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The Curse of Arachnaphobia
Sitting in that old church felt natural to me. Dusty, well-kept.
Watching the sun rise in shades that shifted in the stain glass; that too was natural.
Even the occasional *drop* of a book of hymns felt utterly natural to me.
But what did not feel natural was the pain in my mouth.
I preached my sermon as usual; I ignored the yawning church-goers, and I reprimanded sinners for their petty crimes against themselves. I did everything as I always had, but this pain, it was not what I had always felt. In fact, I hardly ever felt any sensation in my mouth other than the dryness after reading several chapters of the bible.
The dryness. That’s what I told myself it was. I cursed the forgotten glass of water I usually drank, but I finished not much worse for wear. As I waved goodbye to the wanderers, it began to steadily- oh so steadily- begin to grind on my nerves and pluck on that pain receptor buried deep in my head.
It scraped against my cheeks and buried its nosey fervour into my tongue. The forsaken throbbing I felt grew larger and larger and larger and larger; until I at last succumbed to complain to a nurse down the road.
I mentioned my leaving to the other pastor. I nodded my head at the woman who held the door for me. I hurried off towards the old house, afraid that this was more than the natural swelling of a cut lip or torn gum.
I arrived, suddenly feeling foolish. What if it was merely a small infraction, a natural, minor little bruise? I was about to withdraw when the door opened. I didn’t remember knocking, or making much noise, but there stood the Nurse, wild green eyes magnified behind a pair of spectacles, her white hair locked away in a bun.
“Yes?” she asked, drawing out the word. Her teeth were slightly crooked, but her smile made up for it. So earnest.
“Do you have some time to spare, Nurse? I have a small ache in my mouth and it’s getting quite painful. If not I under-” I winced as I said the words. I tried to finish my sentence, but I couldn’t go on.
“Like last time?” she wondered, somehow looking down at me despite her small stature.
I had no idea what she was referring to. There never had been a last time I had felt this unnatural sensation. She didn’t say anything more, merely took my hand with an iron grip and led me inside. For an old woman she sure had some strength left in her.
I decided that the Nurse was old, and had me confused with someone else. I said so, but she shook her head tremulously, and gave a little chuckle. “No, no. I know it was you.”
“Well, if you say so, it must be true,” I agreed politely.
“Yes, yes.” She waved her hand as if swatting away my doubt. “But it’s funny. Last time you came by, you were in a much worse state. It should be quite simple to get you under control now.” Her smile was honest, but her words frightened me.
When had this happened? Had I fallen into some sort of coma and forgotten about it?
No, I knew she was old, and that this was the case. The small town would have been booming with the news. I would have known.
“Do you have any other.. symptoms?”
“Well, it’s just really quite bad all around my mouth. My tongue, my cheek,even my teeth are beginning to ache and feel a bit off.”
“I know sweetheart. I’ll take care of it.”
She went out of the room, and I was left in the sitting parlour, which was bare save a statue of turtle, and three little spider figurines mounted on the wall. The spiders held a streamer of ribbon, adorned with addresses, numbers, and names pinned onto it. I recognized a few of my dear friends placed onto that streamer, but all had passed on. There were two names I recalled to be of the living world; my own, and one of the mail-carriers that often came by this side of the county.
As I was pondering over the nature of the names and why so many had already come to pass, the Nurse came back in.
In her hands were two jars, both housing an unknown substance. I tried to peek around the labels, but they covered all of the glass.
“Sit down, right here. Yep. Just relax now, dear.”
I did as she asked, setting up my feet onto a little stool. The cushion was soft, and soon I found myself getting sleepy. There was a film seeming to flit out and around me, sweet, and full of majesty. I looked around the room, and saw the Nurse at a table at the other end of the room. “Incense,” she says. “It’s okay if you fall asleep. I’ll wake you soon.”
With the affirmation that dozing was indeed fair game, I drifted off, slowly sinking deeper and deeper into the realm I suddenly recognized. It was not natural either.
The smoke had dispersed and the room was changed. Everything was more mysterious and cryptic. The walls had become a charcoal-dusted lilac, and the fire in the hearth was the strange hue of blue cotton candy. It seemed darker, and the Nurse was no longer in the room. She’d vanished.
I scaled the door, making arduously slow progress. My eight legs clicked over the wooden surface, tapping and scavenging for footholds. I managed to reach the knob, but slipped around on it without any luck. The Nurse came up behind me.
“Preacher, you need to spit out that venom. Do it quick, before it burns you up!” She held out one of her jars. Desperate to get out of this arachnid-form, I did it. The sound of the venom sizzled and ruffled my ear drums as it met with something inside the container. “Good, good. Now come here.”
I leapt onto her hand. I could tell she struggled not to shake me off, not to grunt and yell “disgusting!” as she flung me across the room. I could tell my once-well-composed friend was on the verge of screaming and crying and shivering with fear. I pitied her, but knew I was of no comfort in this state.
She carried me to the table I had seen her working at as I had fallen asleep, so ignorant of what was to come. She dumped the venom into a medicine bottle and shook it up with a plethora of other things. The Nurse filled it to the brim, ignoring my presence as I fumbled with my body. This indeed was not the first time I had felt this.
She drank half the concoction, and spoonfed me some- which was incredibly difficult- and I was soon asleep again.
“Incense,” I heard her all once more. I hesitantly lifted my eyelids, afraid of blinking awake to that strange place where I was merely a tool, and a curse to this woman.
My memories start to fade again. I grappled for them, trying to keep them at the front of my mind. It was of no use. The incense now was different; less sweet, warmer. Like the church, it was clean-smelling and familiar. Almost nostalgic.
“It’s quite calming you know. For an arachnophobic like me, it makes the curse almost bearable.”