Where They Reside
March 17, 2022
Editor’s note: The following story won this year’s Teen Nightmare Narrative contest in October. While we are disappointed that we didn’t get our traditional book of horror stories out on Halloween (thanks to COVID, we are rebuilding The Dreamcatcher from the ground up this year), but now that it’s spring, we thought this chilling tale was perfect to enjoy. A quick warning: this story involves spiders. A lot of spiders. If you are afraid of spiders, you may want to skip this one.
“Teresa, can you vacuum the basement, please?” The voice of her mother asked, “our guests will be arriving soon.”
Teresa sighed. “Yes, mom.”
“Thank you, sweetie.”
At the start of every season, Teresa’s mom had to have a grand Cabi party, and today was the spring-themed “Prom Prep Party.” A new shipment of the latest fashions for her mother to sell had been shipped earlier that week, and the new spring line was just as ugly as winter and fall were. The parties brought the bile to Teresa’s throat, not just because the clothing was an embarrassment but because her mother actually thought the clothing was great. She would fawn over the sweaters and shorts so passionately that Teresa was legitimately concerned that her mother was blind.
Soon, all of her mother’s friends would be coming over, looking and trying on the fashion and gossiping to their heart’s desires. Teresa would’ve been going out with her friends, but her mother insisted that she stay and look at the Cabi fashion too. She could hear her mother now: You have amazing fashion sense, Teresa. We’d all love to hear your opinion on the new clothes! Plus, you may even find something you like.
Hard pass. Forever 21 and H&M are where it’s at, thank you very much.
Teresa shuffled to the closet and opened the door. She pulled out the Shark vacuum and awkwardly tried to carry it down the stairs, one step at a time. When she arrived at the bottom, there was a little black spider on the carpet to greet her.
Teresa walked a little way and turned to the right where the basement bathroom was. She yanked a bit of the toilet paper and wadded it up before descending it upon the spider and crushing it.
Teresa returned to the vacuum and plugged it into an outlet. The blaring sound from it drove off all other sounds and cast her into her own world of thoughts. Why did she have to stay at this Cabi party? Dad’s not. Her father was going to the bar with his friends to watch some games while she had to stay here. Lucky.
The only upside to being at the Cabi party is the food her mother prepared. Tasty finger sandwiches and brownies and cream cheese and crackers. Hopefully, her mother’s friend Sharnel would bring that delicious pasta salad. Teresa’s stomach grumbled at the thought of that.
Later that day, when the guests had arrived, Teresa, dressed in her yellow romper, put on as happy as a facade she could muster. In front of her was a small mountain of dresses in every size and style.
“Remember ladies, let’s make it a Prom to remember for our girls!”
Her mother was talking up every garment, talking about how she was an entrepreneur and glaring at Teresa every time she muttered the word “pyramid scheme.” So Teresa sat off in a corner and watched the ladies look at the assortment of clothes
Delilah, enough with the polka dots.
Oh no, Kate, don’t pick that laced skirt.
Yellow? With your skin tone? Woof.
Teresa tried not to judge the ladies’ choices but she couldn’t stop herself. Her mother said it’d be great for Teresa to be here because of her fashion sense, but she wasn’t sure that they would take the truth too kindly. Teresa had to avert her eyes from a neon pink dress that her mother was actually examining to the carpet.
There was something moving. Another spider.
Teresa went to the bathroom to fetch some toilet paper and crushed the second spider. She then wondered if there were more lurking around. Teresa wasn’t fond of dealing with the spiders, but it gave her something to do.
As the night went by at turtle pace, Teresa had found seven more spiders. The thought of so many spiders in such a short amount of time fascinated her. Where are they coming from? There must be a crack in the floor somewhere, she thought to herself. I could go search for it. You can thank me later, Mother.
The ladies were so engrossed in the clothing that Teresa was able to slip away, unnoticed. Teresa first went to the bathroom to get some toilet paper in case others decided to show up. She then turned on the flashlight feature on her phone and crept into the guest bedroom. The tan carpet, speckled with dark brown dots kept spooking Teresa as she thought there were more
spiders. She kept the stream of light focused on the edges of the carpet where it met the wall, hoping to find a crack to block.
The light suddenly rebounded off of something. Beady black eyes. Dark fur. Was it a kitten? How did that get in here? Teresa came closer and saw that there were eight eyes belonging to this creature.
Lo and behold, another spider. A big spider.
From a first glance, the spider would have looked large but otherwise normal if it weren’t for a blue stripe that ran down its abdomen. The size and the coloration unsettled Teresa, as she’d never seen anything like it.
“The queen,” Teresa muttered to herself.
If this mother spider had laid her egg sack, Teresa reasoned, then that would explain the sudden increase of spiders in the house. She stared at the creature the size of her fist. This will take more than a tissue. Taking no hesitation, Teresa yanked off one of her shoes—they were becoming out of fashion anyway—and smashed it on the spider queen. The flesh exploded from under the heel and hairy legs popped out of their sockets.
Teresa felt a small pain in her ankle. She looked down to see a small red mark. Must have scratched myself when I pulled off my shoe. Teresa took the toilet paper and wiped off the yellowish-green remnants, threw it in the trash, and smiled. No more spiders.
When Teresa emerged from the guest bedroom, it was no surprise that the guests were still entranced by the clothes, but her mother’s flustered face was a different story. Teresa shrugged it off. Her mother would understand when the party was over. Teresa sat back down on her foldable chair and listened to the inane fashion talk. One guest, Lucy, was rifling through the clothes when something caught Teresa’s eye. It was silver. She tried to peer closer and saw little scuttle creatures weaving something, undetected.
Spiders. Little silver spiders.
Confused, Teresa walked over to where they were weaving and saw that they were in fact making a huge word that spelled out:
Teresa backed away in fear as the spiders, sensing it was her, tried to latch onto her as they leaped off their webs.
Spiders don’t spell, spiders don’t spell, Teresa thought to herself. Only in that one children’s book did a spider spell. And that was on a pig farm–I’m in the city. She shook her head and looked again. The silver spiders were gone.
I’m just hallucinating, she thought, trying to calm herself down. Maybe I should go to bed.
“Find something you like, Teresa?” Her mother asked, snapping Teresa back to reality.
“Er—um. . .” Words wouldn’t formulate in her head. Her mind was only set on the spiders weaving. “Not yet. I’m not feeling too good.”
“Then sit down,” her mother said firmly.
Teresa awkwardly took her seat and caught her mother’s eye again as she cast her an inquiring look.
Don’t look freaked out, she reassured herself. It was just your imagination. Spiders don’t spell.
As the night went on, Teresa swore she kept seeing the spiders crawling around out of the corner of her eye. On the walls. By the feet of the others. Even on the back of Sarah Weaver’s dress. When she looked directly, nothing was there, but she could swear that there were silver and black spiders all weaving the same word:
Teresa couldn’t focus on fashion anymore. Her eyes kept darting all over, looking for the spiders, keeping alert. I can’t believe that no one else has seen–
“Eek! There’s a spider!”
There was her answer. One of the ladies was shaking out a long red dress trying to fling the spider off. Teresa rushed over and smacked the spider right where it stood with one of the Cabi catalogs. A stream of intestinal residue was smeared on the dress.
“Well, it wasn’t going to fit me anyway,” said the lady who was holding it.
“I’m sure we can get it out,” reassured Teresa’s mother. She sharply glanced at Teresa, a signal for a private conversation.
Teresa anxiously walked to her mother who was going into the guest bedroom. Her mother quietly shut the door.
“What happened?” she snapped.
“There was a spider on a dress, so I smacked it as everyone else would,” Teresa remarked.
“I thought I told you to vacuum the basement,” her mother replied.
“I did!” Teresa protested.
“Obviously not. If there are spiders everywhere that means this house is unclean and then our guests will think that we don’t clean the house!” Her mother began to seethe. “I’ve seen you going back and forth all night chasing these spiders! If someone catches on that spiders keep coming in I’ll be ruined. No one wants to come to a Cabi party when you know that spiders are going to crawl all over the clothing!”
“Who cares? No one in their right mind would wear any of that clothing! You think anyone wants a Prom dress from Cabi?This whole party is dumb” Teresa yelled. She instantly cupped her hand over her mouth, ashamed. “Mom, I didn’t—”
Her mother took a breath and said in a calm voice, “So that’s what you think. I know you have a very keen sense for fashion and I thought this would be so fun for you, but I guess not.”
“Mom please, I—”
“Just go to your room. I shouldn’t have made you stay.” Her mom opened the door and went out. Her unsettling tranquil composure left a lasting impression in the room.
Teresa wanted to go after her mother but a movement caught her eye on the carpet. Anger boiled under Teresa’s skin. These stupid spiders! If they just weren’t here then maybe she would’ve enjoyed the Cabi party. Teresa slammed her hand on the spider, not caring that she felt the creature’s insides burst from under her. She wiped the guts on the carpet.
“Anyone else?” she snapped at the carpet.
As if on cue, another spider emerged from the carpet. The carpet. Teresa started yanking at the carpet. She pulled at the
fluffy tufts only to see that more spiders flowed out. No wonder no one else could see them. They’re hairy like the carpet. They’re even tan like the carpet, blending in perfectly to the–
The realization came so fast that Teresa almost puked. The spiders were the carpet.
Teresa moved to leave but the spiders began to swarm. She swatted and flicked them away only to see that more detached from their carpet formation to attack her. The more that came, the bigger the hole in the carpet grew. Teresa used that to try and shove some of the spiders down there. The spiders retaliated by attaching to her body. Their hairy legs lightly tickled her as they padded up and up. Terrified, Teresa tried to shake them off but to no avail.
“Mom!” Teresa shouted. “Mom, I need help!”
She couldn’t say anything else because the spiders filled her mouth. The spiders were so thick on her skin that she could barely move–it was like wearing a heavy jacket. She started to see dark blobs across her vision as the spiders crawled across her eyeballs. She could see their fangs so close to her tender skin.
Teresa felt the ground underneath her move. The spiders were lifting her down into the hole. She was going down to the basement. She tried to struggle but it was no use. She felt her hair tug as the spiders pulled it, running through every strand.
That’s when she lost consciousness.
When Theresa awoke, she was in a wide earthen cave. It was dark and damp with only a little light coming from a hole far above. She pulled out her phone: no signal. I must be under the basement, she thought.
She looked across from her. Every surface of the cave was covered in spiders, except for five small thin bare spots that spelled out the word that she could almost hear vibrating throughout the cavern.
They’re mad about their queen, she thought. That’s why they’ve brought me down here. For revenge.
Her hands trembled as she ran her hand through her hair–but it got stuck. At first, she was worried that it was more spiders and their webs, but then she felt overlapping strands of hair. She pulled out her phone and used the camera to look at herself. Her hair was styled in a beautiful braid, impossibly twisted into a pattern that had veins over each lock, making each braid look like a leaf in the sun.
Or a spiderweb. Teresa was dumbfounded. Did they… braid my hair? What?
She looked across the cave. They were weaving again. Teresa thought they were creating another message but letters weren’t formed. The spider’s silk was a delicate beauty that shimmered even in the darkness of the cave. The spiders were weaving furiously in such intricate patterns that could only be one thing.
The spiders had created Teresa a dress. She didn’t want to admit how beautiful it was. It was calling to her. What design! What form! She imagined wearing it to Homecoming and standing there, more dazzling than any past Prom queen–
Queen. Teresa froze as the truth donned on her. They want me to be their new queen. I killed the old one, so they must think that makes me stronger than the old queen.
Teresa didn’t know what to do. If she refused, the spiders might swarm her and eat her. She thought she saw the pale white of old human bones at the side of the cave. But if I became their queen… How would that even work?
Then she glanced at the dress. It was beautiful, and best of all, it was made for her. It was an unsold Cabi dress her mother forced her to wear. It wasn’t a generic dress off a rack at a store she usually couldn’t afford. This was her dress.
It couldn’t hurt to try it on, she thought.
Teresa walked slowly to the dress, mesmerized by its loveliness. As she moved, spiders scurried out of the way of her footsteps. When she got up to the dress, she saw that every fiber had its own twists and patterns with details that could only be made with eight eyes. She had to put in on. She pulled off her yellow romper then paused.
Along her bare stomach ran a large dark blue stripe.
Teresa was right: the dress had made her a shoo-in for Prom queen.
She stood in front of the bathroom mirror, fixing her makeup and preparing her speech. She looked stunning, with her braids intricately woven and diamond earrings perfectly filling the four holes in each of her ears, three of which were gnawed into her just three days ago. Her skin was amazingly smooth–after all, she has the best exfoliators she could ever dream of, scraping the dead shin off with their fangs.
Teresa looked at her brow. She wondered if she would eventually grow more eyes. It was exciting being a spider queen. Each day brought her new abilities and her subjects made everything in her life perfect.
If only Mom could see me now, Teresa thought. She wished things had ended better with her Mom, but she just had to confront Teresa when she finally climbed out of the hole. And the spiders–well, they only respect authority, and she couldn’t let her mother challenge that authority in front of her subjects.
Teresa spotted a small hair out of place near her right eyebrow. “Pluck,” she said quietly. Three spiders crawled out of her hair, pulled the offending hair out with their fangs, and scurried back into her braid.
“My children,” she said softly, “the dress is beautiful. I am beautiful. All of you are beautiful. And any moment now, we will finally get everything we’ve wanted.
She placed her hand just under her belly button. She could feel her children swarming just under the silk of the dress. But she could also feel the small bumps, like a breakout of acne. She could feel the millions of eggs inside her, ready to hatch.
They would be hungry. She needed to give her babies food and shelter. Someplace dark with lots of places to hide.
She smiled in the mirror. Her mother was right: it would be a Prom to remember.