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The Web She Wove

by Cynthia Mudge 10 months ago in Horror
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It isn't a dream

Image art by Jolanta Anna Karolska https://jolanta-anna-karolska.pixels.com/

Prologue

Deep in the dark of night Lilly lay motionless in her bed. Her hands clutching the folds of her bedsheets, drawing them tight against her face. Looming over the foot of her bed was the prickly body and legs of a spider. She screamed but only a raspy croaking sound escaped. Wide-eyed with terror she watched as the enormous front legs tapped further up the bed, measuring the outline of her body before moving forward. The little girl once again croaked out a scream. “Mom!” but the sound barely made it past her lips. Finally, she just screamed. At first, the sound was a muffled squeak but as the spider advanced the scream took hold and grew in volume. This wasn’t a dream.

*****************************

“Get it off! Get it off! Get it off!” screamed Lilly as she ran frantically in circles. Her mother bounded off the porch and hurled herself toward her little girl. In between the chaos of screams and flailing arms Lilly’s mom discovered her sweet girl had encountered a spider that had dropped onto her head.

Following a close inspection and repeated assurances, Lilly finally calmed down when her mom confirmed the spider was gone. “That old barn is full of spiders, mice, and rusty nails,” warned her mom. “You really shouldn’t be playing in there.” Lilly swore she would never go in there again.

Lilly’s mom came to her daughter’s rescue once again that night, listening to her daughter describe the enormous hairy spider and how it was going to eat her. “It’s just a bad dream,” mom cooed as she tucked Lilly back into bed. “I’ll leave the hall light on to keep the dreams away.”

The next day Lilly broke her promise to not venture into the barn again. After telling her best friend, Darla, about the spider, they decided to go back and see if the spider was back in its web. It was a bright day with sunshine bathing the fields as they made their way to the barn. The door hung crookedly on its hinges, and the breeze caused the torn plastic that once covered a hole in the roof to flap and snap. The spider web was anchored into a stall post and frame. It appeared empty. Darla found a small stick and stood on top of an overturned feeder. She gently poked at the web. The spider appeared from its hiding place but didn’t crawl all the way to the stick. Instead, it paused, then crept back into the crook of the post. Both girls jumped back, Darla falling backwards off the feeder. They bolted from the barn.

The spider was still there.

Darla offered to go back in and destroy the web. Lilly didn’t want to go back in, but Darla was braver. From the doorway Lilly watched as her friend used the stick to swat at the web until it was completely torn apart.

The next day, Lilly cautiously crept back to the barn and peaked through the door. To her amazement a new web had been spun. The spider was putting the finishing touches on her careful work. “You just stay in the barn”, Lilly scolded the spider.

While Lilly had been comforted that first night from the soft glow shining beneath her bedroom door, the hall light didn’t eliminate future dreams about spiders. Spiders skittering across the ceiling, creeping along her bedsheets, or crawling out of the closet. Sometimes they seemed so real she flew out of bed only to discover nothing there after throwing the light on. By age ten, Lilly was feeling cursed and often wondered if that first encounter with a spider in the old barn was going to haunt her dreams forever.

Summer brought with it sleep overs, exploration, and late nights as daylight stretched itself into the evening. On one of those days, Darla and Lilly were sprawled out on a large cozy blanket under the apple tree by the barn. Lilly was engrossed in one of her mythology books, reading out loud about how everyone has a spirit animal. Darla mentioned that dragon flies seemed to always find her and as if on cue, one drifted by, landing on a blade of grass she was holding. “Your animal spirit is probably SPIDERS!” teased Darla. “Grossss,” responded Lilly.

Yet, Darla’s comments followed Lilly and crept into her bedtime thoughts. Could that be true? Were her spider nightmares a sign that her animal spirit was this ugly frightening thing? “Darla is so lucky,” thought Lilly. To have a dragonfly as a spirit animal.

While Darla did not share Lilly’s obsession with reading about old legends and myths, the discussion of animal spirits piqued her curiosity, and she began her own research about dragon flies and…spiders.

Darla shared what she learned with Lilly about spiders as a spirit animal. “It’s actually a cool thing,” Darla stated. Lilly wrinkled her nose. “It’s gross,” she replied.

“No, seriously! Spiders are cool!” Darla then told Lilly about how spiders represent the shadow-self and are a connection to the spirit world. “What is a shadow-self,” asked Lilly. “Well, it’s like your dark side. We all have a dark side to our personality – like, the Indian story you shared about how we all have a wolf inside of us,” explained Darla. “So, the shadow-self is like that spider hiding in the corner and waits to capture souls in her web.” Lilly shivered. “That’s not cool. I don’t want a spider as a spirit animal.”

The conversation stirred up memories from that long ago spider incident, so Darla and Lilly crept over to the old barn that had stood ignored and neglected. The door protested their efforts to open it, but finally gave in. As a shaft of sunlight flooded into the barn, Darla and Lilly were shocked to see that a spider web remained where they last saw it…..but it was now so much bigger. “Wow….that can’t possibly be the same spider,” said Darla. All spiders looked alike to Lilly, so when this spider skittered to her hiding place, Lilly couldn’t tell. But the web was huge.

That night, Lilly dreamt that she killed that spider. Stomped it in anger for stalking at night. The dream felt so real that Lilly decided to check the barn once more. In the morning, with the dream still fresh on her mind, Lilly armed herself with a broom, determined to destroy the web…and the spider…if it were still there. Emboldened by her fear, Lilly mustered the courage to enter the barn. She gently touched the web with a twig she found just outside the door. The spider darted out to check its pray. Within moments Lilly swatted the spider to the grown, screaming as the spider ran towards her feet where in a fit of terror Lilly stomped and stomped and stomped. The spider was now splattered on the dusty floorboard. Lilly attacked the web next, destroying it with the broom before running outside and abandoning the broom on the porch stairs.

**********************************************

It has been years since Lilly thought about that spider and that web. She turned fifty without any fanfare, which seemed appropriate. Her entire life had been lived without fanfare. Just a series of bad moments and poor choices amplified by even worse luck. The once happy child whose smile shined back at her in old photos had become a dark, angry old woman who had trapped herself in a cloak of bitterness. Bitterness that ruined relationships, caused her divorce, and even distanced herself from her parents.

Mom and Dad lived out their days on the little farm that was now hemmed in by other homes. The old barn was crippled from rot and decay. Lilly arrived to clear out the family home now that dad had passed. She planned to put it up for sale.

She slept in her old room. Her childhood bed had long been replaced by a queen bed and had been kept ready for visiting guests. Her first night home she had a spider dream. At one time these dreams had her heart racing, but now these too were accepted without fanfare. Lilly had grown accustomed to the hallucinations and dreams.

Lilly spent the morning contemplating how best to tackle the task of dismantling her parent’s belongings. There were no siblings to share the task or the belongings. She leaned against the kitchen doorframe and let out a heavy sigh. The spider dream lingered just outside the peripheral of her conscious, so she decided to procrastinate by taking a walk. The door groaned in defiance as Lilly considered the stability of the barn and wondered if her fate was to be crushed by its weight. The door finally gave way and swung wildly open banging against the wall. Lilly tripped at the sudden lurch of the door. She peered in. It took a moment for her eyes to adjust. It took a few more moments for her mind to adjust.

The entire barn was filled with one enormous web. From floor to the upper rafters and hay loft, which had long ago rotted and fallen.

**********************************

Darla and Lilly had drifted apart over the years yet remained in touch through occasional Christmas cards. Social media ultimately brought them closer again, letting them see the irony of life play out between them. Lilly, who was so spirited as a child and obsessed with reading about mystical legends and mythology ended up moving to Seattle where she worked as an office manager, living a dull and mundane life from pay-check-to-paycheck. In her younger days she was able to afford a comfortable two-bedroom apartment, but rentals were so high now she could barely afford the shabby studio she now lived in. Darla, who as a child was a tomboy that was more interested in catching frogs than catching boys, now lived a more spiritual and spontaneous life. She was living in a Yurt in Arizona where she worked as an art therapist and psychic.

A few days after Lilly called her friend about the spider web, Darla arrived at the farm in her colorful and ancient camper van. It was late and there was no response when she rapped on the door. Darla checked the door, and it was unlocked, so she slipped inside calling out for Lilly. Just the ticking of the mantle clock responded, so Darla decided to just sleep in her van as Lilly was likely already in bed.

Darla woke to the tinging sound of rain tapping on the roof of her van. After living in Arizona for the past twenty years she was enjoying the moment. It was still early when the rain stopped, so instead of bothering Lilly, Darla chose to explore the old homestead. She had fond memories of the hours and hours they spent each day on that old porch, and she realized how much she missed the view of Saddle Mountain and the hikes they took there. The barn remained tucked along the back lot and was sagging from its own weight. The door was wide open. Darla decided to take a look at the web Lilly called her about, certain it was likely her friend’s imagination. Lilly hated spiders and Darla was convinced the hate manifested itself into hallucinations.

Grabbing a flashlight from the van she walked toward the barn. Rays of sunlight poked through the holes in the ceiling but didn’t illuminate much. Her flashlight pierced the darkness. Darla quietly gasped at what she saw. The web was indeed enormous, filling up the entire barn. Movement from the loft above caught her attention. Her flashlight searched the dark for its source. Darla’s mouth grew wide with a silent scream. She had never been as terrified as she was at that moment. The spider peered down at her from the rafters where she was tidying up the cocoon she had spun of her latest meal. Lilly.

Horror

About the author

Cynthia Mudge

Raised in the Pacific Northwest, Cynthia is an avid reader and explorer of historical fiction, paranormal, and environmental tales that examine the world around us. Her writing explores these themes as she finds her Skookum Spirit.

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