Electric spiders danced about in the corner of Peter’s eye, twirling their legs around like penny whirligigs. Every time he looked at them, they darted away. They shot round and round the classroom as he moved his head. Never able to get a clear look at them, they followed his eyes around like the floating spots he sometimes saw. They lived in the dark parts of the classroom; behind other students’ legs, under Miss Clarke’s table, or the small empty spaces on the bookcase. When he kept his head down, trying to focus on his work, they would wriggle toward him, crawling across the floor and walls. When he looked at them, even if they were on his desk, they scuttled away into the dark recesses of the classroom.
They had been going on for about a week or so now. He first noticed them one night before he went to bed. The thing was behind him but when he turned around he caught only a brief glimpse of its leg. With the arrival of the spiders came some small pain like a speck of irremovable dust in his eye. Now he spent most of his time either doodling them or trying to get a good look at them. If he could circle his eyes around a particular way, or maybe not look at them for a few minutes, then dart his eyes over to them, perhaps he could see more than a brief flash of them.
“Peter?” Miss Clarke announced. Had he missed something important? “Peter, could you tell me the answer?”
“Uh.” Peter looked around for any little hint. He shrank down as he answered. “Sorry, Miss, I didn’t hear the question.”
Miss Clarke sighed. “Peter, I think I may have to call your father about this.”
After all the classes finished and everyone else began heading home, Miss Clarke brought Peter and his father into her classroom. Peter held his head down, trying to avoid the stares in the now empty classroom.
“Well, Mr. Madison, Peter has been having a lot of difficulties with his attention recently and I wanted to speak to you about it.”
“What kind of difficulties?” Peter’s father wasn’t the emotional type. Peter never recalled seeing him cry; only express some frustration in a heavy sigh or joy in a small smile. Nevertheless, he always tried to be sympathetic and supportive.
“Most of the time he seems to be daydreaming so hard that he often doesn’t respond to questions, usually it bears repeating a few times before he answers.”
“It’s not my fault,” Peter spoke up. “It’s the electric spiders.”
“The what? Electric spiders?” His father said. He turned to Miss Clarke. “Have you ever heard of such a thing?”
“Uh, no, I haven’t.” She leaned in closer. “What do you mean by that, Peter?”
“That’s the only way I can describe them, they’re these…things. I can never see them properly, they always run away before I can, like they don’t want to be seen.”
“When did this start, Peter?” Miss Clarke said.
“Uh, a week ago.”
“Did anything happen a week ago, Mr. Madison?” His father shook his head. “No accidents? Bumps on the head? Illnesses?”
“No, no, nothing that I can think of,” He said. “Did anything happen, son, or did it just come on?”
“It just came on.”
“Hm, Mr. Madison, I find this a bit…disconcerting.”
“You’re not the only one,” his father chimed in.
“I think it may be best to take Peter to a doctor. Even if it’s nothing serious, there still may be something they can do to help.”
Later that evening, Peter couldn’t even focus on the delicious pasta set down for him with the spiders dancing around beneath the table. Normally, he’d shovel the pasta into him, reminding himself every once in a while to take it easy when his father glared at him. Even though he was starving, the spiders interested him more. Why were they hiding? What were they hiding?
“Is it still bad?” His father said. Peter nodded. “I got you an appointment tomorrow with Doctor Hammond. Think it might be better to take the day off tomorrow. Have a three day weekend.”
Normally Peter hated having to take a day off school. He always had to catch up on work after and missed being with his friends. Now though, it was like he was barely in school anyway. Hopefully the doctor could do something.
The next day, they drove to the health centre and met Doctor Hammond. He was a tall thin man with sleek black hair. After telling him about the electric spiders, the doctor shone a small flashlight into Peter’s eyes. The small light hurt his eyes almost as much as the spiders did.
“Your eyes look fine, no damage there,” Doctor Hammond said, putting the flashlight away to only mild relief from Peter. “Is it just your eyes that hurt? No headaches, vomiting, loss of balance?”
“No, just the eyes,” Peter feebly answered.
“Mhmm, well it would seem like it’s just visual hallucinations,” he said, checking his computer. “Which isn’t bad if there’s no other symptoms. Some people get them without warning and they disappear just as quick. As for the pain…I would say it’s likely just an infection in the eye which occurred at the same time. Either way, your eyes are perfectly healthy, you haven’t had a concussion or brain injury or anything like that.”
“So, what should we do?” His father said.
“I’m going to prescribe some antibacterial medication to help with the eyes and some antipsychotics to help with the hallucinations.” He printed off a sheet and handed it to Peter’s father. “We may have to do some experimenting to find out which medications are the best but there’s not much else we can do for now.”
The pain would not stop. The spiders would not stop. The flashes would not stop. The electric spiders wriggled around, as if they were inside his eyes. Despite how much he wanted to sleep, it all stopped him from doing so.
Even if the pain stopped, the spiders still prevented him from sleeping. Over the past few days, they grew enormous. With the growing spiders, the pain grew too. Now they were around the size of a man and he could get a decent look before they scuttled away. They no longer hid in small dark recesses but seemed to walk through walls, ceilings, and floors whenever he looked at them. Sometimes they would poke a leg through before retreating, testing the water to make sure he wasn’t looking at them. Their legs still looked the same as before but now he knew what their body looked like; a ball of lightning.
The spiders danced that night like never before. In the darkness of his bedroom, they danced around so wildly that they crashed with each other. They tumbled, falling from the skies, twisting and turning around. All throughout the night, their shimmering legs crashed against each other like lightning, fighting one another like wild rams. The flashes from their fighting kept him awake all night, even with his eyes closed.
Over the next few days, the pain grew unbearable. Painkillers did nothing. He couldn’t take it anymore. Even during the day, all he could see were the electric spiders. The thrashing and hurtling of their legs flashed like lightning inside his eyes. Their legs, now the size of tree trunks, thrashed about no longer hiding from him but stretching from horizon to horizon.
It was all in his eyes; if he took away his eyes, he took away the pain, the spiders…his eyesight.
Peter knew what he had to do. The idea had been in his head for a day or two now – it was difficult to tell when he hadn’t slept – but now he needed to do it. The bright legs burned his eyes, painkillers did nothing to dull the pain, and wanted nothing more than to just sleep.
He dug his fingers into the back of his eyes. The red hot pain of the spiders burned more than his fingers. He wrapped his fingers around his eyes, pinching a small tube in his eye sockets. He took a deep breath. Like ripping off a band-aid, he did it swiftly.
He imagined being blind would be like seeing only blackness but he was wrong. He saw nothing now, not blackness but nothing at all. He cried to himself, surprised that he could still cry without eyes. The pain didn’t hurt him, the lack of sight didn’t hurt him, it was something worse. Something so much worse.
His dad burst into his room. Peter hid his soft, almost jelly-like eyes from him in his hands. His father knelt down beside him, putting a hand on his shoulder.
“Oh my god…Peter.” His father let go. “What-what did you do?”
“I-I can still see them, Daddy,” he muttered. “I can still see them!”