Itch by Cathryn Grant

Itch by Cathryn Grant

Seeking bliss was not the goal. Still, she secretly hoped for it, although she’d never admit it to her meditation instructor. Tremendous self-control was required if she aspired to achieve even a glimpse of nirvana, a place where she would leave skin and bones and fear – especially the fear – behind. Sitting with her eyes closed filled her with dread.

Sun dripped through the open window. It fell on her bare legs, the heat like fingers pressing into her skin. Through her eyelids, the light glowed orange and red, sometimes flashing purple, edged with green, until she felt it might burn through the tender skin and slice at the liquid surface of her eyes. She hadn’t mastered the lotus position, so she sat with her right foot on top of her left thigh, her left foot on the floor in a more traditional cross-legged position. She drew her scattered thoughts away from the sun and returned her attention to noticing the movement of her breath. The burning on her legs faded.

“Yoga” image by Meditation

Thought was an insidious creature, impossible to subdue. Only the most severely disciplined achieved the promised bliss of an empty mind. Thoughts arose and grabbed others, they spun madly, forming a web of chatter across the brain. Minutes passed before she realized she’d once again failed to maintain a single strand of concentration on her breath. In. Out.

A tickle ran along her right shin. The instruction was to observe it, sit with it, release it. Yielding to an urge to scratch showed a lack of acceptance, wanting to change the Is of reality, wanting things to be different than they were.

The sensation traveled further, then graciously retreated to the background. She took a slow breath. The light seared her eyelids.

The tickle returned. It grew more insistent. Her body betrayed her, demanding she pay attention to its needs, clawing at her mind to pull her into the earth where she belonged. The tickling ran up past the tendon behind her knee and along her inner thigh to the hem of her loose shorts. Another tickle appeared on the connecting skin between her first and second toes.

She took a longer, slower breath. Tears spilled from beneath her eyelids. The sensations, like feathers brushing against her skin, raced down her neck and along the backs of her arms. It was too much. She wiped at her eyes, then opened them.

On the inside of her right thigh sat a spider the size of a dandelion. It lifted a leg, preparing to extend the silken thread that stretched from her right big toe to the inner seam of her shorts.

An inhuman scream coiled in her belly, pushed against her lungs, exploding from her lips with such force her ears ached. She leapt to her feet. The scream continued to build until her skull was filled with nothing but the sound of terror. All thought was gone, and for a moment, she felt the bliss of no mind.

Cathryn Grant 225x311Cathryn Grant lives and works in Silicon Valley. Her fiction reveals the dark side of life in the suburbs — where quite a few of her characters are a breath away from madness or crime. Her short fiction has appeared online and in print. You can find her at and on Twitter @CathrynGrant.