By Bird Marathe
The spider’s web catches rain. The spider’s web holds the rain in beads. A branch falls. The spider’s web and the branch catch each other. The web twists and the branch spins around itself. The spider spins threads around the branch. The branch escapes the web and falls. The rain spins out from the web and falls in droplets. The web collapses and falls against wet bark.
The dusk pins shadows over the spider. The spider climbs. It spins a thread and the wind takes it. It spins a thread and the wind takes it. It spins a thread and the wind takes it. The wind spins the spider from the bark. The spider falls. Below are stones and fallen shadows.
Under the stones the spider settles among dying moss. A bead of rain drips through stones and onto the spider. There is a coldness around the spider now. There comes nothing to the spider. The spider will die. There comes
A scarab beetle, dun-hued pilgrim flown
From antique Egypt. It had rolled its faith
Into the sun at sunrise, lost its way
Above the books of changing sand by noon.
The wind made tatters of its fairy wings.
It crawled into the dirt of woods at dusk.
The scarab beetle will die. The spider crawls atop the scarab beetle’s abdomen. The scarab beetle extends its broken wings. The spider arranges its body around the scarab beetle’s head. The spider’s fangs fall down into the head of the scarab beetle. Poison arranges itself in the scarab beetle’s body. The scarab beetle’s insides come to sunlight and warm rain. The spider drinks from the carapace of the scarab beetle until it is empty.
The spider crawls from the dying moss, across the stones, up the wet bark. There is no rain in the night, and it climbs quickly. There is a strong branch for an anchor line, so it spins from the branch back to the bark. The line waves in the wind, holds. The spider spins anchors until the web does not wave. The spider spins a frame around the anchor lines, framing the black and yellow sky. It crosses its web with sticking spirals that can catch things in the night. The spider empties itself into the web, the web growing full, the spider growing hungry. Bits of starlight stick to the spirals. The spider waits. There comes
A bat, a cloistered monk who slept among
Its fellow monks by day, their feet all bound
Unto the cliffs that held the mass of Heaven
Above the stone. Their cowled heads would stretch
Toward the earth that warned them in its heat
Of fire beneath, until the grace of night.
The bat flits through trees, its hands raised and pressed against the air in flight, or prayer, or both. It follows a moth that spins away from the spider’s web. The bat spins with the moth but its hand and the web catch each other. The bat will die.
The bat claps its free hand against the air as the web shudders against its bulk. An anchor loosens from its moorings such that the web sighs out, and the bat’s free hand claps into the web, and both the bat’s hands are clapped around itself. The spider spins spirals around the bat’s feet, around its hands, around its neck. The bat becomes still, save the expansion and collapse of its breath, save its lolled tongue and searching eyes which point, in this moment, skyward. The spider’s fangs fall into the bat’s nose. Clouds shift such that the bat’s eyes catch bits of starlight before shutting. The spider drinks.
Before the dawn, the spider drapes anchors down in fine and waving rows from the branches of the tree to the stones below. The spider crosses the anchors with sticking thread, and the last of the starlight is caught inside the spider’s curtains. Behind its folds of web, the spider waits. There comes
A boy, a thin-faced waif who failed to heed
When mother warned him not to test the woods,
When father fell his switch upon the hands
That tempted tomes of fancy, pages full
Of vermin’s thoughts and deeds. The boy had fled
From home in search of glamours of the Fae.
The boy kneels before the curtains of the web of the spider.
“Fairies, please let me through your door through realms,” says the boy. “I won’t break your codes or share your secrets. I am your servant.”
Songbirds sing in the woods. The first light warms the backs of the boy’s hands even as he presses his palms against the cool and mossy stone. A wind parts the veil.
“Thank you,” says the boy, creeping beneath a curtain of web.
Inside the curtains, the remnants of the starlight swirl about the boy.
“It’s beautiful here,” he says. “Fairies, will you talk with me?”
The spider is still. The boy will die.
“I’m so tired,” he says. “I’ve been running all night.” He rests his head against the moss. “Maybe if I sleep, you’ll talk to me in my dreams?”
As the boy slumbers, the spider moves. It spins the curtains about the boy’s shoes. It runs threads to tangled locks of hair.
“Catch me,” murmurs the boy in his sleep. “Let’s fly.”
The spider spins and tightens strings until the boy rises up towards branches. The spider crawls along his cheek, across his lips, over his chin. It rests on the center of his throat. Its fangs fall.
The boy’s mouth opens. Nothing escapes it. The spider drinks until the boy is empty.
The spider anchors one edge of the woods to the other. The eastern trees bow west, and the west to the east. Hillocks become cathedrals of viscid fiber, trunks are cocooned into grey-white minarets. Songbirds are silenced when the canopy is choked. Burrowing mammals retreat into the earth as the noonday sun disappears above the twisting mass of filaments. There comes
A one-tusked elephant, a herdless bull,
A veteran of lions, drought, of bands
Of hungry men. His doom is borne atop
His sun-scarred shoulders: to remember yet
The flesh and time-lost songs of all his kin
Until his treading takes him to their bones.
The elephant crashes through the woods. His feet break stone and mill the soil beneath; his tusk stretches and severs the spider’s cloaking gauze. Coils of anchoring threads constrict about his knees, so the elephant heaves forward until he uproots the trees that bind them. When the elephant trumpets, he blasts holes into the web of the canopy from which sunlight drips down, from which topaz birds and scarlet butterflies escape.
The spider lands atop the elephant’s back. Its fangs fall onto the elephant, but find his skin too thick. The spider climbs back into its web.
Somewhere through the shroud of torments is the grave of the elephant’s tribe. He cannot see past the threads that gum his eyes, but he keeps his nose tucked beneath his chin, and he can smell some moss-covered familiarity in the coming. His muscles burn as the web begins to slow him. He rushes despite himself. The elephant stamps against a rope of fibers and slips, falling sidelong against a bed of thread. He shakes the bulk of his head, struggles to right himself, falls back again. The woods shake; ground cracks beneath him. And past the crook of broken tree trunks, in the rubble that radiates from him: a tusk, a femur, a splintered rib, the lingering milky scent of his mate upon them.
The spider slips down its web, lands among the elephant bones. It waits.
The elephant cannot stand. He extends his trunk toward the bones, bellows, shakes his head. His tusk tears grooves into the worm-filled loam. The trunk grazes the rib, sniffs it, wraps it tight. He twists his trunk back so that he may plainly see the rib. The spider rides with the bone. The elephant exhales, the wind of his breath waving the web. He is ready to die.
The spider crawls up the elephant’s trunk and across his face to the thin skin by his eye. The elephant regards the spider as the spider’s fangs fall into him. The spider drinks.
The spider catches the wind that blows through this forest primeval and spins its web across lone and level sands, among the misty mountains cold, past wine-dark seas and back. The spider frames its web with the edges of the world, and the lips of the world curl up as the web tightens. In day and night the web catches all the light of Heaven. The spider sits in the center of its web. It watches starlight as it falls.
The spider spins up
until it reaches the dome of the sky, sets eight legs upon the canvas of the firmament. It casts anchors among the stars, ties one to the next. It cocoons the moon and sucks the sun dry. The sky heaves and shudders. A star falls. The sky around the missing star rips slow and wetly. Out of the tear pours all the rain of Heaven, and then an endless light, and with the light a vagrant angel, who snags her wings upon the spider’s thread. Out pour all the hosts of Heaven in one great phalanx, their swords aflame, cleaving thread and severing spool, their chorus rocking the remaining stars in their foundations. But the spider spins faster; catches two stars for every star lost, catches angels by the flock, whose chorus comes to screams, whose swords fall earthward. The spider drinks of each of them. The spider is lightning hot. Through the rip in the sky comes a shine, still.
For a time, the spider waits.
The spider crawls into Heaven. There comes
The God of storms, of locust winds, of trees,
The God of man and his creations, God
Of gods, The God of gaps, The God of all
That’s born or dies or kills, The God of sand,
The God of light and shadow, He who made
The Earth, and sky, and time, and spiderlings.
With eyes shut, He utters His voice.
The spider crawls up the unfathomable leg of God.
The spider crawls up His ceaseless chest.
The spider spins its web around and around His infinite neck.
The spider jumps away, spinning its web still, and drops down,
back through the tear in the sky,
back to its web on the surface of the Earth. The noose pulls tight, and God is decapitated. His head crashes through the tear in the sky and the sky and the Heaven above it unravel in their entirety. His head breaks the spine of the Earth. The web unspins to nothing. The land detonates.
The spider is thrown by the explosion of the land, catches itself on the beard of God. The spider crawls into His mouth, spins thread around His tongue and around each divine tooth. The spider drops from His lips. The tongue is severed. Each tooth is wrested free, is followed by a storm of blood.
God is silenced, now. He will die. The spider arranges itself atop His nose.
Through nothing, the spider and the head of God drift.
The eyes of God open, and regard the spider. The eyes have a terrible light. And then, shadow.
There is a coldness around the spider. The spider will die. But first, it burrows through the pupil of His open eye, into His brain. The spider drinks. In the skull of God, it lays a clutch of eggs.
The spider waits.