Woman lives in the basement of an underground apartment house. Her windows are glued with worms. Her floors are lumped ore.
No one can afford to live aboveground anymore. The Californians have come. Many miles above Woman the Californians streak by in breathable fabrics, drinking the best bottled water in the land.
Woman has never seen her neighbors. The apartment house is sixty stories deep and sinks deeper with each new tenant. The ladder Woman climbs to the ground goes on forever and ends at an icy dumpster where she places her waste before pickup on Monday.
Woman knows what is happening. Soon the worms will disappear from view and her apartment will penetrate the hot yielding mantle plates that slide slower than fingernails grow.
Woman lives in a hellish elevator. Meanwhile the rent continues to increase.
Woman is floating in the bathtub when she detects a visitor in the room. She sinks into the water until her ears are submerged and waits.
There is a spider on the ceiling above her.
SPIDER: Let me fill the hole inside you.
WOMAN: You will not succeed.
SPIDER: While small, my surface area is quite large.
WOMAN: My holes are too many.
SPIDER: My advance is increased by resistance.
WOMAN: I will not permit it.
SPIDER: I will honor your wishes now but In the end you will submit.
Woman surfaces. Her body at 22 is inoffensive, cancels itself out. Surrounding her is an amount of time that is shaped by no one. She could eat the spider like she ate the earwigs, the silverfish, the moths, and the rest. Or she could end her bath and leave the threat where it descended, unhonored.
Woman cedes the bathtub to the spider.
Woman gruels for eight hours on the Internet. She leaves her machine and moves down a tunnel to her sleeping cell. The cinderblocks are sweating again. The air in the cell smells like dirt and tastes like a scalp.
She peels the sheets off of the floor and puts them back on the bed. The spider is on her pillow.
WOMAN: This too?
SPIDER: This and many others.
Woman cedes the bed. She returns to her machine. She straps herself to her kitchen chair and stares at videos of sleeping people.
The apartment building rivets against the crust of the earth.
Woman wakes to an odd pleasure. She unstraps herself and stands. And then she knows.
WOMAN: Is it you?
SPIDER: Who else?
Woman squats and jumps.
WOMAN: I cannot give you what you require.
SPIDER: My requirements are unknown to you.
The ceiling drops. Woman shambles from tunnel to machine, develops a hunch. She loses interest in all prey. Her freezer goes shallow, and the floor fills with sucked bones.
The windows cloud with steam. Their sills pool thick orange milk. Woman arranges her body on the floor in forms befitting a fossil.
The spider squeezes inside her until she cums. Her muscles contract, shooting the spider to new tissues until it wraps its long, jointed legs around a lung.
SPIDER: You will climb the ladder.
WOMAN: I will not.
SPIDER: This apartment is inhospitable.
WOMAN: Prepare for compaction.
SPIDER: I will not. Soon I will occupy your frontal lobe. Your motors will be vanquished you have no choice.
The ladder is a scaffold of cold metal. Woman climbs quickly but gains little ground. The apartment building is sunk. Woman is the last to vacate. The upper floors have been seized by earwigs. Earwigs eat dinner at tables. Earwigs practice the violin. Earwigs argue with automated bank tellers. When Woman slows to watch, the spider pricks at the strings behind her eyeballs and she hurls herself at the ladder again.
The Mass Ejected
Woman reaches the street bloody and wrangled. The spider urges her to crawl to a bar for hydration. She does.
A Californian stands behind it. She drops a handful of wheatgrass into a tumbler and hands Woman a seven-inch stainless-steel cocktail straw.
WOMAN: Will you do something for me?
(WOMAN tells her)
Woman the spider and the Californian walk to the Columbia River Bridge. Woman bends over. The Californian jams the metal straw into Woman’s ear. The Californian sucks and sucks until she has sucked out Woman’s entire brain. It is in her teeth.
WOMAN: Spit it out!
The mass ejected is a spit placenta that shatters on the icy surface of the Columbia. The spider is witnessed riding Woman’s brain like a small sinking boat.
Yours now, says Woman.
Sara Kachelman’s work has appeared in DIAGRAM, Fanzine, and Portland Review. She lives in a basement.