photo by Daan Spijer

The spiders are coming. Hundreds of them. Great hairy things with all those legs and rows of eyes like the headlights on the front of dune buggies. Yesterday it was cockroaches and the day before that flies and before that slugs and earwigs and scorpions and beetles.

But today it’s spiders so it’s Tuesday. They always come on Tuesday, the spiders.

They don’t believe me. The nurses smile at me like I’m mad or something and doctors look at their watches while they hold my wrist and tell the nurses to give me more pills.

And the shrink sits and looks at me and asks me what spiders remind me of. They remind me of fucking spiders I tell him. And the beetles remind me of beetles and the cockroaches remind me of my uncle. I tell him because he expects it. Because my uncle did things to me when I was young and juicy. That’s what my uncle used to call me, young and juicy. He called my aunt a prune.

The shrink knows all this so I tell him that the cockroaches remind me of my uncle because of his cock. And the earwigs remind me of a boy at school who whispered in my ear that he would save me and take me away from all that while his fingers played with me under my skirt. The earwigs get under my clothes and explore all the places I don’t want to know about. They tickle and make me all hot. I can’t get rid of them because then everyone will know what they’re doing, if I take my clothes off to get rid of them. I did that once on the bus and no-one would believe me when I said I had earwigs all over me.

But what does the shrink know? Or any of them? The spiders come every Tuesday and the scorpions on Thursday and the flies on Sunday. They’re related you know, spiders and scorpions. Like my uncle and my cousin are related. When my uncle was away my cousin would look after me. To look after me properly, he made me sleep in his bed.

My aunt is a scrawny bird who pecks at me. She doesn’t have a day. She comes any day, in my dreams. In the morning after she’s been, there are marks all over my skin and the doctors look at them and ask me why I did it. I didn’t do anything except dream I tell them and they tell the nurses to give me more pills.

The shrink asks what did I feel when my parents died when I was ten. I say I died but he doesn’t believe me. But I died. I let my uncle do what he wanted because I was already dead and my cousins said I might as well be dead because I stayed in my room most of the time.

I was dead.

My uncle said he would show me how to be alive again but it wasn’t me he touched and fucked. I was already dead.

These pills make me feel dead. And the doctors make me feel dead because they talk like I’m not here.

And this whole white place with the white lights makes me feel dead. Isn’t that what’s supposed to happen when you’re dead? You see white light?

Every time my uncle fucked me I saw a white light. I made it all I could see, that way I could stay dead.

When my cousin made me sleep in his bed I couldn’t see white light. It was hard to be dead. I squeezed my eyes shut so tight I could see stars. He stroked me all over and said he wouldn’t hurt me. But it hurt because I should have been dead. I shouldn’t feel nice feelings because I should have been dead with my parents. I should have been in the car with them. If I was in the car with them they would have stayed where they were until the morning and not have to drive because I told them I missed them and I cried and told a lie that I was sick.

I should have died.

And now the spiders are coming and they’ll crawl all over me and under my skin and everywhere in me that is a hole. And they will lay eggs and tonight my aunt will come and peck my skin to eat all the eggs. And the doctors will tell me I did it and then the beetles will come.

The beetles have sharp feet and they hold my skin as they walk. They climb all over me and they’re sharp. All I can do when the beetles come is lie very still and pretend I’m dead. Like that time that bunch of guys was all over me, prodding and poking and licking and fucking. They left me dead in the park at night. My aunt said it was all my fault and that I was a bad influence on my cousins, but I already knew that. The beetles won’t leave even though I try to brush them off and try to pick them off one at a time. There are too many of them.

Sometimes I can make them go away. I go into the bathroom and take all my clothes off and look in the mirror and they’re all gone. But I don’t like doing that, looking in the mirror without my clothes on. I see the red lines on my body where I cut myself so my uncle wouldn’t want to touch me any more. But it just made him angry and he said I deserved to die. But I knew that already. And my cousin cried and my aunt told him not to cry over a stupid slut who should be dead. They all knew I should be dead. So did I.

My aunt often said she wished I was dead, because then she wouldn’t have to put up with me. That prune was real sour. Ha, that’s a joke.

When I was little I would go and play with kids in the park and we would go on adventures. Sometimes we broke things and did other bad things and my mother would cry because people would think we were a bad family and I would feel bad about making her cry.

Crying got my parents killed and got me living with my uncle and my aunt and my cousins. And when I cry a lot here I get people telling me not to upset the other patients and I get to see the shrink more often. And he asks me why I cry so much and that it’s better to talk about it. What does he want me to talk about? He already knows everything because my aunt told him everything.

Ha! She made it all up and the shrink believed her. The one thing she didn’t tell him was that I was already dead. D. e. a. d. dead.

The baby was my fault because I let my cousin fuck me and she said she wouldn’t have me soiling her house for another minute and she had me taken to a hospital where she said they would look after the baby. They took the baby away when I had it. I never saw it. Maybe it’s dead like me.

My uncle visited me and said he wanted me to come and live there again but he said my aunt didn’t want me back to soil her house and she didn’t want my cousin to see me again because I was such a bad influence on him. My uncle said he would find me a place to live, which he did, and he came to visit me and he fucked me every time.

I was more dead than I’d ever been. Until the second baby started growing. My uncle took me to the same hospital and the baby was born dead. And I was dead again because my uncle said that I couldn’t go back to the place I’d been living because my aunt found out from her friend and she didn’t want my uncle to come back to his house because he’d soiled it.

When I had to leave the hospital I didn’t know where to go so I slept in big drain pipes on a building site. And every day the flies came and ate my skin. Every day. Now they only come on Sundays, because on the other days I have spiders and cockroaches and all the other things. But then it was every day they made me crazy. I couldn’t even be dead because they made me run all over the place trying to get away from them.

The woman who saw me running away from the flies said I could live with her but I would have to work and she would give me a bed and food. I never did any real work because she never told me what work to do. She said that I had to have men share the bed with me and she told me I should just pretend to be dead when they were with me. That was easy for me. The men did all sorts of things to me but because I was good and dead I didn’t care what they did. The food was good and there were other girls living there and pretending to be dead. Some of them said it was hard to pretend to be dead. I told them I didn’t have to pretend because I really was already dead and they laughed at me.

There was one man who came a lot and he asked me to move to his house because his wife had gone off and he was on his own. He said he would give me lots of nice things and I went. I had a big room and there was a swimming pool. He said I had to clean the house and cook food. I didn’t know how to cook and he always got angry. When he started hurting me badly I walked away. I walked and I walked and the flies followed me, until the spiders and the scorpions started and the flies only came some days.

I told the shrink that it was good when the spiders started and then the scorpions and he asked why. It was because then I didn’t have flies every day. Doesn’t he know anything? Has he never had flies all over him all day and every day? I thought you had to be smart to be a shrink.

An ambulance came to take me to a hospital even though I wasn’t going to have a baby. It was because someone found me in a field with cows and I had poo all over me and I had a fever and was scrawny like my aunt. In the hospital I nearly died again. Can someone die lots of times?

On Saturday it’s slug day. I know that because on slug day Michael comes to visit his grandfather and he comes to talk with me and he wipes the slugs away. He is the only person who’s smart and doesn’t say I’m crazy and he believes about the slugs and the spiders and the beetles and all the other things. He says he could get rid of all of them from me if he could come every day but he can’t. Michael is nice and when he talks with me and wipes the slugs away I don’t feel dead.

It’s because of the slugs that I’m in this place. The slugs were the last things to take a day away from the flies, which left only Sundays for the flies. To start with I was happy to have the slugs because it meant less flies and they were okay. The slugs were on the outside of my clothes and I didn’t mind them. Then they found a way of getting under my clothes and on my skin and they were weird and slimy and they started biting. There weren’t all that many in the beginning but every Saturday there were more and they were starting to annoy me. I tried being dead when I had the slugs but that didn’t work when they were biting me. One Saturday I went into a toilet in a restaurant and took all my clothes off and started cutting the slugs off my skin and got really angry because there were so many of them and I cut my skin and was bleeding and it was dripping on the white floor and a woman came in and screamed and then other people came and then someone wrapped me in a blanket and I came to this place.

I like slug days now because it’s the only day that Michael can come so it’s the only day that I don’t have creatures all over me all day. Michael told me that he would try and come on Sundays too and he can get the flies off me. I think that if the flies go away, the other crawlies might too. And Michael told me that he has spoken to the shrink about getting me to visit him at his house for a holiday and he can then be with me each day to get the spiders and the scorpions and the earwigs and the other crawlies off me. That would be good because then I can have days when I’m not dead. I told the shrink that I would like to be not dead one day.

[First prize (open short story) in the Boroondara Literary Awards, November 2007; published in Award Winning Australian Writing 2008 by Melbourne Books]