Inscrutable: impossible to understand or interpret, incomprehensible; mysterious or enigmatic
It appeared silently and unannounced but to her it was a like a boom, a thud to the adrenal glands. A whooshing in the ears accompanied by instant trembling. She was vaguely aware of a whimper escaping from her throat and tried to hold herself very still in her purple pyjamas on her purple bedding like camouflaged prey.
Oh God. I’d forgotten about this. Why now? Make it go away. Please no, please no, please no…
The adrenalin was shooting through her arms and legs and her fingers tingled. The fight or flight instinct was most definitely flight. But still she stayed in the same place. Her eyes fixed. If she kept her eyes on it, she could watch it while she planned her next move. If she looked away, anything might happen. Her right leg jiggled.
Run. Run. Get away, get away.
She bravely shuffled backwards slightly in order to find the floor with her feet, intending to back out of the room but it moved too and she found herself leaping into the air and standing on the bed, stifling a scream with her hand.
Oh, help. No. Don’t like it. Aaaagh!
It scuttled away under the bed.
She long-jumped off the bed and across the room towards the door in two enormous strides. Slippy fingers couldn’t grasp the handle quick enough and she danced on the spot as if to keep her feet off the floor. As she threw open the door a moment of sense stopped her and she thought about how she would keep warm. She gritted her teeth and charged back into the room, growling at the space around her, made a grab for her bed covers, hugged them tight and raced back out of the room, slamming the door behind her. She punched on every single light on her way to the sitting room and then leapt onto the sofa, drew her legs up close to her away from the floor, wrapped her arms around herself and looked about the well-lit room, panting.
‘You have to sleep in your room again sometime,’ I – her mother – said, four nights later. ‘You’re not getting enough sleep in here.’
We – her parents – went upstairs to bed, hoping she would have enough sense to turn the lights off tonight.
‘I don’t get it,’ I whispered to her father. ‘How can such an intelligent, rational girl suddenly become so peculiar?’
‘It’s a mystery to me.’
‘Oh. I don’t bloody believe it! Where have you been hiding, you little bastard?’
She knew it had been a good idea keeping the lights on. Imagine if she’d not seen it… If it had run across the floor and crawled up the sides of the sofa and … well … what then?
She drew her legs and her covers up close and stared, perching like a fairy on a toadstool, straight and statuesque.
‘Stay away, you bastard. Stay away from me,’ she hissed.
Where would it go next? What would it do next? Why was it even there?
And why was it so dark, mysterious and unpredictable?
She imagined dialling 999…
‘Hello. Yes. Spider. Big one. Really big. Massive in fact, with the fastest big ugly legs you ever saw. It’s going to… OH! … Help. Please come quickly! I may need a helicopter.’
I was fast asleep in bed, dreaming that my mobile phone had been making a noise and forced myself awake enough to investigate.
One missed call and one text.
‘Spider. Help. Can’t move.’
I appeared downstairs at 1am, stumbling and squinting into the room, and peering angrily at my daughter. I mumbled something crossly and then went to the kitchen to get a glass. I placed the glass over the spider and then took a postcard from the bookcase, slid it under the glass and carried the spider away to drop it out of the kitchen window, swearing about something to do with sleep and waking the dog up.
‘You know this is completely irrational,’ I said, coughing and heading back to bed.
‘I need to sleep,’ I said, as I fell back into bed. My cough won’t get better if I don’t sleep. And she needs to sleep. Sleep deprivation can make people a bit odd. And what if she can’t get up for work? She’ll lose her job.’
Her father grunted and went back to sleep as I lay in the dark wondering if the light was still on downstairs, why our daughter had a fear that neither I nor her father had. I did have a terrible flap if a moth or a daddy longlegs came into the house on a summer evening though. Why? Was it the unpredictable behaviour? The sudden movement? Maybe fear is healthy, I thought. Maybe we all need to be afraid of something. But this fear that there may be something lurking and a terror attached to an uncertainty about how and when it may appear, I didn’t have.
I coughed myself into a reasonably alert enough state to say goodbye to everyone in the morning and showered while worrying about our daughter. She hadn’t tidied her room for months and the day before she made an attempt to clear up in order to vacuum. But she’d refused to take anything out from under her bed.
‘I’m not tidying her room,’ I said to her father when I was dressed. ‘She’s supposed to tidy it herself in order to get her monthly allowance. It’s not like we ask anything else of her.’
‘We’ll never get any peace otherwise,’ her father said, heading upstairs with the vacuum cleaner. ‘Or sleep.’
I tapped “Spider phobias” into Google and took a sip of coffee. ‘It’s not going to get rid of her fear of spiders, though, is it?’ I yelled.
People with young children want reassurance that life gets easier when the children get older. There will be less worrying, less juggling, more sleeping.
You don’t have exactly the same problems, that’s true…
This is where we are now. In the middle of the spider saga.
To be continued…