My parents gave me the car on the 8th of March. My birthday. I remember running my hand around the car. When I finally grabbed the door handle I felt the silky touch of a spiderweb on my fingers. That day I just threw it out.
The red color was partially peeling off, there was a crack in the back window and dents on all four sides. But it drove and on the inside the car looked well maintained. My parents had even asked a mechanic to check it out—he changed the oil and then sent them on their way. On the way to me.
Of course there was an agenda that came with the car. It was a sign that I was old enough, that I had to take care of something and organize my own life. It was an aid—a chance to find work outside our suburb.
That night I took Catriona for a ride. That night, sitting in the car with burgers and soft drinks stored between our legs, we had our first kiss.
She had to be home by 11. I dropped her off and brought the car home. It was freezing when I finally slammed the door shut and hushed inside.
It was the next morning, around 8:30am. I had offered to drive my mother to work for the week and in return she would pay the gas for the week.
We came outside. She hesitated for a moment, then made her way to the passenger side.
"Eww," she said. "You need to clean this."
A spiderweb. A bit larger than my hand, spanning between the side mirror and the passenger door. I ripped it off. She got in the car.
The next morning mom was less hesitant but I could still sense that she did not feel comfortable with me in the driver's seat.
"I'm old enough, mom."
"Yes, you are."
"Mom, don't act like that."
"Oh, look," she said. "You have another spiderweb. The thing probably lives in your mirror."
I made my way around the car.
"Wow," she said. "Look how perfect it is."
Mom was bent forward with her nose only inches away from the web.
"It's perfectly round," she said. "Like absolutely perfect."
"Don't they all look like that?"
I pulled the web off and tried to get a glimpse into the space inside the mirror. I couldn't see anything but there certainly was enough room for a spider to squeeze into the hollow area behind the glass.
I drove her to work and at night I picked Catriona up. We went to the cinema. Another kiss. We were nearly too late for her curfew.
Then I got the job. Just a print shop, but better than nothing. The pay was okay and the times were okay. Three days a week from 8 to 11. Less time to see Catriona but money to use on those nights with her.
Thinking back, for more than a month my life was just that—school during the day and nightly trips to work or with Catriona to hit the city. On most nights I was home around 11:30 and on the others long before that.
The spiderweb didn't bother me too much. It was there every morning but I never saw who built it. My mother was right, it was unusually perfect, unusually round. I felt bad for destroying it every morning but I did it consistently, always hoping that over time the web's creator would learn and move on.
Catriona was terrified of spiders. I learned that when I once forgot to remove the web fully. I stopped at her house and she came out. She smiled and waved and walked towards the door. Her hand was already grabbing the handle when she screamed and jumped back.
"Spider!" she screamed. "Spider!"
I had to explain to her that there was no spider, that it never came out, that it wouldn't ever be able to harm her. She only entered the car when I had removed the web fully and checked for spiders. Of course there were none.
From that day on I was even more careful to remove the web. I even sprayed hairspray behind the mirror, hoping that the spider would die. The next day the web was there, although I felt it was shining brighter than before.
The warm temperatures came and we began to drive with the windows open. It was mostly me; Catriona was often too concerned about her hair, but on the very warm days even she opened her window.
It was the 11th of May. One of those warm, nearly suffocating nights. There was some problem with the cinema's equipment. The movie started half an hour late and in the middle there was a break for another hour.
We thought about going home early. She went out to call her father. She spoke to her father, then she came back inside. He wanted to talk to me.
"Okay," he said. "You get her home by one. But it's just this once."
"Thank you so much! I promise to get her home on time."
"I'm not joking," he said. "This is not a precedent. You know I like you. I trust you. But don't you dare try anything."
After another delay the movie finished just before midnight. They didn't even keep the concession stand open that long.
We had an extra hour and were not going to give it up. We drove aimlessly around to waste time and talk. Somehow we got on the motorway.
I remember seeing the clock at 23:58. I turned to her and smiled. She smiled back.
I said something about this being our first night together.
I remember that she laughed.
"You never had sex, did you?" she asked.
"No," I said.
"Me neither," she said.
She grinned. I smiled and looked back at her. Her hair was flying in the wind.
Then my eyes were back on the street.
"You know," I said. "We do have..."
Her shriek was short. Not even a quarter of a second.
By the time I looked over she was gone.
I thought she somehow fell out of the car. I stopped and ran back.
She was nowhere to be seen.
My phone record says I called the police at 12:06 am.
The search lasted just a day. No traces. The car door was still locked from the inside.
For a week they kept me in custody. I was tested for drugs and questioned again and again. When my story didn't change they let me go.
Those were a hard two months. Everyone blamed me. Everybody accused me. And first cried, then drank myself to sleep every night. At least my parents paid the lawyer.
I didn't notice it until two weeks later. It didn't seem important or relevant. It's not something that I paid attention to. But I noticed it. The spiderweb was gone.
The 11th of July. I was on my way back home from a friend. At some point I stopped at a petrol station, drove behind the place and took a large sip of a brown liquid that I shouldn't have been drinking while behind the wheel.
I saw the clock turn to 23:58 and felt a pain in my stomach.
I slammed my fists against the steering wheel, then, without thought, pressed my foot onto the gas. The motor roared. I was back on the street.
The street was nearly empty. My car accelerated.
I overtook a truck. I didn't even pay attention to where I was going, I just drove and cursed the air and life and the universe.
I overtook again, saw a forest appear in the distance.
There was a light thud. It wasn't loud. There was no wind.
She was there.
I remember screaming, slamming my foot on the break.
The sudden stop pulled the car side-wards. Her body swung first against me, then slammed against the passenger door, then back against me. Her neck cracked.
When I opened my eyes again she was still there, her body bent to the side.
Catriona's face was pale, her mouth wide open, her eye sockets just black gaps. The skin was dried and discolored in blue and gray. Her arms thin as sticks. Her whole body wrapped in a cloth-like layer of white strings.
Her flesh had been dissolved and sucked out of her skin.
They said that the cloth around her body was spider silk.
They said that I must have done it, somehow. That I threw her into a nest or hid her in a cave filled with spiders.
I only saw it when the police arrived. I was standing outside the car, staring at the thing on the passenger seat.
It was right outside the passenger door, swinging between the mirror and the car frame.
A small black spider was on it, not even the size of a quarter. It climbed towards the center of the perfect rings. It reached the smallest ring. It seemed to move toward the empty core. I didn't blink. But it was gone.