It’s his own fault that he’s ended up here, no matter how little he wishes to admit it.
He’d been wandering about with his senses dulled and his eyes shut tightly as was usual for him these days – like a child covering their face to stop their fears from advancing. Before he'd even registered the sight before him, he had entered straight into the trap, offered himself up without a thought for what he was doing; and now here he was, with little hope of ever returning back to safety.
Some part of him, deep down, recognises that he’d wanted something like this to happen. This danger – this intoxicating sensation of adrenaline coursing through him – is more comforting in its familiarity than he could ever confess.
There’s nothing to do now but wait, he realises soon enough. To struggle would mean to entrap himself further in the glutinous ropes of the web around him. No longer is his fate in his own hands – though he wonders if this is any different from the usual. What is certainly different is that he finds himself wanting to be awake for once. He wants to know what will happen next. Gone is the boredom, the drudgery, the dullness which had him wanting to find a large boulder to crush himself under for how slowly he was dying. He finds, also, that the view from where he’s ensconced in shimmering gossamer is a sight far better than the one he’s been waking up to every day.
He tries to convince himself this is the only reason why he’s keeping his eyes wide open.
He takes a moment now to study his new surroundings. They are undeniably impressive, once he stops thinking about what it means to have such an intimate view of them. Masterful weavings stretch out before him, wider and longer than he’s ever seen (albeit at a safe distance) before. From his perch on the intricately crafted net of silk where he is held captive, he can see shining strands reaching endlessly into the distance, the patterns formed within the weaving unlike any that he’s ever come across on his travels. And he has travelled and seen much more than any others from his colony. For many long moments he simply stares, awe-struck, at the skilful display before him. It is almost enough of a distraction to allow him to forget the mess that he’s gotten himself into.
A trembling, shuddering, world-shaking movement very soon jars him out of his trance, however.
He twists as much as he can in his position on the sticky bonds, attempting to do so in a way that limits the shaking as much as possible. When the world stills again, he sees for the first time that there is another poor soul stuck there with him. It appears to a be a young female, some way further down the orb that has imprisoned the two of them. He can’t see her very clearly and so is unable to determine what exactly she is but from what is visible it appears that she is not too different from him. He looks at the wings trapped behind her and notes that although they are a dull colour quite like his own, there is an undeniably arresting intricacy to their design. Oddly, she does not look afraid or even anticipatory - rather, she seems calm and inexplicably at ease. He turns his eyes away when he becomes aware that he is staring but continues to puzzle over her countenance. Doesn’t she realise what they have ahead of them?
Nonetheless, he finds that he is relieved that he is not the only one trapped here, though this feeling lessens a little when she soon attempts to conversate with him. He could not be less in the mood for small talk.
“John.” He answers shortly when she asks if he has a name. He’s had a few different names in his time, but for now he chooses to give the simplest, shortest version of all of them. The one he feels fits him best these days.
His new neighbour, still exuding an abnormal amount of cheer, responds in kind. “I’m Molly!” She calls over the distance between them. “It’s very nice to meet you, despite the circumstances.” So she is not entirely clueless as to the fate that awaits them, after all.
“Have you been here long?” he asks, curious.
“For a while, yes. I can’t quite remember how long, though.” She confesses. Then, dreamily she says, “Perhaps there is a reason he’s kept me here so long…”
John ponders over this as she continues to chatter on in the background as if there is nothing amiss. It is strange indeed that she hasn’t been taken already; that she is still in a state where she can breathe and talk and smile. Stranger still that she’s seen their captor come and go – for she must have seen the Spider that now owns them, to know that it’s a male. A sense of foreboding creeps over John as he hangs suspended in the beautiful but deadly snare.
“Aren’t you afraid?” he questions Molly after a while. He does not expect the answer that she readily gives him.
“Oh no – it’s a privilege, after all. I mean, it was going to happen to me sooner or later. I’d rather it be him than anyone else.” Then, as if sensing his bewilderment, “He’s very special, you see, in his own way. And, well, being frightened now won’t do me any good, will it?”
John does not know what she means exactly, but he can admire her optimism.
Eventually, Molly falls silent, sensing his wish to remain as still and quiet as possible. The light around them gives way to darkness and the air grows cooler as night approaches, but still they are left waiting. John wonders again how Molly can relax; he finds that he feels more and more on edge with every minute that passes by. He is more alert than he has been for quite a while.
He’s replaying again the senseless series of movements that caused him to end up here when he feels a change in the air.
Something is coming.
John senses them before he sees them. They’re somewhere behind him, moving with unbelievable stealth that has him concentrating hard to pick up more information about them. It gives him the same rush it used to, but months of stagnancy seem to have taken the edge of his once-celebrated level of proficiency. Before he can begin to feel frustrated about this, he remembers that it no longer matters so much.
Then he becomes aware that his stalker has materialised directly behind him, and all thoughts leave his head.
“Hello.” He says to the unseen master of his new abode, after a moment of baited breath.
There is no answer. Only a cold wind whistles past, gently shaking the cords which bind him.
He hadn’t really expected an answer, just as he hadn’t expected such a greeting to come out from his mouth. But he has nothing much to lose, and he is more than a little curious about the talented weaver in his presence, no matter how lethal he may be. And so he plunges ahead without thinking much more about it.
“This really is the most ingeniously crafted web I’ve ever seen. It’s…beautiful.” He pauses, wonders what the Spider in his presence must be thinking. He begins to feel a little embarrassed. “Um. I suppose you don’t really need to be told that. But I wanted to mention how awed I am by how cleverly you’ve constructed this place.”
He hopes that the venom about to pierce his fragile form will finish his brain off first. Rapidly.
All the muscles in his body tense as the Spider moves closer to him, close enough that he feels a brushing against the hairs on his body. His eyes squeeze shut in anticipation of what’s coming. Distantly, he hears a gasp escape from Molly as she looks on.
The lattice around him trembles very slightly under the movement of the Spider; then there is a whisper of a touch across the side of his head. This is it, then. John feels oddly peaceful - though it is not the end he had imagined for himself it is what he has been craving for a longer stretch of time than he can recall.
One, two, three long, solemn moments pass by. He begins to wonder what’s taking so long. Shouldn’t he be feeling something now? But nothing happens – until it does.
A deep and unexpectedly musical voice sounds in his left ear, clear as the air on a fresh spring day. The words it speaks make him tremble inside.
“John.” says the voice, strange and bewitching. “Fighter for the Lesser Spider Brigade. Soldier. Warrior. Clansman.” The last word is hissed out with unmistakeable distaste.
The voice moves to his other side as John shudders. There is a pause. Then a contemplative hum, as equally as melodic as the voice, vibrates through the tightly wound silk crisscrossing all around them.
“Hmmmm. Perhaps you are worthy to be kept for my amusement. Would you like that, John?” asks the Spider.
For a second, John finds that his voice has evaded him. Then he chokes out, “Why?”
But the Spider, he senses, has moved away, though it takes him longer than it probably should to realise this. He breathes, tries to get his nerves to stop twitching and his heart rate to come back down from the impossible height that it had managed to climb. Only then does he dare to crack open his eyes.
His eyes fall upon the girl, Molly. But no longer are her eyes wide and lively; they are dull and lifeless: the Spider has taken her. John is aghast, even though he knows it is absurd that he should be surprised. The creature is only doing his job, after all. He reminds himself that the same will probably be done to him, when the Spider becomes as bored with him as he had with Molly. It’s only a matter of time.
Unwittingly, John watches as the Spider quickly and efficiently wraps her up with those silvery white filaments until she is cocooned entirely. Perhaps it is his own imaginings, but John feels as if it is being done with a peculiar gentleness. He finds himself studying his captor as he finishes up and begins to traverse the web with a startling speed, upwards and upwards until he is no longer to be seen. He is indeed “special in his own way”, as Molly had described him, and everything from his speed to his skill to his distinguished physicality is…beautiful. Wondrously so.
John doesn’t know how long he spends watching over what is left of Molly, and gazing, in turns, at the artfully spun weave that blankets her, but soon his senses are alerted once again to the Spider’s approach.
“Do you like it?” says the velvety smooth voice in his ear. John shivers and is left again with little insight into his reaction to the Spider’s proximity. It is not quite fear, not quite excitement. He is disturbed by the response the Spider has managed to arouse in him and refuses to respond.
“I won’t eat her.” He is informed. “I have better purposes for her. Ah, but you’ll see.”
“And what plans do you have for me?” John blurts out, then silently berates himself for doing so.
“Ahh….” The Spider sighs. The ropes beneath his feet begin to shake, like leaves do when struck by heavy raindrops. He’s laughing, John realises. Quiet and strange though it is.
“I have so much in store for you, John.” The Spider says finally, when the shaking has subsided.
A very gentle touch to one of his legs has another shiver running through John. And that silvery voice whispers to him again, as lovely as it is sinister.
“Just you wait, John.”