{ It certainly seemed easy. }

She wasn't moving at all. She seemed to be waiting for me. I wasn't going to blink. Greg's flashlight was dimming. Her round, black body just sat there. I started to reach into the shadow and my hand was suddenly huge, blocking the light and tearing her web apart.

She moved with sudden, frightening speed, and Greg said, too loudly, "You have to do it fast! She'll get away!" I was fumbling with the round jar in the square space. The web was all over me now, clinging to me and pulling her toward my skin. I couldn't see her, then there she was again, charging at my face. I turned the jar's mouth to catch her and keep her from me – it clanked against the wall and my wrist bent. She was gone again, and then there she was, on the floor, moving with quick, unsteady gracelessness. Sheared from her webbing, exposed and glistening and trying to escape.

I brought the jar down on top of her, imprisoning death in a small glass circle against the filthy floor. Dust rose in clouds around us, a sparkling fog of the house's malaise. She made tiny tink-tink noises as she met each surface of her cell, testing the walls with her glass legs. She grew more and more agitated in her blindness, feeling the walls closing in and nowhere to crawl up and out. She left a carpet of webbing on the wood as she moved but she would not calm. Greg watched with the same fascination as I, but he was excited by the incarceration, while I fought my fear and revulsion at this creature, feeling her hatred and need for revenge coating me like warm blood.

"She's mad," he said, grinning. "She's going to be hard to capture now. If you'd done it right and got her against the wall, you just tilt the jar and she falls inside. What are you going to do now?"

I had no idea. Why couldn't we sit there forever and just watch her agony until she died, her little dried husk of a corpse withering in the middle of the glass prison, liquefying from inside? Why did there have to be more to it than this? Why was everything so goddamned hard?

Greg didn't look at me at all. He tapped the glass with his fingernail – good grief, why are his fingernails so long? – and slid the jar a few inches, catching the widow unaware against the edge, maddening her further. I didn't move at all. I had no clue as to what to do next. He was shaking the jar now, and her tiny poison-filled body was knocking back and forth. He did this over and over, faster and faster, until she was a racquetball inside the glass walls. Suddenly, he flipped the jar over and held it up, planting the dying flashlight against the base to illuminate the stunned creature inside, helplessly staggering about like a drunken baby, trying to find purchase against the smooth surfaces.

"Got her!" he announced with triumph. My mouth was agape and I looked inside the prison as he wound the lid on and admired his latest prize, another black widow to add to his death menagerie. I felt sick and astonished and dismal, impotent and thrilled in equal measure.

He admired her for a few seconds and then went to get another one from somewhere, but I was done. I was sick with fear and covered in sweat and dust and the smell of horror. The house felt like a broken-armed hug, like it was embracing me in shreds and slivers, shoving splinters under my skin. The light was brown and feral and everywhere I looked I saw ghosts and demons, dead children grabbing at me from the shadows and thick nests of shiny black bodies scrambling and swarming and dripping with venom.

{ next }