Twins share everything, even things they don’t mean to. One summer when we were eight years old, I watched my brother Brian scoop up a daddy long legs while we sat on our grandma’s new deck, peel off most of its legs, and pop the squirming body in his mouth.
I could taste the spider he just ate. A strange combination of peanuts and hair, followed by a slick, oily feeling on the roof of my mouth.
“Ugh, sick!” I said, and Brian laughed, leaning back on the concrete step leading to our grandma’s front door. I spit on the ground, expecting chewed bits of spider to come flying out of my mouth. But there was nothing.
I hadn’t actually eaten the spider, after all. It was just the weird twin stuff we would deal with for the rest of our lives.
We got older, and Brian kept eating spiders. Just to gross me out at first, and then as a dare in middle school, and then in secret when we got to high school.
I woke up one night just after we turned 16, and heard a scraping noise. I turned on my cell phone to get some light in the room, and saw Brian crouching in the corner, running his hand along the old wooden floorboards of our room, and licking his fingers.
That old, familiar taste filled my mouth. Peanuts and oily hair. I threw the covers off my legs, retching, as I walked over to Brian and grabbed his shoulder.
“Fucking gross, Brian!” I said, and shook him. “It’s the middle of the night. Stop it!"
He turned toward me, and his eyes were rolled up in the back of his head. His hand was covered with tiny baby spiders, and more crawled out of an egg sack in the corner of the room. Brian wasn’t known to be a sleep walker, but he didn’t answer or wake up. He lifted his hand to his mouth again, scooping more spiders inside, and licking the palm of his hand clean.
You’re not supposed to wake sleep walkers. That’s what I’d heard, anyway, so I gently lead him back to his bed, turning him over onto his left side. His hand crept up to his mouth, and he sucked on his thumb in his sleep. Like he used to do when we were kids.
“I can’t stop, man,” said Brian. “The fucking spiders."
We’d just graduated high school, and we sat outside at the family picnic table, sneaking a couple of beers. Brian looked like shit. Like he hadn’t slept in weeks.
“I know,” I said. “Remember?"
He grinned. That weird twin thing.
“I think it’s pica,” he said. “A disorder where you’re compelled to eat non-foods."
“Maybe,” I said. “Spiders are food, though."
Brian took a long pull from his beer.
“Yeah,” he said. “But I can’t stop doing it. I used to do it as a joke, but now I don’t even think about it."
We sat together, in the light spilling from the screened in porch of our childhood home. It was still home, even though we’d both be leaving in a few weeks. Brian was heading to Purdue to study mechanical engineering. He always was the practical one, outside of this thing with spiders.
I was going to Indiana University. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study yet. Theater, maybe. I was big into drama club in high school.
“You should talk to somebody about it,” I said. “Like, a professional."
Brian didn’t respond. His eyes followed something along the edge of the table, and then his hand darted out, closed into a fist, and he crammed something into his mouth. His jaws worked, and I heard a crunch, and tasted peanuts again.
He swallowed, nodded his head, and said “I know."
“Did you know spiders are cannibalistic?"
Brian and I kept in touch while we were in school. Mostly through texts, but sometimes he called. I think he was lonelier than I was. I’d met a bunch of cool people on my floor, but Brian didn’t seem to like college that much.
He came to visit once in a while. Maybe a couple times a month.
“No, I didn’t know that,” I said.
“I had a dream,” he said. “That I was turning into a spider. Just like a big, hairy spider. That’s crazy, right?"
“That sounds like some real Kafka shit,” I said.
“Nevermind. Listen, are you still coming down tomorrow?"
“Yeah,” he said. “Yeah, I think so. I’ll let you know after my last class."
We hung out late that night, playing fighting games in my dorm room. I left the door open, but nobody stopped by. People on my floor usually didn’t stop by when Brian stayed over.
My room mate Sven was out, but Brian camped out on the floor next to my bed in his sleeping bag anyway.
“His bed smells weird,” he said. “Anyway, my stomach hurts. I’ll feel better down here."
“You think it was that Chinese?"
“I dunno,” he said, and curled over onto his left side. For a second, I expected his hand to creep up to his mouth. Like when we were kids.
“I can run and get you some Tums, or some Pepto,” I said.
“Nah, that’s ok,” he said. “Night."
“Night,” I said, and rolled away from the edge of the bed.
I found myself sitting up in bed, in the dark, suddenly awake. I looked around my small dorm room, trying to figure out what woke me up.
Brian was choking.
I turned on the light next to my bed, and found my brother lying on top of his sleeping bag, his back arched and his eyes rolled back in his head. A thin white stream of saliva trickled from the left corner of his mouth.
“Brian? BRIAN!” I said, jumping out of bed, and shaking my brother. He turned his head toward me, and in the light cast from the lamp I saw something shine, deep in his throat.
Brian had complained about a stomach ache, and as I recoiled from my brother, I felt a similar pain in my gut. Something came out of Brian’s mouth as he convulsed on his sleeping back. A long, hairy black leg, reaching out past his chin.
His throat buckled and bulged, and his mouth widened as something with many eyes forced itself past his teeth, staring at me and chittering.
A cramp in my stomach forced me to the ground. My guts churned, and I felt a creeping sensation in the back of my throat. Like something covered in hair was trying to get out.
I fell to my hands and knees, my mouth coated in oil, tasting peanuts.