I woke up in the middle of the night, a tight raspiness gripping my throat. I hurried towards the bathroom, suppressing the urge to cough. Hacking in your spouse’s ear at 1 A.M. is not a good way to promote marital bliss. I’m a restless sleeper, so I already feel bad for waking Kara up so often.
When I arrived in the bathroom, I felt something move inside my chest, like a large glob of phlegm had shifted. Maybe that explained my desperate need to cough. I shut the door and looked into the mirror above the sink. I hadn’t been sick recently or been in to a bar. I don’t smoke. My job is sitting behind a desk all day, and even though I work for the CIA, I promise it’s nothing exciting. I’m just with human resources.
A spasm hit me and I bent over the sink, a dry cough exploding out of me. Did I swallow a bug in my sleep? I wondered, thinking about a story from Reddit about a woman who’d swallowed a spider. Another cough burst out of me. I felt like my eyes were going to pop out of my head. Several more hacks hit me, and my abs started to hurt. It felt like something was attached to my throat.
I drank some water from the sink, but the sensation seemed closer to my lungs than my stomach. When the next wave of coughing hit me, I slammed my fist into my chest, trying to dislodge whatever was down there. Great, I thought, now my sternum and my abs hurt. I looked into the mirror. My eyes were bloodshot, an angry red network of spider webs. Can you give yourself an aneurysm from coughing?
A quick search of the medicine cabinet revealed no cough medicine. Damn it! The idea of an insect stuck in my throat resurfaced, images of June bugs and hairy spiders crawling across my mind.
Before I could dream up how to remove the invader, the worst spasm yet doubled me over. I clasping my knees, feeling weak. Tears forced their way between my squinted eyelids, and still I kept coughing. My abs were on fire and my head felt like it was going to explode.
Finally, the fit subsided and I was able to stand again. I wanted to grab my phone to look up what to do, but I knew any movement would trigger another outburst. With no access to Google, I had zero information on what to do.
I felt the shifting in my chest again, but this time I was sure legs were moving. It has to be a bug, I thought, still at a loss for how to get it out. Why isn’t it coming up?
Another brutal coughing fit, more violent than any before, slammed my chest. I braced myself against the sink, trying to keep my balance. Though the pain and spasms, I felt the thing inside me move up. Each cough forced it out, centimeter by agonizing centimeter. I felt like I was going to die. My muscles were tearing my ribcage apart.
And then it was in my mouth, something slimy, but with mass and texture. I quickly spit into the sink, and stared in horror. A tiny thing, coated in blood and mucus lay in the basin. It was black, leathery, and about three centimeters long. Dread flooded up inside me and I took a step back. “What is that ?” I uttered. I wanted to know, had to know what it was, but everything inside me said stay away. It looked mechanical as well as organic, a paradox my mind could not wrap itself around. It wasn’t an insect, wasn’t anything that had evolved on Earth.
Movement. I thought I saw a leg move, but they were so small. How could I know for sure? A scream of terror escaped my lips, and I jumped back. The thing had risen up on its short legs, and was looking at me. It had no eyes that I could see, but I could tell it was observing me somehow.
“What? What’s happening?” Kara yelled, bursting in though the bathroom door. When I turned back to the sink, the thing was gone. All that remained was a small puddle of mucus, spit, and blood.
“I coughed something up…” I replied dazedly. “It looked at me.” What just happened?
“What?” Kara said, squinting her eyes against the harsh bathroom light.
“I — I — I don’t know,” I stammered, trying to make sense of the situation. Did I just dream it? There was evidence for something in the sink, but what? My body felt wrecked from all the coughing, but that didn’t prove the existence of the creature.
“Come back to bed,” she said, shaking her head. I worried that moving would bring on another fit, but I took a step and felt fine. The tightness and congestion were gone from my throat. Other than the weariness of my abs and the rawness of my windpipe, everything felt normal.
I fell into a deep sleep and didn’t wake up until my alarm went off at 5 A.M. I felt refreshed. My core was sore, but that was pretty normal for a day after working out. While brushing my teeth, I noticed a big glob of some nasty looking spit in the sink. Gross, I thought. Kara must be using my sink again. I rehydrated the mass and washed it down the drain.
During breakfast, Kara told me about how she’d dreamed I was yelling. I often have nightmares and can make a lot of noise. “You know,” I replied, “I actually think I remember that dream. I had a spider in my throat. I just couldn’t quit coughing.”