The Spider

The-Smiling-Spider

The boy walks through the Queen Victoria building, past countless number of shops before stopping at one in particular.  He looks in, watches a customer leaving and then he enters.

The shop is crammed with exquisite curiosities and phials of mixtures; in the centre of the shop is the counter fitted out with display cabinets packed with cigarette and cigar cases, tobacco pouches, lighters and tins of tobacco. Standing in the middle of the cabinets, in his own little island is an old Indian man.  He’s watching the boy and the boy stands in the shop, aware that he’s being watched closely.

The boy is particularly interested in the old Indian’s speciality which is neatly arranged in shelves on top of a display cabinet.  It’s an assortment of pencils in every colour imaginable, neatly arranged in a plume of colours from shelf to shelf.  No shelf holds the same colour.

But the old Indian’s speciality, his unique art form, is what he does with the pencils.  His customer chooses a selection of colours and the old Indian puts the pencils together and then carefully melts them, blending the colours together to form something which is not just the case of, but an actual lighter which when lit, the flames becomes the blend of the colours that contains it.

The boy walks slowly past the shelves, looking at each colour pencil, in awe by the beauty and feeling a strong sense of longing.  He also keeps an eye on the old Indian.  He talks to the old Indian, who follows the boy from his side of the counter, and as the boy talks he discreetly pushes a display of pencils.

The pencils cascade down the old Indian’s side of the counter, cracking against the tiled floor.  As the boy pushes them over with one hand, the old Indian cries out and rushes towards the waterfall of colour.  The boy grabs a fistful of pencils with his other hand and turns to walk out the door as the old Indian is rescuing his craft.

He only just turns around when a steel grip falls on his wrist and holds him still.  The old Indian is right behind him, suddenly no longer in his island of cabinets although the passage out is on the other side of the shop and it took him unnatural speed to be by the boy, as though he could just teleport from one spot to another.

The boy stares at him with wide eyes, frightened but also defiant.  The hand that clutches the pencils is held firmly by the old Indian who stares back angrily.  He knows everything, has seen everything, he’s been old for a lifetime and more and has seen all kinds coming and going while he himself has stayed, unable to go and unable to die.

There’s a great roar coming from the man, though no noise comes from him.  The old Indian makes money from his craft, yet he also gives it freely to those that ask.  That’s his duty.  The boy has hurt his craft and taken what isn’t his, when permission wasn’t granted.  He’s disrespected the old Indian, his craft and his shop, yet still glares back at him insolently, with no sign of remorse.

A silent curse comes from the old Indian against the angry boy and although the boy doesn’t hear it, he can feel it coursing through him, filling every inch of him.  In a split second – unnaturally fast – the shop has filled with the old Indian’s family, all cursing the boy silently and vehemently, centuries of knowledge and experiences and emotions swirling among them…  and then as suddenly as they appear, they disappear along with the old Indian and his craft and his shop and the boy disappears with them.

—-

A girl is in her backyard with matches, inspecting a lantern.  There’s a little furry spider in the lantern but the girl lights a match anyway and hopes that the flame will either scare it out or burn it.  As her hand goes closer to the wick she decides against scaring it because the spider scares her, makes her feel threatened, so she tries to burn it.  She wants it gone.  Each time she tries to burn it, it gets scalded by the flame but doesn’t die.  It runs around inside the lantern, evading the heat, the tiny hairs on its body singed.

Then the spider grows in size again and again until the smell of its singed hairs can be smelt and the girl screams and flings the lantern away from her and runs as fast as she can inside.

YEARS LATER

The woman, once a girl in her backyard with a lantern, is riding in an open carriage with a group of friends.  They’re in the city but there aren’t any cars on the street.  The sky has darkened unnaturally early and thunder rolls but there’s no rain.

A dense black cloud is coming towards them fast and there’s a sound of wind howling and then the black cloud is on them and towering above them is a giant spider, the grey and black sky behind it no longer visible, and the girl can hear the screams of her friends and then her own screams as the spider leans over and grabs her.  She thinks she can hear herself yelling ‘I’m sorry’ but it’s too late for apologies.

As the spider pins her to the ground she turns into a writhing spider, but the big spider’s grip is firm and I lose complete vision as I watch, til I can’t see the big spider at all, only that it’s holding her down and all I can see is one big leg slicing open the woman’s abdomen and dark fluid – spider blood – is oozing out of the gaping wound and I can hear her screaming endlessly as the unforgiving spider slowly dissects her.

It’s a bright, clear, calm day with a slight breeze blowing.  Towering in the sky, almost amongst the clouds is a skyscraper with a railing-free balcony which stretches to the very edge of the building and then drops off sharply.

On the pristine white balcony is the woman, her body in half, close to the edge of the balcony.  With a shaking hand she’s clutching her phone to her ear, tears streaming down her face.  Her other half, the back of her, is an arms-length from her, fluttering slightly in the breeze.  She’s paper thin and vulnerable, sobbing into the phone, telling her best friend what happened, unable to keep the hysteria from setting in.

He was sitting at his desk working on a university assignment, his face slowly changing to one of anger.  ‘….He cut me in half…’  he heard her sob, and his face contorted into rage, turning red, his grip on the phone tightening with suppressed anger.  He was no longer the boy in the Indian’s shop, stealing coloured pencils, but revenge had finally come, hurting not just him but his best friend as well.

He could barely hear her words through her frantic sobbing, but had heard enough.

She was unaware of the effect of her words on her best friend.  She stood there on the balcony, gripping the phone as though it were her life line.  ‘I want to die,’ she could barely breathe now, her body was shaking uncontrollably while the back half of her body still waved in the breeze next to her, oddly peaceful next to her hysterical front half.  ‘But I’m not ready to cut loose yet,’ she choked on her sobs.

Holding her halved body together was a long, soft string of spiders’ web, as though she were a doll that had had its seams ripped and the stuffing torn from it.

A sudden gust of wind tore the spiders web in half and unable to stop it or even move, her second half is swept from the balcony and like a feather drifted off peacefully, taking with it the last of her hope and taking away her choice to not cut loose, while she screamed down the phone over and over again for her best friend to help her.

___

I was walking down the train station platform, a bag over my shoulder.  With me was a woman I’d met through friends a few weeks earlier, who would be staying with us at a holiday house.

As we got onto the train she began telling me her story bitterly, one which had started a few years earlier and horrified me with details of dissection.

‘Look at me,’ she spat out, ‘he stole my life from me.’  She lifted up her shirt, her body looked normal from the front but from behind she was covered with layers of padding and bandages which leaked an odd fluid.  ‘He took my body from me,’ she pulled her shirt back down abruptly and leaned back in her seat.  Her eyes had darkened with anger, there weren’t any tears left.  They’d dried out and had been replaced by a seething bitterness and a desire for revenge.

I felt uncomfortable to be near her.  I felt repulsed.  Not because of padding or bandages or because there was only half a body sitting in front of me, but because there was something poisonous lurking beneath her anger and hatred and not just towards the thing that had done it to her, but at life in general.  There was something unnatural about her that was more than being able to live with half a body.

It was only an hour and a half to the village the holiday house was in, but it was a long hour that went by.  When we got off at the tiny station I was relieved not to be cramped into a small space with her.  I wanted to escape from her and her bitterness altogether, but I felt an odd sense of duty towards her.  I also felt guilty that she repulsed me.

We reached the holiday house in no time at all to find it busy with activity.  It was a large house and I could see quite a few friends amongst the people I didn’t know.

In the kitchen the woman and I started helping out by unpacking the bags of food we and some other’s had brought.  The shopping was on a large, unvarnished timber table in the middle of the kitchen and the woman and I began sorting it out between food for the cupboard and the fridge.

We sorted quickly.  I wasn’t sure whether the woman was better when she was quiet or when she was talking.  While she was talking I heard the bitterness and resentment in her voice, listening to her complaints and accusations.  While she was quiet I could feel everything that she’d just been saying radiating from her along with a sense of hostility and… unnaturalness.

There came a point when the quiet had stretched out for long that I a felt a stab of fear when she grabbed my arm urgently, her nails digging in through my shirt and into my skin.

‘That’s him!’  She hissed.  ‘That’s the bastard who ruined my life.’

A group of people had come in, friends of my friends.  They were joking and laughing and picking over the shopping still on the table.  I couldn’t mistake who she was talking about and I couldn’t stop myself from trying to shrink back.  Even the feel of her sharp nails penetrating my skin, or even the feel of her standing so close, was nothing compared to how frightened and uncomfortable looking at him made me feel.

He was tall, broad and dark.  He was very handsome.  If you thought of every chiselled hero in every romance then you would be thinking about him.  He held himself in a self-assured way, dominating the room.

But the biggest thing that struck me was that he was also repulsive.  He emitted an aura of being a cruel, harsh creature, barely even human.  His movements were unnaturally quick and he smelled like death and decay.

If she seemed poisonous then he was poisonous and every single bad thing that he had in him, this spider, this freak of nature, he’d put into her when he’d slowly and in cold blood had dissected her.

If I felt hostility coming from her, I could feel the hostility and danger come from him even stronger.  It was like everything I’d felt and thought about her paled in comparison to him.  If I could barely stand an hour and a half on the train with her, then I couldn’t even stand ten minutes in the same room as him.

The woman couldn’t even control herself.  She tore her nails from my arm and flew at him, pale with rage.

‘It was YOU,’ she screamed.  ‘It was YOU who did this to me.’  She continued screaming at him, the words suddenly insignificant compared to the violence of her attack.

The room was still, the man’s face twitched and then he was swiftly, quickly on our side of the table.  His face was twisted in rage, his mouth gaping open and his teeth were fangs dripping with spider venom.

‘Stay away from me,’ he snarled.

The poison oozed from his mouth and just as swiftly as he came, he was gone, already far from the house and heading towards the cabins at the back of the property.

This was a dream that I had.  I have plans for it, but just wanted to share what I have.

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