Faces, fingers, scalps, and skin
By silver knives and blunted hammers
Stripped from many and made whole again.
The Human Ideal and depraved’s obsession,
Perfection in a women’s form,
Assembled with passion, ardor, and precision
From stolen bodily possessions and one pair of volunteered eyes.
Her mother blinded, her father fanatic,
The night dreary when she came alive,
The mind of a girl with the body of an angel,
A gift to the world, the artist’s nightmare and scientist’s prize.
By design, incomparable to any other being,
At sight, overwhelming one’s sensitivities to shape and light,
And having glimsed her, any obscurrance of her face induced pain
In the heart so profound whole crowds were made to cry.
Musicians and poets wrote nothing more but about her,
Some despaired knowing what they could never have or be,
Multitudes gathered daily to witness and adore her,
All the while laying cash and other gifts at her maker’s feet.
The living embodyment of faultless beauty
Drew wealth and satiation into her father’s hands,
Admired by all the world for merely existing,
Her mother, whose eyes she had, became her only friend.
The crowds, left outside constantly yearning,
Grew more restless, depressed, and frenzied every day,
Bewitched every moment she allowed them her presence,
Dead to all pleasure while she was away.
In time, sight alone wasn’t enough to ease their torment,
And an unprecedented emptiness stole their collective minds,
Demands to be loved by the being that was perfect
Grew from callous whispers to a full-blown battle cry,
But the angel, who was a girl, hardly loved a soul,
The consuming gaze of strangers seperated her from all
But the mother, being blind, who saw her without desiring
And the father who idealized her as art’s true and final form.
The final levy broke, and the people flooded their home,
Cornering her in the attic where she’d only recently been born,
The crowd shouted unanimously for the love that they deserved,
With guns, torches, and hungry eyes prepared to take by force.
There is no way to love anyone by choice, the angel knew,
But when so many want your life there’s little you can do,
Ascending down the letter, every voice was silenced,
Scalpel in her hand, she did what was required.
She slid the steel past her cornea and cut the optic nerve,
One after the other and offered them to her observers,
“My mother’s eyes are the only gift I ever truly loved,
Take them and know I’ve given you all I have.”
Torches were dropped, legs fell away as if broken,
A stifled cry echoed loudly and gave way to screams unrestrained,
Many shots were fired into the temples of their holders,
And many more gave in, weeping into the devouring flames.
The house erupted, the blinded angel bleeding, motionless,
Suffocating, sweltering, and without thought of escape.
A pair of arms found her, above them all the most devoted,
The eyeless mother, holding tight as the world fell away.
There are characters and stories I’d always imagined growing old with,
Looking back on forever as formative to my being,
But while growing up changes a person and our worldly understanding,
Stories often remain undeveloped and unchanged.
There are moments in books that once thrilled or astounded me,
That were once profound, insightful, or full of mood,
And while many of those words still make me feel something,
Their meaning seems to change as often as I do.
Themes that represented the concepts I believed so perfectly
Have revealed themselves to be shallower over time,
And writers whose minds seemed so beautifully percipient
Have fallen behind perceiving the experiences of life.
It’s sad to watch something beautiful be diminished
When circumstances change how it reflects in our gaze,
And characters that fell so easily into our hearts
Transform into beings from which we’ve become estranged,
But, if there are stories we’ve grown away from
It means that we’re growing all the same,
And becoming new and better people will always alter
Our understanding of what the past means.
Sentences and ideals that mattered then can still matter
With new understanding settled into the narratives we’re making,
And the stories we’ve left behind can still inspire us
As we renew our loves and troubles into characters worth creating.
In the cleft of a remote mountain lived a harem of ravenous spiders. Sheets of webbing stretched from end to end, defining the extent of their domain. Its sides were steep and treacherous. Rabbits, foxes, and the occasional stray elk that wandered too close would inevitably wind up trapped there. Many desperate crows also found themselves entangled in their webs in search of carrion. All other animals avoided the place.
For the spiders, the mountain’s cleft served as an ideal home. The mountain itself provided consistent shade from the hot sun. The surrounding country was plentiful, providing for an abundance of wildlife in which to prey upon. Rainwater settled into shallow pools that could last for weeks between storms. The spiders lacked nothing, and most deemed their society good and prosperous. They grew fat, feeding and mating as they desired and giving little thought to any affairs beyond their borders.
“The mountain breeds the sweetest meats,” the old spider mother Esmeralda would often cackle. “Twas a time when I was young and we had naught to eat but flys! The birds and beasts of warmer blood are better to eat by far!”
Esmeralda had been the oldest spider of the harem for many years and was well respected by the young spider maidens. Though most of the younger generations hadn’t so much as seen a fly, let alone eaten one, they were well prepared to take her word for it. The variety of prey that wandered into their nets was enough to satisfy even the most eclectic of tastes.
“Eat your fill dearies, eat, eat,” Esmeralda would entreat them. “Slack not a pace! Healthy and fat, that’s the ticket m’dears. All you can stomach and more. The king’s sons love-em a spider maiden that’s fat!”
The maidens gladly ate all they could, savoring every morsel with thoughts of becoming fat enough to please their future mates. The spider king was master of all spiders living on the mountain. He and his sons took as many mates as they pleased at their leisure. Often, they mated several times a day with their favorites and largely ignored all the rest. Winning the affection of one of the king’s sons was therefore considered essential. The older maidens gossiped freely about the paragons of ecstasy they experienced while mating.
“The old king, he loooved him a large back,” Esmeralda would tell them gleefully. “The times he used cling to me, shaking all wild like a crow caught in webs, until he fell flat atop me drained as could be! Hahaha! Many a good rump the old king had with me!”
These tales from Esmeralda and the other older spiders were devoured lustily by the young spider maidens. It seemed none of them could wait until the day they experienced for themselves, a “good rump.”
The mating experience, for one young maiden named Sofina, had indeed proven to be as pleasurable as the elders described. She’d managed to attract one of the king’s youngest sons, a somewhat gentler spider named Rownos, and fulfilled her desires for the first time. What started as a pleasant tingle elevated into wave after wave of shivering delight. The peak of delectation fell simultaneously with the moment of orgasm from her lover, followed by his immediate exhaustion. Once it was over, he fell to her side without a word and slept, leaving Sofina brimming with freshly satiated lust.
Now, Sofina stood by one of the shallow pools alongside her sister Ollga, discussing the whole experience in depth.
“I’d never guessed rightly how it felt to be touched in that spot,” Sofina told her. “Like a secret pass to some unnatural good feelings”
“Ha!” cackled Ollga. “I never heard it said like that before! It was good, that’s all that need be said.”
“I suppose. I just felt like,.. like maybe good was too short. Lots of things are good, but this was better.”
“You’re dreaming. Good is good, and that’s all it was. It was a good thing.”
“Yes, I suppose you’re right.”
Sofina pondered her own thoughts for a moment, wondering if she’d been right to embellish the way she did. Her sister had, after all, been through the experience many more times than she. If “good” was all there was to such a feeling, then “good” as a word, would have to do. Still, she imagined there was more that could be said, more to the effect of how she’d really felt at the time, though it was difficult to think what. Perhaps, she thought, she really was imagining more than there really was.
“Drink, Sofina!” entreated Ollga. “Tis good to drink lots after mating, it’ll keep you strong for the next time!”
“I don’t feel thirsty.”
“Eat then! My sister, you must fill your belly to keep the pace! An empty stomach will flatten your back and leave you too laggard to keep up!”
“Yes, I know. Perhaps I’ll see what’s hanging in the webs today.”
“Go! Eat your fill! Rownos might be wanting more of you back tonight, haha!”
Sofina left her sister by the pool and crawled leisurely up towards the webbing. In truth, she was not really hungry, but she knew her sister was right. It wouldn’t do to let herself go unfed and disappoint her newfound lover so soon. That, and there simply wasn’t much else to do. She reasoned that by the time she reached the webs, she may have worked up an appetite. Since there was no rush, she took her time climbing the mountain’s walls, thinking of all there was to do between mating.
“Drinking, eating, sleeping, talking,” she named each thing out loud as she thought of it. After the first four, she found it difficult to remember anything else, until she reached the first layer of webbing.
“Checking the webs!” she shouted, laughing to herself.
Today, as usual, the first layer of webs didn’t contain much. Only a few large rats that must’ve lost their way up the mountain. Further up were plenty of crows, magpies, a rather ancient looking owl, a few small goats, and several jackrabbits. Sofina passed them all without the slightest inclination to eat. None of these familiar tastes felt appealing at the moment, so she kept climbing and looking out for whatever else there was.
Nearing the top of the mountain’s cleft, she espied a creature still alive, struggling in the webbing. It was an unusually large creature, and its writhing was so fierce as to sway the entire structure. Even so, Sofina knew the creature’s efforts were in vain. Once any animal had been caught, there was no chance of it escaping on their own. She laughed to herself, imagining the poor beast’s naivety, and raced forward to investigate more closely.
There, entangled in the highest bed of webbing, was a snow-white wolf. Sofina had never seen such a creature before, and at first mistook it for a large fox. Then she remembered that she’d never heard of a white fox before, and she noticed this animal’s features were actually quite different. Its limbs were more muscular and powerful, and its fur was rough but also sleek. It made a most pitiful moan as it struggled, braying helplessly from its snout as it rocked back and forth within the web. Driven by curiosity, Sofina inched closer, stepping out onto the web and gently crawling towards the captured beast.
Sensing the shifted weight of the webbing, the creature’s eyes found Sofina and it howled aggressively toward her.
“Leave me alone!” it cried. “I’ll bite you!”
The creature thrashed about, and Sofina could see it was indeed capable of biting her at a close distance. Timidly, she ventured as close as she deemed it safe.
“What are you?” she asked. “Are you a white fox?”
“I’m a wolf pup!”
“A WOLF PUP!”
Sofina had never heard of such a thing. The words were unfamiliar and made her giggle, as though it were joking. The beast snarled at her. That brought her laughter to a halt. Her curiosity, however, increased.
“I’ve never seen one of your kind before. Where did you come from?”
“The north,” responded the wolf brusquely.
“I see,..” said Sofina, not really comprehending. “So, why are you here?”
“We’re starving. My pack is searching for prey. We crossed the mountains yesterday and I could smell the dead things here.”
The wolf continued to struggle. He was perched so high, Sofina wondered why he even bothered. Even if he freed himself, there would be nowhere to go but straight down. He would either plummet to his death or be caught in the webs further down.
“Settle down,” said Sofina. “You’re caught, that’s all there is to it.”
“NOT FOR LONG!” roared the wolf.
His response almost set Sofina into a fit of titters, but she held them in for the sake of adding insult to injury.
“You can’t break these webs,” she pointed out. “And even if you did, you’d just fall even more.”
“My pack will free me when they get here!”
“They’ll hear me! When they get here, you’ll wish you never laughed at me like you did!”
The wolf howled loudly. It was a long and piercing wail that sent a chill through every hair on Sofina’s legs. There was a feeling, like something wild and dangerous that lingered in the ensuing silence. The idea that others of his kind, other wolf pups, would hear his call and descend upon their mountain, with their powerful limbs, their teeth and their claws, and rip them all to pieces, was palpable.
Words failed her. Sofina wondered what she should do, given her premonition of impending peril. Perhaps, she thought, she should tell the spider king there were wolf pups about. He and his sons could maybe kill them before they arrived, if they could be roused from sleep, that was. On the other hand, she could kill the wolf pup herself and eat it. That seemed like the best thing to do. The others may not have heard him yet and maybe wouldn’t come if there were no more howls. The beast had gotten itself caught after all, and that had been the whole point of checking the webs in the first place. The only problem was the beast’s jaws waiting to sink their teeth into her at the first chance.
“Are there many more?” Sofina ventured to ask. “In your pack,… many wolf pups?”
“How many more?”
That, in Sofina’s estimate, was hardly many. Their harem had hundreds, maybe even thousands of spiders. The spider king had at least fifty sons himself. Almost, she laughed aloud at her previous worries, but she remembered the strength the wolf pup before her possessed. If it weren’t ensnared, she reasoned it could easily dispatch her and several more spiders before it was brought down. Perhaps fifty wolf pups really could pose a threat.
“Where are they?”
“Your pack, where are they now?”
The wolf didn’t answer immediately. It turned its gaze and stopped struggling for a brief interval before growling back his response.
“They’re close by, on the other side of the mountain! They’ll hear me howl! They’ll be here soon enough if you don’t set me free!”
Sofina considered his words.
“Why are they so far if you’re here?”
“They’re not far! They’ll be here soon!”
“But why are you alone here? Why are you here and they’re on the other side of the mountain?”
The wolf snorted.
“I smelled the dead things,” he said. “I came looking for food, that’s why I’m alone. The others will follow my scent. They’ll know I’m here and they’ll kill anything that gets in their way!”
“When will they be here?”
The wolf emitted another howl and Sofina fell silent. Again, she was confused on how to proceed. Killing the pup herself no longer appeared possible while the beast remained vigilant. She considered going down to find Ollga and some of her other sisters for help. That, she determined, was absolutely the best thing she could do. Two or more spiders would certainly be capable of killing him regardless of how powerful his jaws were. She was in the process of backing off the webbing when the wolf barked at her.
“Where are you going?” he asked.
“Nowhere,..” she lied.
“You aren’t going for help?”
“No, no,… I’m just,…” but she couldn’t think of anything to say. The wolf pup watched her expectantly, but she said nothing more. In truth, Sofina didn’t know why she lied, as there was absolutely no need for it. She could easily go for help whether the beast knew what she was doing or not. Again, she started to back away.
“NO! Don’t go! Wait!”
“Just wait a second! Why don’t you just let me go?”
Sofina pondered this . There really wasn’t any reason to let him go as far as she could see. He’d been caught in their web and so had become food, and he’d threatened their entire harem. There wasn’t any profit in letting him go.
“Why should I?” she asked.
“If you let me go, you’ll be spared!” exclaimed the wolf. “We’ll leave all the spiders alone! If not, you’ll all soon be dead!”
“If I let you go, you’ll all go away?”
“Far away! Back over the mountain! Let me go and we’ll leave all spiders alone for good!”
Now Sofina was absolutely baffled. If there was a chance their harem would be attacked, then surely she should do whatever she could to stop it. Killing the wolf pup still seemed like the best way to do so, but with this offer she couldn’t be sure. Releasing him from the webs alive was unheard of, almost comically insane, yet it might save many of their lives.
“You’ll promise to go away?”
“YES! Yes I promise! I DO!”
More hesitation. Now that she considered the idea, it didn’t actually seem that ridiculous. It was actually quite as easy thing to do, she realized. Even so, there was something strange, something simply unnatural about the whole idea.
“Are you lying?” she asked.
“No, no, no, I’m not lying,” responded the wolf. “Promise, I’m not. Please, let me go,… we won’t kill you. I swear.”
That was all well and good, but still.
“You’re prey,” said Sarafina. “You fell into the web. A spider should not make deals with prey. This, I was taught as a young maiden. I think you are lying.”
Sofina turned and made her way off the webbing, quickly this time. She’d made up her mind that killing the wolf pup was the only thing to do. It was the only sensible thing any spider could do regardless of the circumstances. It was the only thing that made sense, but the wolf pup howled once more, a pitiful wailing this time, shivering the very flesh of her bosom. It was uncomfortable to listen to, almost painful.
“No! NO! NOOOO!!!!” howled the wolf pup. He howled again, louder this time. “DON”T LEAVE! I DON’T WANT TO DIE!!”
Sofina stood motionless. Seconds later, she detected the quiet sound of whimpering coming from the web. The wolf pup was crying. She didn’t understand why, but she discovered then that she hated the sound. It almost made her want to cry too, and she almost did. She imagined how it would feel to be trapped, waiting to die, knowing what was going to happen. It wasn’t a good feeling.
The wolf pup continued to cry and Sofina staid where she was. It had become impossible to follow through with her decision, to seek help and end the poor beast’s life. As much as it made sense to do so, the wolf’s crying seemed to have made her immovable, stuck where she was. She couldn’t go down to find her sisters but neither could she go back out to the web. She waited on the mountainside, watching as the wolf pup continued to cry, swaying futilely in his diminishing struggle to break free.
It was growing late in the day and the sun sank behind the other side of the mountain, casting a deep shadow over the cleft. The wolf pup’s struggling had all but ceased. Twice more he’d howled loudly to the sky, staring longingly into the distance. His crying had gotten quieter, but Sofina could tell he never really stopped. She frequently heard him sniveling from her place on the mountainside. Hours passed and the sun had all but disappeared, but nothing happened. No wolf pups came to rescue the poor beast, and no spiders came from below.
A chilling wind began blowing, and Sarafina could no longer bear staying where she was. After listening to the wolf pup cry for so long, she decided to at least attempt to comfort him. Killing him in such a state would feel simply terrible, and in any case, there no longer appeared to be any threat from his pack.
“Are you cold?” she asked, having made her way back onto the web.
The wolf pup nodded weakly, his eyes wet with tears. He shivered so violently, Sofina realized she need not have asked.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered. “Let me help you.”
Working carefully, Sofina propped herself back to weave a little more webbing of her own. The wolf pup watched her, which she intended, knowing it would set his mind at ease to see what she was doing. Using her front legs, she wove fresh webbing into as fine a sheet as she could. She’d never done such a thing before, but had seen older spiders doing it for their young maidens when they got cold. Soon she had a thick sheet long enough to cover the beast from his neck down, which she draped over him snugly, proud of how well it covered him.
“How’s it feel?” she asked grinning.
The wolf pup gave no answer, but after a few seconds gave a single nod. At first, Sarafina thought this rather rude, but considering his position, she thought it was probably difficult to show gratitude when trapped in a spider’s web.
“Your pack hasn’t come yet,” Sarafina pointed out.
The wolf pup nodded, but said nothing.
“Do you think they still will?”
Still no answer, but the wolf’s eyes spilled over with fresh tears and started to weep. Something icy cold and sharp felt like it was pressing into Sarafina’s heart, and she begged him to stop.
“Don’t!” she entreated him. “Please, don’t cry! I’m sure they’ll come eventually, They’re probably just lollygagging is all!”
The wolf shook his head, tears pouring down his snout and gritted teeth. Low wails escaped in short bursts from his mouth which he seemed unable to control.
“I’m sure they will!” Sofina insisted. “Stop that now! It’s a bad feeling, what you’re doing. Your pack won’t want to hear all this, would they?”
The wolf pup answered her between fits of ragged breathing and sobs.
“I lied,” he said.
“… you lied?”
“No one’s coming for me. My pack is,… I don’t know where they are. I lost them.”
“Lost them? How could you have lost them?”
The web trembled as the wolf pup’s entire body shook violently.
“I ran away,” he whispered. “There was no food, my pack was starving, we fought with the pinnacle pack for their lands but we lost. My older brothers all died. We had nothing to eat and the Alpha began eating the younger pups. I knew I had to leave, I walked by myself as far as I could, and I found this place with all the dead things in the nets. I tried to sneak just one, just one dead crow for myself, I was starving for days and days, and now I’m caught. I’m caught and I’m all alone, and I’m still hungry!”
All of this was said between continued heavy sobs. They showed no signs of slowing, like they might go on forever. Clearly, the wolf pup was too badly hurt. Divining a remedy, Sofina scurried away to the web below them. Here, she pulled a crow loose and brought it back up to where the wolf pup lay suspended. She helped him raise his head enough to swallow and held it close enough for him to eat. The pup finished the bird in seconds, quaffing every bit of it down until nothing but bones remained. It seemed to have done the trick, Sofina noticed with satisfaction that the beast no longer cried.
“Does that feel better?” she asked.
The wolf pup nodded, emitting a contented sigh as he rested his eyes. Sofina brushed the fur around the back of his ears gently, proud of herself for taking care of the wolf pup so well. Having taken care of his needs and eased his pain, she found it was a good feeling to take care of something else. A feeling unlike others that were also good, but satisfying for reasons she couldn’t really think to explain.
It had grown dark and the moon was now their only source of light. The wind blew harsher, swaying them both on the web, but Sofina hardly minded. She was enjoying her time with the wolf pup, stroking his fur and listening to his breath. Eating and drinking hadn’t so much as crossed her mind, even though she hadn’t done so for hours. Letting Rownos ride her into ecstasy didn’t appeal to her at the moment either. There would be plenty of time for that anytime, she reasoned, but this wolf pup was clearly a once-in-a-lifetime happening. She might never get the chance to see one again, which was a shame she thought, given how interesting and gorgeous they were.
“Are you going to let me go now?” asked the wolf pup.
“I,.. well,…” said Sofina, embarrassed.
Now that she thought about it, she realized she no longer had any desire to kill the beast. Since he had no pack either, there didn’t seem to be any danger of letting him go free. The reason she hesitated, and why she didn’t answer, was that she had a new reason for keeping him there in the web. Now, it was because she wanted him there with her. She wasn’t ready to part from him yet. The wolf pup’s clear bright eyes looked up at her, all semblance of trouble in them gone, and she knew she would have to do it. What good would it be to kill him after all the trouble she’d gone through to comfort him? She was about to say yes, when they were both startled by a voice from behind.
“Sofina! Still up on the webs since the morning?! What’ve you got there?!”
It was Ollga, making her way towards Sofina and the wolf pup on the web. It was like reawakening after a vivid dream, realizing her sister had found her comforting what should have been prey. Instinctively, Sofina attempted to conceal her embarrassment and responded with the quickest answer she could think of.
“It’s nothing Ollga. Just a wolf pup is all.”
“A wolf pup?!?!”
Ollga raced furiously to their side, bending around Sofina’s body to see the beast herself more closely. Her mouth fell open and emitted a gasp so full of joy it could’ve been orgasmic. Spittle dripped down freely, falling carelessly on the beast’s pelt. The pup had frozen, watching the newcomer with widened eyes.
“Clever girl, Sofina!” Ollga cackled. “Look how precious he is! I bet this is the first wolf to come along in twenty, no, thirty years! Even old Esmeralda hasn’t had one herself! Oh, let’s eat him now Sofina! Now, before anyone else sees!”
“I don’t think I want to,” Sofina said.
Ollga stared at her dumbfounded, then fell into a cackling fit of laughter.
“Whatever you say sister!” she said. “Doesn’t want to eat, doesn’t want a snow-white wolf, won’t want to mate next! Hahahahaha, I swear. Suit yourself then.”
She made to occupy the space where Sofina stood to allow better access to her prey, but Sofina stood firm.
“Budge up, Sofina! Let me in!”
“No, I don’t want you to eat him either.”
“Because,… I like him. It’s a good feeling to take care of him. If you eat him I’ll feel bad, Ollga, and I won’t feel happy for you.”
Ollga stopped trying to get closer to the wolf and stared at her sister, her chest rising rapidly from barely contained excitement.
“We don’t take care of prey, Sofina,” she said. “This every spider knows. You should have eaten it!”
“I don’t want to,” Sofina stated.
“Then go away! And don’t talk anymore foolishness if you know what’s good for you!”
Ollga pushed her way to the wolf’s neck, mouth open, ready to sink her teeth into its flesh. Sofina couldn’t allow it. It was awful, terrible, not good at all, to think about the poor beast dying now. After losing its brothers, running away from its pack, starving for days, falling into their web, and after everything Sofina had already done with him. No, she couldn’t let him die. It was a bad thing to do. That’s all there was to it. It was a bad thing.
Sofina pushed her sister roughly away from the pup with both her front limbs. Her sister fell back, but quickly sprang forward to attack. The web swung wildly as the two sisters battled furiously, all semblance of empathy for the other gone. Limbs and teeth lashed and bit into each others flesh. The wolf pup howled fearfully. It was all Sofina could do to keep the fight away from him while infuriated as she was. Ollga had bitten into the tendon of her strongest front limb, nearly succeeding in tearing it free. Sofina rolled onto her back, holding Ollga in her clutches as she did and pushing her forcefully away. Her sister had no chance to recover. She tumbled off the side of the web and fell through each successive web below them until they heard her hit the solid earth.
For several seconds, Sofina couldn’t move. She was out of breath, her limbs hurt where she’d been bitten, and she could scarcely process what she’d done.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t time enough to waste recuperating. The spiders below had already seen the fall and could be heard murmuring curiously, some of them already on their way to investigate. As swiftly as she could, Sofina set herself aright and worked to free the wolf pup from the webbing.
“You’re setting me free?!”
“Yes,” said Sofina, tearing away the last shreds of webbing binding him.
The wolf pup balanced precariously on the web. He almost fell, but Sofina steadied him and helped him off to the mountainside. The other spiders were quickly approaching.
“Run away,” she said, and the wolf pup obeyed. In seconds he vanished over the side of the cleft.
A troop of male spiders ascended to the highest web at Sofina’s side, led by the king’s oldest son Uruk.
“Your sister is dead,” he declared. “And here you are where she fell.”
“There was a wolf pup,” Sofina said. “She fell trying to trap him. I managed to fight him away.”
The spider prince took a look at Sofina’s battered body.
“Which way did he go?”
Sofina pointed across the cleft to the other side of the mountain. Uruk and the others immediately set forth upon the trail, passing over the side of the mountain in a wave, leaving Sofina to herself.
It was quiet. And cold. There was nothing to do there anymore, so she turned and descended into the cleft.
The male spiders returned empty-handed after only an hour. After reporting to his father, Prince Uruk declared to the rest of the spiders that the wolf had fled the mountain and that they were safe. The excitement that had been flowing freely through the harm since Ollga died faded. Her body was buried and normality was restored. The spiders readily resumed their eating, drinking, and mating as though nothing had ever happened.
Rownos found Sofina later that night and the two of them mated for the second time. It was almost identical to the previous experience, only this time Sofina found her mind wandering far away from the act. After it was finished, Rownos fell back asleep and she scurried off to a find a quiet corner to herself.
So much had happened, it seemed, yet no one but herself seemed to notice. Her sister was dead, but this wasn’t an inconvenience to anyone. As long as the rest of them were safe from the beast that killed her, they wouldn’t spare a passing thought for their dead maiden. Only Sofina, who realized that she’d never contemplated life without her sister before, could feel the difference. The fact that it had been she, and not the wolf pup, who had killed her, added more to think about than anyone else could’ve guessed. She wasn’t sorry, she decided, though there was still a strange feeling when she thought about it. It wasn’t terrible, but it definitely wasn’t good either. It was somewhere in between, somewhere Ollga would never have thought to look, or any other spider for that matter. Only she seemed to understand such things.
Later, after the moon had sunk behind the mountains and everyone else was asleep, Sofina rose from her quiet corner and journeyed back up the mountainside. She reached the highest web where she’d first seen the wolf pup and kept going. The web was now empty, but she hardly noticed this as she crept over the mountaintop and crawled carefully down the other side. Here, there was an abundance of trees that blanketed the ground in total darkness. Her spider eyes guided her through the thickly crowded trunks, journeying deep into the heart of this strange country. She’d never seen it before, had never even been outside the mountain crook, yet something told her she was going to be okay. She wasn’t scared of losing her way, as she didn’t intend to find her way back again anyway.
It may have been ten or twenty minutes before she found what she was looking for, or rather until he found her. From out of thicket of ferns sprang the beast, the young wolf pup, bounding with energy as it barked and bared its teeth. Sofina smiled at this display, reminded of how bold he’d been when she first espied him in the net.
“No need for that,” she said. “I haven’t come to hurt you.”
“Then why are you here?”
Sofina sighed, and thought carefully about her next words.
“I’ve decided to run away too,” she said. “That was my sister who fell back there. Now that she’d gone,… I guess I thought I’d rather be with you.”
The wolf pup looked confused, but no longer appeared hostile. His posture slouched into a more relaxed position and he spoke plainly without aggression.
“Why though?” he asked. “You could’ve eaten me. I was starving for days out here and you have all those dead things to eat. Why come with me?”
“Because,… I don’t really know. I guess I liked talking to you. I liked it when I helped you, it was like,… it was a good feeling, but it was more than just that. It was more than good. I guess I’d rather help someone like you and feel better, than just feeling good on my own.”
After a moment, the wolf pup snorted and pawed at the ground. It looked like he was thinking, and Sofina held her breath. It he rejected her now, she didn’t know where or what she would do. At length, the pup looked up and crawled gently to Sofina’s bosom. He licked the wounded spot on her shoulder delicately and nuzzled against her cheek.
“You can join my pack if you like,” he said.
“How many are there?”
“Only two, for now. But two can survive better than one.”
“True,” said Sofina. “Thank you.”
“No problem. I guess I owe you for not eating me when you had the chance. What’s your name then?”
“Sofina. And yours?”
“Are you sleepy Anwill?”
“I’ll weave us a blanket.”
The two of them retreated into the thicket of ferns. Anwill lay tucked between Sofina’s legs, resting his head against her bosom. After weaving a blanket over them both, Sofina lay snugly with Anwill comfortable below her. As the wolf pup’s breath slowed and his belly rose and fell peacefully with the breath of sleep, she closed her eyes savoring how much better it felt to care and be cared for by someone else. It was a lovely feeling, better by far than good.