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On the Tip of the Tongue

Kasey lifted the bottom of her mask just enough to slip a popcorn kernel onto her tongue for Winona to nibble on.

An illustration of an open mouth with a spider inside and a kernel of popcorn trapped in its web. Th

Content warning: spiders, mentions of (police) violence in no explicit detail

 

Kasey lifted the bottom of her mask just enough to slip a popcorn kernel onto her tongue for Winona to nibble on. Winona had never been to a movie theatre and Kasey’s description of the snack had piqued her curiosity.

Winona crawled forward from her web at the back of Kasey’s throat to her left cheek, gripping tightly to Kasey’s top and bottom molars.

The kernel was as tall as Winona’s legs were long and billowed with strange puffs. Before the cloud passed the wave of Kasey’s swallow, Winona took a quick bite. The rest slid down Kasey’s throat, falling through one of the holes of Winona’s web along the way.

The taste of the corn was quite strange: buttery and salty, but already mushy as it quickly absorbed Kasey’s saliva. Not that Winona minded. If the spider had detested mushy foodstuffs, then she wouldn’t have taken Kasey’s offer to live at the back of her throat in the first place.

“So?” Kasey whispered, readjusting her facemask. Both agreed that it was best if Kasey kept the mask on; they didn’t want to risk being seen. “What do you think?”

Winona scuttled back to the moist warmth of Kasey’s throat and answered by strumming a rhythm along the strings of her web.

Very accurate to your description, the vibrations sounded in Kasey’s head. But I still hold that crickets are the tastier morsels to crunch on. Do you think they might have any at the snack bar?

Kasey chuckled. It had taken her a long time to get used to Winona’s way of talking. For the first month she couldn’t stop laughing as the vibrations from the spider’s deft strums tickled the back of her throat. She still found herself chuckling sometimes, but nowadays it was often at Winona’s formal and orderly rhythm.

What does the theatre look like? Winona trilled. Though Winona didn’t share Kasey’s excitement for the movie, she shadowed her lack of interest with curiosity about the theatre.

A small secret for herself. Miniscule.

“Well, it’s a large space with some old architectural ornaments along the walls. Mostly electric candelabra, but there are also some small bronzish busts. On the ceiling there’s also this electric chandelier—like the one from the Phantom of the Opera stage recording.”

The image hummed in Winona’s mind. It wasn’t exactly accurate, but Winona had come to understand Kasey’s way of describing things.

Sometimes not much. Other times with a flair of dramatic specificity.

Will this chandelier fall into the audience, too? Winona asked.

Kasey chuckled again. “Not this one. We’re also in the middle row of some slanted seating. There are a few people around us on their phones or whispering to each other while they wait for the movie to start.”

Kasey hesitated for a moment. “Are you sure you don’t want a quick peek?” she finally asked.

Winona strummed back that it was okay. She enjoyed trying to conjure the room in her mind. Much like her comfortable spot at the back of Kasey’s throat, these descriptions were precious things, meant for just the two of them.

The bright lights from the theatre dimmed, further darkening the inside of Kasey’s mouth. Winona crawled forward into the front again, finding her usual place for whenever they watched movies at home. She gripped the tips of Kasey’s incisors with her back four legs, resting her other four lightly along the bottom. Some of her leg hairs tickled the inside of Kasey’s lips as she settled in.

The soft light from the movie projector began to filter through the folds of Kasey’s mask. If she focused her many eyes, Winona could just make out the faint shapes of the characters on-screen.

Simply more figures hidden from Winona, as she was from them.

The movie was a re-showing of Sid and Nancy. Kasey had explained it as a film about the co-dependent relationship between a bassist of a famous punk band and his girlfriend, and their self-destructive spiral through chaos. Not exactly something Winona would have picked for herself, but Kasey was clearly excited when they walked by the theatre and saw it on the billboard.

The movie played on, and Winona listened through the facemask.

Kasey occasionally chimed in with whispered descriptions of anything she felt Winona should see. Her voice was a soft thing, threaded with anticipation.

The movie only puzzled Winona. The relationship between the two main characters was loud, unapologetic, and very uncomfortable to watch. She wondered if that was why Kasey enjoyed it.

“Is everything okay?” Kasey whispered.

Winona realised that she had been tapping a contemplative rhythm on Kasey’s bottom incisors. The spider had found herself lost in thought, listening to the unravelling the characters caused in each other. Her absent-minded nothings must have sounded like nervousness as they vibrated into Kasey’s teeth.

Yes! Winona tapped out. It... sounds like a very hardcore film.

“Yeah! And a really interesting dive into romantic dysfunction.”

Winona hadn’t expected an answer like that. She swayed silently to Kasey’s slight breath, weaving the beginnings of her next question.

Everyone in a couple brings themselves to the relationship, she tapped, sharing the little pieces of love, anguish, and habits between each other.

In a way, they become the other person’s pieces too—just like with Sid and Nancy.

“What’s on your mind?”

Am I your secret? Or are you mine?

A long silence hung between them.

“I... I don’t know any more,” Kasey said cautiously.

Beneath the noise of the movie, Winona noticed a steady drumming nearby. She immediately recognised it as one of Kasey’s new tics: a rolling pattern she would tap out whenever she was nervous.

Kasey had been the one to offer her throat as a home for Winona. They kept the arrangement to themselves, enjoying the secret no one else knew.

A spider making its home inside a human’s mouth, spinning its hidden web.

Over time, the web caught treasured moments and secrets that never needed to leave Kasey’s mouth. They stayed safe inside the taut structure of Winona’s weaving.

“This is a really cool part,” Kasey said eventually. “You should really see this.”

Kasey lifted the bottom of her mask, just slightly, for Winona to take a peek.

A rickety river boat was filled to the brim with panicked punk rockers dashing to escape a police raid. Most fell to the ground and didn’t make it back up before they were thrown down and beaten by an officer. Through the middle of it all, Sid and Nancy walked arm-in-arm, as if the chaos would never touch them.

But that wasn’t quite right, Winona realised. Maybe they weren’t afraid, because they were part of the chaos and brutality.

Winona had never been afraid of living inside Kasey, and had never been afraid of secrets.

Do you think everyone here is hiding a spider in their mouths, too?

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