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only the sleep eternal / in an eternal night

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“The world is a terrible place,” you tell the small creature, kindly.

Your speech is click and sussurus and claw-scrape: communication made for the darkness, for interlocutors without the wet suppleness of mammalian mouths, the fluid twisting musculature of the tongue.

And oh, how long it is since your mother crooned her pleasure as you tore free from the egg; how long it is since you felt her affectionate regard as you turned upon your unhatched siblings, claws spearing through the shell to drain the pale embryos of their watery anaemic blood, their limbs curled within their casings like clenched white fists.

A thousand years ago and more, you and your kindred last spoke together: and how you miss that pitiless conversation of predators. How you miss the crunch of chitin beneath your fangs; how you miss the sweet rush of ichor at the eager slurp of your chelicerae.

You are your mother’s last, most favoured daughter, cunning and agile, hungry and strong, the truest legacy of her shuddering lightless bulk.

But the creature does not understand.

It struggles, weakly, its limbs cradled firmly within the delicate silken layers of your web.

“At the beginning of things,” you explain, “my mother ate the light of the world. She ate the hot golden light of the sun and the sickening pale light of the moon and the burning white light of the stars. And where she went, she brought forth darkness, soft and clinging and black.”

You touch the creature’s face with your claw, and it shudders and stills, its breath hardly stirring the delicate sensory filaments around the pads of your feet.

“The gods in their cruelty thought that they cast my mother out,” you say. “They drove her away into the hidden places and shadowed corners of the world, lest the light fail, and all things come to the long night before their time. They would not have her.”

You sigh, a gusting exhalation and inhalation through the underside of your carapace.

“All gods are cruel,” you say. “Have I not seen their work? Did I not flee the shattering of the world long Ages ago, when the bright gods, makers of sun and star, and their great Enemy between them brought the land to wreck and ruin? Have I not dwelled for these long years at the edge of the Black Land?

"O creature, do not believe that I lack the knowledge of cruelty: I have known it long and well.”

And for so long now, you have drawn your shadowy webs about you in this sheltering mountain and watched the world through their soft veiling presence as its people suffer and die, great armies marching back and forth to cast themselves down into bloody death upon the plains: until there is scarcely an acre of land upon the face of the world that has not been fertilised by some ancient battle, corpses piling themselves up and putrefying in an extravagant orgy of corruption and rot.

“This is not a world for your kind,” you say. “You know so much futility and sorrow. The world is made to hurt such as you.”

And - at that, the creature quivers, and thrashes in its cradle of webbing, making high whining noises of fear, its hot blood racing in its veins so that here in the silence of your lair you can almost hear the panicked thud of its heart as it struggles with uncomprehending distress against the fate that has brought it to you; that is kinder than the creature, in its limited way, will see or understand.

“O creature,” you say, “all things come to the dark, in time. Life is such a burden upon them. And when it is time - when it is time, my mother will still be waiting. She is waiting even now.”

You extend your fangs, the numbing venom running down them in anticipation.

“O pitiful creature of the daylight,” you say, “how fortunate you are to have come to me already, before the hour in which my mother’s long wait shall end.”