‘At least I am still alive.’ My mind raced in all directions, but that was my uppermost thought.
Moving was difficult and there was an odd bubbling feeling in my abdomen. If I really strained, the fingers of my left hand could just brush the hilt of the dagger strapped to my left calf. So near! Damn the silken bounds that encased my unwilling body! Finer than the hair on dandelion seeds, yet stronger than mithril. A minute spark of optimism suggested that the deceptively soft entombment could be impervious to the attentions of the dread creature who had wrapped me in it. A blow of pessimism countered the tiny vein of hope with the knowledge that of course it could, and I would at one point be a living dinner.
A rotted and cloyingly sweet miasma hung in the darkness. The pungent scent of death permeated my senses, filling me with the utmost horror. There is a primal revulsion when one encounters such assaults to the senses. Every fibre of my being urged that I should escape from a horror worse than death. Through the almost transparent silk covering, I glimpsed the outline of a row of grey cocoons lined against the earthen walls. Hope rose in my breast and I called softly. No answer came. Were the occupants dead, or still waiting to stir into consciousness?
The darkness was an almost physical presence. Such a place could not exist within the light, of that I was sure. A few feet in front of me the darkness bulged, as if something large and bulbous stood guard. The black mass shifted slightly and a shaft of light shot through, only to disappear a split second later. Before me was a dread creature beyond my worst imaginings. Quiet and unspeakable terror consumed every pore. Surely death by my own hand was preferable to the attentions of the vile spawn of Morgoth before me.
A noise like the rasping of a saw broke the silence. As the mass moved, the light shone through. My prison was an underground lair. Beyond the rim were trees, fresh and laden with spring flowers. The juxtaposition of dark and light, of sweet woodland aromas and the fetid odour of death, was obscene. Above was the place where the creature sprang at us, taking us by surprise. We never knew that such things existed. How could we fight that of which we had no knowledge or preparation?
The huge spider turned its massive bulk, displacing some hanging detritus from the ceiling, which fell onto the spiked hairs on its massively swollen abdomen. Huge mandibles grated together; the saw like noise grew nearer, yet I was not the focus of the dread creature’s attention. At the end of the line of cocoons was an older one, greyer than the rest and stained dark in the middle. It moved slightly. As the spider advanced towards it the movements from within became more frantic. The mandibles speared the middle of the cocoon and the elf inside screamed. I stared with voyeuristic fascination, spellbound and horrified, a cold sweat forming beads on my forehead and chills thrilling down my spine. The terrible screams rent the air, subsiding into exhausted, agonised moans when the monster stopped feeding. It occurred to me that the spider had fed more than once from the same victim. Escape was more urgent than ever.
The line of cocoons remained silent. Were they unconscious or silent in terror, trying not to draw attention to themselves? Shifting with the grace that large creatures unexpectedly display when sense says they should not, the spider moved along the line, the pedipalp feelers stroking along each cocoon before moving onto the next one. Was it testing for signs of life? Could it feed only from a victim that was alive? Filled with horror and dread, my movements became more frantic, but to no avail. Eventually it stood before my silken imprisonment, the obscene arachnid face impassive and staring, its malevolent eyes showing no hint of intention. Just above my face, the feelers tore a hole through the webbing. I admit losing self-control. A wet warmth flowed down my legs. The bubbling feeling in my abdomen grew stronger and there was the feeling of pressure, but it was not painful. No doubt, I was full of wind because of the noxious miasma threading through the pit. It had to be the reason, anything else I could not countenance. The spider stroked its feeler along the cocoon, looking thoughtful, as if it could. All the time my nerves were heightened by the sawing noise and I imagined the feelers tearing a hole in the midsection and the creature feeding from my entrails. Not daring to breathe, I looked desperately to the cocoon the spider had just assaulted. I am ashamed to admit that I wished it to go back there. I had to kill myself; escape was impossible.
The vile creature moved away. I allowed myself to breathe. The spider had slit the webbing widthways over my face. When I tried the same, lower down, the lateral strands separated easily but I still could not break them. I had been unable to separate them before and wondered what it must mean now that I could. Had the spider weakened the bonds with its feelers, or was there some other sinister process at work?
A long, shattering scream tore through the sawing darkness. The mandibles stopped grating and all was silent. Then another drawn out scream, followed by pleas for Lord Námo to take his fëa. My head jerked to the side. One of the cocoons writhed and twisted before suddenly erupting, splashing blood across the cocoons to either side of it. The occupant within writhed in agony. Eventually the moans and the movements stilled. I could hear the last dying breaths. Arasdir, my childhood friend, was dead. With the utmost revulsion, I watched the reason for his death. Unimaginable horror consumed me as a black mass of tiny shapes swarmed from the cocoon and joined the huge black spider before them. She turned her unwieldy bulk and pulled the cocoon free from the line. The spiderlings jumped from their mother’s back and feasted upon my friend. The bubbling within my belly grew stronger. As the tears tracked down my cheeks, I knew what it must mean.
The weakening bonds were still too strong to break, but my range of movement was more than before. Trying not to draw attention from the foul hatchlings still feasting on the dead body of my friend, I was able to pull the dagger free from the strap around my calf. The spiderlings stopped eating and focussed upon me. Tiny staring eyes gazed malevolently. They would not take the killing of their premature siblings without a fight. I knew the nature of what grew inside me. Already damned, I could choose to die by my own hand or let them rip my insides to shreds, enduring unimaginable agony before the welcome release of death.
The tip of the dagger pushed just under the breastbone. A large blood vessel throbbed below the thin sheet of muscle. When it was cut there would be no saving my life. They would not use me. They would not decide my death. The bubbling grew stronger, as if the occupants within had gauged my intentions. Let them be terrified and know what it feels like to die. Unripe and unready to be born, they would never have life. I would die within seconds.
The mother spider carefully advanced, her mandibles held straight, tips dripping green poison. Holding the hilt of the dagger, as if feeling it for the first time, I cried out to Lord Námo to take my fëa before driving the blade into my body.
Then I woke up.
This story was beta'd by the lovely Keiliss :)
Written for the Sultry in September Exchange for Erulisse.
Written for the Sultry in September Exchange for Erulisse.
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