by Sean Dent
[ fiction - november 03 ]
Spiders are our friends. Why is this not clear?
Who hasn't been stung by a bee in their lives? Who hasn't been annoyed by the pestering advances of a fly as one tries to read? I detest the way the little creatures molest my sandwich as it sits on a plate. As for mosquitoes, don't even get me started. They buzz me awake from the most peaceful of sleeps and leave me scratching for days after a hot, damp night.
What do spiders ask of me? Nothing. Just some room to lay their traps. They ask that I duck my head from time to time. They request the small indulgence that I do not roll up a newspaper and smack their asses into oblivion. And, I think it's a pertinent point that spiders are the most beautiful of those small creatures - so beautiful that our scientists don't even lump them into the category of insects. Take a visit to the exotic pet section your local pet store. Do they have flies available for your purchase? Do they have mosquitoes? Do they have a fine selection of cockroaches? No. It's only spiders, you'll find.
Those with children are acquainted with small sacrifices. They love their little creatures and understand their needs. There are inconveniences, but those are outweighed by the advantages in the main. And to a certain degree, after a little training, they listen to orders. I'm not suggesting we let spiders run riot. There are bound to be places where you want them to stay away. So, you make a rule and enforce that rule. It's a simple practice.
I would also like to draw attention to the beauty of their work. It takes just a little time to recognise their creativity, so perfect in its own way. As often as possible, I try to wake early enough to see the rising sun as it shines through the form of the web. Or better yet, see the gentle dew cling to each angle in particular web.
Anyone who takes the time to understand my point of view will see why I don't kill spiders, and maybe understand how reckless it is for a person to consider divorce on the grounds of that unwillingness. My wife expects me to kill not just one spider a year - but hundreds of them in all sorts of cold-blooded manners - including foot stomping, chemical attacks, toilet flushing, and suffocation by Kleenex.
Kill that spider! There's a spider in the bathroom. Destroy that web, dear. I hate spiders. They disgust me.
I don't kill spiders. That is the bottom of it. They are not inconsiderate creatures, nor are they incapable of comprehension. You simply state to them - "Not here!" I told them, build your webs higher. In the corners of rooms. Along the ceilings. In windows we rarely use. Certainly the cellar is a fine location. They listen to such instructions on the whole. There are certain members who, shall we say, forget. That is true. There are those who must be chastised - even punished. They are no different to children in that way, except they comprehend our thoughts as well as our words. An important distinction.
I tried to warn my wife. She shouldn't have spoken the way she did. They are such sensitive creatures. How did she expect them to react? I knew in my heart they were planning retribution. I knew they had designs. Their production dropped, and they were seen to gather together in hundreds. I'm sure they called friends from afar, for their numbers seemed to grow daily, and I'm certain I heard them crawling around at night. I warned my wife many times. I loved her, after all. But she looked at me like I was insane and in return for my good-natured attempts, she withdrew her affection.
My warnings unheeded, they took it into their own hands, so to speak. They hinted at first. I don't know how she could ignore such blatant signs as a triple-enforced web at the front door that morning? She disentangled with much difficulty and saw no humor in their little joke. Nor did she appreciate my smirks of contained laughter. Why, the woman has no sense of irony.
She spoke further and with more intensity of her plans to leave us if matters did not change, and I sensed their discontent. Her threat made the situation more urgent. Were she not to have forbade me from sleeping in our marital bed that night, I'm quite sure I would have avoided it anyway. I stayed in the cellar knowing that the worst was yet to come. And, not wanting to see it, nor being able to do anything about it, I ignored her screams, which started around midnight and I'm sure continued for several hours after I fell asleep.
By morning there was the silence. I anticipated the job was done well by these very competent creatures. I picked up the telephone to test my theory. Sure enough, the line was completely dead, blocking any attempts to call for help. I waited hours before venturing upstairs, passing the time by reading that most compelling of mystery novels, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Upon reaching the top of the stairs, I saw a hallway that was entrenched with their webs - crudely designed, I must say, for those done in haste are never as beautiful as their normal work, in which they invest much creative time. Already, though, they had started to dismantle their traps, knowing that while I would tolerate some disobedience if they had a particular, well-motivated purpose, they would be responsible for the clean-up afterwards.
Thus, I waited until after lunch before I tried again to reach the bedroom. I must admit I was curious to see what lengths they went. Was it another, perhaps stronger warning, or had they decided the time for warnings had passed. They knew better than I that she might react to another warning by following through on her threat to leave, and they knew there were limitations to what they could do once she was gone. Sometimes threats and warnings lead only to our downfall. For instance, were I to write a letter threatening to shoot a man when faced with some potential act on his part, I might indeed find the police at my door the next morning.
My wife's mental preparations may indeed have reached this state. It was for them to decide. They had their ways of knowing.
This time, when I reached the upstairs hallway, the path, while not totally clear, was passable. I pushed the door to the bedroom open with my foot. And saw the sunlight had filled the room. The strangeness of this was that it meant the curtains blocked not the sunlight, which they normally did until drawn after our awakening. The bedroom clean-up was still not finished, but I was able to peer inside. I saw and heard no sign of my wife, which I confess perturbed me a little, mainly due to my curious nature. I leaned forward to look inside the room and saw it was almost totally covered with thick, enforced webbing save for a small corridor, which led to the open window.
I feared the worst. Had they tormented her as I'd read some had done in a remote area of South America, where a family was found to have had their inners consumed by a swarm of spiders. They had found their ways in through the nostrils, the ear holes, the mouths, and even the anal cavities while the poor wretches slept. Not that I suspected such a course of action from my domestic species, for they were not carnivorous in that sense. It was possible, however, that they would take such a course of action to send her in flight. And what with the open window, matters did not look good.
I made my way downstairs and walked out the front door, chuckling at the memory of the previous day when she attempted to remove the almost invisible webbing from her hair, clothes, and even that extravagant alligator handbag of hers. Anyone would have laughed at such an image, but I only had time for a chuckle at that moment, anxious as I was to find the consequences of the previous night's ordeal.
The sight of my wife laying in the garden just beneath the bedroom window was almost too much. It fairly states the benevolence of these creatures when you know that they do indeed have the strength to rip open human flesh, yet except in extreme circumstances, they do not. Like ants, they have the strength equivalent to creatures many times their size, and such sharpness to their claws that exposing the flesh of my wife to the elements was a small task.
I could feel their anger towards her - so inflamed that they left her to be devoured by members of the animal and insect world they would normally have no allegiance with. He body was covered with flies and mosquitoes of all sizes, making the most of the sections of open skin. Indeed, I'm sure the sound of my approaching sent many animals and insects scurrying, or I would have seen even more predators.
Her eyes, they left alone. Perhaps as a deterrent to other human creatures who might see them, for they were filled with a dread and fear that made even me shiver - even though the early afternoon sun was so warm on my face that I contemplated a walk along the river later that day.
These thoughtful creatures did me one final favor in this matter. They left behind a preponderance of evidence - tantamount to a confession that it was they, and not me, who had committed this horrible act. As I made my way to get my coat, I noticed they were hard at work cleaning up their webs around the downstairs portion of house, which in my perception was their way of erasing any signs of loyalty or collusion between them and me. Likely, the only webs the police would find would be those in the bedroom, which even a specialist in the behaviour of spiders would find mysterious. A freak of nature, they would call it, and books would chronicle it for all of mankind, perhaps making us more aware that these creatures, although tiny and usually not poisonous, merit some respect.
Since the phones were not working and the weather fine for an October day, I walked in the direction of the police station and rehearsed my lines. "Hello, there has been a most horrible death in my house."