His death was accompanied by a brilliant pain. Not in my heart, but my gut. The doctor said that the burning was just a symptom of an ulcer spurred from my diet of espresso and liquor. I was instructed to relax in-between my spasms of grief and to refrain from spicy foods. Five bodies quickly followed his to the grave. Everywhere, my people were dropping dead.
It wasn’t an ulcer, though, I knew what it really was. Death had laid eggs in my intestines and they were gestating; feeding off my fears. There was one egg for every name I’ve ever seen transcribed on a tombstone. Six in total. It was my punishment for ignoring the dead.
Yesterday, an egg hatched. Dawn had just broken and a pale blue light filled my room. I didn’t recognize the pressure immediately because the texture of motion was so foreign. An object the size of a closed fist was slowly lurching up my large intestine. I tracked a tickle moving quickly up my stomach that rested for a few moments in my throat. I gagged violently and spit up a kind of greyish slobber that tasted of battery acid. The object in my throat spasmed at the sudden movement.
It wasn’t until a leg tenderly touched down on the base of my tongue, and a hairy abdomen brushed my uvula, that I realized what was actually occurring. I stared down, paralyzed, with my eyes focused on the tip of my nose. The creature continued forward until it was resting in the cavern of my mouth. Its two front legs tapped eagerly at my closed teeth so I opened my mouth to provide a means of escape.
At first it stepped back towards my throat, again frightened by my movements. Thankfully it eventually pushed on and continued creeping forward. I first saw a leg, thick and long, emerging beyond my lips. It was followed by a second. And a third. A fourth. A sixth. An eighth. One tear, spurred from a trembling anxiety, melted on my cheek.
Slowly, it emerged in its entirety, and turned to face me. I recognized no familiar marks. It wasn’t a brown recluse or a black widow. It’s eyes, all eight of them, glared intensely. In their reflections I saw the soul of every struggling person on the planet. Its plump fangs twitched and pierced my lips.
I thought that I would die a certain death. Just like all the others who fell before me. The fathers. The grandparents. The friends who chuckled at my jokes. Acquaintances of whom I only ever shared a glance. They were dead. They were all to continue dying. All I had to do was observe quietly. I realized, in contemplating their many distorted faces, that the pain in my organs had disappeared. In the whisper of my fan I heard a voice urging me to make a choice. Death watched us from a corner.
I picked the plump spider up off my face by its mid-section. My head tilted back and my mouth cracked open, forming a chaotic smile. My God, how it fought to get free of my grasp.
It fought all the way back down my throat, biting and grasping for footholds, but I chased it down with a glass of water. I wouldn’t ever let it crawl up my throat again until the day I died. That night I fell asleep with my mouth gaping wide open.
People say that you swallow hundreds of insects in a lifetime. Cockroaches. Beetles. Ants, I’m sure. They slip unforgivingly into your esophagus. I’ve probably swallowed a couple crickets, a dozen gnats, and a few mosquitos since the morning that first egg hatched. Sometimes I’ll burp up a thorax or a wing. My organs now maintain a productive home for all my anxieties to flourish without ever seeking an escape through my many orifices. I imagine there’s a web in there now, extending from my lungs to my appendix, littered with insects struggling to survive.
Provolone Sinatra is an emerging writer from the University of Central Florida. He likes both ketchup and mustard on his hot-dogs. Sometimes he even lets it get strange with queso and onions. He is the neighbor that you make scary stories out of.