THE GIRL AND THE SPIDER
by T.A. Saunders
There was once a little girl who lived in a run-down slum in the middle of a run down city. Her mother was not very watchful and her father passed his time with liquor and other women, rather than with his family. While the little girl’s life was far from perfect, she did very well in school and made her parents proud, when they bothered to pay attention to her at all.
Yet the little girl had one troubling matter that exceeded all her other woes. Each and every night, she would be wake from the deepest sleep to find a spider dangling from a web, just inches above her face. It was both strange and frightening to the little girl, who had a great and powerful fear of spiders. The spider never harmed her, it merely lurked there on its web with its long, spindly legs and fearsome-looking pincers. While relatively small as far as spiders go, she could never bring herself to kill it, for the terror in her heart.
One night, the girl managed to find enough courage to speak to the spider, having found no comfort in hiding under covers or putting her pillow over her head. She thought perhaps if she asked him very nicely it would leave her be.
“Mister Spider,” she said, “Please, please leave me alone!”
“Leave you alone?” the spider replied without words, but rather with a voice in the little girl’s frightened mind, “But I like it here. There are bugs that crawl in the cracks in the floor under your bed. I wait for them and trap them in my web.”
“Please Mister Spider! I will do anything if you just leave me be!” the girl cried out.
Swaying on his web a bit, the spider considered the little girl’s plight. “I will do as you ask, but you must do a thing for me. You will bring me an insect every night till the end of your nights and I will leave you alone.”
“I will do as you ask! Just please stop lurking over my bed!” The little girl whimpered.
“Very well, but remember your word is your bond. Break your word, you will be my prey,” the spider warned, before skittering back up his web.
“Yes I will remember, every night!” The little girl replied, overjoyed with the result.
From the next night and every night thereafter, the little girl left an insect for the spider in a little mason jar that she would leave unsealed for him. She was careful to pluck wings and legs away with tweezers as to ensure that the little pests would not escape the jar. Her home was a less than tidy one, so all manner of flies, roaches and silverfish were found, captured and mutilated for the spider. Never centipedes though, far too many legs to pluck and the little girl found them nearly as frightening as spiders!
Eventually, the little girl grew up and moved out on her own. Now older, wiser and college-educated, she no longer left her tribute for the spider. It would be entirely strange for her to sneak into her parent’s home to leave a wingless, legless bug and she was quite sure the whole thing was a childish delusion. No spider could live that long and even if he did, she lived clear across town in the suburbs. It was much cleaner there and the only spiders there were outside. So the girl slept soundly every night, sure that the spider would never find her and her word no longer needed to be kept.
The girl was not aware that the spider told his many children that she made a promise of tribute and they told their children. The girl did not realize that where she went, descendants of the spider she gave her word to followed. The spiders remembered what the price was for not leaving tribute and had even been patient in waiting, since the girl had moved into a new and cleaner home.
But months passed and the girl no longer left tribute. It wasn’t that they needed the meal, for spiders are crafty and clever when catching their prey. A word is a bond however and breaking that word has its price, a price now the girl must pay.
It was a night when the moon was full and the girl had been out with friends and drinking heavily. Like her father, she had a weakness for liquor and it often got the better of her. She often found herself as she was tonight, haphazardly draped across her bed, above the covers in an attempt to sleep off the drunkenness for the next day. She did not know the spiders watched and waited for her to come home, knowing she would be inebriated. They knew her habits and knew when she would come home, so they lurked in the dark places spiders do, for her to finally collapse as they knew she would.
It didn’t take long for them to tangle her in their webbing, once she had fallen asleep on the bed. Strand over strand, weaving and lacing, the thousands of tiny spiders caccooned the girl, who never realized their dark work until one crawled onto the base of her neck. The sensation of the spider’s tiny legs woke her abruptly, though the truth of her woes was not realized until she attempted to swat at the back of her neck, only to find she was bound by webs.
“What…what is this?” The girl blurted out, still in some measure of confusion.
“Your word is your bond and your word is broken,” the spider at the base of her neck replied with a voice inside her mind. “and now you are our prey.”
“No! No!” Shrieked the girl. “I promised a spider, but not all of you!”
“In promising our grandfather, you were also bound to his descendants.” the spider explained.
“That isn’t fair! Let me go! Let me—“
The girl’s words were cut off by spiders crawling across her mouth, leaving thousands of web strands behind them to gag her. Spiders enjoy their meals a live after all, but not necessarily as loud as the girl was being. Her muffled cries were acceptable however, since they could not be avoided. One by one, the spiders sought purchase of her skin and began biting and poisoning her. While one of the little spiders could hardly harm her, many of them were able to silence her pleas in mere moments, leaving them with a warm, fresh meal to devour at their leisure.
And devour they did. Only bones remained for the police when they finally sought the girl after she was reported missing by her friends who had been drinking with her only a few nights before.