The men will come tomorrow. One at each side of the cement surface that borders its home, they will drag the carapace slowly, calling instructions, in tandem, across, until it is secure. I will breathe differently, as I do, year after year, seeing it contained, no longer expecting me.
All summer as I step out of the door, I see it electric in the morning sunlight. Tiny white clusters twist carefree upon its skin unaware of their pending demise. And insects, seen and unseen, alight for sustenance, then caught, are dragged under, extinguished.
This morning, like earlier ones, it roars to life and begins its final attempt at seduction. Languid, always in my view as I scan for rain or clouds. It shimmers like a jeweled coat, offers its comfort to me. Let me wrap my arms around you before it is too late, it coos as I scurry past.
I see the pending storm and exhale. Tomorrow, I tell myself.
As a small girl, I was encouraged, coaxed, swindled, to enter another cunning den. Arch your back. Push off with your toes. Point your hands like you are praying, which I was, to be upstairs, safe, with a story.
Instead they forced, pushed, until I fell, splat, shocked at the cold, its actual temperature irrelevant, swallowed what I could not breathe and fought The Furies that pulled at my pedaling legs. My eyeglasses, safe on a chair, not able to guide me to the tiled curb upon which I could step my trembling foot. Instead my fingers, doing the job of my stinging eyes, searched for purchase as my lungs fought to expel that which they could not welcome.
My husband no longer chides. He is unaware. Daily he enters the beast, one graceful arch of his body, no shudder in sight, and a moment later surfaces to shake the clinging hellions from his head. But I sit a distance away and sweat and search for its unseen bedrock, at once visible, but experience says it is trickery and that the bottom does not exist. Should I find it, it will mean the beast has won.
I remember a sandy day with friends, cajoled, appeased with a blanket and their valuables, content to bake and slurp melting ice. Until, laughing, they—the boys, at least—lifted and carried me, bound but not bound into the vastness as far as the horizon it seemed as I squirmed and cried, not laughed, certainly did not laugh, and dropped me they did at my command, when it was too late and I sank into its velvet grip, head and feet in opposition, the air dancing above. I rose, finally, only to have it pull me again into its breast and cover me with arms of steel and hold me until the sky, I thought, had never existed.
It is only a ploy to lower my resolve. No storm will come. Instead, the air is feverish and I have walked far and returned. I am alone with the beast, dripping from my hatted forehead and sticky in my shirt. It gurgles as I pass, innocent in its intentions and I stop to touch it with my sweaty hand. It sucks my fingers like a newborn. My heart is louder than its purr. There is only one more day and I am dizzy with the sun.
I scan the surface for the deceased. Small and hairy things that sought to suckle and were taken. Finding none, I slip my shorts to the cemented verge and step, one step in and wait. A chill dances upon my skin, just my ankles and toes, as they blur from sight. My breathing has stopped and I will it steady and step again. My toes have warmed. Instead my knees are bitten, nipped just barely. The beast is patient. I am aware, alert to its slyness.
A further step and most of my body has merged with its silkiness. My arms are skyward, not touching it. My breath held. No satisfaction offered, though it is there. Wobbly, in reach of the strong edge, I toe in tiny steps against the pull, like fighting a windstorm, deeper. Its odor redolent of clean, but deceptive. It tickles my chest, releases the sweat from my body as I lower my arms to meet its embrace. Each hair on my body enveloped by its mass, my appendages wholly in its grip, given over to that which has been waiting for me since its spring awakening.
But not my head. That it will never meet. The idea alone is too much. I imagine the chill as it seeps up my cheeks and forces my eyes closed, until the icy pain creeps slowly through my naked scalp, splaying my hair like snakes and I am inert, shrouded in its power.
There are a few pathetic movements; strokes too elegant a word. Feet kick. Arms ribbon away. Mouth locked tight, lest an ill-intentioned finger of plasma comes near. Its body temperature has risen, as it does in preparation for digestion, and I know it is for me, hungry, as the small rodents and flailing bees are not enough. My feet reach for safety and find none. My stomach curls and twists. Has something pierced it? I am shivery in its heat.
Finally, I reach my lifeline and climb, hurriedly onto the lowest rail, but its grip is strong and it pulls at me as I lift my body away. Pieces of it cling. Others tumble away, back to their home as we part.
I stand at a distance in the now cool air and swoosh its remnants from my arms, my legs, my heart. It tempted me to it, teased me with its comfort. But I am glorious in my triumph. Did it grant me freedom? Is a trap set for another day? I am wary of a ticket with too many punches.
The men will come tomorrow, nonchalant at the life they will return to me. They will be unaware that I would have given them much more to secure the beast in its cave for the winter. It will sleep, languorous with the movements of the earth and wait for Spring.