Consider the spider. The dancer, the weaver, the spinner. Gliding across the treetops, the grass fields, the stream beds. Like ballerinas birthed from soil, she does not weep when her legs grow weak.
There’s one in the corner of your bathroom. She doesn’t mind your company, rather enjoys it. She knows the secrets you keep behind closed doors, and she does not tell.
The house is shaped like a coffin, strangely oblong on the far end—the end closest to the marsh. There’s only one way in and out. The screen door’s hinges are rusted and squeal like a piglet at the market when it swings one way or the other. The original wooden door collapsed from the repeated slams of your drunk father in the years before his liver gave out and now lies in the log pile out back. You keep saying you’ll chop it for winter wood, but you won’t; the heat never goes anyway.
You know she watches you. At first it’s unnerving, but it grows into a comfort. The waterfowl in the marsh don’t care for you. They herd their goslings the other way. The frogs sing in the evening, but they go quiet when you come to listen. Sometimes your hands shake and the wrinkles forming around your lips keep you from going into town. You think of the young bartender at the tavern. She once wrapped for you squares of cheddar and olives when the drink made you weep in the early morning hours, but she wouldn’t like your wrinkles.
The shotgun belonged to your grandfather, though his stories claim it was given to him by a gentleman from the far east during the prohibition. He dreamed of a world better than his own, but instead found one who hated him as much as his own people had. The gun was given away in a desperate plea to save his own life, though your grandfather says the man hung from a beam that night anyway.
It’s rimmed with gold turned the color of amber. Grime as thick as the marsh gathers on your fingernails as you scrape them against the rugged curves. The wood is flecked with nicks, as though moths had chewed it like they had your mother’s wedding dress. You spot her there, the dancing spider, on the antler of the jackalope mount. Her eight eyes caress you with the softness of a woman’s breast. They scream in a lullaby voice, I will not let you go.
And she won’t.
You take the shotgun and pray it still works. You slide a shell into the magazine and pump it harder than it needs. The barrel tastes bitter. The metal is cold. The spider is staring and you feel less alone.
The sound erupts in your brain like the heat of a train collision between your legs. You go still,
why the bitterness still bites your tongue.
So your brain still intact, you hurl the shotgun across the room with the ferocity of a lioness and it shatters the glass cabinet and the jackalope mount falls to the floor. The spider flees from your fury and now, even she, has left you.
As you burst through the screen door, the rusted hinges finally spring loose and the door crumples to the dirt. The shotgun in your hand once again, you stumble to the log pile, and every bird, every frog, very creature for miles takes to hiding as you
your home’s old wooden door to splinters with the shotgun stock, over and over until both are
Consider the spider, who spins her web with the delicacy of a seamstress. She sways with the breeze and flies with the springtime blossoms — far to the west, where she, too, was once young.
Alexander Ren lives with a pen in hand and frequently gets into trouble for daydreaming stories of witches, wolves, and snow-covered deserts when they ought to be “living in the real world.” That, however, sounds rather boring, wouldn’t you think? Ren has published multiple short stories and is currently working on a debut novel, as well as writing for indie video games and a couple thousand more short stories.
Twitter: @archosaur or @alexandarcy.