The larger a fetus becomes, the more it resembles a grenade. A fetus can blow a hole through the womb, putting the mother’s life at risk. Theoretically, the mother could wake up at night to find a tiny leg protruding from her stomach.
When my husband, Adam, says I’m irrational for thinking this way, I want to scream and swallow him alive with one swift gulp. I’m only pregnant because of him, because he begged and begged for a child—not an adopted child, as I had insisted, but one “made of us.”
Instead of losing my composure, I say, “You’re right, Hon. I’m being silly.”
A female wasp of the species Reclinervelles nielseni lays a single egg on a spider’s body. The spider effectively becomes the mother, a non-consenting one, in that it’s now responsible for the larva’s growth and development.
After it hatches, the larva (i.e. baby wasp) latches onto the spider’s abdomen and feeds on its insides. Eventually, the larva gains control over the mind of its eight-legged host, forcing it to construct a special web perfectly suited for the larva’s protection. The spider hangs paralyzed at the center of the web, sort of like being awake under anesthesia.
Once the baby wasp becomes strong enough, it kills the spider.
Adam lies next to me at night. Sometimes, he stinks of bourbon and cigars. Other times, I detect the citrusy perfume of another woman. (Pregnancy, it turns out, enhances one’s sense of smell.)
He stares at my stomach, hoping to glimpse a hand or foot pressing against my skin. When he does, he smiles and laughs and says, “Look!” or “Right there!” or “Oh my gosh!” or “Wow!” Pleasure contorts his sugary-sweet face.
During the day, when Adam’s away at work and I’m alone on bedrest, reading about insects or otherwise occupying myself, I sometimes see the outline of a hand or foot on my stomach, the fetus trying to rip through me. When this happens, I push it down, deep inside of me where I’m safer. Contrary to Adam, I’ll say, “Quiet down little wasp.” Or I’ll just make a buzzing noise.
Occasionally, Adam lies in bed and stares at my thighs, arms, and cheeks. He asks questions, such as, “Should you cut back on the food?” or “Do other women gain this much weight during pregnancy?” or “Will you be able to lose all of the weight you’ve gained after the baby comes?”
I refuse to go hungry. Here are some things I eat, or fantasize about eating, throughout the day while Adam’s at work: key lime pie, lemon meringue pie, an ice cream truck, steak (extra rare), raw tuna, raw salmon, raw bacon, Adam’s eyes, Adam’s face, Adam’s voice, and Adam’s mistress.
My appetite overwhelms me when Adam’s asleep, too.
Some spiders are not passive. They do not let other insects take advantage of them.
Consider the Latrodectus geometricus species. The female can weigh up to one hundred and sixty times more than her mate. She allows him to take certain pleasures with her, to satisfy his manly urges. She temporarily offers up her body. She consents. But, when she loses interest in her itty-bitty admirer, she sinks her fangs into his flesh. She tears away chunks and swallows him piece by piece until not a trace of him remains.
When Adam snores, I watch the fan spin. When I somehow manage to sleep, I have a dream that’s been recurring now for weeks. I can’t tell Adam about it. He would suspect something’s wrong with me.
The dream goes like this: I hang paralyzed in a spider web in a corner of the bedroom, candles burning, piano music playing softly through the speakers. The door creaks open. Long, black antennae breach the doorframe. A man-sized wasp flies towards me and stops inches away, where it hovers, buzzing as loud as a chainsaw. Its razor-sharp mandibles could chop off my head. Its stinger, wet with venom, could pierce through my stomach and out my back. “You’re going to be a mother,” it says in Adam’s voice, laying an egg on me.
I wake up shivering and sweaty, feel something like a baby wasp fluttering around in my stomach, feeding on my fluids, stinging my organs. My four limbs twitch. Four new limbs want to emerge. I wonder if I need to save myself, to tear this creature out of me. My upper gums ache in two places, as if any second fangs will burst forth.
Mason Binkley lives with his wife and twin boys in Tampa, Florida, and works as an attorney. His stories have appeared, or will have appeared, in Necessary Fiction, Jellyfish Review, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Barely South Review, and other places. You can find him on Twitter: @Mason_Binkley.