At the center of the universe is a North American common house spider.
Or at least that’s what the spider figured must be true, because it could remember the instant when space opened up and the universe suddenly appeared, fully formed around it. The lake, the dock, the entire world — and the spider had been chosen to be in the middle of it all.
With such honor came responsibility, the spider had realized. Without a web to coax the sun up, she would hide her light. It had taken days of darkness for the spider to learn, and even still she sometimes rejected the offering. So the spider would begin the next day’s display as soon as the sky began to darken. Today’s had been a contemplation on the patterns in oak leaves. The spider was planning an abstract sculpture of ripping water for tomorrow, a masterful display sure to entice the sun. It needed just the perfect spot.
He fumbles to unbutton my shirt and I can smell the alcohol on his fingers, and then on his breath when he leans in. I don’t know if I want him to stop, but the planks of the dock hurt my hands and the gentle swaying conjures images of half-digested spaghetti. I tell him to slow down, not like this, not here, and then he’s standing and then he’s gone.
I lay down own my side, gazing across the darkening water. The rotting planks meet in front of my face and form a canyon, the algae and rust replacing him in my nostrils. Laughs and screams from the cabin are just an echo behind the lapping of water against the shore.
I know they’ll be talking about me soon.
Next to the crevice there’s a tiny spider that he must have crushed when he stood up. It’s not dead, not yet, its tiny legs falling apart but still waving with an almost desperate urgency. I stay there, on my side, watching as the sun disappears across the lake. One leg stops, then another, and the spider finally stops twitching.
I roll onto my back, look up at the cloud-shrouded sky, and hope the morning will never come.