Fiction · Short Story

The Webber’s Sorrow

For the malice Nature thrusts upon us no remedy exists. Time, I have come to believe, is the closest aid in relieving the pain of those circumstances in life over which man has no control. Although time is a concept, an unseen hand in its own nature, it is a healer.

What comes to mind as a lesson in learning and living is the tale passed on to me from an unlikely creature of Nature’s own design – a meek arachnid. Ah, but not just any arachnid. He had eight legs, small hairs covering his amber body, more than several eyes, and the unique ability to produce silken web from his hind parts, as do all of his species. This spider however, was discovered by my person at a wee hour of twilight outside of a pristine hotel which I would frequent whenever my horses were up for the three hour trot eastward into the city. Here I would dress myself in one of the three elegant suits that I am in ownership of and dine with women whose fathers were politicians and doctors and drink hearty brandy with esteemed entrepreneurs and on occasion a headliner on the Broadway stage.

It was on one of these rare outings that I stepped from the hotel’s vestibule and onto the sidewalk outside to go check on my team of mares, when a peculiar sight flickered into my view from the left-hand corner of my left eye. The moon was reflecting our closest star’s light off such a large area of its surface that the streets were brightly visible, and though I had consumed a small amount of brandy more than necessary, I smoothly turned and stepped closer to the oblong object glistening in the night. I soon concluded that it was a spider’s web, for the shape and nature of it were those of what I have known them to be since I was a boy. Still, this webbing stirred a notion inside of me; I had never seen a web in this corner of the hotel’s entrance on prior visits and, while I stepped closer, I realized there to be odd inconsistencies in the design.  To use the term “symmetrical” would be an abomination to the meaning of the word when describing the net. I believe the first term that came of my own intellect was “supernatural” and then the phrase “you have drank your fill tonight old chap, go lie down on that leather armchair in the lobby until morning” and then (after I rubbed my eyelids a few times) “halt.” Halt? You ask. Yes, the simple four letter command “halt” was written in the web’s upper left hand corner. As I approached even closer, and closer still, I soon found that within this web, there were at least one thousand minuscule words written out in a more precise manner than mine eyes have ever seen or have seen since. After reading through one time, I wiped my face of the tears that had been produced, and immediately pulled my pen and pad out of my chest pocket, transcribing verbatim what was spelled out in the silky web:

Halt. Come close ye weary traveler and disregard the doubt forming in your mind regarding the authenticity and peculiar medium of these words. You have not the luxury to dally, for by dawn this slate will be wiped – I assume to be made a heap dragged to waste on the bellhop’s boot heel. I pray you are the first to encounter my silken wisdom, but pray doubly you will be the last. I hold no illusion you will tell of what you read here and how you found the language woven in this corner, but you mustn’t exploit this web. Take my meaning, but leave the net undisturbed when you are through.

The reason for my transcription resides in an equal desire to preserve some semblance of what man might call a legacy, some notion or wisdom that is passed to the living generation from one who has returned to the dust and in the desire to attempt something I have only imagined, which is to write. I find my legs ache as much in the morning as they do when the sky is painted red and orange, twofold the pain arrives with damp weather. Eight appendages worth of aching joints makes for little motivation to roam, no matter how thick the moth. Many a recent night after expelling a masterpiece from my backside I have had energy only to cover my garden of eyes with a crooked front leg and hope for a sleep that has abandoned me. The trap would fill, of course, but I’d no strength to plunge its bounty. These restless hours allowed only for rumination on a moment in my life I’d attempted to clear from my memory. The ache in my legs held not a firefly’s spark to the flaming, torturous agony brought back by the memory of my dearest companion, she from whom I was born.

Witnessing a miracle is a rarity. Perhaps it is not even possible. Instead it might be that when improbable events swing in our favor we claim an unnatural force swayed the hand of fate and allowed us prolonged joy, sparing sudden sorrow. If you are an educated man, you will know that when a mother of my species has carried her unborn offspring long enough and they are then released into being, she sacrifices herself and becomes their first nourishment. Your babes suckle milk, while ours devour flesh. Body of ma, broken for us. I will go on believing it was a miracle that at the moment of my two thousand seventeen siblings’ birth, it so happened that our brown-haired mother laid next to a freshly deceased field mouse nearly four times her size. Upon hatching, instinct told us to blindly feast on the arachnid who would willingly lay down her life in order to fulfill the rite nature demanded. She had submitted to this fact when she herself was a hatchling and realized she’d breakfasted on my grandmother. However, when my mother saw the gray fur of that rodent on the horizon, she allowed herself to hope that those she carried in her sac would defy nature and grant her some more time to crawl the earth. I will believe it was a miracle that my siblings and I resisted instinct’s urge and crawled from our mother’s body to that of the deceased mammal, struggling each time we lifted our underdeveloped legs gain the sweet nectar waiting under that fur. The meal was all the more delicious because it signified that my mother would live.

Until now I have told you what I believed about this event, as it unfolded itself. The miracle of our birth and the survival of our matriarch, a glorious thought while I enjoyed my first meal. When the field mouse was consumed, fur and bone sinking into the ground under thousands of miniscule feet of those who I’d lain in sac with, my family immediately scattered. They pattered away, taking to the borders of the frame that was the portrait of their birth, deserting not only their mother but their brother as well. Though I was growing stronger in physicality, there was no force that would conquer my heart’s longing to remain with the one who gave me life and who in return I had helped give life back to. I could not simply leave the comfort of her company. I could not fool myself into a life without her nurture and motivation. I crawled back to tell this massive arachnid she was not to be abandoned. Even if I was only one who remained, she would know one two thousand seventeenth of a legacy existed. I climbed to her upper side, peered from one patch of eyes to the next, and promised to stay with her.

Fate believes in sharpness. Precision. Smooth edges. Cleanliness. If your education favors nature over sentimentality, you will know that no number of field mice, no hunger strike from selfless offspring could possibly have spared my mother. My brothers and sisters did not disregard an instinct, they sensed a better meal and sought it out. They scattered from that scene because they confidently understood their role beyond her aid. As I gazed into her glazed eyes, I felt her body sink and her legs begin to fold from into themselves. Fear hung with the cold realization of what was happening. Nature had known all along. It had been bluffing. Without ever having the privilege of observing your species as I have over my lifetime, I possessed your emotion. I knew loss, loneliness, doubt. But like my siblings, I had been wired for a life based on instinct. My guide to survival was printed on the blueprint of my being. Alas, unlike my brothers and sisters, I was unfortunate enough to understand companionship and the need of another. I longed for your concept of family and wished to be reared by a wise parent. Existing only a short number of minutes, my mother’s eyes’d shown me a cruel truth. Alone, watching from the shadows men in both their most wicked and most tender forms, I have been able to feed the emptiness left from that infantile moment, if only in brief stints.

Now, in recent months a roguish young man has come to this building wearing upon his face the mask of these emotions I have lived with chiseled into his stone face. When he departs his features sag in distortion as he vaporously laughs away his solitary trot to the stable. Meek and nimble may I be, I sense his journeys here are prompted by the earthly departure of one whose metaphoric wing he for many winters sought shelter beneath. He comes to create within himself another man, a man who needs no one and who can survive instinctually. He wishes to become like my brothers and sisters, venturing blindly into an un-nurturing unknown. If you know of him, dispense this most valuable lesson from one who knows the hollowness of submitting to fate. Tell him that for the malice Nature thrusts upon us no remedy exists. Time, I have come to believe, is the closest aid in relieving the pain of those circumstances in life over which man has no control. It is this lesson I expend myself and my life to deliver. Remember, my dear reader, to not disclose these weaves of silk, but share the meaning they reveal. Perchance you know the rake with the stone face. Perchance you will aid in saving him and in turn giving birth to my own legacy.

A venture to the homestead this far before the sun made itself known would be bitter cold, but the expenditure of tears and bewilderment of this message had wrung me stone sober. Pocketing my pad and pen I turned to the stables where I would water my team and ready them for the three-hour jaunt back to the homestead. The fire’d be out by now, seeing how Ma had followed Pa when the fever got him and she wasn’t gone but a year, the earth neighboring the oak’s roots their pillow. I patted my chest pocket where I’d stowed the webber’s tale, trying to shatter the stiff scowl that was frozen in granite on my face.

What'd you think of that?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s