The Cause of Janet’s Death | by Steve Campbell

“It’s a sad business.”

“It is that. Sixty three is no age.”

“You heard about how she passed didn’t you?”

“Yes. Heart attack, wasn’t it?”

“That’s what the official report said but her husband…”


“Yes, her widower, Brian. He told my sister-in-law, Carol, that it wasn’t a heart attack that killed her. God rest her. He said Janet’s heart was fine. Nothing wrong with it. He said it was spiders that killed her.”


“Yes, spiders. You know before he retired that Brian had worked at one of those petting zoos; where kids go to hold bugs and creepy crawlies? Well, he said that Janet was in the bathroom when she came across this spider in the bath…”

“And that killed her?”

“No, of course not. She was trying to get rid it. So Janet comes across this spider in the bath and starts spraying it with the shower head. Well, Brian told Carol that pouring water on spiders, even cold water, peels the skin clean off of them. Rain and rivers are harmless to them but tap water is a whole other thing altogether. Something to do with the fluoride. It burns them.”

“Tap water, really?”

“That’s what he said. So, while Janet is drowning this spider in scalding water, it lets out this God-almighty squeal – it’s too high-pitched to hear, like one of those dog whistles – but, he says, the noise is a call for all the other spiders in the house to come running. It’s how they defend themselves against predators.

“What!? Like a cry for help?”


“That’s a load of old nonsense! Spiders don’t squeal.”

“Look, I’m not the expert. I’m just relaying what I’ve been told. So while Janet is torturing this spider to death, all the other spiders in the house hear the squealing and head to the bathroom.”

“Ewww, don’t. That’s horrible.”

“I know, right. They pop up out of the floor, from behind skirting boards, squeeze through the cracks in the tiles and pour out of every single nook and cranny in that bathroom. Hundreds of them. Imagine that? All of those spiders suddenly seeping into the room.”

“Uhhh. Stop it. You’re making my skin crawl.”

“I know. It’s the stuff of nightmares but that’s not even the worst part. You know spiders come in different shapes and sizes? Well Brian said that’s because of their environment. Small spiders live in small houses. Large spiders live in large houses.”

“We had some right juicy fat ones in our house last September.”

“We did too. Well apparently, spiders are like fish and grow to adapt to the space they’re living in.”

“Dear God.”

“Exactly! You’ve seen the size of that cellar Brian and Janet have? Well, it turns out that over the years, that there was this huge great spider festering in there. Brian reckons it was easily as big as a rat.”

“A rat?! That’s not right. That’s not right at all.”

“I know. A rat with eight legs scuttling about the place. Living beneath their feet for all those years. It probably explains why their dog went missing. Makes me feel all funny talking about it. Well, as you can imagine, when Janet sees that rat-spider thing along with all those others, her heart just gave out right there and then. The shock of it did her in.”

“No! I’m not surprised. I don’t think I’d have coped seeing something like that.”

“Me neither.”

“So what did the Police say?”

“The Police? Oh he didn’t tell the Police. How could he? They’d have dragged him off to the looney bin or something. The doctors said it was a heart attack so he kept the ‘spider’ business to himself.”

“Yeah. Squealing spiders the size of rats…”

“Exactly. Carol says Brian has always been a bit ‘out there’, and we all know he likes a drink – apparently he hasn’t been sober since Janet’s passing – so Carol says she’s taken most of what he’s told her with a pinch of salt.”

“Hmmm. I bet she doesn’t flush spiders anymore, though.”

“No. And who can blame her?”

“I know.”

“Are you going back to Brian’s after the service? They’ve put some food on.”

“Oh good God no.”






Established in 1973, Steve Campbell is a full-time designer and part-time writer. You can find his flash fiction and short stories in print or online at places such as:,,,, and He tweets at @standondog.

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