My wife gave birth to a giant spider. It crawled out of her vagina, legs first, its body about the size and shape of a baby except for the legs, which were of course quite long, and covered with spiny black fur. We had not expected the baby so soon. We thought we had a few more weeks, but one night the baby just came. We were at home, in the bedroom asleep, when Joan started to groan. The groans woke me and then grew louder, and then she was screaming. I turned on the light and she was awake too, awake and screaming, and then she was bleeding with the light on, the blood staining our sky-blue sheets and even, at one point, spraying the wall. The wall was an ugly beige, a dingy green, with a Chagall poster of newlyweds at the foot of the Eiffel Tower with a chicken the size of a human being, a poster we’d bought to add a splash of something brighter to the ugly walls, but now the poster was splattered with blood and the wall too, and then these legs were coming out of her and before we understood what was happening, it was over. The spider emerged and, after a moment of stunned stillness, skittered into the far corner of the ceiling. Joan went back to sleep. Are you okay? I asked. She said I’m fine, I’m fine, just let me sleep, and she went into a deep sleep, like she hadn’t slept in days, and, as near as I could tell, the spider went to sleep too. I could not sleep that night, but I went to work the next day, a father now, and responsible for so much. When I came home, the spider had gotten bigger. Its mother was still asleep. I woke her up to ask if she wanted to see the doctor or have something to eat but she only wanted to sleep, so I let her sleep. I sat on the edge of the bed and regarded the spider, and my wife slept. Joan. She slept for a long time—six months, maybe, a year—and the spider got bigger, until it took up the whole ceiling, more or less. You’d have thought Joan would waste away, but she got bigger too, not as big as the spider but big, and unmoving, like a recalcitrant hippo, fat with milk. She would not go to work. She would not call in sick. She only lay there, taking up so much of the bed that I could not fit to sleep on it anymore. She stayed in the dark room for a year and became pale with milk, as though there were milk just under the skin, a layer of it between her skin and whatever was underneath her skin, blood and muscle, tissue and fat and bone, all encased in a sack of milk, as though if you pricked her swollen ankle with a needle she would have bled milk. The spider, who I had decided was a girl and named Esmerelda, even though I called her Peach, wrapped her mother in a web, a silvery silken cocoon that always looked moist even though to the touch it was quite dry, and in that respect reminiscent of a snake—you always think their bodies will be slick and cool and damp but when you touch them they’re scaly and warm and dry, and the web was like that, too—and every once in a while Peach would come down from the ceiling and pierce my wife’s nipples with her spider fangs, the nipples were immense and swollen and poking out of the web, the only part of my wife the spider had left exposed. I would come home from work and find her, the spider, sucking the milk or maybe the blood from her mother’s breasts, and still I worried, because I didn’t know how often spiders were supposed to eat or what else I was supposed to feed her. I tried to feed her other things, pouches of baby food or yogurt, but she would not eat them and I didn’t know what to do because there was no one to turn to, because my wife was comatose, and I couldn’t very well ask the neighbors what they thought of my giant spider. Welcome to my parlor, I would say. This is my giant spider. What should I feed it? Sometimes the spider seemed sad. I don’t know how I could tell—there was a certain look in her eight eyes, I suppose—but when I thought she was sad I would play my guitar. I would play David Bowie songs, like “Space Oddity” and “Ziggy Stardust,” and I would sing them for the child, and this seemed to make her happy for a time. She even began to hum along with the songs. I can still remember, with profound gratitude, the beauty of the moment when she was first able to use her spidery vocal cords to catch a tune, to sing “heeeeeeere am I sitting in a tin can,” but then one day I came home from work and she had eaten the guitar. There was nothing left of it but splinters and string, wood chips and wire. After she had eaten the guitar, I realized that what she wanted was dreams. In the morning I would put my dreams in a paper bag on my desk and I would feed them to her in the evening when I came home from work. One time I had a dream that I went to visit my childhood home and all my friends from high school and college were drinking and doing drugs and swimming out by my father’s pool. I hadn’t invited them, and I was terrified that my parents would find out they were there. In the dream I was 19, and I was coming home as though from a long time away, from my first year of college, perhaps, and my father, who had been dead for several years before the child, before the spider was born, and therefore before I had this dream, he came to the front door with a withered arm. He did not say anything, and I woke up. I put the dream in the paper bag on my desk, and when I came home from work that day I fed it to the child. She had an unusual habit of using her front legs the way you and I would use arms. She picked up the bag with her front legs and brought the dream to her mouth and ate. Another time, I dreamed that I was on a nuclear submarine off the coast of North Korea, submerged, with the lights all red, and somehow I knew that the ship was haunted, that there were ghosts about. She enjoyed that dream a great deal. She liked her food spooky. I would leave the television on in the bedroom, streaming old episodes of Scooby-Doo back to back because she seemed to enjoy the spookiness and the humor. I taught her how to play board games. She would use her spindly front legs to move her pieces one, two, three, four, five spaces. She learned to count to six playing board games with dice and little tokens. But I couldn’t play with her all the time, and her mother was comatose, so I decided, after much anguish, that it was time to let her play with other kids. I’d been waiting for her to turn into a regular girl, first, to spare her that awkward feeling of being different, but eventually I came to believe that she would always be a spider, that nothing was going to change, and it was time to let her interact with the world. And if I’m honest, I have to admit that I was lonely too. My wife was wrapped in a cocoon. You couldn’t even tell she was a person anymore. I didn’t even know for sure that she was alive. Baby Peach, the spider, my baby girl, had wrapped her completely in the web, even covered her breasts, by then, because she was eating my dreams, and no longer needed the milk. So you couldn’t even see my wife’s body anymore. Her face. Her hair. Her skin. It was all gone. I didn’t even know if she was still fat with milk or if she’d been hollowed out by now. I tried to pull the webs apart a bit, to get a peek, but the threads were bound together too tightly, and the child made threatening noises any time I expressed interest in something other than her. I considered cutting the web open with a serrated bread knife, but ultimately did nothing, because I was afraid I would cut too deeply and, quite accidentally, murder my wife, if she was in fact still alive. The only solution, I decided, was to invite another woman to the house, a woman I knew with long blonde hair, who would know how to socialize the child. Women always know, I thought, so we could start with the woman and work our way up to the neighborhood kids, and then one day my spider could go to school. I thought the spider would go to school and the woman would make love to me and I would come inside her. That’s what I really wanted, to feel her hands on my back and come inside her, because my wife had been in a cocoon for a year and I was lonely. And you cannot judge me, because you don’t know what it was like. It was miserable and lonely and like she was dead, even if she wasn’t dead, and she might have been dead, for all I knew, and all I ever did was go to work and come home and play board games with the spider and feed it my dreams. I dreamt of fireflies and in the morning I put the fireflies in a paper bag and fed them to Baby Peach, and she ate them all and the paper bag, too, so you cannot judge me for wanting to come inside this woman. I brought her to the bedroom to meet my spider and at first it seemed like it was going to be okay. At first the spider did not move, just stayed on the ceiling, breathing, pulsating slightly, so you knew it was alive, and the woman looked up, her mouth agape, presumably in awe, marveling at the horror and the beauty of my child, and then all at once the spider dropped from the ceiling and latched onto the woman’s head and blood sprayed everywhere and very quickly the woman had been devoured. Peach, I said. What have you done? Do you know what you’ve done? What if she told her friends she was coming here? I asked. What do you think will happen when no one has seen her for a couple days? The cops will come looking, I said, and whose dreams will you eat then? For Christ’s sake, I shouted. What were you thinking? And I grabbed Baby Peach and pulled her off what was left of the woman and threw her into the corner. I said, I ought to smack your bum you little shit, and then suddenly the cocoon on the bed split open and my wife emerged, Joan, as beautiful as the day we met, no longer fat with milk but slim and naked with a soft tuft of pubic hair like a vampire from outer space, and she asked, How dare you speak to our child that way? And, inhumanly calm, she picked up the phone to call the police. Yes, she said. Can you send a car? My husband is acting strangely. I’m afraid he’s going to hurt our child. I stood astonished, stammering, What are you doing? But my wife ignored me. She was listening to the woman on the other end of the line. I could hear that it was a woman even though I couldn’t hear what she was saying. My wife listened to her for a moment, then nodded. Yes, she said. I’m afraid for my safety. I’m afraid for my daughter. It’s 192 Washington Street. Please hurry. Joan, I said. How could you? I’ve been feeding her my dreams. But Joan’s face was indifferent, as indifferent as nature. They’ll be here any minute, she said. I should put something on. And as Joan went into her closet to get dressed, my spider crawled to my side. She nuzzled her head against my hip and put a hairy black leg around my shoulder, caressing my back, forgiving me.

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