Chapter 1: Old Memories
Even on a bright summer day, the parish house looked dusty and cavernous, thick burgundy drapes and dark oak-panel corridors stretching through a shadowy recess that seemed to sink impossibly deep within the small stone cottage. This wasn't a bright summer day. Laura crept through the house, lighting white candlesticks in each room while casting wistful looks at the useless light bulbs and electrical outlets, and then glancing with a slight frown out the shuttered windows at the heavy gray clouds hanging over the dusky countryside. An hour or two of daylight left, she supposed. There hadn't been any sense, she'd figured, in paying a month's electric bill for what amounted to a single night; now, as she stood at the living room window and watched the gloaming sink deeper and deeper across the valley, drowning the forest and rustic village below in inky blackness, she began to regret her daylight pragmatism.
“And you live like this,” Wendy announced behind her.
Laura turned with a roll of her eyes to face her sister. It wasn't a question, but she treated it like one anyhow. "It usually has working lights and furniture. And better company."
“I’m just saying!” her sibling protested, both hands raised defensively. “I grew up here too, and it’s not that much better with the lights on. It’ll be good for you to get away.”
Wendy was the older of the two, by three years, but not many people would’ve thought that at a glance. She had short dark hair that she wore with a sort of intricately styled chaos, spiky bangs and wild feathery locks combined with a subtle pink rouge on her pale cheeks that always made Laura think of sex, of the sweaty, blushing afterglow of stumbling out of the hall closet at a sleepover with someone else’s boyfriend. Laura’s boyfriend, to be precise, and seeing the dazed exultation on his freckled face as her older sister led him confidently back down the hall was the closest she’d ever come to having relations with him. Not that she was bitter about that.
Laura wore immaculate white Sunday dresses to contrast Wendy’s black jeans and jackets, kept her silvery blonde hair long and straight to contrast her sister’s pixie cut, and had remained dutifully at home to take of their father while Wendy left for a jet-setting photography career in Boston and then New York. And so it’d fallen to the younger sister, the one who’d never had the luxury of knowing that someone else would still be around take care of things, to spend her weekends playing the church piano and writing her dad’s sermons, nursing him through the bad nights and, in the end, making the funeral arrangements and delivering the eulogy.
She’d never had another boyfriend. Laura found herself approaching her third decade with the idea of marriage still a hazy fantasy alongside unicorns and fairy palaces.
“Where would I go?” Laura said, and she turned her pale blue eyes back to the window.
“You could move in with me,” Wendy replied. “It’ll be just like old times.”
“Except I don’t have any boyfriends you can steal.”
“Huh? Oh, that? Look, that guy was an asshole. He didn’t deserve you.”
“He was good enough for you,” Laura muttered under her breath.
“And you’re a whole lot better than me! That was years ago, we were kids.”
“I was a kid. You were in college.”
“That’s still a kid,” she heard Wendy protesting behind her, and then the excuse broke into a forlorn sigh. “You’re right. I’m sorry. I didn’t know you were still thinking about that.”
“I wasn’t,” Laura said, and she made herself turn away from the shadow-drenched landscape to look at Wendy. “Just old memories. Guess that’s all we’ll have after tomorrow.”
“Then how about some new memories?" her older sister declared, and she lifted a yellowed sheet of notebook paper covered with scribbled names. "I found this beneath the rug, it's from that same sleepover. Remember we all played a game, wrote a contract, and signed it?"
“I remember. It’s something you said you found online: sign your names if you want to face Mister Shadow and your worst fear come to life. It was part of your ghost story.”
“Yeah, it was stupid. We’ll light the fireplace, throw it in and watch it burn. Fuck that guy, fuck his friends, fuck that whole night. Then we’ll get your things packed tomorrow, drop the keys off at the church and you can come stay with me, at least while you look for a place.”
“His name was Brad. And you were there too.”
“Then fuck me too,” Wendy concluded, with such sudden sincerity that Laura’s habitual scowl rose into blank confusion. “I’m serious. We’ll go through every picture, every yearbook, every letter we can find, and burn every last thing you hate. And we’ll start over.”
Chapter 2: The Preacher’s Daughter
The parish house was, paradoxically, much older than the town that’d built it: the church, the school, every last house and storefront had been torn down and replaced at least once since its days as a Dutch colony, but the cottage had kept the same granite walls, and even most of the same rooms. To step inside it was to step into the shadow of history, into an immensity of musty books and creaking floorboards warped by the weight of fur traders and Revolutionary soldiers, of grizzled sea captains and secret abolitionist meetings. Her father used to say that it made him feel the enormity of God’s plan and the insignificance of his own lifetime against it.
All of which meant that imagining those dusty black shadows gathered under the bed and lurking within the closet eagerly watching undress, imagining their eyes following her lacy white panties sliding down her hips and the cups of her bra falling loose from the full porcelain globes and pink carnation tips of her breasts, was egotistical to the point of blasphemy.
But Laura had imagined it every night since that fateful sleepover, ever since she’d shot a glare down the hall at her beautiful sister emerging from the closet with her boyfriend – and then, for a single breathless, anxiously blushing instant, sensed something else in the open doorway behind them beckoning to her, as though the closet itself were inviting her inside to have her own turn in the sweaty, torrid darkness. Not with Brad, not with any boy at all, but with the shadows under her bed, the bogeyman that’d patiently watched her blossom into womanhood…
She’d pushed the thought out of her mind with a shudder and played along with Wendy’s internet game while quietly fantasizing about making a dramatic accusation that’d instantly turn the whole group against the two of them; in truth, she’d waited until her boyfriend broke up with her a week later, by which point the dramatic moment had evaporated away to leave just a surly remark over breakfast. When she wrote her name on the page and confessed to her worst fear, Laura had insisted it was spiders – Wendy was all too happy to agree and offer an embarrassing story about Laura waking up to a bristly yellow garden spider crawling on her arm - and tried to ignore the feeling of someone, of something, still watching her from inside the hall closet.
Nothing came of it, of course. They’d stayed awake for a while, the rest of the group swapping stories while she sat in a sullen silence that everyone else mistook for fear, and finally gone to bed. There was a reason it didn’t work, something Wendy had explained afterward with a sigh, but Laura couldn’t remember it. She’d barely been listening anyhow.
Laura rolled onto her side in bed, the only bit of furniture left in the otherwise empty room, and instinctively drew her right foot beneath the white sheet, as though something might reach out from under the bed to grab her exposed ankle. Then a vague, contrary impulse stirred within her and she wrapped one fist around the sheet to deliberately, if groggily, lift the edge up past her ankle again, then higher, past the toned swell of her calf and across her knee, and then a slower, teasing reveal of the long, supple length of her right thigh. She stretched and slowly scissored her legs against each other, holding the thin sheet between her knees so that it draped her waist and back while leaving the smooth ivory curve of her right hip bare, a teasing glimpse of her naked body offered to those leering shadows beneath the bed, for their very last night together.
No one had ever seen her naked. That also meant she was a virgin, but the being seen naked part stood out most in Laura’s mind. She hadn’t gotten that far with Brad – her steadfast insistence on taking things slow had been his big excuse for cheating on her – and once she’d graduated and moved back home, she became, as far as most of Ameland Falls was concerned, always and forever the preacher’s daughter. She became a first crush for young boys to outgrow, and the object of less savory looks from old men, but just part of the Sunday morning backdrop for everyone in between. If it felt blasphemous to imagine the shadows of the old parish house ogling her, then she could only imagine how the prospect felt for churchgoers.
Funny how Wendy never had to worry about any of that, Laura mused somewhere beneath the blushing heat that imaginary gaze stoked inside her. Then again, maybe she did. Maybe that’s why she left straight for college, and then moved to Boston, and then to New York.
Why didn't that old game work? Something was missing, Laura recalled, and Wendy had searched the house for a while before giving up. Well, it didn't matter: they'd burned the list of names in the fireplace and made a toast to the better days ahead. Laura hadn't ever been drunk in her life either, but she'd had enough wine to feel warm and giggly, and to find the inexplicably twinging excitement between her thighs almost irresistible. Almost. She traced her fingers along the bare length of her right leg and then cupped her hand over the white fabric that covered her naked sex, curling her fingers and rubbing for just a moment, just a few furtive strokes.
Then she was dreaming, and in her dream, someone moved her hand aside to slip a different sort of appendage beneath the filmy sheet. A long bristly shaft, perhaps as thick as a broomstick, pressed its length flat against the crease of her sex and dragged slowly against her. Stiff spindly hairs tickled through her own silky curls with each deep lengthwise brush of its smooth husk between her folds, the sharp crook of its jointed limb pinching her swelling nub with each stroke. Another joint curled upward between the back of her thighs, letting a tapered digit caress the sensitive cleft between the cheeks of her rear, and Laura bit her lower lip hard with a startled, deeply blushing gasp as three tiny chela claws played across her tight pucker, caressing and then winking it open just a little, subtly teasing her tender bud a dozen different ways.
“Ohgod,” she murmured, a single breathless word, and she rubbed her thighs together to keep those digits from pulling away, to press her stiff pearl against that bony appendage.
A thin rustling sound rose to fill the silence of her bedroom, partly the sound of the thin white bedsheet being dragged slowly down her body, baring her marble shoulders, then the heavy swell of her white breasts, the flushed rosy peaks of her nipples contrasting an otherwise alabaster complexion. “Venus de Milo come to life,” one particularly brainy young admirer had written in an anonymous love letter left on the church piano. If only he knew...
It dragged still further down her slim waist and over her stomach, past the smooth round flare of her hips to reveal the pale peach-colored triangle of fuzz between them, and then slower as it slid down her thighs and across her bent knees, as if to relish the sight of her squirming hips and plump derriere. But the rustling continued, even quickened, as the cotton sheet fluttered over the foot of the mattress and vanished beneath the bed, and it rose and fell with the soft scraping friction of that broomstick length grinding between her lewdly bulging petals, the quick flurrying rhythm of a violin player’s bow while those smaller, scuttling digits worked in perfect harmony between the tightly clenched cheeks of her ass, as though deftly strumming each chord.
There was one last step to the game, something they couldn’t do that night, and Wendy had resigned herself to showing the group some scary movie or another instead. Laura had used the excuse of hating horror movies to flee to her room, away from the two of them.
More of those unearthly limbs touched her now, gently pressing down on her shoulders to guide her onto her back while another pair brushed their thin, serrated lengths across her breasts, lightly plucking her swollen nipples and coaxing a soft, lilting cry from between her ruby lips. Then those fingernail claws closed around the peak of each mound, three of them claiming each of her nipples with slow, infinite care, stroking the underside of each pink pebble and then gently pinching and rolling them atop her breasts. Then another pair of those stiff ringed bamboo stalk limbs curled and locked themselves around each of her flushed breasts, steadily squeezing and jutting her twinging, desperately sensitive nipples upward into those lightly bouncing tugs.
“Don’t stop,” she murmured, her eyes fluttering as she fought the urge to blink and risk waking herself up from the lusty dream. This wasn’t like any dream she’d had: no handsome man in her bed, no fingers or mouth, no touch like anything she’d tried to imagine.
Matches, a lighter. They had to burn the page to start the game, to summon Mister Shadow, and Wendy couldn’t find anything to start a fire. At least, not until tonight.
Laura opened her eyes and stared down the length of the bed. And she screamed.
Chapter 3: Mister Shadow
They were spiders – no, it was a spider. Against the silver moonbeams streaming through the window beyond the foot of the bed, she could only make out the scuttling arachnid limbs reaching out from below and towering overhead, a ring of stiff black javelin pole legs twisting back and forth against their hinged joints and casting horribly writhing shadows above the headboard. Her first scream caught in her clenched throat and came out in a quick silent huff of air as she just stared wide-eyed at the sprawling appendages; her body locked into a frozen panic despite her inward scream, as if she could hide from it by keeping still the same way she'd always ducked beneath the bedsheet as a child. Only now it'd taken the sheet away.
Something else played around the edges of her terror, something warm and almost soothing that pulsed beneath her fear and tinged it with a strange exhilaration while subtly building on it: for a moment she thought she might be drunk after all, still lost in the heady glow of the wine. And then, as the cue stick limbs around her breasts gave a sharper squeeze, as that arachnid leg curled between her thighs kept up its kneading strokes, massaging her stiff pearl and gleaming slit with its length while its claws teased between the cheeks of her rear, she understood.
It wasn’t a dream. None of it had been a dream. And it was still happening.
“Oh god,” she whispered, and the words came out in a trembling, breathless moan.
The spider – it had to be as big as a Volkswagen, she supposed, though only its waving legs emerged from under her bed, as though it lay upside down beneath her – wrapped two more of its limbs up past her knees, a loose ring of chitinous segments clasping each leg as the clawed tips stroked the inner curves of her thighs. They didn't grab or pin her legs down: perhaps they simply didn't have enough joints for that, though she suspected they just had other, more sordid reasons for curling around her legs and caressing her thighs. Certainly, they didn't need to hold her legs to keep her from pulling away. Their barbed feet brushed her skin with deliberate care, each delicate stroke from the pit of her knees to the outer crease of her naked sex leaving her thighs tingling with lurid anticipation, and a subtle outward tug of those curled limbs found Laura's calves spreading on their own, her feet sliding toward the sides of the bed.
Her hips lifted from the mattress to match the slow kneading rhythm of that scraggly black limb wrapped tight between her thighs, the wiry hairs dragging back and forth against her slick folds while the smooth length massaged her inner slit. A plaintive whine escaped her tight throat as the arachnid limb lifted back into the air, and she followed its ascent, her blue eyes widening, her long blonde hair fanned back across the pillows as she watched another coarse tapered limb reaching down between her knees. It might have been taking aim, preparing to push inside her, to, God help her, deflower her. She couldn’t even be sure she didn’t want that.
But it didn’t push inside her. That swaying limb instead reached down and caught just the swollen bead of her clit between the curved pincers of its toes. And it began to caress her pearl, to stroke her tender nub with one claw after the other, each one just barely touching her.
It could kill her. It could rip and maim and do horrible, nightmarish things to her body with those lethal claws. But it didn’t want to hurt her. It wasn’t even trying to fuck her. It wanted her to feel pleasure. That thought, almost – but not quite – more than the feathery strokes of its curved chela as they flitted back and forth across the flared hood of her clit and then traced the smooth pink shaft of her swollen bead, sent her head toppling back into the pillows, her back arched and her legs spread obscenely wide as her knees buckled with a sudden orgasm.
She hadn’t realized it was building, hadn’t noticed the moment that her heart began to pound with something that wasn’t dread, that her frozen terror had melted and then boiled over into something else entirely. But now it burst and spilled through her whole being, washing back and forth in building waves of bliss that mirrored the bounce of her raised hips as her feet pressed flat against the bed, that crested again and again between her trembling thighs as though touching that outstretched spider leg and those nimble digits still stroking her clit, a pinpoint blaze of light surging at the height of each wave. It kept her there with quick, gentle tugs and flicks of its claws around her nub, drawing the surging panic out until it melded with dizzying pleasure.
The parish house was old and full of shadows, and of silently skittering things hiding in the corners and closets. They're just spiders, her father used to reassure her, as if that made the thought of them any better. Spiders, shadows, the bogeyman, they'd gradually become one…
Laura collapsed onto the bed in a blushing, sweaty heap the moment that limb lifted from between her thighs, its twitching black claws gleaming bright with her nectar. The rest of its legs kept a slower, steady pace now, two of them lightly squeezing each of her breasts while another pair fixed each of her freshly swelling nipples with deftly twirling flicks and tugs of their claws. Her thighs brushed along the loosely curled limbs cradling them and she lifted her head from the pillow to look down between her heaving, swaying breasts at the foot of the bed.
A bulbous shape blotted out the window and moonlight, leaving just a faint, subliminal flash of onyx golf-ball eyes staring between her spread calves. It loomed over the bed, sinking closer, its fangs dripping and glistening against the darkness, its mouth a wriggling puzzle of pedipalp limbs and serrated jaws. It was going to eat her now, she weakly supposed; she couldn’t fight through her exhausted stupor enough to be afraid again. At least it’d felt wonderful.
Its forelimbs hoisted her legs higher as its mouth pressed beneath her raised thighs, as its jaws melded with the gleaming shadows between them. The beautiful woman grabbed the sheets and arched back with a cry – a breathless, lilting cry of passionate abandon.
The creature’s maw held her in place without biting or piercing her skin, simply keeping her hips aloft with its jaws and forelegs while those twitching, fleshy pedipalps, each one as thick around as any human member she'd dared consider, took turns plunging between her slick folds. One of them spread her wide around its shaft and moved with slow, rippling strokes inside her, letting her inner walls squeeze and mold themselves against its girth until that deep quivering cadence began to coax her hips into a trembling, swaying rhythm of their own, until she found herself fucking it, rocking and pressing her dripping petals harder against its mouth.
Then the phallus that’d so gently taken her virginity, that’d pierced and filled her and then simply waited for her to take what she wanted from it, pulled loose again to let the other spread and drive deep between her slick pink folds. This one fucked her back, plundering her chaste sex with a twisting, coiling rhythm that stroked every supple inch of her walls, that drove her into a frenzy of panting thrusts as she pressed her feet down harder against the bed for leverage, as her fists clutched and grappled with the fitted sheet on either side of her bouncing hips. This was sex, as wild and beastly as any of the rough brutes she’d fantasized about, and she answered each plunge with an upward thrust of her hips, rocking against the mattress and then daring to lift her right leg and drape it across the bobbing black carapace that eclipsed the bed.
And then it pulled loose with a messy splash of her juices to let the other one, the one she’d already begun to fondly consider as her first, have another turn inside her, this one a slower, more intimate coupling that found her bare hips lifting and squirming sensuously beneath eight gleaming black eyes, her smooth walls squeezing and working its shaft with each languid thrust. Then it pulled loose to let the other one plunder her soaked folds, to fuck her as eagerly as she’d fucked its twin, and then they both pushed inside her, stretching her virgin walls to their limit, magnifying each deep inward stroke into a shuddering, almost unbearable intensity. And she gradually lifted her left foot as well to wrap both her legs around the rutting spider.
To be taken by a gentle lover and a ravenous brute all at once, both of them deep inside her, vying for her affections with each inward plunge around each other, while her clit, engorged and practically white-hot with pleasure, bobbed in and out atop her glittering folds with each quick corkscrew thrust, the one constant in this grotesque ménage à trois – she’d never thought of it, never fantasized about it simply because it wasn’t possible. Laura rolled her hips to meet each dripping pedipalp, rocking harder as she took them both deeper, refusing to choose, and then she arched back with a shrill cry, a trembling, almost sobbing soprano note as she came again.
When her eyes fluttered open, pale arctic blue beneath the hazy moonlight, they lifted to meet those eight black diamond eyes that took in the sight of her naked body so shamelessly, seeing her as no man in the world had ever seen her. She watched them sink away.
“Not yet,” she murmured, and she reached down to grab his forelegs, to draw them back around her waist as she lifted her legs around him again – her bogeyman, her lover, her monster under the bed for just one more night. And the brass bedknobs began to clack against the wall behind them, slow at first, then building into a quick, primal drumbeat, again and again...
Chapter 4: Starting Over
“Good morning!” Laura called from the doorway. “How’d you sleep?”
Wendy looked up from the kitchen counter at her sister and blinked at the sight of Laura in a white T-shirt and long sky-blue skirt, her long Disney princess hair pulled into a loose ponytail. It wasn’t exactly the sort of thing she’d pick for a night out, but for once Laura looked like the younger sister between them. Wendy shook her head and glanced down at her coffee.
“Terrible,” she said. “I kept dreaming I was back in the church choir.”
“That’s what you’re afraid of?” Laura scoffed.
“S-so what?” Wendy stammered, “Like you’re afraid of having a good time!”
Her little sister shrugged and smiled mysteriously, and turned toward the window to look out at the sunrise, at the golden light spreading through the valley and the town stirring far below. Wendy glanced out the window over her shoulder, and then noticed a jerky, crawling movement cresting the short sleeve of Laura’s T-shirt; she drew a sharp breath and then paused before speaking again, her voice calm and steady. “Hold still a moment. I’ll take care of…”
Laura had already followed her sister's wide stare with a curious glance, and she flashed another cryptic smile at the sight of the small brown spider crawling up her shoulder. She cupped her right hand beneath it, shook her sleeve to let it tumble onto her palm, and then set the scrabbling spider onto the counter. "It's okay," she murmured to it. "I'll miss you too."
“Uh, you’re scared of spiders. Are you okay?”
“Never better,” Laura answered with a faintly blushing smile. She poured herself a cup of coffee and then raised the steaming drink like a toast. “Here’s to starting over.”