Someone is watching you.
You scoff silently at the sensation. Everyone knows that this mansion is abandoned, and has been for decades.
It does retain enough of its former grandeur to impress. It's all sweeping arches and high-vaulted ceilings, full of ornate, antique furniture and somber-faced portraits of the upper class. The neglect of years, however, is obvious. The once-ornate wallpaper is yellowed and peeling, puffs of dust rise from the carpet with each step you take, and a tumult of stenches assault your nose, mildew reigning supreme among them.
And yet you still can't shake the feeling of unseen eyes on your back. You whirl suddenly to catch the watcher in the act. Only shadows greet you. You peer uneasily into the murk for a few seconds, then turn back around.
There are too many spiders, even for a derelict building. Everywhere your gaze falls, it finds several, sitting brazenly in the open as if this is clearly their own domain. Their delicate gossamer webs are like tapestries that sweep across the walls, the ceilings, the doorways.
You brush some of the sticky threads aside and wander deeper into the gloom. As your eyes adjust to the dimness, you realize you've found what must have been the dining room. High-backed chairs stand sentinel around a long wooden table, stolidly awaiting a next meal that will never come. The fireplace sits cold, ancient ash still upon its hearth.
A hint of movement. Your breath catches in your throat. For a moment, you're certain you saw someone sitting in a chair.
Impossible. You move forward to prove to yourself that your eyes are playing tricks on you, and give an unsteady laugh when you see the empty seat.
It dies in your throat as the shadows seem to writhe, flicker.
Like storm clouds gathering, the darkness coalesces, draws together and solidifies into a shape. The silhouette of a slender woman in a dress is perched primly on the edge of the chair.
A whisper issues from the figure. ″Don't.″
She turns to look at you, and though the rest of her features are lost in shadow, her eyes are vividly white: two wide, stricken shapes in the blackness of her face. She reaches a beseeching hand toward you as if pleading for help.
If you make a noise, you aren't aware of it. Sense has fled. Your mind is filled by a single, urgent command: run.
You obey. Your steps are thunderous in your ears. Panic blinds you as you skid through hallways and rooms. When you finally slow to a halt, you find yourself in a bathroom.
You hunch over the sink and stare at your own shaken reflection in the mirror. The silvery glass is spotted with age, and warped like a funhouse relic. Your reflection ripples as you shift.
″It was just your imagination,″ you tell yourself. Your voice is like a gunshot in a cathedral, punching through the unearthly silence.
Something wet drips onto your hand. You look at it, uncomprehending, and see a spot of red. Blood?
Another drop falls into the sink with a faint plink, a scarlet streak on the grimy porcelain. You look up.
Something is hanging upside-down from the ceiling. Your blank mind grapples for a more specific term than 'something', and fails.
It must have been a person once. Now it's a bloated, shapeless mass, completely covered in fine red wounds that steadily trickle blood. The only features that remain untouched are the hair, dark curls dangling, and the eyes, wide and white.
″I was so jealous,″ the corpse-thing says in a faint, dreamy tone, as if explaining something.
You've stumbled out of the room before realizing you're in motion. In the blur of your fear, you can't remember which way is out of the house. You lurch off down the corridor, panting harshly.
Suddenly, a song fills your ears, seeming to emanate from the walls themselves. It has the light and lilting sound of a simple children's rhyme.
″Oh, little fly, you silly thing,
You're caught in Spider's web.
Better fly away, quick, quick!
Or soon you will be dead.″
You ram through doors at full speed, disoriented, a rising tidal wave of terror in your chest. You can nearly taste the stench of neglect in your throat, making you want to retch. Soft laughter drifts from the walls.
You skid to a halt, utterly lost, and stare wildly around. ″Who are you?!″ you demand of the air, hysteria in your voice.
You don't really expect a response, but after a pause, one comes. ″Why, my name is Spider.″
Spider is as spindly as her namesake, tall for a woman, her arms and legs long and thin. Eight appendages like spider legs extend from her back, which she can move as easily as her other limbs. Her tail, rather than a sweeping, smooth curve, kinks at random intervals along its length. Though her build is awkward, she moves with fluid grace and holds herself with poise; her posture tends to be prim and elegant. Her scales are a uniform pale green.
Her eyes, fringed with thick lashes, are the most prominent feature of her face. Large and perpetually staring, they seem to lack proper irises as they stare from their deep-set sockets. They tend to give her a vacant look, though they can become sharp in rare circumstances.
Her hair is comprised of long, loose purple curls, and is usually worn in a ponytail. Her attire varies depending on her whims. She can appear clothed however she wishes, and so her ensembles tend to include a distinct spider theme, as seen in her default favourite outfit or the variation above. Regardless, she favours dresses in dark colours, with elaborate frills and accessories. Said accessories often include live spiders, which she allows to perch upon her wherever they please.
Spider grew up imprisoned and isolated, and as such, she lost the tenuous grasp she had on her sanity. With her vague yet usually-pleasant manner, she often seems disconnected from the world around her. A conversation with Spider is bound to be littered with bizarre ramblings that may make a certain amount of sense-- assuming one knows what she's talking about. Her speech patterns mix ladylike formality, abstract observations and blunt childishness.
And like a child, her point of view is a selfish and hypocritical one. As far as she's concerned, cruelty toward her is clearly abominable, yet she feels no hesitation to be cruel to others if she feels they deserve it. What constitutes a terrible offense in her eyes is often what another person would shrug off. She is mildly surprised whenever she realizes that someone fails to understand her perspective.
She views herself as quite a nice person-- or ghost, if you will-- who has been disappointed by other people in the past, and as such usually avoids contact with them, despite the occasional twinge of loneliness.
I wonder, sometimes, if there is some darkness in me, some internal rot that blackens my soul. Not because of what I did to the girl; that was an act of goodness. No, what causes me to question my own virtue is that I somehow produced such a creature in the first place. Surely if I am as pure of heart as I believe, any daughter of mine should be equally benevolent? And yet, what I spawned is nothing less than a demon.
Perhaps it is where I live. Neovia is a place where dourness is as pervasive as the ever-present fog, where citizens shroud themselves in stiff black and their faces are pale and grim as though attending a perpetual funeral. Perhaps the rot is in all our souls, here, eroding what began whole.
I did not understand the true extent of the girl's abnormalities in the beginning, to my regret. If I had, I would certainly have acted sooner. Nonetheless, it was clear that there was something strange about her nearly from birth.
She never had the usual draik wings. Instead, eight appendages precisely like those of a spider jutted from her back. They moved without a purpose anyone else could see, yet they seemed to think they had purpose; they flexed and extended with nimble grace, moving in elegant unison with one another, as though weaving invisible threads or scuttling along a nonexistent surface.
The rest of her was quite as gangly and long-limbed, and she looked strange forced into formal velvets and silks, a girl more arachnid than reptile forced to play the part of a proper little lady. Too-big eyes stared from hollows above her frothy lace collars. Blank, yet knowing, these eyes seemed always to be peering at something beyond the world of the rational, as if seeing strange, vibrant colours and dreams made real. Her stares lasted long after the subjects of them began to feel uncomfortable. She gazed into people as though contemplating parts hidden even from themselves, ones that were visible to her alone.
She had no friends to speak of. I would arrange play times with other young children, and sent her to school once she was old enough, yet the normal children seemed to sense that my daughter was in some way unlike them, and rightly shunned her. The intuition of a child is never to be scoffed at, yet still I did not understand until I chose to speak to her one day about her lack of sociability.
″I have friends,″ she replied in her soft, rarely-used voice. Her eyes gazed vaguely at me, into me. ″Thousands of them.″
″Now, you mustn't lie,″ I told her.
″I'm not lying.″ She was undisturbed by being scolded. Little seemed to upset her equilibrium. I rarely saw her cry, and she laughed at only the wrong things. ″Look, Mother, here's one of them.″
She held up her cupped hands to show me she was carefully cradling a spider.
This, of course, called for a lecture. Spiders could not be her friends. She didn't understand why. I asked her whether she could have a conversation with a spider.
She said yes.
Preposterous, of course. I told her so, and she maintained that not only could she speak to them, but they obeyed any command she gave them.
″Oh, really? Show me,″ I said.
A moment passed. We stood there in our drawing room, I tapping my foot, arms folded, while she merely gazed vacantly at nothing I could see.
And then they came.
Thousands, she had said, and it was true. They came creeping from their silk-spun lairs, their dark homes, the crevices and cracks and out-of-the-way places no one thought to look. A plague of spiders of all sizes filled my floor and swept across it in a seething tide of waving legs.
It was at this point that shock and hysteria set in, and my recollections become fragmented. I wonder sometimes whether I mightn't have imagined it all, had some sort of waking nightmare. Yet I know I did not.
Clearest in my mind is her reaction when I began to stomp on the creatures and swat them with the broom. She shrieked wordlessly, and in all her life it was the strongest emotion I'd ever seen her display. I remember fending her off as, sobbing, she attempted to pull me away and keep me from killing the wretched things.
Abruptly, as if in compliance with some unheard command, the spiders began to retreat, fleeing my attacks, and finally I was left with my daughter. She sniveled and shuddered on the floor, hugging her knees to her chest. Her eyes, locked onto me, held stark accusation.
It was then that I realized the truth: my daughter was a demon. No good, righteous person could possess such an ability. It was a sign that she was corrupt within. What I had wrought by producing such an abomination against nature, I did not know, but one fact penetrated my dazed disbelief and fear: I needed to do something about it, before she could grow older and spread her evil.
I am ashamed to say I could not do my duty and kill her. I would have been condemned forever had I committed such an act, even against a demon that needed to be purged, and I take very seriously the state of my soul.
Demons, I have heard, can survive without sustenance, and so I knew my best choice would be to imprison her. The cellar has a tiny alcove; I dragged her to it and ordered her to stay as I began to wall her in. Vacuous creature that she was, she did not argue, but simply watched as I laid the bricks.
Those maddening eyes were focused on nothing, yet I imagined they were full of judgment. A trick of the demon, no doubt. An attempt to make me waver in my dutifulness and allow her to roam free once more. I refused to be affected. There are no qualms in my heart about my actions. Yet I tried not to look at her face, for the hurt and censure I might see in it did, after all, belong to the daughter I had raised from infancy. Perhaps I would have felt a twinge of soft-heartedness, and then all would have been lost. When I built the wall high enough that I could no longer see her face, the relief I felt was pronounced.
Eventually, there was nothing but a wall, no hint that there was another room sealed behind it, certainly nothing to say my forsaken child was living there. And live she did, as I knew she would despite the lack of food and water; for, whenever I have to descend to the cellar, I will often hear her faint, muffled voice, speaking, singing, laughing. If she was not born insane, I've no doubt the isolation has driven her to it.
After I had finished walling her up, I scrubbed the spattered remains of spiders from my floor, procured a pesticide to eliminate any other spiders she might have called to my home, and put out the story that my poor daughter had wandered out into a harsh snowstorm and disappeared.
I doubt anyone but I has thought of her in years, now. I try not to, of course, but sometimes when I go down for some preserved fruit or dried meat, I still hear the terrible sound of her voice beyond the brick wall. I can't abide the singing, the demented lullabies with which she seems to soothe herself.
Yet her existence is my fault, and if my punishment is to keep her diligently imprisoned, so be it. My soul will be judged untainted. It must be.
I am a very well-to-do man. I hold a prominent position in this town. I am admired by many, and respected by all.
Though I have worked hard to attain what I have, I occasionally find my life stifling. Politics and parties, politeness and prudence. I have, since I was a boy, had an unruly streak. Some secret part of me has yearned always for some thrill or adventure, for an encounter with the unknown, something beyond the stiff boundaries of society.
Perhaps that is why I paused in the rain that day to stare at the young woman.
She was drifting through the streets like some ethereal being, bare of foot. The rain and lamplight created a tremulous, misty halo around her. She was soaked to the skin, of course. The fabric of her dress dragged heavily through puddles behind her, along with her long, sodden locks of hair. She seemed unbothered by her state. Indeed, her face spoke of rapt joy as she gazed around, seeming to find fascination in everything from the frequent flashes of lightning to the cobblestone beneath her dirty toes.
She was thin, I saw. Worse than thin. Gaunt. Angular bones jutted from beneath her green scales, and her dress hung off her as if made for a larger woman. Her face was nearly a skull, dark eyes peering out from twin caves, her cheeks hollow and wasted.
I hesitated for a moment, then moved to hand her my umbrella. She took it silently and gazed at it as though unsure what it was, then smiled and held it over both our heads. That smile was startlingly lovely, and showed a hint of the beauty she should rightly have had, were she not starved near to death.
″Are you well?″ I asked. Hardly an inspired choice, I know; only a blind man could fail to see she was in dire need of some food and shelter.
″Oh, yes,″ she replied. Her voice was soft and lilting, very nearly a song. ″I am very well now, thank you. She's gone to the dark, and I am very well indeed.″
I hesitated again, unsure how to respond. Finally, I removed my cloak and draped it over her bony shoulders. ″Let me take you back to my home,″ I told her. ″You look hungry.″
She blinked as though this hadn't occurred to her until I pointed it out. ″Hungry? Why, yes, I am. I should very much like a meal. It has been such a long time since I have had a real one, like a proper person.″
And so I escorted her back to my hilltop mansion, which towers imperiously over the somber city below. I fetched her some dry clothes left from my late sister, a warm meal, and then I asked what her name was.
She looked at me as though this were a difficult question, the answer to which she could not find without searching the deep recesses of her memory. Finally, she smiled-- a coy, mysterious smile. ″Spider.″
I chuckled, yet no matter how I attempted to coax her, she refused to reveal her real name. ″Very well, then, Miss Spider,″ I said. ″If that is how you wish to be called. Now, can you tell me how you came to be wandering the street, barefoot and starved half to death? Do you have a home nearby?″
″I have a prison nearby,″ she replied conversationally, as though this were a perfectly natural response. ″But I'd rather not go back there, if you please. I like it out here. There's fresh air, and falling rain, and stars. I missed those things so much. I only heard about them from my friends while I was behind the wall.″
Understandably, I'm sure you agree, this caused me some alarm. Had I just allowed an escaped convict into my home?
The bell rang then, causing me to jump, and I hurried off to the door. My caller was the city constable, who looked grave. My heart rate quickened at this near confirmation of my fears. What he told me, though, was something else entirely.
″We've found a woman dead in her home,″ he said in the entrance hall, shaking rainwater from his umbrella. ″It looks as though her dinner was poisoned. This woman was a recluse who lived alone on the outskirts of town. She used to have a daughter, but supposedly the girl died in a blizzard when she was seven years old.″
The constable's voice took on significance toward the end, but he seemed suddenly distracted by something beyond my shoulder. I turned to see Miss Spider standing in the archway that led to the next room, head tilted, fingers playing idly with her tangled curls of hair. ″She didn't,″ she said. ″Daughter never died. She was behind the bricks, all that time.″ She moved her hand dreamily through the air, as though running it over an invisible wall. Her strange, spider-leg appendages waved cryptically. ″Caught in Mummy's web.″
The constable nodded slowly and moved towards her as though approaching a timid deer that might bolt at any movement. ″Yes... She kept the daughter trapped in the cellar behind a wall, didn't she? But the woman was getting older, and didn't tend to her house as well as she ought to have. Brick rot. The wall collapsed, and the daughter was freed. And perhaps the daughter took it into her mind to exact some revenge?″
Miss Spider's smile deepened, only rather than suggest a hint of beauty, this time it transformed her wasted face into the leering skull beneath. She gave a pleasant nod. ″Mother killed my friends with her nasty chemicals, put poison in them. So I put it in her.″
″I see,″ the constable went on, voice soothing, unagitated. He was nearly close enough to grab her, now. ″Your friends. Who are these friends?″
″Why, my spiders, of course.″ She extended a graceful, long-fingered hand toward the ornate marble archway. A black-bodied spider crept out of a carved crevice and onto her palm, for all the world like an obedient pet.
″I see,″ he said again. ″And how did you survive down there in the cellar for all these years? Did she feed you?″
″Oh, no.″ Miss Spider smiled over the arachnid in her palm as though only half her mind was on the conversation. ″Mother thought I was a demon, and demons don't need food. But I'm just a person, so I do.″
″Then what did you eat?″
″My friends brought it to me," Miss Spider whispered, and made a plucking gesture as though snagging something small out of the air with her free hand. ″They brought me enough to keep me alive, crawling through the cracks. Dew and flies, a fine supper, don't you agree? I pretended it was bread and honey. Moths were cakes, so I saved them for dessert.″
The constable stared, a mixture of revulsion and disbelief painted on his features. He cleared his throat and gave himself a shake, with the air of a man attempting to make sense of a nonsensical situation. ″Right then. You lived off... insects and the like for all these years. Then, tonight, you escaped, killed your mother with the poison she had been using on your... friends, took one of her dresses to wear, and left? How did you come to be here?″ He glanced at me. ″A witness claims he saw the two of you together in the street.″
″The nice man invited me here,″ she said, before I could speak. She transferred her warm look from the spider to my face. ″He gave me his umbrella, and dry clothes and hot food. Real cakes and all.″
I could see the constable readying himself to arrest Miss Spider. However, in my own heart, I felt a stirring of pity.
″Wait,″ I said.
As I've explained, I am a prominent figure in the city of Neovia, and with that comes influence. The young lady could not be held accountable for her crime, I argued. Her act was that of a tortured victim who wanted merely to escape the mad clutches of her evil mother. To arrest and imprison her once more would be the ultimate cruelty. Her childhood had been stolen; was she now to lose her adult life as well, never to know freedom or happiness?
And that is how I came to offer sanctuary and a home to Miss Spider.
I discovered her real name, of course, yet she will answer to nothing but Spider, and I find the nickname both an apt and charming one. As she regained her health under my care, I realized just how becoming she truly is. Tall and slender, one might find her lanky but for her poise and grace, turning her overabundance of long limbs into something elegant and lovely. Her eyes are wonderfully compelling, as though there is an extra dimension to the world that only she can perceive. This is reflected in her manner of speaking; it has the blunt lack of artifice that a child's words might, yet at the same time it is insightful and sometimes verges on poetic. I find every word she says fascinating.
Many townspeople say she is insane. Not within my hearing, but I've become aware of the guarded whispers. I disagree. All she says is understandable to me. One must only take the time to contemplate her words. Even her insistence that she can speak with spiders is a mere quirk, as far as I'm concerned.
It is strange, I know, that a man like me should find happiness in closeness with her, and certainly there are times she is embarrassing. She has no sense of tact or diplomacy, and wherever I take her, she is bound to behave... abnormally. Yet this is what I enjoy about her, too. She is the representation of that for which I've always yearned, someone unhindered by social constraints. I have molded her into a beautiful lady, and yet she is never dull as others are. I hope she will stay here always.
I was so jealous, I simply couldn't stand it any longer. I let the jealousy gobble me up and kill me, and it was divine. Ahh... It curls my toes with pleasure to think about it.
So now I am dead, and yet somehow I am still here, thinking and seeing and being. Mother always said ghosts linger because they have unfinished business, but I'm not certain I have any of that. Perhaps I stayed simply because I wanted to. I've known such happiness here.
Being inside the mansion has never been like being behind the wall. He let me go anywhere I pleased, even outside. He gave me food, jewels, and ever so many dresses. He gave me comfort and love and warmth. So, you see, the mansion is my very favourite place, and I have no desire to leave. Ever.
There is a beautiful wood in the back. The sky there is nothing but irregular shapes of blue between the black tangle of branches, and the smells are rich and real. Soil and moss and woody decay. I have discovered so many new friends there.
He never understood the devotion I feel for my friends. I tried to explain. I told him about being trapped behind the wall for years and years and having only them to talk to. They told me about the world, about mornings where their webs shimmer with dewdrops like tiny pearls, about the delicate vibrations that announce the arrival of meals, about the swift, efficient movements of weaving. He was interested, yet I don't think he believed me. I would have showed him the truth of it, but what if he reacted as terribly as Mother had? And so I let him go on not believing, not understanding.
He never liked me as much as he thought he did. I am... too different. I think incorrectly. My head is broken. He tried many times to fix it, to teach me manners (though I must say, I think I am very polite indeed). I failed his lessons often.
I caught a fly once. We were at a party where everything was sparkling with glamour, and I ruined it when I ate the fly. I shouldn't have, I suppose, but everyone has bad habits, don't you think? They are very difficult to break, particularly after so many years. Everyone stared at me, pair after pair of startled eyes all over the room turning towards me, fixing me in their beams like blinding white lights. I ran, to find my soothing darkness again.
He became angry with me more often as the months went on. Usually he was gentle and smiled at me, and never as though he was laughing at me like some of the ladies I met. But he had suits and ties and colleagues and dinner parties, and like a stone tossed into a still pond, I disturbed that world when he tried to take me into it. His patience unraveled slowly, and I kept pulling on that thread without meaning to, tugging and tugging until it fell apart and he shouted. Oh, how it hurt my head and my heart when he shouted at me.
But it's all right now. I fixed it so he won't have to become angry with me anymore.
I became angry with him only once. It was a very strong anger, though. My whole being seized up and a fire ignited inside me, a fire that wanted to burn in every direction and consume, destroy, kill. It wanted to leave him a blackened husk. Less. A pile of singed bones. It wanted to hurt him, hurt him, hurt him like she hurt me for so, so long but it's all fixed now, so don't be upset, Miss Spider... Don't be angry. I'll sing to myself, now, sing the lullaby Mother used to hum to me before she put me behind the wall...
Oh, dear. I do apologize for the interruption. I'm calm, now. I'll continue.
The time I became angry, not even a song would have worked. We were at the dinner table. He was talking about his day at work. A fire was flickering in the grate and the room was filled with the warm, golden peace of family and love, better than honey and marmalade.
I became aware that a spider was in the room, hiding behind the tureen of gravy. I called her out in the silent mind-language we share, and told her to creep into my hair and settle there.
″Now, really, enough is enough,″ is what he said. ″I understand your fondness for your... friends... but you can't let them sit on you like that. I've tried time and again to teach you proper table etiquette.″
He stood swiftly, threw his silk napkin onto his chair, and strode towards me. With haste, I plucked the spider from my hair and set her on the floor, but his face remained carved from stone. For one horrible moment I thought it was Mother hiding behind his features, that she had come back from the dark I sent her to and was going to trap me again.
″Don't,″ I whispered, wishing there were someone, anyone near who could help me.
″It's the only way you'll learn,″ he said, in just the way Mother might have, and stepped firmly on the spider.
I felt that tiny spark of life disappear from my awareness. And then I felt the anger. The fire rose and raged inside me.
I wanted to attack him. I wanted to nail him to the wall, to drive my fingers through his eyes, to take his carefully-selected tie and tighten it around his throat until his face was blue and bloated. Perhaps I would then put him back in his chair, his jaw lolling open, black blood leaking from his eye sockets and down his handsome cheeks. I would place the napkin back across his lap, return to my supper, and pretend to converse pleasantly with his corpse. Would that be proper enough etiquette for him, I wondered?
I giggled softly.
Yet I knew that attacking him wouldn't work. I would have been a porcelain doll against his strength. So I smiled blandly and thanked him for his instruction.
That evening, I asked him to come for a walk with me.
It was autumn, and the woods behind our home were brimming with the glorious colours of death. Callous, frigid air scraped brown leaves across dry soil. Black branches clawed at the white scythe of a moon. Someone in the distance was burning a bonfire, and the smell stoked my own fire, the molten rage that still seared in me when I thought of that sweet, feeble little life being extinguished beneath the sole of his shoe.
″Beautiful night, isn't it?″ he said.
Eventually, he mentioned that it was getting late, and suggested we ought to turn back for home.
″You won't be going home,″ I said, and called my friends. I strained the limits of my mind, finding as many as I could, and of course the forest was very nearly overflowing with them. Come, I beckoned. Come to me.
″Why, what do you mean?″ He chuckled, but I heard the unease in it. He knew what was going to happen, in that feral part of himself that we all have, no matter how cultured and civilized.
″I have loved few people in my life,″ I said, as the spiders began to flow towards us. He stared wildly around at them and shifted as if considering running, but my splendid swarm was arriving from every direction, closing in. ″But I have never loved a person as much as I love my spiders. What would you do if someone killed one of your dearest friends in front of you?″
″I-- Please, Spider, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have. I apologize! Please, let me make it up to you. I'll--″
″No, thank you,″ I said, giving him the sweet smile he so adored. ″Don't worry. I think this will be the most beautiful death that has ever been.″
He continued to plead for an impressively long time. I would have thought that once the spiders had covered him completely and started to gnaw on his flesh, that once they had crawled into his mouth and began biting his tongue, he would have been unable to keep talking. Yet in between the screams, he did manage the occasional garbled ″Please″. But then, I always knew he was a strong, admirable man.
It was a wonderful sight. An intoxicating one. As I watched, I felt a new desire awaken in me-- a desire to be devoured in just the same way, to have my friends envelop me and to feel the millions of tiny stings that were their bites, their minute fangs sinking into my flesh... Oh, how jealous I was! Now that I thought about it, it seemed hardly fair that he should be given such an exquisite end after what he'd done. It was unbearable to think that he was experiencing a closeness with my friends that even I hadn't. Jealousy consumed my fury completely.
As he finally stopped thrashing on the ground, I murmured silently to my friends. They retreated from his unrecognizable body, crawled onto me instead, and began to bite.
And that is how I died.
I am blessed by the dark. Death is a gift to me. There is just me and my friends and my mansion. We are alone together, with no one to tell me I am wrong or strange or mad. No one to keep me from loving my friends.
It has been a very long time, now. How long, I can't say, but what does time matter to a ghost? Eternity is mine.
Sometimes, strangers come to the mansion. They have become fewer as time has crept by, but they still come on occasion, infringing on my happy home. I know how to deal with them.
Becoming a ghost, if that is indeed what I am, has awakened strange new powers in me. Powers that allow me to frighten away any Miss Muffets who come sneaking. Powers to haunt.
Of course, most of these trespassers are young. The confidence of a child is a vibrant, sizzling energy... but easy to extinguish. Poof.
So I scare them and let them run, run, run away home to their good Mummies, who will hug them and sing them sweet lullabies until all the fear is smoothed away. Truly, they deserve worse for intruding on my lovely death.
I have taken to heart the lesson of my life. Other people are hateful and selfish. Lurking behind every pleasant face is a vampire who will leech out my insides and leave me empty, if I am foolish enough to give them the opportunity.
I must confess, loneliness sometimes spreads its dark wings over my head and casts its shadow over me. Even with my multitude of arachnid friends, I sometimes long for the company of someone else. So every now and then, instead of frightening away an intruder, I'll decide to keep them.
I used to have a splendid set of dolls before Mother put me behind the wall. Now I can make real, live people my dolls. I can make them stay so they will talk to me and be kind to me. And when they decide they wish to leave (as they always do, whether immediately or not), I punish them. I call upon my spiders to take their lives just as I took his, and my own. A beautiful death, an honourable punishment, for someone who I might have considered a friend.
I must say, you have been ever so kind, listening to my story with such compassion. Will you stay with me?
Spider's friends are, of course, mainly of the arachnid persuasion. Given the near-infinite number of them in her home, a cursory look at those to whom she's closest will have to suffice.
Spider's closest friend is Aranea, an unusually large specimen who tends to behave like a lap dog. She rarely allows her mistress out of sight, is fiercely loyal to her, and adores being pampered and coddled. Spider feels it's her duty to scold Aranea on occasion for being so spoiled, but gazing into that adorable face, she can never stay angry with her for long.
Spider feels that Daddy, one of the mansion's oldest inhabitants, is due respect and trust despite his small size. She often charges the taciturn creature with looking after the other arachnids in the home.
All the non-spider friends she has had over time have, tragically, all passed on. Currently, she has none.
Drag and drop for full view. If you're feeling gracious and would like to display your own masterpiece featuring Spider, send me the picture and I'll add it to the gallery.
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