The shower stall in the thirty-year-old apartment was as narrow as a coffin, and the plumbing as ancient as the glossy pink tile. She needed to shower quickly before her roommate woke up, flushed the toilet, sending a surge of steaming water into the shower, forgetting for the hundredth time the system couldn’t accommodate two water flows at once, sucking all the cold out of the mix in the shower and down the sewer.
She tipped her chin up to let the water run through her hair. Her head bumped the too-low shower head. She bent her knees slightly and let the water soak her hair.
She moved forward and opened her eyes. She turned and reached for the shampoo balanced on the small bar of the soap rack directly beneath the shower head. She squirted pale orange liquid into the palm of her hand, rubbed her hands together, and began working it across her scalp, looping up great lengths of hair to make sure the lather spread evenly.
She tipped her head back again to keep shampoo from running into her eyes.
In the upper right corner sat an enormous dark brown spider. It was huge, almost as large as the palm of her hand. The body was a round, fat thing, swollen with its last meal, looking for more even as it continued digesting.
It lifted one thick leg and took a step down the tile, moving out of its secure corner spot where it would be impossible to smash it cleanly.
She backed away, whimpering. Convulsions raced through her body.
The toilet flushed in the half bath and within a moment, scalding water pounded her skin. She screamed, a terror and pain-filled roar that was muted by running water. She stepped out of the flow. Now, she was huddled in the farthest corner, watching. Tickling sensations traveled across her skin and tremors ran down her back. She slapped at her shoulders, feeling the spider walking down her spine, even though it was clearly visible in the opposite corner.
Finally the water temperature returned to normal.
She closed her eyes and hurriedly rinsed her hair, cautious on the slick tile, made worse by shampoo runoff. When she opened her eyes, the spider was gone. She screamed and skidded out from under the shower head. She turned off the faucet and stepped out of the stall, inspecting every inch of tile. The spider was gone.
Tearing at her hair, she screamed again, her eyes blurring as she yanked her hands through wet strands, searching for the spider. It wasn’t there. She tried to breathe slowly.
After toweling furiously at her hair, she blew it dry, dragging the brush through far more than necessary to be sure the spider wasn’t hiding among the thick strands.
She moved through the day as if she were caught in heavy fog, constantly touching her hair, running her fingers through it, closing her eyes and remembering the size of the thing.
After dinner, she drank two glasses of wine and fell asleep on the couch, numbed by the flicker of the TV. When she woke at midnight, she was disoriented. Her forehead tickled. She brushed her finger across it and felt the tentative leg of the spider making its way across her face.