By TicAndToc <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: January 2007
Summary: Step into my parlor, said the spider to the fly…
(Disclaimer and author's notes are at the end of this little tale.)
Sam was born with impaired vision.
While most of his kind had relatively poor eyesight, Sammy was seriously nearsighted. He couldn't see much past the ends of his legs. At least, not clearly. The world around Sammy was a series of colored blurs in varying sizes.
But his vision was the only thing about him that was impaired. The rest of him worked just fine. And Sammy didn't let his poor vision hinder him. He learned early on to work around it.
And Sammy was good at what he did.
And what he did was spin webs and catch flies.
As soon as Sammy learned how to spin a web, he realized he didn't need to see to catch flies. Catching flies required the ability to spin a good web, not to see. Web building was close-up work, anyway.
And Sammy sure knew how to spin, too. He could put up a plain, utilitarian web in less than an hour — something many spiders with better sight couldn't do. Maybe it had something to do with distractions. Since he couldn't see much beyond his feet, Sammy didn't get distracted when he built a web.
And once the web was up, it still didn't matter if he could see or not. The flies came regardless.
Big flies. Small ones. The occasional moth.
And now and then, a gnat or a fruit fly. They were so small that they usually slipped through Sammy's web's strands. But some gnats were apparently nearsighted, too, because every now and then, one would blunder straight into the web itself and get stuck.
It made a nice little snack.
Sammy liked moths okay, but flies were his favorites.
And Sammy knew flies. He couldn't usually see them very well until they got caught in his web, but once they did, he could see them pretty clearly as he wrapped them up for later. And he could name them all.
House fly. Black fly. Sand fly. Horse fly. Fruit fly. Greenbottle. Bee fly. Gnat. Bluebottle.
The bluebottles were his absolute favorite.
In general, a spider had no real control over what got caught in a web. You caught what you caught. There was no way — no known way — to preferentially catch only what you wanted to catch.
Like, say, bluebottle flies.
But Sammy was always thinking about spinning webs, and even as he was spinning a web, he was always thinking about improvements to the basic patterns — those handed down from generation to generation.
And Sammy was a particularly creative web spinner. He was not afraid to spin outside the norm, to explore new and different design elements. While he hadn't — yet — discovered anything that preferentially attracted his preferred bluebottles, he remained optimistic.
Over time, Sammy became an artisan. His web designs became less about attracting a particular type of meal and more about the structure itself. He took the time to build elaborate webs, weaving them slowly and patiently. When it came to dew-soaked mornings, Sammy's webs always stood out. He'd even won several awards in the spider community.
The only problem was that once spun, there wasn't much maintenance required, even on Sammy's best webs.
And eventually, he had pretty much explored all the design options the web medium could offer. And so, eventually, Sammy had a lot of time on his legs. After all, no spider needed more than one web.
Oh, there was always a tear or a hole to fix. Sammy made a point of fixing these to blend in to the original web without seams.
Because he could.
He prided himself on producing a patch that was indistinguishable from the original web.
But other than this, Sammy's life held began to hold no challenge.
Day after day, Sammy sat in his newest web and watched the world — what little he could see of it — go by. It was mostly colored blurs and blobs. And the faint bright flash of sunlight on an insect's wings.
And he listened.
To the noises around him, loud and soft, and to the tales the other spiders told. Tales of birds, and cats, and dogs, and men. Tales of fierce storms.
Much of it was legend, lore — tales told by generation after generation of spiders. Those with good vision saw some of the things they spoke of, although they usually didn't interact with them. Birds, of course, were a very real threat to a spider. But the others — cats, and dogs, and men — were mostly entertainment. The spiders sat and watched, sat and spun, sat and told their tales.
But even the best tale gets old if you hear it over and over, day in and day out. At least, it did to Sammy.
Sammy acknowledged, finally, that he was bored.
He spun the most elaborate webs, full of extra curlicues and unnecessary edgework. But even the elaborate webs didn't take very long anymore. So he spent a large part of his days just hanging out in his web.
Then one day everything changed.
It started with a fly.
But not just any fly.
This one was big.
The biggest he'd ever seen.
A big bluebottle. And Sammy did like a good bluebottle. The bigger, the better.
And this one was the best he'd ever seen. Big enough that even he, near-sighted Sammy, could see it. Sort of. It was just like the bluebottles he was used to — a sort of iridescent, shimmery blue with occasional flashes of bright, like sunlight. And underlying that, the warm tones of life.
But this fly was bigger than any bluebottle he'd ever caught. Way bigger.
And Sammy knew his destiny.
If he could land such a huge fly, he'd be set for a long, long time — certainly through the winter, when most spiders died from lack of prey.
From cold, too, but one thing at a time. First the fly. Then the cold.
So Sammy set out to build the perfect trap.
It would take a lot of web to catch the big fly.
He chose his spot carefully. He'd need a lot of anchor points. The web would have to be big.
He began to spin.
For days, Sammy spun, patiently laying the anchor lines, then attaching the intricate net.
For weeks, Sammy spun.
For months, Sammy spun.
With the big web came some problems, of course — problems that weren't as likely to occur with a smaller web.
By its very size, Sammy's big net was at extra risk for wind damage.
It tended to collect leaves.
And more than once, Sammy was jounced around as some bird blundered into his masterpiece, punching a hole in it and setting his anchor lines to thrumming with the impact. Birds were rightly to be feared in the spider community, so Sammy laid low when he heard a bird hit his web, waiting until the indignantly squawking intruder moved on before he began his repairs.
And repairing holes was absolutely necessary.
He hadn't come this far just to have his prey escape through a hole in his net.
Daily repair was always part of web building.
He did what he could to minimize damage — he'd chosen his web's location carefully, allowing for extra points to which to attach his anchor lines. And he set multiple anchor lines at each point, instead of the usual single line.
And he walked the web daily.
Over the months of spinning and weaving, he learned to determine from the size of the vibrations beneath his feet whether he was dealing with a bird, or a leaf, or a similar windblown object.
In the first few weeks, Sammy walked his web in the morning, testing it and patching the inevitable small holes in the finished sections. Then he spent his afternoons spinning and weaving new sections.
As the web grew, though, the distance he had to cover grew, too. Walking the entire web began to take much of his day. Soon, he was walking the web from morning to late afternoon.
But that was okay. His goal was worth the effort.
When he felt his web was finally big enough, he stopped weaving and switched to reinforcing it.
It had to be strong — strong enough to catch and hold his prize. He laid more anchor lines, setting them two and three thick at each anchor point. He triple-wove the crosspieces. Instead of removing windblown leaves and patching the damage, he began to weave over them, incorporating them into his design.
Over time, much of the web itself thus became three-ply, with a middle layer composed of leaves.
It was strangely beautiful, especially in the mornings with the dew on the multitude of anchor lines and outlining each leaf. And it was quite effective at catching flies.
Sammy caught many, many flies.
But Sammy was after the big one.
He ate when he had to, and he spun. And he walked his web, and wove it, and patched it.
And then, one day, it finally happened, as Sammy had known it would.
He had just finished patching one of the outer quadrants, re-spinning a segment torn by a falling branch. He'd added an extra anchor line and was just stepping back toward the web's perimeter when he felt it.
The web *shook* with the impact.
Sammy was knocked completely off his web, and tumbled legs over legs across its face.
It's embarrassing for a spider to be knocked out of a web, but Sammy didn't have time for embarrassment. If not for his quick spinning of an anchor thread, it all would have been over. As it was, he tossed out a line and let it catch him as the web to which the other end was attached thrummed and vibrated around him.
And despite the danger, Sammy was thrilled. He'd done it — he'd caught the big one. And it was intoxicating, this mix of danger and excitement. This sure knowledge that he'd finally achieved his goal.
And he had. He knew he had. He didn't have to see it to believe it — he felt it in every leg planted on that thrumming and bouncing web.
Nevertheless, he squinted along his net. Shimmery blue. Bigger than any fly he'd ever seen. Yes. It was his fly.
Now he needed to wrap it. As he scrambled toward the fly, visions of the coming months filled his head. He had more food than he could eat any time soon — enough for him, and enough to share. No one in the spider community — none of his spider friends or neighbors — would have to go hungry.
"How did you do this?" they would ask.
"Oh, it's nothing," he would say modestly. "I simply saw a need."
And speaking of need, he needed to wrap his prey securely. Right now. His web was good, but not invincible. Eventually, a determined fly might — just possibly — break free. Especially a fly this big.
But Sammy had readied himself for this moment. He was a good web spinner, and fast, and he'd had lots and lots of practice reinforcing his web over the last few months.
He hurried toward his fly.
It gave him a shiver to think about it — *his* fly. *His* marvelous catch.
It was best to start at one end and tie down his fly before he wrapped it — especially as, yes — it was breaking free. Quickly, Sammy spun an anchor line and swung onto his prey. Moving as fast as he could, he began to throw out the anchor lines, casting line after line over the fly.
That was how it was done. To catch a fly, you spun a web.
To spin a web, you cast an anchor — and then you wove your net.
"Anchor, then weave. Anchor, then weave." He could remember Grandma saying it patiently, over and over again, as she taught him to build a web.
How proud of him she would have been!
His fly thrashed, and an anchor line came loose. Sammy spun another, and then threw out several in quick succession.
This fly was strong; he needed to anchor faster. It was hard and tiring and scary, and the fly was so big. But it was exhilarating, too.
Sammy cast another couple of anchor lines. His prey still thrashed, tearing the threads with ease. Maybe he should change his angle of attack. Sammy shifted to another spot and cast another anchor line. And —
And abruptly, Sammy's world went dark as he was engulfed in… something. Something dark and warm and… alive.
Had he just been eaten?
He'd thought being eaten was a more terrifying experience than just painless, warmish darkness. Of course, he'd never experienced it before, nor had any spider who *had* been eaten been in a position to come back and tell the others about how it felt…
His bewilderment increased as… something… spoke.
"Hey, little guy. You're gonna get hurt if you're not careful — I almost didn't see you. This is not the best place to spin a web, either — I ran right into it. Although it's quite a web!"
And Sammy knew.
He hadn't caught a fly.
He'd caught a *human*.
Sammy had caught a human being.
Funny, though — he hadn't known they could fly.
Sammy began to grin. What a tale he had to tell the other spiders. He'd actually caught a human.
Of course, it had caught him, too. Sammy's world — his current warmish, dark one — tilted, and Sammy scrambled a bit to stay upright. At least, he thought it was upright. It was too dark to tell.
He wasn't sure what was going on. One thing he did know, though.
All that work.
All that effort.
And yet the big one got away.
Then abruptly, Sammy was back in the bright — back in the light, scrambling to keep all his legs from tangling as he tipped and slid down to land with a small jolt on… nothing.
And he guessed the truth.
He must have been eaten, and he must have made it to the afterlife. Because he was *flying*.
Well, standing, actually. He looked around. There was only empty space around him. Strangely smooth, cold empty space. And hard. There was nothing to cast an anchor line to, nothing to cling to. Nothing, apparently, to stand on, nothing to support him. Yet here he hung, in thin air. Or actually, here he *stood* on thin air. On cold and smooth and surprisingly solid air.
He could feel it beneath his feet.
"There you go, little guy. You'll be safe in this jar for the moment. It's getting colder — I'll take you to a better place. To a man I know — he's a zookeeper at the zoo. He's got plenty of space where an artist like you can safely build a web — and stay warm through the winter, too."
Had his fly — no, his human, the human he had caught — made it to the afterlife, too, then?
The next stretch of time, immeasurable, was a jumbled mix of motion, color and sound. Sammy couldn't see what was happening — except for blurs of color, and shimmery blue close by. Shimmery, bluebottle blue that wasn't a bluebottle fly.
He sensed great speed.
Yet he, himself, still stood — legs splayed wide for balance as the world shifted around him — on cold and smooth thin air.
Sammy was confused. Maybe he hadn't made it to the afterlife quite yet.
His fly — his human — spoke again.
"Hello, Mr. Berne. Do you have room in the Insect Building for a very talented little spider?"
Another voice — an angel? — answered.
"Hello, Superman. What do you have there? Ah — a fine specimen of a wolf spider. Certainly, certainly. Come with me."
More confusing colors and noise and motion.
Sammy kept his balance on the cold and solid air with difficulty. It obviously took a while to learn to fly, because right now he was up and down and sideways and —
"Here you go, little guy."
Suddenly, Sammy was upended and tumbled, legs over legs over legs, sliding and scrambling, along the clear cold air…
To land with a small jolt on a branch. A tree branch.
A tree branch in a place where the air was warm. There was no scent of the coming winter, only the good clean smells of earth and water and branches and growing things. He could hear the buzz of small flying things, the distant chatter of other spiders, and he itched to *spin* — to anchor and weave, anchor and weave.
This *must* be the afterlife, then. Paradise. Because there was everything a spider could want.
Paradise was a lot like his former home — except, apparently, without winter.
He hesitated on the branch, then inched forward a little. It felt solid. It felt real. And there were lots of places on this branch, right around him, where he could anchor a web. He hesitated again, then sent out a small, test anchor line.
He settled into the process of web building — into the familiar rhythm of anchor, then weave; anchor, then weave — the design already planned out in his mind. Excitement and adventure were all well and good, but there was something to be said for the simple satisfaction of creating his next masterpiece.
And there were others here, too. Other spiders. He could hear voices, speaking in spider — some with curious accents. After he spun his web, he would go and introduce himself. Meet the others.
They'd all spin webs and talk about flies, telling all the usual spider stories.
He could join them with his own fly-catching tale.
It wouldn't be quite as good as showing off his prize would have been.
But it would be enough.
At least he could tell them all the tale of the one that got away.
LabRat BR'd this for me despite a… strong dislike, shall we say? …of spiders.
I can relate; I don't like them (at all) either. Even though they're beneficial and eat bad bugs, etc., etc… I can't — won't — even touch a *picture* of a spider.
Pretty sad, huh?
But this idea popped into my head, almost complete, so what could I do but write it down?
(Disclaimer: One of the characters in this story doesn't belong to me, but this story is written only for fun, not for profit. So hopefully, as long as I put the toy back when I'm done with it, nobody will mind that I borrowed it… er, him…)