“Are you aware that you have a tarantula living in your vagina?” the doctor asks.
With the heat of the exam lamp pleasantly warm on her inner thighs, the woman’s first impulse is to laugh, but the doctor’s face has gone white. She feels the blood draining from her own face. “Is this some kind of sick joke?”
The doctor presses her lips together and gets a mirror. Holds it in such a way that her patient can see what she’s seeing.
And there it is. Beyond the speculum, a tarantula half as big as her fist crouches inside her canal, backed up against her cervix. Eight eyes stare back at her.
The world tips sideways. She throws up all down her front. Then she faints.
She’d come in because of the spontaneous orgasms.
“Spontaneous orgasms?” the gynecologist asked, clearly surprised.
“Yeah. You know, like spontaneous combustion, only orgasms.”
The doctor pressed her lips together, as if to suppress a smile. “How many have you had?
“Five or six.”
“When did they start?”
“A couple of weeks ago,” said the woman.
“Do they happen when you’re exercising?”
The woman shook her head. “One happened in the shower. Another while I was eating dinner. A couple in front of the TV. The last one was yesterday. One minute I’m driving down the road, minding my own business, the next I can feel an orgasm building. It’s on me before I even have time to pull over. I almost crashed the car. That’s what made me decide it was a problem. Before that it was just...well, it was just weird.”
The doctor was skeptical. She’d heard of spontaneous orgasms before, but only in rare cases and in connection with working out.
She put on a pair of latex gloves, asked the patient to put her feet in the stirrups, and took a peek.
When the woman comes to, a nurse is cleaning off her chin and chest with a warm, wet rag while the doctor tries to pull the spider out with a pair of forceps.
But the spider isn’t budging. It uses its front legs to deflect the forceps. Again and again the doctor tries to grab hold of it; again and again it fends her off. Finally the doctor manages to get ahold of its head. She pulls, and the tarantula digs in its proverbial heels, using the tiny hooks on its legs to anchor into the vaginal walls. The doctor pulls harder, and the spider moves forward a couple inches, tearing up the woman’s vagina in the process.
The patient screams, then faints again.
The woman drives home with the spider still in her vagina. Her body feels foreign to her. Several times she thinks she might need to throw up again, but manages to breathe deeply through the bouts of nausea.
She wishes Greg were here. He’d know what to do. If Greg were here, she wouldn’t have to drive herself home in this condition.
If Greg were here, she thinks, I wouldn’t have a tarantula living in my vagina.
Eighteen months after her husband’s death she’d finally started thinking about sex again. She screened her dates carefully. They had to be clean, and they had to be willing to let her be in control. Always in the dark, always her on top.
At first it had gone well. But about a month ago, something changed. They started getting hurt. Seconds after she’d taken them into her they’d cry out in pain. The light turned on, she could see their penises bleeding. Red and swollen at the tip, as if bitten.
She’d thought it odd, but was far too embarrassed to talk to anyone about it. After the third one, she’d stopped bringing men home.
Realizing that her lovers’ penises had been bitten by a tarantula living in her vagina upsets her stomach once again. She has just enough time to pull over before she vomits all over the steering wheel.
When she gets home she goes into the bedroom, takes off all her clothes, and lies down spread eagle. She will take a nap, and when she wakes up this will all have been a horrible nightmare.
It almost works out that way.
When the woman wakes, the spider has left her vagina and is sitting on the corner of the bed, seeming to watch her.
She screams. The spider cringes. She moves quickly, reaching for a boot.
But when she raises the boot, the creature’s front legs come up to protect its face in a warding-off gesture so human it causes her to pause.
Slowly, she lowers the boot.
Slowly, the spider lowers its legs.
“Can you understand me?”
The tarantula lifts one leg and waves it up and down.
The woman thinks about screaming again. Instead she says, “Can you talk?”
The leg waves side to side.
They stare at one another for several minutes. Finally the woman gets an idea.
“Stay here,” she says. “Don’t move.”
She leaves the room and comes back a few minutes later with a piece of paper and some India ink, which she places in front of the creature.
The spider dips a leg in the ink and begins to write.
Greg, it writes. Her dead husband’s name.
New body. Memories. Desert. Months. Home.
He’d longed to be near her, but he knew she’d never accept him like this. So he’d crawled into her vagina while she slept—someplace familiar, comfortable, and secret.
He’d been there for a little over a month, living off her menstrual blood and the blood of the men whose penises he’d bitten.
When she stopped bringing men home, he rewarded her with orgasms. Having eight legs had its advantages.
The woman is crying. The spider trembles.
Never hurt you, he writes. Want you.
But rather than calming her, his words send her into a fit of sobbing so violent she doubles over. One hand covering half her face, her nose buried between her knees, grief tearing up her throat.
Hidden from view, her other hand, the one that once bore her wedding ring, fumbles by the bedside for a boot.
An earlier draft of this story was first published in Spring 2013 on thedarkerhalf.com (now defunct) under the pseudonym Jeanie Grey.