Stephen King Puts Bugs in Your Brain

A few days ago, I finished reading Pet Sematary and then watched the 1989 movie. The movie pulls out the big moments and crams it all into 100 minutes. They’re both scary in different ways. I got the terror tingles and horror chills from both. It’s not a purely scary idea such as a killer clown or a haunted mansion; it’s more a question of what would you do for your kid? (I imagine if there was a magical Indian burial ground capable of revivification, we’d have thousands of toddler zombies roaming the land with regretful parents apologizing for their kid’s psychopathic behavior.) That’s the great thing about Stephen King. He’s able to make you understand the character’s madness.

I read The Shining in college during a period when I was living alone. (Some readers may feel bad for Jack Torrence, maybe he did just try to gently pick up Danny when his arm snapped, maybe he just needed a few whiskey drinks to dull away the ghosts in his head.) It scared the hell out of me. I used to put the book in another room when I slept. His books are capable of implanting brain worms that wiggle through your conscious mind and infect every dark room or strange sound. Opening closet doors or looking under the bed become heart-thumping tasks.

After finishing the movie, it was after midnight and I got ready for bed. My wife was out late but soon to be returning. I walked into the bathroom and there was a small spider resting beside the drain in the sink. After living in our 15th floor apartment for the past four years, this was the first time I found a non-flying bug inside. Usually little fruit flies, mozzies or the occasional fat, black fly make their way in from the hallway through our front door. But, it is entirely unheard of for me to be killing a beetle, cockroach or spider within the confines of our home.

It could be that those little crawling creatures find it too hard to climb a pipe fifteen floors (even though we know how tenacious the itsy-bitsy spider can be), or that there is some insecticide within our walls (possibly unregulated asbestos), or that bugs in Korea prefer to live freely outdoors (even bugs can get claustrophobic in a tiny apartment). Whatever the reason, and as crazy as it seems to me having lived in America slipper-smashing cockroaches in the tub or crushing bizarre millipedes above my bed, bugs don’t usually infiltrate your home in Korea.

That’s what made this spider sighting so perplexing and creepy. The moment I finish a Stephen King movie, I find a possibly venomous, certainly gross and absolutely coincidental arachnid trying to hide where I wash my face? “Haha, of course there is a spider now!” I cooed to myself trying to ignore my goosebumps as I pulled some toilet paper off the rack. A quick lunge and there was a small squish with a corresponding Rorschach splat with eight legs on the tissue. I silently congratulated myself for not missing and flushed the intruder.

Brush, wash, expel, powder and climb in bed. I looked at my phone, read a little, then heard the door lock open and the wife returned home. We exchanged pleasantries and kissed goodnight as it was now past one in the morning. The spider incident wasn’t memorable for being an abnormal bug encounter besides the simple rarity of its happening. It didn’t stick in my brain like that palm-sized monstrosity I saw in an Australian barn, or the one that spilled out of my hockey skates before practice one afternoon. Spiders hold a special place of disgust for me and most people. Spiders and snakes are innately feared for either having too many or too few limbs, possessing nasty venom and always being in curious proximity to humans.


One idea of an aquatic spider forebear.

I imagine how, not long after some strange creature emerged from the terrifying primordial oceans did it morph into some kind of air-breathing arachnid. Spiders first appeared on Earth between 400 and 300 million years ago, many millions of years before the dinosaurs. They must have been an awful spectacle, massive, hungry and much worse than the giant roaches and moths they fed upon. They were probably common sights of our ancient forebears, both helpfully ridding caves of mosquitos but also hiding in our ancestors’ homemade clothing before delivering that final indifferent bite.

Then, in that commotion of thought before dreams appear, right between drifting away and falling asleep, I had something, a premonition of a nightmare, or an incantation of a future disaster or some deep, primal recollection of terror. In the shadowy glaze of moonlight, in the corner of my room, the corner next to the window, a corner of wallpaper rustled. Behind that flowery paper, about a foot from my head, behind my nightstand, a chunky, mottled brown spider emerged followed by a stream of similar but smaller spiders. They didn’t slow down, just turned right and moved straight up the wall looking for some quiet crevice to hide.


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