By Alexa Hailey
The apartment upstairs had a lot of smells. None of them were exactly good, although the factory that designed them may have intended them to be. Somehow, though, they ended up too chemical, too sweet, spilling from Glade PlugIns, or from plastic stations, or from bottles of oil with sticks shoved inside.
The smell spilled into their heating system, down into our shared basement. From there, it crept up into our apartment, mixing with the smell of old diapers and that cup of sour milk that we never could find.
Every time we went upstairs to visit, she was cleaning. There were no lost milk cups up there. There were just as many kids as we were, but their living room was pristine, with walls you could see yourself in, and not even one sticky handprint anywhere.
That’s why the thing with the spider was so weird in the beginning. It was weird at the end, too, but we noticed it right away because the walls were so white, and it’s body was so, so black.
When we noticed it, we pointed, and almost said something. Maybe a little gasp slipped from our lips, but her kids shook their heads, fast, and with fear in their eyes. It had put it’s web right at the edge of the family portrait, strung up between the frame and the wall.
They didn’t want us to mention it, so we didn’t. Not in front of them, at least. Not outside of whispers that filled our apartment like more stink. Ma loved it. She was obviously threatened by the upstairs mother, and by the smell that came up from the basement. But when the sounds of their shouts shook our ceiling tiles, even Ma was concerned.
The web got bigger, and the spider, too. But she wouldn’t take it down. Her husband screamed at her about it, although that was nothing new. The new part was she screamed back. She wouldn’t back down.
Then, one night, silence. We thought he’d finally given in, finally allowed her this one idiosyncrasy, however large (and the spider was quite large at this point). But when we knocked the next day to see if the kids could come out to play, the spider answered the door. She wore the upstairs mother’s blue apron. She nodded at us, and we went up to get the kids. The upstairs mother was nowhere to be found, but there was a suspiciously large ball in the middle of the spider’s web, all wrapped in silk.
The kids don’t say anything. Her husband doesn’t, either. There’s not much he can complain about, though. The spider keeps the place just as clean as she did. Cleaner, even. Of course, no one can blame the upstairs mother. It’s easier to clean with eight legs.