When Roland was a little boy, he had nightmares. It was always the same dream; spiders running through the darkness, skittering on horrible legs, chewing with horrible mouths and staring at him with too many horrible eyes. He would wake, shaking with fear, and run to his parent’s bedroom turning all the lights on along the way. There he would cry in his mother’s arms until he fell asleep in their bed.
At first, they didn’t mind. Little boys have nightmares; little boys are afraid of the dark. He would grow out of it.
He didn’t grow out of it. The nightmares didn’t go away, but his father refused to let him into their bedroom any more, and gave him stern looks if he talked about his dreams.
“I dreamt about the spider again last night,” he whispered to his mother one morning over breakfast, while his father was out of the room fetching the newspaper.
“Spider?” His mother smiled and ruffled his hair. “Well, that doesn’t sound so scary any more. You used to dream of lots of them, remember?”
“She ate all the others,” he whispered back, but at that moment the kettle whistled and his mother didn’t hear him.
He stopped talking about his dreams then. He knew nobody would believe him.
When Tibby, their fat friendly tabby, went missing, he helped his mother put posters up around the neighbourhood. He didn’t say that it was pointless. Didn’t say that he knew the cat was dead because he’d seen the spider, the size of a big dog, dragging her body towards him.
A few years later it was a school chum. He attended the memorial in silence, but he was haunted by the thought of the spider, as big as a car, staring at him over the boy’s body.
His parents died young, and he inherited their house. He threw out all their furniture and possessions, saying they were old. Dusty. Cobwebby. He painted the walls bright colours, and bought all sorts of vibrant, patterned things. He pretended to live a carefree existence, despite the dark rings around his eyes. He made no close friends. If he picked up a girl, he never brought them back to his place, he never slept a single night beside them, and he never saw them twice. He bought an expensive coffee machine to try and stay awake, but he always knew he would have to sleep sometime, and the thing of dreams and darkness would be waiting.
Now he shakes beneath his zebra striped duvet, trying to wake up as a giant spider, the size of a house, drags something heavy towards him.