Medical Microfiction: Arachnoid

In the Shelter of Each Other

Wanda found a spider in the shower one morning. No surprise; it was an old house, full of cracks, leaks, drafts, and squeaks — much like Wanda herself.

“Let’s get you out of the steam, little friend,” said Wanda. She trapped it in a Mason jar and freed it in the attic, where there were abundant insects to eat.

That winter, the house somehow felt a little warmer. The gas bill dropped and her arthritis eased.

In spring, Wanda checked the attic. Her friend had been busy. Carefully overlapped leaves wrapped in spider silk patched each hole in the roof.


The arachnoid: proof we all have cobwebs in the brain.
The arachnoidea: proof we all have cobwebs in the brain. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Arachnoid means spider-like. In anatomy, arachnoid specifically refers to one of the three membranes that cover the brain inside the skull. The first membrane touches the skull directly and is called the dura mater, which is Latin for “tough mother”. This awesome and hilarious name came about when Greek medical words were mistranslated into Latin. The second membrane, the arachnoid mater or arachnoidea, underlays the dura mater. It’s named for its thin, weblike appearance. The third membrane covers the brain directly and is called the pia mater, or “pious mother”. Once again, that name came from a translation error by way of Greek.

Meninges of the brain
Meninges of the brain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Together, these three membranes protect, anchor, and cushion the brain and spinal cord so they don’t spend all day getting knocked against the inside of your skull. If you experience a head injury and the doctor puts you on concussion watch, it’s because they’re worried about bleeding in between these membranes or meninges. The disease meningitis is the inflammation of the membranes in either the brain or spinal cord due to a viral or bacterial infection.

So much relies on this delicate trio of tissues. Good thing they’re one tough mother.

This is another story I wrote for the Drabblecast’s ongoing flash fiction contest, this time on the theme “Good Samaritan”. Have you ever had a stranger do something particularly kind for you?

4 thoughts on “Medical Microfiction: Arachnoid

  1. What a wonderful story! This is testimony to why we shouldn’t blithely kill animals we encounter. I am allergic to spider bites, but if I encounter a web-spinning spider in the apt, I don’t kill it. I stay out of their way and they out of mine, and they eat all the pests that bother me much more that spiders. We’re a team, you see. 😉

    1. You’ve got the right idea! I bet if you’re nice to them long enough, they’ll build a whole extension to your house. I usually let them be too, as long as they’re not poisonous or REALLY big ‘uns. I had a spider living in my shower at the time I wrote this story. I don’t know where he went though. Hope he doesn’t surprise me on a bad day…

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