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A Story for the Fans

Mary: About


Mary lived in a nice little house in a quiet neighborhood. Her neighbors were mostly pleasant and she enjoyed doing projects around her house. It was a good life for Mary and she was able to live comfortably. 

The year she turned 37, she decided to remodel her porch. Mary's cousin, Randy, was a contractor, and he came over one afternoon to discuss her plans. Randy enjoyed helping Mary realize the goals she carefully planned out for her home. Over the 11 years she had owned her home, Randy had done a lot of work for Mary, who was his only cousin. 


Mary shared her vision with Randy over some lemonade. 


"I'd really like to extend the patio to run along the entire length of the house," she told Randy, who was nodding in agreement. 


"Do you want to cover the whole thing?" Randy asked between sips of his drink. 


"I think so. Could you install some ceiling fans and, maybe, a misting system?" 


"You can do the mister yourself, Mary. You don't need me to do that," chided Randy. 


"Hmmm."  Mary paused to consider the job. 


Randy was used to Mary's long pauses. There was only about six months difference in their ages, and they had basically grown up together. He was used to her quirks and her pauses were a byproduct of being an assistant principal at an elementary school. Mary had learned early on that giving students time to process their thoughts allowed them to feel some autonomy during their conversations. 


"You're right, Randy. I could do that. I would probably enjoy it." 


She smirked at him. Mary knew Randy was just trying to save her some money and she appreciated it. He already gave her a huge break on what he would normally charge. 


For the next half hour, they came up with a plan. Randy gave Mary his quote, which was ridiculously low, and they agreed to move forward. Randy was free to start in one week and he thought the addition would take about two weeks to complete. He would take care of the permits the next day. 


Randy gave Mary a hug before he left and said, "I think you're really going to like hanging out on your new porch." 


Mary smiled and said, "I think you're right." 


Three weeks later, Mary spent the first evening on her new porch. She had splurged a bit on some furniture and it had arrived earlier in the day. Mary had taken the afternoon off from Carleton Middle School where she worked and taken the delivery of the furniture with a huge smile on her face. 


Mary had considered asking Connie, her best friend, to come over for dinner to see the new porch, but she wanted to just take it in by herself on this first night. As she sat down on the new outdoor sofa, she grabbed a book to read and the remote control for her new fans. 


It wasn't a particularly warm day, but Mary thought it would be nice to turn on the fans. Randy had talked her into some fancier fans than she had wanted, but he was able to get them for roughly the same price as the fans she had originally chosen so she had decided to embrace his idea. She thought the remote control made them fancy and she was right. 


The fans were pretty darn fancy, she thought to herself and turned her attention to her book. 


After about an hour, she decided to head inside and make some dinner. She picked up the remote and pointed it towards the fan closest to her and pressed the off button. She repeated this for each of the three fans and headed towards the new French doors Randy has installed a few years earlier. 


While two of the fans were noticeably slowing down, the third, which was closest to the eastern edge of the porch was still going strong. Mary pointed the remote at the fan and hit the off button again. This time the fan began to slow down, so she went in the house to make dinner. 


Two days later, Connie came over to see the new porch. It was a Friday and Connie and Mary often spent the end of the work week drinking wine, eating snacks, and watching movies. 


"I love it!" Connie exclaimed. 


"I do, too," said Mary as she handed Connie a glass of pinot grigio. 


"I love the fans, too. They are so cool looking. Wait..." 


"What?" Mary asked. 


"Where are the chains? How do you turn them on and off?" 


"Remote control." 


"Wow. Fancy!" 


"I know. I'll turn them on." 


Mary pointed the remote at the fan on the west edge of the porch and the fan started to turn. 


"That's cool. It turned the other one on, too," Connie said. 




"What, Mar?" 


"That's weird. That fan just sort of has a mind of it's own." 


"What do you mean?" 


"It turns itself on and off randomly. I need to call Randy and have him come check it out." 


"The other two work fine?" Connie asked. 


"Yep. What happened with Ms. Cook today?" 


The two friends slipped into their normal routine of work gossip, laughter, and Friday fun. 



The next morning, Mary called Randy and explained what was going on with the fan. 


"I can come by later and check it out if you like," he said. 


"Sure. I might be running errands, but you know where the spare key is if I'm not home. Thanks, Randy." 


Sure enough, Mary was out and about when Randy rolled up around 2:30pm. He took the fan apart and checked the wiring. Everything was solid. He turned each fan on and off and there were no issues. He even waited to see if the fan would turn itself on or off while he was there and nothing happened. 


Before he left, he texted Mary. 


"Hey cuz. I checked everything out and it seems to be working just fine. Let me know if that changes. See you at Uncle Bill's next week?" 


Mary was relieved to see the text a few minutes later and texted Randy back. 


"Thank you, R! See you next week." 


She didn't think of the fan again the rest of the day. 

The next morning, Mary thought she would spend an hour or two doing some yoga on the porch. She loved starting a Sunday morning off with some yoga and as a longtime practitioner, she was able to practice anywhere there was enough space. She was excited to break the porch in, as they say. 


Mary got her mat and began to slowly stretch out before getting into her first pose. She felt a slight breeze, which was odd, because it was a calm morning. She turned her head and sure enough, the phantom fan was spinning. Mary was sure it had not been spinning when she stepped onto the porch a few minutes earlier, but it was certainly spinning now. 


Mary slipped back into the house and grabbed the remote from the kitchen counter. She walked back outside, pointed the remote at the fan, and pushed the off button. 


Nothing happened. 


She pushed the button again. Nothing. Again. Nothing. 


Normally, Mary was pretty calm, but this was getting ridiculous. 


"Fuck! Turn off you son of a bitch. Fuckin' Randy!!!" 


Mary thought about throwing the remote across the backyard, but she didn't. Instead she took a deep breath and decided to try and refocus herself and get back into the yoga frame of mind. It was not going to be easy. She decided to start with some morning meditation instead. 


It didn't work, though, and Mary found herself fixating on the indignant fan. She thought to herself, "Why?" She knew Randy had checked it out and it had worked fine for him. She thought about calling him, but she didn't want to bother him on a Sunday morning. 


Instead, she walked into the house and sat on her couch before turning on the TV. Maybe she would do some yoga later. 

Mary: Text

Mary flipped through the channels and settled on an old Martin Sheen movie that was on TCM. It was called The Believers and it had to do with voodoo or something. Mary was a fan of the elder Sheen and got wrapped up in the film pretty quickly. In the movie, Sheen discovers that the bad guys are sacrificing children as part of spree of ritual murders around New York City. 


While she was watching the movie, Connie texted her. 


"What's up?" 


"Watching a Martin Sheen movie. Avoiding the porch." 


"What's wrong?" 


"The fan. I hate the fan." 


"Still acting weird?" 


"Yep. At least this movie is pretty good." 


"What's it about?" 


"Ritual murders and some nonsense." 


"Call me when it's over." 




Mary focused on the movie and it occurred to her that maybe she needed to make some sort of sacrifice to the fan. Maybe that would work. She laughed at the notion, but also looked out the kitchen window to see if the fan was in motion and it was. 


The week was going smoothly for Mary and Spring was beginning to realize itself. Beautiful mornings and early evenings, but still a slight chill here and there. Flowers were beginning to bloom and the citrus trees in Mary's backyard were waking up. Life, as she liked to say to students visiting her office, was good if you just let it be what it needs to be. 


After PD on Wednesday, Mary decided to do a little work in her flower beds. It had been an easy session, and the teachers were all glad to be out of the gymnasium a bit early. Mary thought about her own days in the classroom and how the professional development days could be such a waste of time. Now that she was on the other side of things, she understood how important the opportunity to learn and bond with your peers actually was. 


The day before, she had noticed there were a few weeds, though, sprouting up around her sunflowers, so she thought she would use the extra daylight to get rid of them. After changing into some gardening duds, Mary went out into the backyard and noticed the phantom fan was again cooling off an empty porch. 


"Motherfucker! Give it a rest!" She barked at the moving blades. 


She turned her attention to the flower bed. While she was fussing with the weeds, she happened to find what looked like a spider's egg sack attached to one of the river rocks that separated the garden bed from the outside wall of her home. This made her forget about the fan for a bit. 


Mary was not a fan of spiders at all. If there was any 'bug' that really got her heart going, it was a spider. She could handle the occasional sewer roach she would find in and around her house in the summer time. She also didn't mind a worm or even a moth, but spiders got under her skin quickly. 


She took out her cell phone and said, "Hey Siri." 


"Mmhmm?" Siri responded in the quaint midwestern accent she had chosen. 


"What do black widow egg sacks look like?" 


A picture and link to a website quickly appeared on her screen and her suspicions were confirmed. A black widow had to be close by and her babies were getting ready to pop. Mary scrolled through the webpage she had opened on her phone and found the best way to remove an egg sack. 


Luckily she had some insecticide that was also good for arachnids, so she got up to head to the shed to grab it. While she was in the shed, she also grabbed an old pair of barbecue tongs she had once used to pick up a dead bird in her yard with a few years back. Mary thought it could be useful for picking up the egg sack, too. 


When Mary came back with the spray can and the tongs, a funny thought jumped into her head. Before pulling the proverbial trigger, she decided to say something. 


"I sacrifice you little shits to the fan God. All hail the fan God." 


Saying this out loud made her giggle at the absurd notion of these words, but there was something else there, too. A curiosity, maybe, or was it hope? She pulled the trigger back and doused the egg sack in the poison. 


The website had suggested waiting about 15 minutes before removing the egg sack and disposing of it, so she thought she would get back to her weeding, but first, she would try the remote control and see if she could turn the fan off. 


When Mary got to the remote and aimed it at the fan, nothing happened. It continued to spin and she continued to be frustrated. She stomped back to the flower bed and pulled a few weeds to work out her frustration. 


After about twenty minutes, she decided to dispose of the egg sack. She took the tongs and carefully removed the sack from the side of the river rock. She wanted to make sure the spiders were dead, so she lightly placed the egg sack on one of the pavers that led from her porch to the flower bed. 


Mary raised her gardening boot and stepped down hard on the sack to crush it and anything inside of it. She was looking at the phantom fan as she did this and to her astonishment, it began to slow down. The remote was still on the table near the door where she had left it twenty minutes before. 


"Fan God?" Mary asked. "Did you do that?" 




Mary's eyes followed the blades of the phantom fan as it slowed. Seconds passed. 






Two minutes. 


She didn't realize the blades had stopped moving for a full five minutes and thirty nine seconds. 


Mary was completely calm when she realized that she was standing there staring at the fan and it dawned on her that it had stopped. There was an odd buzzy feeling in the sole of her left foot. It wasn't quite pain, but it was very uncomfortable. 


She stole another look at the fan, which was motionless like it's two, better behaved,  identical siblings and turned back to the flowerbed. 


The odd feeling in her foot captured her attention again. She decided to move over to the lounge chair on the porch next to the sofa and check it out. Mary sat down and removed her left gardening boot. 


She noticed there was a ball of goo on the bottom of her boot and remembered bringing the boot down on the egg sack several minutes ago. 


Damn, she thought. It seemed like it had been an hour or more since she stomped on the baby spiders and it had only been a little more than five minutes. Clearly she needed a vacation. Spring break couldn't get here soon enough. 


It was almost like her foot was asleep, but that didn't seem right. It felt more alive than asleep and Mary felt something even stranger than what was coming from her foot creep into her mind. She was scared to take off her sock. 


Mary slowly started the peel the ankle sock over her foot. As she did, her foot was suddenly aflame with the sting of a thousand fiery needles. Mary shrieked. 


Crumpled up in the middle of her foot was a full grown black widow spider. 


For a split second, Mary imagined the spider was speaking to her. 


"You killed my babies, but it's going to kill you." 


Mary blinked hard as if to see if she was really seeing what she was seeing. The black widow was still there. It moved one spindly, angular leg and dragged the tip across the bottom of Mary's foot about a half an inch. 


"The best part, my dear," the spider whispered in Mary's head. 


"It's going to kill you slowly." 


Mary brought her right fist sharply into the bottom of her foot, crushing yet another spider on that afternoon. The pain in her foot immediately subsided. 


She also felt a slight breeze on her shoulder and turned her head to look at the fan. Spinning in it's place was the black widow she had just crushed but it was now about 50x larger. 


Mary screamed again. 

Mary: Text

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For the second time in just a few minutes, Mary snapped back to consciousness wondering what the fuck was going on. She had no idea how long she was screaming for, but the giant black widow spider spinning over her head on the porch was just a fan again, albeit a fan with a mind of it's own. 


Had the early warm early spring day gotten to her, she wondered. Was it the chemicals from the bug spray? Surely she was hallucinating. If Mary was anything, she was a rational thinker. There had to be an explanation for what she just experienced. She looked down at her bare left foot. 


Again she felt afraid to look at the sole of her foot, but she sat back down on the chaise lounge and checked it out. There was nothing there. No spider bite, redness, or odd sensation of being extra 'alive.' 


"What the fuck," she muttered. "I'm losing it." 


Mary decided to go inside the house. At that moment she didn't care about fans or weeds or  dead baby spiders. She needed to break free of the spell of the afternoon and she needed to do it quickly. 


After shutting and locking the French doors, Mary ambled over the kitchen, still with one bare foot and one in a gardening boot. She opened the refrigerator door and grabbed the bottle of Pinot Grigio she and Connie hadn't finished the previous week. They had planned to finish it on Friday, but it wasn't going to see Thursday after the experience Mary had with the black widow. 


She didn't even bother to grab a glass. Mary popped the wine stopper out  and took a healthy swig right from the bottle. After stopping to take a quick breath, she tilted it back again and finished it off. 


The rest of the night was a blur of popcorn, Modern Family reruns on cable, and a very hot bath. When Mary's eyes popped open at 5:30am the next day, she wondered if she had dreamt it all. As she brushed her teeth, she looked in the mirror and saw someone she didn't recognize. This version of herself was scared. 


She was on autopilot for the rest of the day. As she coasted through her work, catching up on paperwork in the safe confines of her office, she kept thinking about the words of the spider. "Slowly" kept reverberating in her head. 


Had it already begun? 


"Your place or mine?" 


Mary looked up to see Connie in the doorway of her office. It took a second to register, but Mary realized Connie was asking about their usual Friday night decompression session. 


"Let's do your place," Mary said. "I need a break from my house." 


Connie laughed at this. 


"The bill for the porch getting you down, friend?" 


Mary wanted to say, 'No, that's not it. I am scared of the fan,' but instead, she just shrugged her shoulders and said, "I guess so." 


"Do you want to grab that bottle of Pinot we started last week and head over after work?" Connie asked. 


"It's gone," Mary said flatly. 


"Sheesh, Mar. Must've been some week. I'll stop at Total Wine on the way home then and stock up. Sounds like we have a lot to talk about." 


Mary realized that Connie was picking up on more than she wanted to share, but it might be nice to talk through the weirdness of the last couple of days. 


"Maybe grab some whiskey, too," Mary said. 


"You better bring your PJ's, then. Can't have the second banana getting a DUI right before Spring Break." 


Mary liked it when Connie called her the second banana. It was an in-joke between the two of them that went back to a conversation they had years before. Connie was the first person Mary had told about going for her Masters in Educational Leadership. 


"Here's to the next second banana," Connie had said and two years later, she became one when the assistant principal job came open at their school. Over the years, the nickname had evolved into things like "B2", "Banana-fo-fana", and "Banarama" (after the 80s girl band they both loved). 


After work, Mary ran home to change her clothes and pack an overnight bag. She was definitely going to get drunk, but it remained to be seen whether or not she would let Connie know about the spiders. She wasn't sure she could face it yet. 


As Mary walked through her kitchen, she noticed that the garbage was about to overflow. She had been avoiding the backyard since the spider incident, but now needed to run the trash out to the can in the alley. Could she walk outside without looking at the fan? 


She wasn't sure. With trepidation, she reached for the door handle. 


Mary felt the door knob in her hand. It felt real. It was difficult for this self-possessed, typically levelheaded woman to feel so much fear about stepping out onto her new porch. Just a week earlier, she had been so happy about Randy's excellent work and her new furniture. But now, she was scared to see the fan. 


Almost instinctively, she put the bag of garbage that she was holding in front of her as she pushed the door open and stepped outside. Maybe it would act as a sort of buffer between her and what she thought might be waiting for her. 


Mary's eyes were drawn to the fan. Mercifully, it was still, but she almost tripped over her left gardening boot as she started toward the alley gate. She kept expecting the fan to start at any moment, but it didn't move. 


"Thank God," she muttered under her breath as she kicked the gardening boot aside, quickly deciding to get a new pair next time she was at Walmart. Mary strode quickly towards the back gate, entered the combination in the lock, and deposited the trash in the large black bin she shared with her neighbors. 


As stepped back in her yard, Mary felt relieved for the first time in two days. Maybe it was just the chemicals from the insecticide. She couldn't remember when she bought. Maybe it goes even more toxic over time, she thought. 


As she walked across her yard, she was excited to head over to Connie's and have some fun. Mary took one last look at the fan as she opened the French door to her kitchen. It was still. 


Mary grabbed her things and headed for the carport door. As she stepped out into the late afternoon sun, she decided she would tell Connie everything, including what the spider had told her. 


Unbeknownst to her, as she pulled out of her driveway and steered her Prius towards Connie's house, all three fans on the porch began to turn very, very slowly. 


As Connie sat down in the seat across her kitchen table from Mary, she nodded in her friend's direction. 


"I know that look. Spill." 


"Am I that transparent?" Mary asked. 


"You are. The only ones who don't seem to know it are the students. You still seem to fool them on a daily basis." 


"Thank God for small favors, I suppose." 




Mary paused and slowly moved the spoon around in the soup Connie had just recently placed in front of her. Connie made great soup and this albondigas looked and smelled amazing. Her meatballs were perfectly formed and as Mary knew from experience, they would be equally delicious. 


"How many times have you heard me say, 'You're not going to believe this,' over the years?" 


"Probably 200 a year for the past twenty years or so. You're the one who's good at math. You tell me." 


"Well, you're really not going to believe this," Mary said, before continuing: "I'm just going to say it and then you can ask questions, okay?" 


Mary proceeded to relay what she remembered about Wednesday's encounter with the fan and the spider. As she talked, Connie's face went from smiling to gravely serious. When Mary was finished, she guided a spoonful of her soup to her mouth and waited for Connie to say something. 


"Were you roofied? Seriously. Could someone have slipped you something? I mean, I played around with acid and mushrooms when I was in high school and that story seems like something that would have happened back then." 


"I wasn't roofied," Mary said calmly. "I had a few mushroom trips myself and this was nothing like that." 


Connie sat back in her chair. Mary looked at the expression on her friend's face and wasn't sure what to think of it. Theirs was a friendship that had no secrets. She trusted Connie with her life. When Connie's late husband, Jim, had been killed in that car accident almost a decade ago, Mary had been there for Connie the whole time and she knew that Connie would the same for her if the occasion ever arose. 


Finally, Connie said, "You can't really be implying that the fan is...what? Haunted?" 


"I don't know what it is, Connie. All I know is that I'm scared to go out in my backyard now and I haven't been scared like this since I was a little girl and my dad took me to see Amityville Horror." 


The two women sat in silence for a few minutes, pushing their spoons around the tan crockware Connie had gotten for her 40th birthday, but neither of them took a bite. 


"I can't..." Connie broke off her sentence as quickly as it started to come out. 


"I know. I can't either." 


"You need to have Randy come over and get rid of it. Tell him you changed your mind. You don't like the style. Just get rid of it," Connie repeated. 


"I've thought of that, really I have. I don't think it is the fan, though. I think it is something wrong with me." 


"But you're as healthy as a horse," Connie said, suddenly choking back tears. The thought of Mary being ill was almost too much for her to bear. 


"I know. I feel like am, but people just don't talk to spiders, do they?" 


"It sounded to me like the spider was doing all the talking, Mar. Tell me what it said again." 


Mary repeated the spider's threats and even tried to mimic it which gave each woman goosebumps. 


"I'm glad I'm staying here tonight, Con. I don't think I can go back home alone any time soon." 


Connie reached out and laid her palm out towards her friend. 


"You can stay here as long as you like, but I think we should go over there tomorrow and take it down. I still have all of Jim's tools. I could never bring myself to get rid of any of them." 


For the next ten minutes, all you could hear in Connie's house was the clinking of spoons in old tan bowls. 

Mary: Text

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Mary fell asleep on Connie's couch while they were watching an old movie. My Favorite Year with Peter O'Toole and Mark Linn-Baker was just the tonic for the weirded out souls after Mary's dinner time revelations, but the whiskey did them both in before O'Toole's sword was sheathed at the end. 


They didn't talk much during the film, but both women were lost in thought. Connie was worried for her friend on several levels, but didn't know what to do or say for her. She also had an insatiable curiosity to see the fan. More than see it, she wanted to feel it. 


While Connie couldn't say for sure that she believed in talking spiders, she did believe Mary. If Mary said it happened, it did. Of that much, she was sure, but was it real or was it just a hallucination of some sort. Either way, the next day was looming on her mind during the lighthearted comedy flickering on the television screen. 


Connie had heard Mary lightly snoring next to her and covered her with an afghan her mother had knitted before turning off the TV and lights in her cozy living room. Sometimes Mary shared her bed when they had sleepovers, but usually they would end up falling asleep on the big L-shaped couch. 


As she got herself ready for bed, she thought she heard Mary stir, but then there was only silence coming from the living room. Within two minutes of her head hitting her pillow, Connie was asleep, too. It was just after 10:30pm and the house was quiet. 


At 1:12am, Mary sat up on the couch and stared into the darkness. Discombobulated and still a little drunk, She reached around for her phone to see the time. It felt like she had been asleep for days, but it had only been about three and a half hours. 


There was a text message on her phone. Mary rubbed her eyes and stared as closely as she could muster at the number the message was from. It was her home number. 


That's impossible, she thought to herself. But sure enough, it was her number. The was no text in the message but there was a video. Mary was afraid to press play, but she did anyway. The video itself was only a ten or fifteen seconds long, but it was enough to end Mary's night of sleep. 


She rushed into Connie's room and woke her friend up. 


"You have to see this," Mary said, shaking. 


Connie took the phone from Mary's trembling hands and stared in disbelief. It was the fan. Spinning slowly and the light was blinking on and off, on and off, on and off. The pattern repeated itself three times during the duration. 


"It's Morse Code, I'm sure of it," Connie said after the two friends had collected themselves. 


The initial shock, plus the late hour, had made it tough to focus. 


"Why do you think that?" Mary asked. 


"One of my students did a report on Morse Code a few years ago and did a little demonstration of how it would work by using a flashlight. Play it again." 


Mary fumbled with her phone and started the video. 


"See, look. The light does long and short pulses. It's starts with short, short, long, short. Then there is a pause. Then it does short, short, long. Then another pause, then long, short, short, short, pause, shit. We need to write this down." 


"Do you have a pad in here?" 


"Yes, over on my night stand. If there isn't a pen or pencil, there's one in the drawer." 


Mary crawled across the king size bed and grabbed the pad. There was a pencil next to it and a grocery list started on top page. Without thinking, Mary flipped to the next page and said, "Start it again." 


Connie read off the sequence again and added the last few bits. 


"Hey Siri," Mary said. 


"Mm-hmm," replied the robot. 


"Tell me about Morse Code." 


Mary's phone was directed to a website with a breakdown of the Code, including all 26 letters of the alphabet and numbers one through ten. Connie read off the tablet and they deciphered the message. 


It read: F - U - Both. 


This made Mary giggle and then Connie started to laugh. 


"Eff us? Eff you, motherfucker. You're fucking with the wrong ladies," Connie choked out between chuckles. 


Mary looked at her friend and collapsed backwards into the pillows behind her. 


"Is somebody fucking with me?" she asked. 


Connie just kept on laughing and handed Mary her phone which was now vibrating. 


"Looks like you have another message." 

The color drained out of Mary's face when she heard Connie's words. 


"Fucking hell. Is it the fan again?" 


"It's your phone. Besides, I don't want to look. He knows I'm involved," Connie replied. 


Mary took the phone from Connie and stared at the screen intently. She selected her text messages and sure enough, there was another message from her home phone. It was also a video. Mary did not want to hit play, but she did feel safe there in Connie's bedroom, so she lined her finger up with the button and pressed down. 


The screen shifted to the video. It was Mary's kitchen. The lights were on and everything seemed normal, but Mary muttered to herself and Connie, "Who is filming these things and why are they fucking with me?" 


As if on cue, the lights went out and the screen went dark. Mary could barely make out the shape of the island just off the kitchen door. There seemed to be movement on the top of the island. She and Connie leaned forward to try and get a better look. 


The light snapped on again and the island was covered with a sea of small, brown-ish red spiders. The camera zoomed in on them and the iPhone screen was suddenly full of them, crawling all over each other and the tile countertop. 


Some of the spiders were clearly eating other spiders and for a second, it seemed like one of them was peering directly into the camera as it ate the eyes of it's brother or sister. Mary put her free hand over her mouth to stifle a scream, but Connie wasn't so lucky. She let out a combination groan/scream that Mary not only heard, but she felt it, too. 


The lights flickered again at the spiders were gone. The video ended a few seconds later and Mary and Connie sat there in silence for what seemed like an hour. 


"Um. We need to get some sleep." 


The fear and fatigue was obvious in Connie's voice. Mary didn't want to overwhelm her friend any further. She felt terrible for involving her in this, whatever it was. 


"You're right, Con. I'm bunking with you, though, if that's okay. Let's sort this out in the morning." 


"If we can. Right now, I don't know. I'm scared, Mary. That video was fucking weird." 


"I know. Let's get some sleep ... and thank you. I'm sorry." 


"Don't be. I love you. We'll get through this," Connie said, sounding even wearier than before. 


Mary didn't believe the last statement, though. She looked up at the ceiling just before Connie turned out the light on her bedside table. 


There was a tiny spider dangling from a web attached to the ceiling. 


"Please turn the light back on, Connie. Just for a second." 


Connie turned the light on and turned to Mary. 


"What is it? What's wrong." 


"Look up." 


Connie squinted to focus on the ceiling and saw the spider. It had gotten a bit lower and was hovering about three feet above them. 


"I don't think that's a black widow, Mar." 


"So what. It's still weird." 


"I know. Let me get rid of it." 


Connie got up onto her knees, grabbed a Kleenex from the box near her lamp, and reached toward the spider with one hand. She intended to squish it in the tissue but as she got close to it, the spider disappeared. 


"What the...?" 


There was no web and no spider anymore. It simply vanished. 


"You saw it, too, right?" Mary asked. 


"I did. I wanted to crush it." 


"We're going crazy, but at least it's crazy together." 


"One thing, though." 


"What's that?" 


"Is there anything you didn't tell me yet?" Connie asked. 


"No. You know what I know." 


Connie was quiet again. She reached over and turned out the light. When the darkness settled across the room, Connie said, "That fan is fucking with the wrong broads." 


This made Mary laugh, which made Connie laugh, and they settled in for what would be a deep sleep. 

While Connie snored next to her, which was almost comforting, Mary tossed and turned. She went from one fitful dream to another. It was like a barrage of horrible imagery between staring out the ceiling, looking for imaginary spiders. In one blast of subconscious moviemaking, Mary was trapped in a classroom and the students were all growing spider legs before chasing her around the room. 


Around 8:30am, Connie woke up to find the bed was empty. She went out into her kitchen and Mary was sitting at the table drinking coffee and looking intently at her phone. 


"Any more videos?" she asked. 


"No," Mary replied. "No more videos. I feel like there has to be some clues, though. Someone was filming these things, right?" 


"Who would want to hurt you like this, though?' 


Mary looked at Connie. She could read her friend as well as she could read anyone. Could she really be thinking that this was not the work of another person? Mary didn't know what was going on here, but she wasn't ready to believe that there was something going on that could not be easily explained. 


While she was laying awake, Mary wondered if Randy was messing with her somehow. He was known for the occasional practical joke. In fact, he had pulled some pretty elaborate ones in the past, but this was just weird. Cruel, too, and that wasn't Randy's style. 


"I don't know, Con. I hope we can get some answers today, though. You still want to dig in?" 


"You bet I do. First, though, we got some fans to take down." 


Connie told Mary she was going to grab some of Jim's tools and she would be back in the house in just a bit. As she walked to the storage room, the events of the previous evening ran through her mind. It dawned on her that Mary seemed numb to the second text message. 


What must she be feeling, Connie wondered. She had been searching now for hours for a logical explanation but she couldn't come up with anything other than it was some cruel prank being played on Mary, and now her. She decided to focus on gathering tools. 


She grabbed Jim's old tool box. He loved that thing. He called it his "Trusty Rusty" since it had a little bit of rust at the corners on one side. Connie picked up Trusty Rusty and set it on the work bench Jim had built during the first year they lived in the house. 


Connie opened the well-worn box to see what was inside and what she would need. There was a folded piece of lined paper on the top tray. It looked like the type of note her students would sometimes pass to each other when they thought she wouldn't notice. 


This was odd, Connie thought. She didn't remember there being any paper in there the last time she needed some tools. A few months earlier, she had needed to loosen an old, dead hose from the spicket in the front yard and had grabbed a pair of pliers from the box. 


Connie picked up the paper and unfolded it. It read: 




Don't do this. Don't get involved. 


Trust me. 





It was definitely Jim's handwriting. 


Connie sat down hard on the storage room floor, bruising her tailbone, but the pain didn't register. She'd feel it later and wonder what had happened. At that moment, though, her mind went to Jim. 


The note was in her trembling hands. Connie read it over and over. Even though Jim had been gone for a long time, there was still a dull ache that occasionally surrounded her heart. Now it was throbbing and the pain of losing him was enveloping her body as quickly as her silent sobs racked her torso. 


When he was still alive, Jim would often leave Connie little notes around the house. He would even slip them into her school bag so she would find them during the day sometimes at work. Jim was always thoughtful like that, taking care of her without needing to be asked. Even after his death, she was often finding things that he had done to make her life easier. 


This note was something Jim would have done. Connie remembered a time when she had to deal with a snotty asshole from the cable company. He had left her a note on the fridge that day saying something like, "You got this, babe. Don't take any shit! Love you." 


"Why?" Connie said out loud. 


She repeated herself a few more times, wiping off the tears with the sleeve of her robe. She stood up slowly and grabbed a few things she knew she would need to take down the fans. For some reason, she put the note back in the tool box before closing it up. As much as she wanted to forget about this whole situation, she just couldn't turn her back on Mary. She knew she had to help, but there was something else. 


She was also afraid. 

Mary knew something was wrong when Connie came out with the tool box and a few other supplies. 


"What's wrong, Con?" 


"The fan struck again." 


"What do you mean?" 


"There was a note from Jim in the tool box telling me to not get involved." 


Mary looked at Connie and her heart broke in two. 


"This has gone to far, Con. I'm so sorry." 


"You don't need to keep apologizing, Mary. We just need to end this today. We are going to get dressed, go to your house, take down those fans, and destroy them. I'll buy you new ones and we'll get a goddamn priest to bless the motherfuckers." 


Connie's voice had shifted into her pissed off teacher voice by the last sentence. All Mary could do was nod her head and get up. 


"I'll be ready in five minutes. You take all the time you need," Mary said. 


Mary headed to the guest bathroom and let Connie have some privacy as she got dressed. While she was in the bathroom, Mary looked at herself in the mirror and didn't like what she saw. Her mirror image reminded her of stranger and the person looking back at her looked like someone she could not trust. 


She realized she was feeling some resentment toward her friend. Why couldn't she have just taken the bull by the horns on Wednesday and taken her trusty softball bat to the fan, she wondered. She could have ended that piece of shit and she and Connie could have been commiserating about a good whiskey hangover right now instead of this... this feeling she had. 


Connie knocked softly on the door. 


"You ready?" 


"Yep. Be right out," Mary replied, but she was not ready. She didn't know if she would ever be ready for what they were about to do. As she stepped out of the bathroom, she said something she never would have thought she would have ever said again: 


"Please God. Please watch over us." 


Mary helped Connie load up the tools in the back of her car and then she followed Connie over to her house. Each of the women needed the time on the short drive to collect themselves. The ten minute ride was probably not enough time to really prepare, but it was something. 


Grim determination oozed from Connie as she drove down the familiar streets. She was pissed. Whoever or whatever that was fucking with Mary was now fucking with her and she did not like to be fucked with. You don't teach middle school for as long as she did without developing a pretty thick skin, but she had no patience left for this kind of crap. 


In her mind, Connie was ready to take care of business. She envisioned walking into Mary's house, grabbing a stepladder and getting straight to work. She could see herself dismantling the fans and handing Mary pieces to be destroyed. A bonfire, she thought to herself, then aloud, she said, "We need to burn that shit." 


Mary stared at the back of Connie's Honda and tried to calm her nerves. She was afraid of what they were walking into and the feeling was terribly uncomfortable for her. No one should be afraid to go home, Mary thought, but even she knew that was way more common than people knew. 


Over the years, Mary had talked to hundreds of students who were afraid to go home. Those conversations were never easy, and often there was very little she could do except hope for the best, but she now realized how badly she had failed at making it easier for the students with her jibber jabber about being strong and making sure they came to talk to her if things changed or got worse. 


Mary realized now that when you're scared, you don't need someone telling you to be strong. You need someone to hold your hand and let you know that they are really there next to you, supporting you, and understanding what you are going through. She felt such love for Connie at that moment that it immediately led to strong, soul crushing regret. 


There would never be another day for Mary where she did not regret involving her friend in her situation. 

"Go ahead, Mar. Unlock the damn door," Connie said with a tone in her voice that was a mix of anger, excitement, and impatience. 


Mary fumbled with her keys, afraid of what she was going to see when she opened the door. The images from the previous night's videos ran through her head. Part of her expected spiders to spill out of the door when she opened it. 


There was nothing there, though. 


When Mary and Connie stepped through the door, the house looked peaceful and quiet. There was no hint of spiders anywhere and, most importantly, it felt like Mary's house again. Even Connie felt a tinge of relief, although she was ready to get busy and start taking fans down. 


Connie set the tools down on the kitchen table which was adjacent to the island, which had been covered with spiders in the video. She kept waiting to see something scurrying around in her peripheral vision, but it was quiet. It was almost nice. 


"I have to admit, Con, that I wasn't expecting things to look like this. I was expecting to see something terrible." 


"Do you think it knows that?" 


It felt strange to hear Connie refer to whatever was creating this situation as "It." 


"It is an 'it', isn't it?" asked Mary. 


"Honestly, I have no idea, but I don't see how a person could have done all the things we saw...(She paused)…or thought we saw last night. I mean, did you even know that Jim used to leave me little notes all the time?" 


"I would have never thought about that, no." 


"Let's go take down some fans, Mar. Let's put this behind us." 


"Okay. I'll get the ladder from the shed. Do you need anything else?" 


"A gun?" 


"I can't tell if you're joking or serious. To be honest, I kind of wish I had one." 


"I'm only half joking. When this is over, you are going to owe me a lot of drinks." 


"When this is done, we are getting very drunk and I am definitely buying." 


Mary opened the door to the backyard and stepped out on the porch. The fans were not moving. In fact, the entire backyard, including the beautiful new porch was perfect. Immaculate, even, which was odd because Mary had not cleaned up her mess from her weeding the previous Wednesday. She had avoided doing anything in the backyard except for taking out the garbage the previous day. 


"At least it cleans up," Mary joked. 


"What do you mean?" 


"I left a big mess the other day when I was doing the weeding and stomping on egg sacks." 


"That's fucking odd." 


"I don't get it. Traumatize us and then clean up. What the hell?" 


"Get the ladder, Mar." 


There was that tone again. Mary wondered if Connie was really angry with her. She did have a right to be and Mary really couldn't blame Connie for being upset. This whole thing was weird and upsetting and, well, just plain scary. Mary had brought this into Connie's life. 


Mary did as she was told and grabbed the ladder from the shed. While she was in there, she thought about grabbing the pickaxe, just in case. It was a smaller one and Mary used it when she was turning over garden beds every other year or so. It could certainly make short work of the fans. It would feel really good to just smash the hell out of the fan. 


As Mary walked back toward the porch, she could see that Connie was taking tools out of trusty rusty. She also noticed that each of the three fans had started to turn, albeit slowly. Was there a breeze, she wondered? 


But she didn't feel anything. 

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Mary: Text

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Mary noticed that Connie was looking at a piece of paper as she got to the porch. 


"Is that the note from Jim?" she asked. 


Connie didn't seem to hear her so Mary set down the ladder and squatted next to her friend before repeating herslef. 


"Is that the..." 


Connie cut her off. 


"NO! It's a new one." 


"What does it say?" 


"I don't want to tell you," Connie said, choking back tears or was it something else, some other emotion. 


Mary could see how upset Connie was but didn't want to push it further. 


"I'm sorry. Again. Damn it. I'm so sorry, Connie. If you want to, please just go home. I can take care of these fuckers." 


Connie looked at her friend and back at the note. She was frozen in place, maybe forever. As she looked back up at Mary, she noticed that the fans were spinning slowly, but their rotations were getting faster. 


"D-d-did you turn them on?" she asked Mary. 


"No, but I'm not surprised at what is happening." 


"Can you cut the power at the breaker? I'm assuming Randy would have put in a new circuit for the new outlets. That's what Jim would have done," she trailed off. 


"I'm not sure. I can call him." 


"No, let's not risk getting him involved in this." 


It worried Mary that Connie was not talking about the new note. As if things weren't already off kilter in her world, something was definitely worse now. The fans weren't helping either. They were taunting the would be dismantlers by spinning faster and faster. 


"Talk to me, Con." 


"I just can't, Mary. This is too much." 


"I know. What can I do?" 


"Go turn off the power at the breaker." 


"Okay," Mary said feebly. She knew it wouldn't do any good but, at the same time, didn't want to verbalize the thought. Maybe the power would actually turn them off. 


The breaker box was on the side of the house. As Mary walked towards it, Connie opened the new note back up from Jim. It read: 


Doll Baby, 


You've got to leave Mary's house now. If you don't, either she will kill you or you will kill her. This thing isn't going to be satisfied until there is human blood spilled. 






Leave the tools for Mary. They might be able to help her. I don't know. 


But go or die. 


As much as I want to be with you again, I don't want you to die now. It's not your time. 


I love you. 


Jimmy Jim Jimmer 

No one knew that she called him "Jimmy Jim Jimmer" other than him, but how could Jim be messaging her? It had to be whatever this was fucking with her head. Mary wouldn't harm her but how could she tell Mary that what the note said? 


Connie watched Mary round the corner and could hear her lifting up the panel. 


"Okay, Con! The power to the whole house is off." 


Connie looked at the fans. They were each spinning at a different speed. The one that had been fucking with Mary from the beginning was spinning the fastest, but in the opposite direction as the other two. None of them seemed to be slowing down. 


Mary came back from the side of the house. Her eyes were glued to the fan. What she had suspected was true. The power was not coming from inside the house. 


The new porch lights started flickering on and off and the sprinkler system sprang to life. 


"The power is clearly not off," Connie said sharply. 


Mary, a bit stung by the tone of Connie's voice, looked meekly at her friend. 


"I'm sure I turned it off. I've had to turn it off many times before when Randy was working on things." 


"Did it say 'Main'?" 


"Yes, Connie. I'm not an idiot." 


Now it was Connie's turn to be stung by Mary's tone of voice. Jim's words echoed in her head. At what point was whatever this was going to take control of one of them, she wondered. Clearly it could do whatever it wanted and knew things about them that only they would know. 


"Let's take another look together," Connie said as she stood up. 


The two women walked back to the panel. As Connie reached towards it and began to lift it up, Mary started to scream. 


Hundreds of black widow spiders began to spill out of the panel. Before Connie could pull her arm away, a dozen or more attached themselves to her arm and began to bite her. She let out a howl that pierced Mary's ear drums and shocked into a moment of stunned silence. 


Mary stared at Connie as the spiders began to move towards her face, neck, and shoulders. As Connie stumbled to her knees, she was swiping at her right arm with her left hand, trying to knock the spiders off. Within a second, the vicious spiders were swarming Mary's feet and lower legs and starting to crawl up Connie's thighs toward her torso. 


"The fan, Mary," Connie croaked, her voice trembled with waves of pain. "Take out the fan." 


Mary reached out to pull Connie away from the spiders as the arachnids began to bite into both of their flesh more rapidly. Mary felt as if she was being jabbed with a thousand hot needles. 


"Go!" Connie cried. 


Mary ran to the shed and grabbed the pickaxe. She nearly stumbled getting through the shed door but ran towards the fan with the pickaxe raised over her head. She intended to slam the pickaxe into the small black semi-oval that protruded slightly from under the blades. 


She swung the pickaxe with all of her might and it landed with a dull thud. The force of her blow sent her into the chaise lounge she had sat on when she took off her boot a few days earlier and she toppled over the chair and went skidding onto her knees and palms. 


She turned her head to look at the damage she had inflicted, but the fan was not there. 


In it's place was Connie's body, hanging from the patio ceiling. Mary's pickaxe was imbedded in her skull and the only movement coming from Connie's body was wave after wave of spiders spilling out of her gaping mouth. 

Mary stared at Connie's lifeless body hanging from her porch ceiling. She felt her phone buzzing in the pocket of her pants. Without thinking about it, Mary reached into her pocket and brought the phone into her view. She had several text messages from her home phone. 


Message 1: 

You killed your friend for me? I am touched. Who will you kill next? I think Randy. Kill Randy and you are free. 


Message 2:  

Kill Randy and you are free. 

Kill Randy and you are free. 

Kill Randy and you are free. 

Kill Randy and you are free. 

Kill Randy and you are free. 

Kill Randy and you are free. 

Kill Randy and you are free. 

Kill Randy and you are free. 

Kill Randy and you are free. 

Kill Randy and you are free. 

Kill Randy and you are free. 


Message 3: 

Call him now. 


Mary looked up again expecting to see Connie hanging there, but she was gone. In her place was the fan again, spinning lazily. Mary's eyes quickly darted to the corner of the house  to see if Connie was laying where she had seen her last, but again, she was gone. 


"Con?" Mary shouted. 


There was no answer. 


"Con? Where are you?" 


There was no answer. Mary ran to the side of the house where the panel was, but Connie wasn't there. She continued around to the back gate and fumbled with the combination lock. 6-1-2. Her dad's birthday. She got the lock to work and ran through the gate as soon as she was able to get the latch undone. 


Mary expected to see Connie's car in front of the house, but it wasn't there. 

Mary stood in her front yard staring at her quiet street. This was too much to take in. She had felt the pickaxe sink into Connie's head. She had seen Connie's lifeless body hanging in front her, spilling out spiders by the bucket full, and all of this in the last five minutes. 


Connie had been there. They had spent the night together at Connie's house. She and Connie were going to remove the fans. She and Connie were... 


Tears began to well up in Mary's eyes as she completed the thought. She and Connie were best friends. She trusted and needed and loved Connie more than anyone. 


Had she killed her? If so, where was she now? How could her body just disappear? Where was her car? 


The tools, Mary thought. She turned and ran back through the gate to see if Jim's tool box was still on the porch. 


It was. 


Folded neatly on top was a piece of lined paper. It was the note from Jim that Connie had been holding when Mary was approaching with the ladder, she was sure of it. Mary reached down and picked it up. 


Mary slowly unfolded the note, expecting to see what Connie had seen, but she was wrong. This note was from Connie. It read: 




I can't believe you killed me. Jim said you would and you did, but Jim's not here. He's not anywhere. There is nothing here. I am all alone because of you. I am all alone yet I am with you. What does that say about you? 


Do not call Randy. If you involve him, he will die, too, and he will be alone like me. The spiders will eat him, too. I can feel them biting through my skin as I write this. They are inside of me because of you. I am becoming one of them, I think. I am becoming something. 


One more thing. The spiders are inside of you, too. 


Forgive me for not forgiving you. 




Mary dropped the note on the ground and picked up the pickaxe. The pickaxe looked exactly like it had fifteen minutes before. There was no sign of blood or spiders or anything. Mary looked up again. 


She took a long look at the fan spinning lazily. It was just a fan, she thought. Connie is alive and I've got a brain tumor. That's got to be what's happening. She must've loaned my Jim's tool box. Did I ask her for it at school, she wondered. 


Mary took her phone out of her pocket and said, "Siri, call Connie." 


In an instant, the phone was ringing. 

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Distractions are everywhere. 


They seep into the daily routine and after a while, you don't even notice them anymore. Little things can dip into your brain and take up the space created by a new project or task. 


Brains are pretty wild things. 


The space you would need to finish a project, for example, is created in your brain when you have a new idea. Your brain gets excited about new ideas. Your brain is creating new ideas for you all the time and it gets revved up when you decide to act on one. It makes giant warehouses for the data storage and retrieval that is necessary to do a great job on something. 


Your brain is ready to rock when you give it the go ahead from the command center. The only thing you have to look out for are those distractions. Your brain has all that space ready for new info and it gets greedy and starts getting interested in everything happening around you. It even gets interested in things that aren't happening around you, too. You have to be hyper-focused in the beginning of a new project. 


As if coming out of a dream, Mary realized she was distracted. Her command center was misfiring. These were words she used when she taught her former students about how the brain works. Why was she thinking about these things, she wondered. 


Mary opened her eyes expecting to be looking at her phone but she was in a hospital room. She blinked a few times and yes, she was laying a room. It was her room, but it wasn't a hospital room. It was definitely her room, though. She just wasn't sure why she was there. 


In her hand, what she was a cell phone was not a cell phone. It was a call button. 


She pushed it. 


In a few minutes, a familiar but nameless face walked through the door of Mary's room. 


"What's up, Mary?" the young attendant asked. 


"I'm sorry, I've forgotten your name." 


"It's okay, Mary. I'm Mark." 


"Yes, right, of course. Mark. I'm sorry to bother you. I'm a bit confused." 


"It's okay, Mary. I understand." 


"Am I sick? I don't remember why I am here." 


"You're not sick, Mary. Let me get Dr. Channing." 


Mark didn't wait for Mary to respond. He turned around and left Mary's room as quickly as he came in. Mary watched the young man go. She wondered who Dr. Channing was and what was going on. 


Mary looked around. Other than the door Mark used to enter and exit her room, there were two other doors. Mary presumed one was a closet and one was a bathroom. There was a dresser across from her bed with several books on it and an easy chair between the two doors. One wall had a large window, but the curtains were drawn. 


She stood up and walked to the door Mark had gone through. She reached out and grabbed the handle. It wouldn't turn. She tried it again and still there was nothing. She slammed her open palm on the door three or four times. 


"What the fuck?" Mary said aloud. "Open the door, please." 


Mark's voice was suddenly in her room. 


"It's okay, Mary. Dr. Channing will be in shortly. You were asleep for a long time this time. Why don't you try and use the bathroom?" 


"MARK! What is going on? Why is this door locked?" 


There was no response. 


Mary tried the door again and it was still locked. What did Mark mean that she had been asleep for a long time? Why couldn't she remember anything? Mary couldn't remember the last time she had been asleep. What was he talking about, she wondered. 


She walked over to one of the other two doors and opened it. This was a closet. The clothing in the closet looked exactly like the outfit she was currently wearing. Tan tops and pants all hung neatly in a row. On the floor of the closet was two sets of tan slip on shoes and a pair of tan flip flops. 


On the shelf above where the clothes were hanging had several towels folded and placed  on one side and an extra blanket and pillow on the other. Mary did not like the look of this. She was clearly in some kind of institution, but she didn't know why. 


Panic began to set in. 


"Remember, Mary. Damn it," she said aloud. "Why are you here? Where is here?" 


It occurred to her that she also had no idea when or how she got there, either. 


Mary heard the door click and a man with salt and pepper hair walked into her room. He was wearing a black polo shirt and matching chinos. 


"Hi Mary," he said. "I'm Dr. Channing. You don't remember me, do you?" 


Dr. Channing smiled at Mary in a way that made her distrust him immediately. 


"So what's going on today, Mary?" he asked. 


"Where the fuck am I?" 


"Why don't you have a seat, Mary, and we can talk about it." 


"No, I'm fine standing here. Your name is Channing?" 


"Yes, Mary. I'm Hunter Channing. It's nice to see you today." 


"You act like we've met before but I would swear that I have never seen you in my life." 


"I understand, Mary." 


"What is it you understand? I don't understand anything." 


"I know, Mary, and I'm sorry." 


"Why am I here?" 


"You have a brain injury, Mary." 


Mary looked at Dr. Channing intently. The lines in his forehead reminded her of something, or someone, but she could not quite put her finger on it. Dr. Channing moved over to the chair and sat down. 


"Please, Mary," he continued, "Wouldn't you be more comfortable sitting on your bed?" 


Mary relented. She picked up the pillows and arranged them so she could lean back a little on them. 


"I have a brain injury? How did that happen? I don't even know how I got here. I thought I was in my yard at home." 


"Were you in the front yard or backyard?" Dr. Channing asked calmly. 


Mary thought this was a strange question. 


"I - I - I don't remember, actually. I was looking for Connie." 


"Who is Connie, Mary?" 


"My friend. She and I work together. I was worried that I had hurt her... I ...." Mary trailed off. 


Dr. Channing sat expressionless. He was writing something down in a small notepad he took from his pocket. 


"Why do you think you hurt Connie, Mary?" 


"I don't know, um, Dr., um..." 


"Channing, Mary. I'm Dr. Hunter Channing." 


"Yes, right, sorry." Mary's nerves were frazzled. She didn't know if she could trust this Channing guy, but she also knew she was obviously not allowed to leave the room. She decided to tell him what she could remember. 


When Mary explained to Dr. Channing what she remembered, he put took a few notes here and there and listened intently. Occasionally he would ask a short clarifying question, but other than that, he just listened. 


"I can understand why you are feeling upset, Mary." 


"Did I hurt Connie, Doctor? Is that why I am here?" 


"No, Mary. You didn't hurt Connie today. You are here because you had a traumatic brain injury and we make sure you are safe and comfortable and get everything you need each day." 


"I don't understand. I have to be at work on Monday. We have testing coming up." 


"No, Mary. You don't have to worry about testing." 


"But I..." Mary trailed off again. She was searching Channing's face for any clue or sign, but she got nothing from him. 


"It's okay, Mary. Why don't you try and get some rest and we can talk again later this afternoon." 


"Will you tell me this, Doctor Channing?" 


"What's that, Mary?" 


"How did I hurt my head?" 


"Mary, will you take your finger and touch the top of your head, just to the right of the middle of your head about two or three inches above your ear?" 


Mary ran her fingers through her hair and found a spot about the size of a quarter that was smooth and didn't seem to have any hair growing from it. 


"Do you feel that," asked Dr. Channing. 


"Yes, I do. What is it?" 


"It's a scar, Mary. You injured yourself when you were a teenager." 


"What? I don't remember that." 


"I know you don't, Mary, and I'm sorry. I wish I could be more helpful to you." 


"Can I call Connie, Doctor, or Randy?" 


"I'm afraid you cannot, Mary." 


"Why can't I make a phone call?" 


"I'm sorry, Mary. That is not allowed. I'm not sure who you would call anyway." 


"I want to call Connie. I need to know that she is all right." 


"I'm sorry, Mary. That is impossible. Connie has been dead for over forty years." 


"What are you talking about? I just saw her this morning." 


"I'm afraid that was a dream, Mary." 




"It's hard to understand, I know." 


"But I just saw here. We were going to destroy the fan." 


"There was no fan, Mary, and no porch." 


"But Randy did the work." 


"You don't have a cousin named Randy, Mary." 


"But...wait a minute." Mary stared at Dr. Channing as if she was trying to see into his soul. 


"Yes, Mary?" 


"Randy and I grew up together. I have memories..." 


Dr. Channing took out his notebook and jotted a few more things down. 


"What are you writing there? I have a right to know." 


"I'm sorry, Mary. I can't share my notes with you right now." 


"What do you mean 'right now'? WHEN CAN YOU SHARE THEM?" Mary shouted. 


"Mark, are you listening?" 


A voice came over the room: "Yes, Dr. Channing. How can I help?' 


"Let's get Mary something to help her calm down." 

Mary thought this was her chance. If she was quick, she might be able to get by Mark when he opened the door. 


"You're right, Doctor. I do need to calm down," Mary said. 


"I understand why you're upset, Mary. Because of your injury, you're brain tends to, how can I say it, reset itself from time to time." 


"What do you mean?" 


"Your injury impacted an area of your brain that controls imagination. Let's just say you have a very active imagination. Probably about 10,000x more than those who haven't had a similar injury." 


"So, wait...are you saying that none of what I told you about actually happened?" 


"Exactly, Mary. You made it up. It all came from your imagination." 


"But you said Connie was dead. How can that be? You said Connie was dead. she real?" 


"Yes, Mary. Connie was a real person." 


Mary didn't notice the door opening and realized too late that she had probably missed her chance to see what was on the other side of the door to her room. She was overwhelmed by what Doctor Channing was telling her. Mark was standing next to her bed holding a syringe. 


"Your choice, Mary. Shoulder or hip," Mark said. 


"I'm really okay, Mark. Dr. Channing. I don't need that. I'd like to talk with you some more." 


"Okay, Mary. Mark, if you want you can leave that with me. Mary and I can talk a little longer and maybe she will change her mind." 


Mark thanked the Doctor, said goodbye to Mary, and left the room. 


"Who was Connie?" Mary asked. 


"Connie was your friend, Mary. She died when she was 13 years old." 


"How did she die?" 


"What I am about to tell you will be upsetting to you, Mary. Are you sure you would like to talk about this today?" 


"Yes, doctor, I am sure. I need to know. Connie and I..." Mary stopped herself from saying anymore. She was afraid that she would just end up getting the shot. 


"Mary, you and Connie were best friends growing up. She was your next door neighbor. One day you and she were in your backyard and you found a black widow spider building a web in the backyard..." 




"Mary, I'm sor..." 




"Mary, I'm sorry to have to tell you this again." 




Mary lunged off of her bed at Dr. Channing, catching him by surprise. She caught him with a glancing blow with her right hand as he moved at the last second. It stung Dr. Channing and Mary was on top of him, clawing at his face. 


"MARK!!!" Dr. Channing screamed. 




The door slammed open and Mark was on top of Mary, putting her into a submissive hold he had practice thousands of times during his training. 


"LET ME GOOOOOOOOOOOO!" Mary yelled at the top of her lungs. 




Mary continued to struggle, but Mark's hold was too strong. She was gradually losing consciousness as the much younger orderly applied his chokehold. Mary stopped struggling. 


Dr. Channing regained his composure and grabbed the syringe. He checked it for air bubbles and slid it into Mary's arm. Mark had her subdued and the effects of the lorazepam would take effect in about three minutes, most likely. Channing wiped his brow and checked Mary's vital signs. She was fine. 


The two men helped Mary get settled on her bed. She would be asleep for awhile. 


"What set her off?" Mark asked. 


"The same thing as usual. I can't imagine what it would be like to be her," Channing replied. 


"What is it about Connie, Dr. Channing? I mean, if you can tell me." 


"It's all public record, I suppose, so I can tell you. When Mary was 13 years old, she and her friend, Connie, were in her backyard and they found a black widow spider. The girls were scared by this and Mary ran and got a small gardening pickaxe that her mother had been using in their garden, I would imagine..." 


"I can see where this is going," Mark interrupted. 


"Yes, it was a tragedy. Mary accidentally hit Connie with the pickaxe as she swung back to kill the spider. The spike end entered Connie's skull and killed her almost instantly. Mary hadn't realized that Connie had stepped behind her because she was afraid of the spider." 


"Oh, man, Doc...that's awful...but how did Mary end up here?" 


"Mary was understandably distraught about what happened. Her family was fairly well to do and had a very nice porch on their house. She attempted to hang herself using a long-ish piece of chain that hung down from a ceiling fan. Do you remember those at all?" 


"Sure, Doc. That's awful. Is the lack of oxygen what caused her brain injury?" 


"No, she was too big for the chain to hold her bodyweight. In her grief and shock, she grabbed the small pickaxe and dislodged it from Connie's head before burying the sharp end in her own skull." 


"Oh my God." 


"Yes, it is amazing she didn't bleed to death, but her brother, Randy, came home from playing at a neighbor's house and found the two of them and called 911." 


"Jesus. Poor kid." 


"Yes, from what I've heard, it took him a long time to come to grips with it. He was killed in a car accident out near Palm Springs when he was in his mid-30s. He was Mary's last surviving relative." 


Dr. Channing continued: 


"When Mary is awake, she barely remembers anything, but when she dreams, it's like she takes on whole other lives. This time she and Connie worked in a school, but a few months ago, they were part of a rock band. There are always black widow spiders, though, and always 'fans' involved." 


Dr. Channing stared down at Mary who was sleeping in her bed. She looked so peaceful now. The tension of a few minutes prior had drained from her face. This wasn't the first time she'd attacked him, but it was the first time he had seen her get so angry so quickly. 


"Is there anything that can be done for her, Dr. Channing?" Mark asked. 


"Sadly, no. She's going to be in this loop for the rest of her life." 


Mark and Dr. Channing left Mary's room. When the door shut behind them, Mary's eyes flashed open. Inside each pupil was a red hourglass. 


She was starting to dream again. 

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