness, waiting. It was there whenever he went out, and it was waiting for him when he returned. He had taken to checking all about the door with his phone torch before going inside. But there was only ever The Spider. The cunning, malevolent Spider. He told himself over and over he was being foolish; The Spider wasn’t going to try and follow him inside…
So there Jacob sat, in the driver’s seat of his car, staring at his house, thinking about The Spider. Just as he had done every night for months.
Shaking his head, he muttered aloud at his own stupidity, and angrily opened the car door. Enough was enough. He had no need to live in fear, it was only a bloody spider! He forced himself to walk confidently forward, ignoring the darkness, ignoring the presence he felt hanging in the shadows. He looked straight ahead, and slid the key into the lock. He turned it, twisted the handle and stepped across the threshold, swinging the door shut behind him. Jacob stood in his hallway, breathing deeply. He’d been a fool these last months, he told himself, but no longer.
But then Jacob felt a movement against the skin of his neck, and he froze. The moment slowed, expanded so that he could feel the scuttling step of eight dark, pointed legs as they moved across his skin, perhaps seeking a warm place to hide… He began to lift his arm, half-hoping that it was only imagination, that his hand would brush away nothing…
And then the movement stopped, the eight legs tensed, as though The Spider was preparing to bite…