TUESDAY: The Weekend Transformation of Calvin Dunst

Halloween Week 2023
First Place Winner


Copyright is held by the author.

IT WAS Friday morning when he noticed it.

Calvin stood under the steamy spray, lathering up with Irish Spring. Every time he used the distinctive green and white striped bar, he was reminded of the cheesy commercial from decades past, where the showering actor broke into song with a heavy Irish brogue.

The memory never failed to amuse him, and there was a smile on his face when he turned to rinse the suds off.

He flinched upon opening his eyes.

The spider was black and fairly small, but disconcertingly furry. It had made a web in the upper corner of the shower stall, and now dangled, just outside the splash zone, slightly above Calvin’s head.

Startled to see the creature so close, he instinctively took a step back, then chuckled to himself.

“Tell you what,” he promised the spider. “I won’t bother you, if you don’t bother me.”

The spider remained motionless, but Calvin had the feeling it was listening.

A few minutes later, with a towel slung around his hips, he was standing in front of the mirror combing his hair. A tickling feeling on the back of his leg had him automatically swiping a hand across the damp skin behind his knee. Encountering something that skittered lightly across his fingers, he bit out a curse, flinging it away.

It was the spider, now hunched defensively in a ball on the ceramic tile. Calvin towered over it, scowling, before tearing off a piece of toilet tissue and bending to squish the creature without mercy.

“We had a deal,” he said, flushing the spider’s remains down the toilet.


It was Saturday when things started to get weird.

It began with his ears, a maddening itch that wouldn’t quit. Calvin finally resorted to pawing through the medicine cabinet in search of an ancient box of Q-tips.

“Maybe just a wax buildup,” he muttered, carefully rotating the swap without going too deep. He extracted the Q-tip and flipped it end for end, preparing to clean his other ear.

The greyish film clinging to the used side stopped him in his tracks.

“What?” He peered closer, his brows drawn. What the hell is that?

Tentatively, he touched the substance with one fingertip, grimacing in disgust as it clung to his skin, as sticky as cotton candy. Gross. Whatever it is, it isn’t good.

He located a bottle of hydrogen peroxide under the sink and doused a clean swab with it, inserting the swab into his ear a little deeper, swiveling it back and forth. He repeated the process with his other ear, feeling strangely comforted as the fizzy action of the liquid bubbled and crackled loudly in his ear drums. Got to be clean now.

He went on with his day, without giving it another thought. Saturday was his e-commerce day, and he spent much of his afternoon huddled over his laptop, buying and selling, and creating ads for his products on eBay.

By the time four o’clock had rolled around, Calvin’s eyes were tired, his vision blurring. The computer screen seemed to swim in and out of focus, layering upon itself in a strange manifestation of double vision. Shaking his head, he finally closed the laptop. Enough work for today.

Reasoning that all his hard work on a Saturday deserved a beer, he decided to go down to Charlie’s Place, a bar located just down the street from his apartment. He changed into a clean shirt and grabbed his keys and wallet, his hands feeling strangely warm, the skin itching.

What’s that superstition about your hands itching? Calvin mused, briskly walking through the lobby. Oh, yeah, someone will give you money. Or maybe that’s if your palms itch.

Charlie’s Place was hopping when Calvin arrived, shortly after five o’clock. The bright lights and chatter assaulted his senses when he opened the door, making him wince and want to clap his hands over his ears.

Been too long since you’ve been sociable, he scolded himself. Grab a beer. You’ll get used to the noise and lights.

The bartender handed over a bottle of Sam Adams and Calvin saluted him, lifting it to his lips. The ale tasted strange to him, his body recoiling at the idea of swallowing the fizzy brew. Forcing it down, Calvin wondered if he was coming down with something. He felt quite odd, not like himself at all.

He gripped the bottle tightly, his elbows resting on the bar. All the lights and colors, the chatter of the crowd, were contributing to his general feeling of malaise.

He suddenly noticed the bartender staring down, his eyes fixed on Calvin’s hand.

Following the man’s gaze, Calvin was startled to see his own fingers, pale against the brown bottle, sporting a profusion of spiky black hairs. The wiry hair peppered the area below his second knuckles, and as Calvin scrutinized it, he saw the hairs move independently, like tentacles testing the air.

Shocked, he jerked his hand away, knocking over the beer and jumping to his feet. Compulsively, he rubbed the back of his hand against the denim of his jeans, feeling the skin burn, painfully sensitive.

“Sorry,” he muttered, rushing off to the men’s room. What the hell is going on?

He pushed through the crowd, the jabbering voices making no sense, his vision doubling, then tripling. His head began to ache as he shoved open the restroom door, a dull pain spreading across the top of his head.

The fluorescent lights flickered as Calvin stared at his reflection in the mirror. His face was a sickly pale, his eyes wide with alarm. He squirted soap from the dispenser and scrubbed his hands under hot water, rubbing them raw where the hairs had sprouted.

This is not normal. Should I go to the emergency room? What would I say? A complaint of hairy knuckles? They’ll laugh me right out of the clinic.

Feeling more unwell with each passing minute, he decided the best thing was to go home, go to bed, and see how he felt in the morning.


Calvin awoke in the middle of the night with an excruciating pain spreading across his forehead. He tentatively reached up, his questing fingertips encountering a row of swollen bumps, painful to the touch. He jumped out of bed, and swayed back and forth, alarmingly unsteady on his feet.

The flu, he told himself, trying to quell the dread rising from his gut. Swollen lymph nodes, sensitive skin. I must have a fever.

Ricocheting like a pinball, his arms bracing himself against the walls, he made his way to the bathroom and flicked on the light.

Instant, agonizing pain seared through his skull, and he cried out, shielding his eyes. Breathing fast and shallow, he tried to compose himself, gradually opening his eyes and peeking through his fingers, wincing as the pain persisted. He approached the mirror, squinting at his reflection.

Mussed hair fell over his forehead, and he brushed it away, trying not to focus on the new, wiry hair distributed sparsely over the back of his hand. He explored his scalp just above the hairline, seeking the bumps with his fingertips.

Bending his head slightly, he parted his hair, trying to get a glimpse of the area despite the odd angle. The bumps were pink and sunken in the center, each one slightly smaller than a dime. His throat tightened with apprehension as he spotted the black reflective area inside the craters. With a trembling finger, he poked gently at one, and the ensuing pain caused him to yelp.

Sick with horror, he witnessed the edges of the crater recede in on itself, puckering and closing up.

Calvin turned away, nausea rising. He barely had time to brace himself above the toilet before vomiting violently. The pain in his head intensified with the effort, and his vision began to go grey. Leaning his back against the wall, he slid down weakly, until he was sitting on the cool ceramic tile. He squeezed his eyes shut in denial, as the image of the bumps puckering up and closing replayed itself in his mind.

It’s a bad dream, that’s all. You’re having a nightmare.

Lacking the strength to stand, Calvin crawled across the floor, his limbs feeling useless and inadequate. He reached the bed.

Staring up at his expensive hybrid mattress, he found himself unwilling to climb between the cool, white sheets. The darkness under the bed seemed much safer, and Calvin scooted underneath, comforted by the sanctuary of shadows.


It was Sunday morning.

The creature that was no longer Calvin scuttled across the floor of the apartment, seeking a way out. His once rational mind was reduced now to reactions and instinct, and an overwhelming need to feed.

Too large to squeeze under the door, it turned its head, multiple eyes surveying the room. Fresh air wafted through an open window, and the creature scrambled up onto the sill. Using its chelicerae, driven by instinct, it tore a hole in the mesh, clumsily forcing its way through the screen.

It spilled out onto the grass. The abomination was now a mix of human and arachnid, with half-formed extra appendages sprouting from its torso. It flattened itself defensively, automatically seeking shelter.

With an ungainly, crab-like gait, the creature scuttled awkwardly across the concrete, heading for the darkness of a nearby alley. Metallic banging and clattering sounds vibrated across its sensitive hairs, and it crouched behind a trash can, as the back door of a restaurant opened, just steps away.

The kitchen worker lit a cigarette, and relaxed, leaning against the wall. The creature crept forward, an overwhelming instinct to pounce, to dine, deafening all other sensory input.

In a flash, it leapt upon the unsuspecting man, its fangs sinking into the man’s vulnerable neck, stifling his cry. Poison spewed through the hollow chelicerae, dissolving the human’s tissue into a palate-friendly mush. The creature crouched on the man’s chest, slurping noisily, until its hunger was quenched.

The influx of nutrients spurred the creature’s transformation, its extra limbs lengthening and becoming more useful.

Much more agile now, it skittered down the alley, fixated on children’s laughter coming from a nearby park. The high-pitched voices excited it, sending shivers across the spikey black hairs.

The menu choices were limitless.


Image of Shell St. James

Shell St. James is a New England native living in an 1895 farmhouse with her musician soulmate, feline muse, and a benevolent ghost. Her stories have appeared in over 20 magazines, anthologies, and podcasts, including Shenandoah Literary Magazine, Sci-Fi Shorts Magazine, and CreepyPod. Her first novel, The Mermaid of Agawam Bay is now available on Amazon. Find out more at www.shellstjames.com

1 comment
  1. Wow. That was truly horrifying — especially combined with my fear of spiders, which I’m sure a lot of people share. I live the way you described the transformation! I can see why this won!

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