by Ellen Denton
Last week, herds of deer started coming to my yard. They’re not afraid of me; when I tap on the window to get their attention, they don’t act startled or nervous even though I’m only a few feet away. When I speak to them through the glass, their ears twitch and they look at me with intelligent, almost friendly eyes.
When they’re not there, I can still see their tracks, like words of a secret code written by hoof prints in the snow. I like to think they’re telling me, in a winter language spoken with their feet, “We’re still here. We’re watching over you.” They make me feel less alone and remind me of all the ethereal beauty in the world.
One morning, I was looking at them through the big picture window that faces out onto the yard. They were scattered around, some of them reclining in the snow, others nibbling leaves from the lower branches of evergreen trees, a few nuzzling the ground in search of buried vegetation.
I left for a while to finish reading a book. I was saddened by it because it was a love story and both the hero and heroine were killed at the end. After I closed the book, I walked back to the window in tears. The deer, in unison, stopped what they were doing and lined up in a row across the front of the house. They stood there looking directly into my eyes.
* * *
This type of thing started about a month ago. Living creatures of all kinds would come and interact with me.
The first time was when a spider descended from the ceiling on a thread-thin filament of silvery web. I was sitting in a recliner reading, raised my eyes, and it was inches from my face. I lurched backwards with momentary disgust and fear. It was light brown in color and large enough for me to clearly see the spindly segments of its body.
I was going to duck below it so that I could get out of the chair without touching it and go get a vacuum cleaner to suck it and the web strand off the ceiling, but its dot-sized black eyes turned green – a reflective green like a mirror – and this snagged my attention.
It then started spinning around at the end of the thread. Then it faced me again and began waving its legs up and down as though they were fingers on a keyboard, then it spun around again and continued going through that alternating sequence for about two minutes. I know it sounds silly, but at the time, I felt like the spider was doing a happy dance at the sight of me.
It finally rose back up to the ceiling by absorbing the strand of web back into its body. I didn’t know spiders could do that.
The ceiling was well lit by a carousel of bulbs, so when I looked up, I could clearly see a bridge of silken strands stretching across it. The spider traveled along one of them towards the corner, which contained a beautiful, circular web. There were other spiders on the web too, gliding back and forth along the strands and making more.
My initial thought was to get a broom and gouge it out of the corner, but it was pretty, like a shimmering circle of snow crystals or jewels, and it wasn’t really doing any harm, so I decided to leave it for the time being.
I was curious though about the odd motions of the spider when it hung before my face and the way its eyes turned green, so I grabbed a book on insects I remembered seeing in the other room. I didn’t find anything that talked about those things, but did come across an interesting chapter called “Strange and Amazing Facts About Spiders.”
I read through it. It had things like:
“Spiders have blue blood.”
“The silk in a spider’s web is so strong, that a web just a few inches thick could stop a cannon ball in flight.”
“Spider webs are not passive traps. Instead, because of electrically conducive glue spread across their surface, webs spring towards their prey.”
As I read further and further down the list, with each new fact getting creepier rather than more interesting, I would glance nervously up at the ceiling, trying to decide if the web had gotten larger or was moving towards me since the moment before when I last looked at it. It really hadn’t, but I did feel compelled at that point to get that broom.
The next day, there was an occurrence with a big cockroach-like thing. It was crouched over a crumb, but when it saw me, skittered across the kitchen counter toward the very edge of it, stopped dead in its tracks, and just stood there facing me. The antennae on top of its head started vibrating so fast, they became a solid blur of gray. I felt sick to my stomach at the sight of it, but it finally skittered off somewhere.
Later that same day, a butterfly landed outside on the window glass. When I came up real close to it so that I could get a better look, it started dreamily wafting its wings back and forth as it clung to the glass.
There were other things with insects over the next few days, some of it creepy, some of it just strange – like a thick ant trail that poured into my house through a crack in the wall. Normally, when I’d come across one of those, they’d be traveling in a line from the outside to some bit of food on the floor or in my trash, but these ants came in and formed strange, swirling designs and shapes out of the thousands of their combined tiny bodies.
I stood over them with a can of insecticide in my hand, my finger ready to push down the button and release the death spray on them, but I hesitated when I saw what they were doing. A few minutes later, they formed a trail again and went swarming out of the house through the same crack from which they’d entered. They had funny little blue dots on their backs that I’d never seen before on ants.
The following week, it started to happen with larger life forms.
There was, for instance, an occurrence with a woodpecker. It tapped on the ledge right outside my window, then fell silent as I tapped back at him. We kept taking turns tapping back and forth to each other before he flew off.
Once, a whole flock of blackbirds in flight descended and circled my house over and over, before taking to the sky again. They flew low enough to the ground for me to see them through the window, and their muffled wing beats sounded like a magician shuffling a deck of cards.
Following this were instances with chipmunks, squirrels, a few rabbits, a raccoon, and some animals I’m not familiar with.
* * *
My house is in the woods, with no one who lives close by, at least that I’ve ever seen, so I was genuinely surprised when dogs and cats started showing up. Domestic animals normally don’t wander about in the woods.
The first one sort of looked like a French Poodle and she had three puppies with her. They sniffed around in the snow and at the door, and then ran to the big picture window. The puppies all started barking at me.
Last week the deer showed up for the first time, lingering long through the day or sometimes just stopping briefly before moving on. Often a doe would come right up to the window with a fawn and look into the house at me, their faces just a few inches from mine with only the window glass between us.
* * *
Two days ago, I regained my memory. Previously, I had very little recollection of my life prior to about five or six weeks ago, but the other night, I glanced upwards, and the shock of more glittering webs scattered across the ceiling and making their way down the walls snapped me out of the amnesia.
The only thing I can’t recall is how I got here. I’m hoping that comes back to me too, but even if it does, I won’t write about it, since I don’t think there’s much of a chance anyone will ever get to see it, or see any of this that I’ve already written. I’m pretty sure I know now though why the only window in the entire house is the one that faces front, and why it will not break. I tried smashing a chair through it, and the chair broke instead of the window.
The deer are gone now too. Late yesterday, a large, strange-looking creature with a horn at the center of its head came lumbering by and scared them off.
The thing that concerns me more than anything else though is that the spider webs are getting larger and so are the spiders.
Yesterday, the webs started stretching down towards the bottom of the walls and each spider is now about the size of my hand, covering the ceiling in a sickening blanket of spider torsos and legs. If I get too close to one of the webs, it bulges out at me. Whenever that happens, the spiders in the room stop skittering around all at once and turn to me, as though watching to see what’s going to happen next, so I have to quickly get away from the wall. They then resume swinging from web to web, like little eight-legged monkeys.
If I try to gouge one of the webs away with a broom, all the spiders converge on that one spot and quickly spin another. One even came down the wall and scrambled across the floor toward my foot. I smashed it over and over with a cast iron frying pan until it was nothing but mush. None of them tried to approach me again after that; they just hang there from their webs on the ceiling and up and down the walls.
I’ve searched every inch of this house looking for a way out of it, but there is none.
* * *
Today, a horror beyond my wildest dreams occurred, and I have lost all hope.
There was a terrible blizzard overnight, which blew down a sign that must have been attached to the front of the house. There were three words on it, but I could only make out the word “The” at the top and “House” at the bottom. The middle word was covered over with snow.
I was terrified that when the wind blew off that bit of snow, the whole sign would read “The Human House”, and my worst and craziest fears would be realized – that I had somehow been abducted and placed in an intergalactic zoo of some sort where animals were the observers and humanoid-type entities were the displays – that I’d been placed in only a replica of a real house, the same way that animal habitats in zoos are often made to look like they do in nature – that the creatures that came to my window, or crawled in and out through cracks in my walls, considered me no more than a dumb, strange looking beast, the way children on field trips gape at things – that I would have to adapt to living the rest of my life in this cage, the way prisoners serving life sentences do.
I wondered why, if I was supposed to be a display, those horrible spiders were let in here, getting bigger by the minute, and now dripping this awful white mucus from their mouths as they hover above me from their webs.
* * *
Things turned out to be far worse though than I could have ever conceived in my wildest imaginings, and I have never felt as paralyzed with fear, as small, or as utterly unimportant and insignificant as I do right now.
The sun warmed the woods up enough for that little patch of snow to melt off the sign.
This isn’t “The Human House” exhibit. It’s “The Spider House” one!
* * *
About the Author
Ellen Denton is a freelance writer living in the Rocky Mountains with her husband and three demonic cats who wreak havoc and hell (the cats, not the husband). Her writing has been published in over a hundred magazines and anthologies. She as well has had an exciting life working as a rodeo clown, a Navy seal, and an exotic dancer in the crew lounge of the starship Enterprise. She was also the first person to scale Mount Everest to its summit. (Writer’s note: The one-hundred-plus publication credits are true, but some or all of the other stuff may be fictional.)