By Sarah E. Seeley
Scerana descended blearily from her nest in a thicket of junipers toward the hollow in the dead man’s skull. The human body drew all manner of insects to its rotting flesh. For a weary spider who thought she might perish without the strength to mate or bear offspring, the corpse’s offering seemed a miracle.
“Come quickly,” called Scerana’s lover, Lon. He disappeared into the void as soon as his honey-colored legs touched the web he had spun at the rim of the open cranial wound. Hastily, Scerana followed, traversing his silken bridge into the heart of that lightless crevice.
The tang of vertebrate blood and putrefying brain tissue burned the receptors on her feet as she brushed over droplets of rancid goo. His web was filthy. Though ravenous for the blood of flies, she fumbled, nauseous, across the grease.
She squeezed through the rotting palate of the skull and froze. There, where Lon’s web strung across the gap behind the maw, quivered a sickly greenish ball of light.
“Do you see it?” asked Lon.
“I see a strange little lump that repulses me with its brightness,” said she. “Where is the feast you say you have prepared for me?”
“My offering is more than a feast. I have caught in my web the dying ember of a human thought. It knows my desires and has shown me, not things that have been, are, or will be, but things that could be. Never before have such notions occurred to me.”
Scerana shook the cords she clung to in anger. “How could you do this to me? Tell me I have not wasted the last of my strength for this!”
“Speak to the ember yourself.”
“I will show you what I think of your worthless ember!” She darted forward and snapped the glowing speck from Lon’s sticking threads with her fangs. The lump had a slimy texture, like the grease. It made her innards squirm as it slithered into her belly before the gnawing emptiness of hunger returned. “There, Lon,” said she. “I have devoured your silly speck of slime.”
“My love, how could you?”
“I am not your love any longer. But I will have one last meal.” Her legs burned anew from the putrid smack of grease that coated his web.
Lon squeaked as he scrambled up the rotting palate away from her. The skull opened above them into the thicket. He grappled at the hole. Just as she was about to pounce, a green light flooded her vision.
She stood on a web kissed with the sweetest, purest dew. And there, caught in the center, squirmed a fat, green fly. Docile as a leaf, its wings hummed contentment. It did not so much as twitch when she wrapped it and bit down. The inner flesh melted beneath her fangs. Frothy nectar flowed across her esophagus.
When the fly had shriveled, another appeared a little further down the web. It was twice the size of the first. Her appetite assured her there was plenty of room in her belly for more, and she drained it like the other. Lon was right, Scerana thought. This thing, this…fantasy was astonishing.
Her satisfaction paled when five more flies appeared, wafting grungy-sweet pheromones. She wrapped and fed upon each fly, one by one. But when she looked out across the endless web, she found one hundred impossibly succulent-looking flies. So fat, their bellies swallowed up their legs. The urge to feed was excruciating: one hundred fold greater than it had been at the start.
“Lon! Lon!” Scerana shrieked in madness. “What is it doing to me?” Her innards seared with liquefaction before her vision evaporated into the blackness of the human corpse. Her legs twitched and curled inward. She could not keep her balance any longer and plummeted into the liquid pooling in the void. Her skeleton burned. She drowned in toxic slime while her essence dissolved from within.
“Scerana?” Lon’s diminutive chirp echoed from somewhere high above.
The burning ceased. Her appetite changed. She craved light like an empty pit. The juices of her bowls reconstituted. Her body swelled. With a sickening pop her prosoma cracked open.
Writhing slowly, she drew herself out of the stained and withered shell her former self had died in. Her new body, no longer sickly and pale, grew rich in color, dark like human blood. Her new legs creaked and stretched until they became long, thick, and voluptuous. Her head and abdomen ballooned until she, in all, grew to six times her former size. Upon her abdomen a pair of sinuous stripes glowed an unearthly greenish hue.
“Lon,” Scerana cooed in brassy stridulation. “Your ember is indeed a most wondrous thing. It has taken away my hunger and transformed me into something new.” She drew herself out of the slime and perched on Lon’s greasy cords. The black goo of the void dripped off her abdomen, and a shiny new carapace hardened on her flesh. “Come and see.”
“You will bite me,” said he.
“I no longer require blood to feel satisfied,” said she.
Lon came down upon his web. When he crept away into the fading daylight, Scerana laid her glowing green brood there in the hollow of the dead man’s skull.
Narrated by Tasha Wheelhouse from Copper Shock Horror Podcast for Immortal Works Flash Fiction Friday, under title “Fall of Spiders” December 2016. You can listen to it here: https://youtu.be/7k3x-886T2Y
Copyright 2016 by Sarah E. Seeley
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