Thursday, February 11, 2010

Spider in the Bath

Title: Spider in the Bath
Author: Ranger

It was huge. 
About four foot square and hairy, with eight legs and a menacing look to it that made my heart hurl itself upwards through my throat. I backed hurriedly out of the shower cubicle, grabbed a towel and retreated onto the landing. 
I HATE spiders. I stood and listened to the shower merrily continue running to itself on the other side of that door, shivering. Usually at this point I start shouting for the official moth/wasp/spider and all-other-unpleasant-wildlife disposer. But Damien, damn him, was away. 
"Two nights." He'd said to me, handing me the letter to look at. "I don't think I can get out of it." 
It wasn't a relative he knew well, but I knew the funeral would be a big family affair. I couldn't take the time off work, and as he pointed out, it was a very distant relative. But his family are all in Northumberland and his parents would expect him to stay a decent amount of time with them. So I ended up seeing him off on a Thursday morning before work, bag packed, black suit hanging in his car. It was the crack of dawn and there were no neighbours to see us necking on the driveway. Damien hesitated with his hand on the car door and gave me the same look he'd been giving me all week. 
"You will remember your medication?" 
I crossed my heart. "For the fifth time, YES!" 
"There's the list in the kitchen-" 
"I've been doing it for years, I know the routines!" 
"You forget the routines." Damien said wryly. "Swear to me, you'll keep a peak flow log." 
"You already made me promise. I will. I won't even forge it." 
I cursed myself as Damien's eyes sharpened. "If I even thought you'd try-" 
"I won't. Honest." 
"And if I come back and find the kitchen buried alive under washing up-" 
I kissed him to shut him up. "Go to Northumberland." 
Stupidly, so STUPIDLY, I forgot to get him to rid the house of wildlife first. 
Tentatively I peered around the bathroom door. The Thing had moved. It was no longer in the bath. How stupid can you get? In all the best horror films they teach the central lesson of dealing with nightmare invaders- NEVER take your eyes off them. I turned slowly around the room, looking, clutching the towel close. Nothing. I peered at the bath. Maybe it went down the plug hole. Maybe I could open a window, shut the bathroom door tight and hope it was gone by morning. I reached to turn the shower off- and saw it. Squatting malevolently above the bathroom doorway. I edged underneath it, leaving the shower still running. As I passed through the door, it moved, scuttling down the doorframe. At which point I ran the short space across the landing to the stairs. 
My heart was pounding when I stopped. This was so silly. Damien would tease me to death if he ever found out about this. Courage. 
I searched around for a weapon without having to move past the spider to the bedrooms. Books. I eased a book out of the bookcase without spooking the Thing. It stayed still. Mentally I apologised to it. I don't like harming anything, but I couldn't spend all night downstairs. I took aim with the book and threw. The spider dodged. The book hit the landing light bulb and the landing went dark in a crash of glass and a flurry of sparks. Damn. I groped for the lightbulb and swore extensively when I cut myself. I couldn't see a thing. Somewhere up here in the dark, the spider lurked. I could feel it. Clutching the towel more tightly around myself, I retreated downstairs. 
I washed my cut hand in the kitchen sink. It was ten pm. Too late to do battle with a bloody spider. It could have the upstairs for tonight. In the morning, in daylight, I'd have the courage to move it out and change the smashed lightbulb without major lacerations. Conscienciously I did the washing up, and then stood in the kitchen doorway reflecting. The stairs overlooked the lounge. The diningroom however had a closed door and was out of definite reach of the landing and the stairs. Clearly it would be a far more comfortable place to sleep than the lounge and the sofa. I braved the lounge long enough to collect the sofa cushions and a blanket and retreated into the diningroom. With the door firmly shut and curled up on a nest of cushions, it seemed like a perfectly sensible solution. Everything would be fine. 
I was woken up by something that made me jump. For a moment, in the dark, I had no idea where I was. I was stiff, not a little cold and as I uncurled, I realised my chest was tight. Automatically I thought of medication, and then realised. It was all in our room on the other side of the spider. Something cold and wet landed on my head. I glanced up and caught the next drop in the eye. Water was dripping from the ceiling. 
Ice grabbed me from the neck to the waist. 
I ran for the stairs. It was like a nightmare. As I snapped the lounge light on I saw the carpet dark from top to bottom, shining with water and a gentle little cascade running from top to bottom like a waterfall. Something must have blocked the shower plughole- hours ago- and I'd left it running….It had overflowed with a vengeance. 
I'd forgotten my towel in my panic. Naked, shivering and petrified, I started upstairs. I'd forgotten how dark it was up there. Water pooled on the landing, the carpet squelched like a bog underfoot. I hesitated on the top step and looked around for the spider. No knowing where it was. No saying what it was doing. I HAD to turn the shower off. I stayed as far away from the walls as possible and hoped it was somewhere in a corner, preferably asleep. Or drowned. The bathroom was adrift. I scanned the walls and ceiling and found to my relief no sign of the arachnoid in question. I opened the shower cubicle which caused a minor tidal wave, and grabbed the shower controls to turn it off. I couldn't believe how much water was loose in here. I looked around, aghast, wondering what on earth to do. A few towels wouldn't soak this up. Damien was due home tomorrow afternoon, there was no WAY this would be dry by then. 
I sat back on my heels and realised I was really starting to wheeze. Between cold, panic and the fact I hadn't taken any of the preventatives I should have taken five or six hours ago, my lungs were starting to object. I was going to have to stop, do something about it and rethink this whole mess. There was still no sign of the spider on the landing. I hesitated just inside the door of the bathroom and blinked in what little light the bathroom gave the landing. On the carpet- under the water- was broken glass from the lightbulb. And I was here naked. I swore, thoroughly and creatively. This was all Damien's fault. He didn't NEED to go to the funeral. He didn't even WANT to go. He had no right being in Northumberland tonight of all nights. I had three choices. Risk stepping on glass. Crawl and get the cuts on my hands instead of my feet. Or go downstairs and cool off, and hope my breathing calmed down a bit. 
It was then I saw the spider. Once more in the bathroom, on the wall right over the shower. That was it. Wheezing like a steam train, I shut the door on it and headed downstairs. 
In the lounge, I wrapped myself back in the towel and reviewed my options. Nothing was happening with the spider until I had the reassurance of daylight. No reasonable man can be expected to handle spiders in the dark. And I couldn't exactly cross the landing now, even with the spider safely imprisoned. Again I damned Damien to perdition. It was his ridiculous ideas on tidiness that meant I didn't have so much as a pair of shoes downstairs. I curled up on the cushionless sofa and concentrated on a long, mental lecture I intended to give him when I next saw him, listing each specific fault of his that put me in this horrendous situation. Eventually I decided there wasn't much I could do until morning. I might as well get the sofa cushions from the diningroom and make myself comfortable. My asthma has always been a nightmare, never well controlled, although admittedly since Damien and I moved in together and he started nagging me, it's been a lot better. However I knew very well how much slack I had and I wasn't going to push my luck. Much better to settle down quietly and try and sleep. 
The diningroom ceiling was bulging like there was an elephant sitting in the room above. I stared at it in disbelief. Water continued to drip from it. The sofa cushions were decidedly damp. I kicked them out of the way and hesitantly and very carefully touched the bulge. Soggy. Very heavy. I gave it a tentative poke. The next second there was a huge crash and the room disappeared in a deluge of water and plaster. I slipped to the floor underneath it. When the noise stopped, I pushed flakes of plaster away. I was drenched. The sofa cushions were drenched. The floor was awash- and the entire ceiling had come down. Above my head were the wet- very wet- floorboards of the bathroom. I stumbled out of the room and shut the door tight. I resisted the urge to open it again just in case this really was the horrendous nightmare it felt like. 
Oh God. I stood numbly in the lounge and wheezed. The bathroom was flooded. The stairs were drenched. The landing light was smashed and the dining room ceiling was down. And I was about to start a really good asthma attack without any medication to hand. Damien was going to go spare. 
If the diningroom ceiling was down- would the water start collecting on the kitchen ceiling? Or the lounge? I had to do something to limit this! Who on earth did you call to remove water at this hour of the night? I picked up the phone, took a moment's thought, then dialled 999. 
The firebrigade appeared ten minutes later. The man who knocked on the door gave me a friendly smile that took in me and my towel. "Got a problem sir?" 
This was not in the least funny. I pointed upstairs. He grinned and went past me, followed by a colleague. A third fireman peered at me anxiously. 
"You allright sir?" 
I nodded, tears now streaming from my eyes. He put a hand on my arm and steered me backwards towards the sofa. 
"Do you need any help? Asthma is it? Want me to call an ambulance?" 
We weren't there quite yet thank God, but not far off. I dragged in a deep breath and tried to co ordinate myself enough to talk. 
"Where?" the man sounded quite worried now. "Have you got anything you can take?" 
I would have loved to have told him, but right now I couldn't get a word out. Another fireman came downstairs, squelching on the carpet. 
"We'll run a pump upstairs and get the excess water out, sir- you're going to need a builder to assess this when we've done. I'll turn the water off at the mains. Is he allright?" he added to his colleague. Several fireman carried a black hose up the stairs. I shut my eyes, tried not to claw at my throat and felt the first black swirling that means I'm going to pass out. The fireman with me pulled out his radio. 
" I'm calling an ambulance." 
Several shouts upstairs informed different members of the fire service to be careful of broken glass, and asked if someone would bring a light up before they all broke their sodding ankles. It was about then that Damien gently put a fireman out of the way and put his suitcase down on the one still dry piece of carpet. 
"Would someone please explain to me what the HELL is going on?" 
The fireman with the radio gave him a look of open gratitude. I struggled with a confusion of terror and utter, utter relief. 
"Do you live here sir?" the fireman said hopefully. 
Damien sat down on the sofa and I felt him pull me into a position where I could breathe a little better. 
"I do. Nick what have you taken so far?" 
I shook my head. The fireman coughed. "I was going to call an ambulance, sir-" 
"We're not quite at that stage yet." Damien said calmly. "Hold him for a minute, I'll get his medication." 
I heard him run upstairs. And crunch on the glass. The firemen were cheerfully talking on the stairs as the water was pumped out. The clock struck five am. Damien reappeared with several pieces of the kit and set it up for me. We've been doing this long enough together to be good at it. By the time the ambulance appeared I was past the conviction I was about to die. From asthma at least. I rattled quietly on the sofa and wished I was anywhere- anywhere at all- apart from here. 
"I suppose," Damien said mildly to a fireman, "Someone's checked the downstairs rooms for collected water?" 
"Yes sir." The fireman cleared his throat, nodding past us at the door. "The room directly under the bathroom caught it. Someone had a try at letting the water out, did they?" 
"Nicholas?" Damien said politely. I nodded. Damien gave the fireman a nod in turn. 
"We did. I take it the ceiling's down then." 
"Yes sir. No other rooms really suffered." 
"I'll telephone the insurers at nine and get a builder out to survey it. If the phone lines are still working?" 
I nodded, flushing still more darkly. "I didn't know not to touch the ceiling." 
"I should have added it to the list." Damien murmured. "Explore basic physics. Do not fiddle with waterlogged ceilings. Do not turn the stairs into a waterfall. Stupidly it never occurred to me." 
I hate it when he gets sarcastic. The fireman cleared his throat, looking between us. 
"What exactly caused all this sir?" 
"I have no idea." Damien looked invitingly at me. "Nicholas, would you honour us with a precis? The gentle version please, I haven't had a drink yet and it is only the crack of dawn." 
"There was a spider." I admitted. 
All look of curiosity faded from Damien's face. "Ah." 
"Does that make sense to you sir?" the fireman said when neither of us said anything further. Damien glanced at him. 
"Oh yes. It was more or less inevitable really. Thank you very much for your prompt action tonight-" 
I didn't hear the rest of it. Just his calm, courteous voice dealing so well with fire crews, telephones and insurance services. Eventually the front door shut and we had our house to ourselves again. Damien pulled off his jacket and hung it over the stair post. 
"Where are the sofa cushions?" 
"In the diningroom." I said tentatively. Damien raised his eyebrows a little. 
"This is going to be a long story isn't it?" 
I got up and went to find the brandy. Damien followed me to the kitchen, working his tie loose. He was still dressed in his black suit and it dawned on me he must have driven all night. He accepted the glass in one hand and me in the other, accepting the hug I gave him. 
"It’s the crack of dawn and I really shouldn't be drinking, but I have the feeling I'm going to need this. Do I want to see the diningroom?" 
"Not really." 
"What happened to your clothes?" 
I swallowed. Damien took firm hold of my hand and led me upstairs over the still marsh-like carpet. There was enough daylight now to see the mess on the landing and it wasn't pretty. Damien handed me his drink and picked me up off my feet to carry me over the glass-strewn landing to our room. That at least was as he had left it. Damien shut the door and let me go. I caught the sweater and jeans he threw me and cast him a rather doubtful look. He shook his head at me. 
"You're perfectly right. You're not going to be wearing them for long, but you're shivering." 
I dressed. Damien took one or two deep swallows of brandy. 
"How was the funeral?" I hazarded. Damien didn't look round. 
"Very funereal." 
"I didn't expect you back until this afternoon." 
"No. Your guardian angel must have been working double shifts. The central heating's broken down at my parents' house so they didn't insist I stayed." 
I was dressed. And hovering, not at all sure where this was going or exactly what mood he was in. Damien turned and leaned against the windowsill, all six foot two of him, cradling his glass in his fingers. 
"Peak flow log please." 
Damn. Blast. I searched for it under books at the bedside table, hoping it looked close at hand. The wretched thing would show him at a glance exactly which medications I'd missed and that I hadn't made any checks at all since yesterday lunch time. 
"I didn't write anything down yesterday evening-" 
"I was too busy with the water." 
"And the spider." 
"Damiiieeeen…." I handed the log over and fidgeted, watching him read it. "You know I hate spiders…" 
"I always thought you hated being on a ventilator more. Maybe I was wrong." Damien folded the log and put it down. "Come on then. Enlighten me. From the top." 
Flippancy is never a good sign in him. He doesn't shout, he doesn't threaten, but the drier and more serene he gets, the more nervous I get. I dug my hands in my pockets and tried to make this sound of little importance- maybe something of a joke. As if I were an adult and had this all in hand instead of feeling about six and a half and in deep disgrace. 
"The shower overflowed-" 
"No, from the top Nicholas." Damien interrupted gently. I winced. 
"There was this spider in the bathroom." 
"So you panicked and left the shower running?" 
"And that's when it overflowed?" 
"That happened later. I tried to get the spider out of the way but I couldn't hit it-" 
"Was that how the lightbulb got smashed? I see. So there was glass all over the landing and you couldn't see." 
"And I couldn't get to any clothes- or shoes as they're all in here-" I added, taking the opportunity to spread a little guilt and blame. He didn't look particularly burdened by it. 
"I thought I'd sleep downstairs and sort it out in the morning." 
"So why did you take the sofa cushions into the- ah. Further away from the spider of course." 
"And then the shower overflowed and when I touched the ceiling it came down- I didn't KNOW it was going to do that- and all I could think of to do was call the firebrigade." 
"So you took no medication at all last night?" 
"I couldn't get to it!" I said indignantly. "I was going to ask one of the firemen but it was pretty bad by then and then you turned up-" 
And now I wished I had drowned. Damien took another swallow from his drink. 
"I wonder if I should take out some sort of travel insurance every time I leave this house?" 
"Have you any idea at all what I'm annoyed about?" Damien said gently. I looked at him, confused. 
"I pulled the diningroom ceiling down." 
Damien gave me a wry smile. "Well I can't say I'm thrilled about that, but no." 
"Being scared of the spider?" I hazarded. Damien shook his head. 
"Suppose you find a corner and think about it? I need to change. I'd shower if you hadn't emptied the hot tank fairly thoroughly." 
"I'm not going out on the landing!" I said hotly. "I don't care what you say-" 
"Believe me, Nicky, if I see the spider, he's going into a corner too." Damien interrupted. I shut my mouth. And found somewhere a little quieter and more peaceful where I could survey the paintwork rather than his face. 
I heard him phone the insurers downstairs. Things always sound so reasonable when he explains it. The builder would survey the house today and find nothing odd at all about our situation under the influence of Damien's charm. It was some time before he came upstairs again and I heard him change into jeans and a sweatshirt. At least he wouldn't go to work today. I wouldn't be left to handle the builders and insurers on my own. I heard him sit down on the end of the bed and flinched at the sound of his voice. 
"Allright Nicholas, come here." 
Actually I liked my corner. I risked facing him. He waited until I came into reach. 
"Any more ideas on why it is I'm going to spank you?" 
No, not a clue, apart from the fact it was a natural follow on from this sort of disaster. I eyed him in despair. He was serious, there wasn't even the hint of a smile in his eyes that stays if he's even partially teasing. "Letting the shower overflow?" 
Damien sighed. "I ought to send you back to that corner and wait until you work it out. Except we're both shattered and we'll have a house full of decorators by lunchtime. Nicky, I have no problem at all with you being scared of anything. And accidents happen. What annoys me is that you can't take any responsibility for yourself whatsoever! I leave you alone for thirty six hours- that’s all- and it takes you that amount of time to half wreck the house, completely forget every medication routine you have and to work yourself into an attack that was very nearly a blue light job! And all for one spider you couldn't bring yourself to walk around!" 
"I don't LIKE them-" 
"Is it going to attack you?" Damien demanded. "Is it going to hurt you in any way? Is it faster than you? Is it at ALL dangerous? I'm not asking you to adopt the bloody thing, an adult should be able to keep some sense of proportion and not enter into a state of war with an insect!" 
"I don't think spiders are insects." I mumbled. It was not a good move. Damien's fingers slid into the waistband of my jeans and tugged me between his knees. With the short, sharp movements of exasperation, I watched his hands unbutton and tug denim down to my knees. My underpants followed without any ceremony whatsoever. 
"You cannot wander around life, creating havoc in the serene hope that I will be there to pick up the pieces! You have a condition which ISNT stable, you cannot throw every routine and thought for your own safety to the winds because I'm not around to nag you! Or because you're playing with a bloody spider!" 
Tears stung my eyes. Damien NEVER shouted, but his voice was unusually sharp. He gripped my wrist and pulled me firmly down over his knees without losing pace in his lecture. 
"And however you felt about the spider, I expected you to be able to understand you needed to turn the shower off and make the bathroom safe before you walked away! If it had been in the kitchen would you have left the gas on and blown yourself up?" 
Yes. Very probably. I buried my face in his thigh, beyond despair. Emotionally this was the most complicated place in the world to be. In this so familiar position I was always scared, knowing what was coming; humiliated and ashamed that I'd made Damien so angry; furious with myself and angry with Damien sometimes, although right now I knew perfectly well I deserved to be in exactly this time and place. And yet this too was the safest place I knew. Damien's arm was heavy around my waist, informing me by it's simple touch that I had no option but to lie here and let him take entire control of this situation. It was his problem and not mine.
From the first smack I knew this was going to be bad. Damien, when he spanks, doesn't mess about anyway, but in this position he always meant business. His palm cracked down so hard tears came into my eyes and I would have flinched if his grip on me allowed any movement. He wasted no time this morning. Sharp, relentless swats rained down on my squirming rump in a deliberate circuit, setting alight every square inch of skin before he began the circuit again still harder. I was crying by the fourth or fifth biting smack. 
"What if I had to go away for a week? What if something happened to me? How could I possibly leave you knowing no matter what you promise me before hand, something as simple as a house spider can make you forget? You've proved to me categorically that you can't be trusted to look after yourself!" 
I was sobbing so much now it was hard to hear him. Any answer I had for him was incoherent and consisting largely of the two phrases 'ow' and 'please', interspersed with his name as if that would help at all. The third circuit made me struggle frantically, even though I knew I was going nowhere until he was finished. 
"Are you going to remember now?" he demanded eventually. 
"Yes.." I sobbed at once. "Yes… 
"So maybe next time I should do this before I go away. Would that make you remember?" 
"I'm sorry- Damien please, I'm sorry-" 
"If I ever catch you in that state again because you've got distracted from sticking to the medication routines my lad, I swear I'll give you a spanking that'll make this look like a chimp's tea party.  And when I've finished, I'll put six of the best on top with the stiffest cane I can lay my hands on. Do you understand me?" 
 Perfectly. I would have promised anything. To my abiding relief, his hand stopped whacking and rested on the small of my back. I struggled to stop crying quite so loudly, suddenly aware that we'd broken our own cardinal rule of trying to be discreet for the neighbours. In a terrace like this, they could have little doubt as to exactly what was going on.  Damien let me slide down to my knees and waited a minute for me to calm down, although he made no attempt to touch me. Uneasy, I looked up at him and caught his single nod at the corner. He never did this to me after a spanking, never. I started to cry again in sheer outrage. Damien looked at me and waited. Eventually, wishing I'd let the spider assassinate me, I went back to my wall. 
I have absolutely no idea how long he left me there. It felt like several years. I had no idea what he was doing or what he was thinking, I was just distraught by the fact that after years of accepting that Damien HAD no temper to be aroused, I'd finally succeeded in making him furious. I'd finally found something sufficiently stupid to make him too angry to talk to me or want to touch me. The shock was horrific. 
I was still in tears when he said behind me- close behind me- "Allright. Come here." 
That tone was a lot more familiar. I threw myself at him and this time he held me tight, his familiar fingers sliding into and tangling my hair. 
"Allright. Allright baby, calm down." 
"I'm sorry- I'm so sorry-" 
"It's allright. Just think occasionally. It's all I'm asking you to do." 
I clung to him, still gulping. "I'm sorry about the ceiling." 
"That was an accident. The insurance will cover it. We won't mention the spider on the forms." 
I knew it. I knew he'd tease the hell out of me. It was almost a relief. I straightened up, struggling to get my breathing under control. 
"I'd better get the glass off the carpet if a builder's coming." 
"You'd better get some sleep. You were up all night." Damien said dryly. 
"So were you." I retorted. Damien pulled me back to him. 
"So we both get some sleep." 
 I looked hesitantly at the doorway. Damien buried his head in my neck and groaned. 
"Allright. Okay. I give in. I'll evict the bloody spider."
~The End~
 Copyright Ranger 2010


Pennyable22 said...

Just recently had an incident with a very large nasty spider in the bath. Nick's POV now makes complete sense to me.

Anonymous said...

Excellent, the feeling of panic as things career out of control is brilliantly expressed.

Ranger said...

Awww, thank you both of you! We're not talking about the true life incident that sparked this one..... ;) We loooooooove spiders. Really!

Anonymous said...

I am so with Nick on this one, spiders are evil....just look what it did to the house! Damien is completely wrong, when faced with giant house spiders there should be a bloody 999 service that sends someone out to get them for you before they attack and cause complete and utter chaos, sneaky little buggers...I rest my case!

Key ;)

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