Atrophy

 

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Blood for the Spider

 Trees that appeared to be weeping. Lush and rich deep green leaves dangling and dancing in the whispering breeze. Clinging desperately to one of the violently swaying branches, a glossy black beetle, as small as a seed, a freckle amongst the leaves.


Perhaps if it weren’t for the wild wind, I would’ve stayed and watched the putrid bug suffer. The autumn weather was feral and full of fury, battering me with pellets of rain. Ahead, shrouded in greenery, and almost guarded by two droopy willows, awaited a cream door. Waiting for me. 


Ever since birth, nature has hated me. Perhaps an exaggeration, but today of all days I could feel the sour wrath of mother nature. Ants emerged from hidden spots, scattering across the damp ground beneath my feet, before crawling up my limbs in an orderly line. 


It couldn’t be helped, I had been standing still for too long. Yet as I felt their tiny claws scamper up my body, I could only feel annoyed. I tried to shake them off, before I advanced towards the door. 


As I outstretched my hand to touch the smooth round, almost glistening with the rain, gelid metal door handle. A cold feverous chill ran up my spine. There before me perched atop the handle was a most horrific arachnid, gargantuan in size. 


I fell back a step, my hand paralysed. I clenched my teeth and bit my lip, forcing the courage to look back up. I was struck by waves of nausea as I took in it’s tremendous size, the spider was an odd purple colour.


It also looked frail, and as ancient as the web it hung on. Dusty and pierced with large holes, the spider seemed caught in a web that appeared to be as old as life itself. It’s unusually colourful complexion and massive size would make all other spiders shudder. 

“The queen of all spiders.” I laughed to myself.


Even a tarantula would appear like a runt before this brilliant queen. I had no intention of disturbing this terrifying yet beautiful creature, and so I made sure to knock well above it. 

Three loud knocks, each one causing my heart to quake, the spider shook but luckily did not fall. Admittedly I probably would’ve squealed had it fallen, or maybe even faint. 


A quiet creak and I watched as the door swung open, making sure not to get in it’s way. “Ah Elliot.” A tall woman stood at the doorway, her straight grey-blonde hair swept up in a neat up-do. “We’ve been expecting you.” She pressed her hands together before leading me inside.


The woman before me held a grim expression, she walked stiffly and talked little. She had porcelain skin, and a weak poise. She was tall, but distortedly thin almost appearing paper-like and fragile. One might say breakable. She had very strongly defined cheekbones and tight narrow face, large shallow holes where dimples might’ve once been. 


As I followed her down the lengthy corridor, I noticed the blackness surrounding her eyes and how tired she appeared. I thought before speaking with legitimate concern. “Are you alright?” The moment I’d asked, I could feel her tense. 


“I’m sorry.” She sighed before leading me forward in silence. There was an fearful tension between us, and I couldn’t seem to break through her elusiveness. The narrow hallway came to a sudden halt, ahead I could see a man sitting in the dark of a room. 

“This is the study.” The frail lady spoke gently, her voice sweet but tainted with melancholic overtones. “The master likes to sit here and reflect.” She gestured to the old man huddled in the damp darkness of what appeared to be a room cluttered with books, but it was hard to be sure as there was no light switched on.


I took a step forward before tumbling over a dusty old trunk that I hadn’t seen. The old man turned around at the ruckus i had caused. “I’m sorry.” I apologised, carefully readjusting my footing and clearing the path of any books that lay in my way.


“No I’m sorry.” The old man apologised. “You must be Elliot, the boy I’ve heard so much about.” The elderly man’s voice was gruff but not unfriendly. “Do forgive me, I can’t handle the brightness.” It was then that I realised that all the windows in the room had been boarded over with wood or covered in thick drapery. 


“I’ve arranged for your room to be upstairs. Don’t worry, the windows up there haven't been touched. So you’ll have plenty of light.” He explained, but still I was curious. “If you don’t mind me asking, how come you hate the sunlight.” Suddenly the man’s tone changed, and I could feel his eyes pierce straight through me. 


“Don’t ask me questions. You’re lucky I adopted you, gave you a home, unlike all those other orphans who still have to rot in that hellhole.” He snapped before he ordered the lady to lead me upstairs. It was harsh, but not untrue. I was lucky. 


Obedience. That was one thing I had learnt at the orphanage, home for the misfortunate. They’d drilled it in from the beginning, if you didn’t obey they would make sure you regretted it. All sorts of punishments awaited the disorderly, hot oil, pushed into icy water and taught to swim. The supervisors thrived on cruelty, and could turn your life into a nightmare if they desired. 


“Excuse me.” I asked meekly as the quietness seemed to doom on me. “Yes.” The pale face of the lady looking almost ghostly as she led me upstairs. “Do you have a name?” I asked, unsure of what else to say. 


“Eleanor. I am the master’s umm.. servant.” She introduced herself, her voice trembling wearily. “Eleanor.” It was a lovely name that seemed to roll off the tongue. We reached the final step. “This is your quarters. From now on you will address the master as Sir, and do not dare call him father.” 


“The master is simply kind enough to keep a street rat like you, think of yourself more as a worker to it’s queen, or in this case the master.” Her words were sharp and did not reflect her supposedly gentle slender frame. “You are merely a drone.. and as such, replaceable. Misconduct of any kind will not be tolerated.” 


“Ok.” I replied obediently. “I shall not become a liability.” I assured. “Good.” She finished. “If you need anything, I will be in the hall downstairs. Do not approach the master.” Her voice eased off a bit. “And please. The master may seem kind, but he... he does not tolerate disturbances.” She sighed heavily.


“See the work we do here is very important, and the master is a genius.” I didn’t dare to ask her what kind of work they did, I didn’t want to seem impolite. I watched as she descended down the stairs before collapsing onto the floor. 


The room was barren, apart from a bucket at the corner of the room which collected water from a leak in the roof. It was cramped and the air was stale, but at least there was a window. 


One window, the thin glass layer, freezing cold to the touch. At least the floor beneath me was not cold, unlike the concrete floors of the orphanage. I was used to living without a bed, I only have one faint memory of lying in a cot when I was very young, but otherwise I’ve had no experience of such comforts. 


I let my gaze wander and discovered yet another thing, a cavity in the wall, the building seemed to have been largely neglected, and cracks sprouted from every corner. The ruinous walls were not the only parts of the room falling apart. The window sill was worn with rust. 


I knelt down and peered curiously through the small hole. Through it I saw a different view, it let me see directly ahead unlike the window which only gave view to a few neighbouring rooftops.


Before me, the bowels of the neighbourhood. Worn old buildings, some abandoned and adorned by brilliant green and wild plant-life. The buildings seemed to bleed together, all made with the same terracotta bricks, melding together like a stream. An unrecognisable blur of rooftops blending into one another. 


I could hear the robins outside cry, after all the world was but a stream of tears. I clenched my fists before a disfigured wasp began to crawl up my arm, its thin crinkled legs climbing up my pale flesh. 


It looked as though it had been squashed, no worse, it had been completely mutilated. Dried blood dripping down it’s tiny legs. I would’ve shaken it off, but the creature paused and looked up at me with large bitter black eyes. It was horrible and sad image seeing the creature struggle futilely up my arm.


I had nothing better to do then watched the damned creature waste its last moments. “I..” I pursed my lips together. “I cannot understand this world.” I cursed, seething through gritted teeth. 


There were plenty of flaws within me, but it still felt unfair. “Why am I here. I should be with a family that loves me, I know that there’s a thousand like me... but still. I deserve a good home.” I realised how neurotic I seemed, I was talking to a half dead wasp. 


For some while I watched the poor beast, starring at me with its comparatively huge black eyes compared to its small battered body. It appeared to be weeping, but then do wasps weep? Perhaps it was purely my imagination, maybe I was personifying it. However I still felt sad watching the wasp. 


It struggled once more, before giving into exhaustion. Collapsing and falling down my arm like debris, before landing my palm. It made me pause and think. “I’ve seen a thousand wasps before, and yet.” I felt my thoughts wander. “Are we all just doomed to die.” 


I placed the corpse on the window sill, its dead large bug eyes still haunting me. In the glossy sheen of the window I could see my hazy reflection. Messy brown hair, fearful green eyes, dirt and dust across my face. I really was just a street rat. 


There was a tightening in my chest, I could still hear the sound of robins chirping, but it all began to blur as a sudden wave of nausea and queasiness filled my stomach. I felt unwell, no I felt more then unwell. A sudden sickness swept through me, I tried to suppress it, but the vicious pain forced me to let out a scream. 


I tried to reach for the bucket, but it was too late. A splatter of blood escaped my mouth before seeping into my clothes. It was painful, so very painful. I felt incredibly weak and soon enough I had faded into what seemed like a sleep that would last forever.


I awoke to a bright burning white light, before freezing up in fear. Above me stood the old man who I’d only seen in the darkness of his office. His face was covered in scabs and blisters. I couldn’t utter a word. “I hate the light, because it reveals things that should remain hidden.” He explained, before turning away and reaching for a jar of some sort.


“...” I tried to speak but frustratingly my voice would not obey. “...I...” I pushed through the paralysis that seemed to forbid speech. “I’m... not...” I coughed and spluttered. “Afraid.” My heart and chest felt weak, but my lungs felt weaker. 


“Well.” The old man paused. “In any case, you should be afraid.” He leant forward, narrowing his eyes a little. I tried to sit up, but I couldn’t control my body, it would not move at my command. I began to panic a bit, it felt as if i’d been disconnected from my physical form. I could not feel my limbs, I could not raise a hand or move my body, something was terribly wrong. Only my head seemed to be moveable, barely, but I could at least open my mouth.


I felt the air escape my throat. “Do you know why I chose to adopt you, Elliot, out of a hundred others?” The old man asked, not expecting a reply. “Because you possess something unique.” 


“Unlike the thousands, masses of people who serve little use.” The man leant forward. “I have no need for people of perfect health.” The sentence struck me with a heavy blow. “See.. I might just.. learn something of value from you.” 


I remembered the purple spider, it’s ginormous size. Then there was the rank smell that seemed to ooze from the floor causing the air to run stale, and the darkness of the old man’s study. And the fear of light, which reveals things that perhaps should remain hidden.


Why was that spider so large? The thought harboured great fear. My thoughts were broken when the strange man spoke. “Don’t worry. I’ve had Eleanor inject you with a paralysis serum as you entered, so if you throw up blood it’s just because much of your heart and lung’s activity has been slowed.” 


I hadn’t felt anything when Eleanor was leading me around, although I had been nervous, and fear can blind people. “Why would have her do that!” I forced myself to cry, despite my voice being so stiff. 


“Again, you possess something that I need. You are unwell. Me and Eleanor went through your papers at the orphanage.” The old man stated. “Inside of you..” I felt sick hearing those words, sick with anxiousness. 


I tried to scream, with the faint hope that maybe someone would hear me and come to the rescue. 


“Im not unwell. You’re unwell. You’re insane!” I exclaimed with all the power I could from my paralysed chest. Out of all the thousands, why me, why was I at the hands of this emotionally detached creep.


I now thought, was the disgusting smell that oozed from beneath the floor boards, the smell of his poor unfortunate victims. Did he catch poor children without homes in his web, and like a spider extract their lives for his mad experiments. Which led me to worry that the gargantuan spider had only grown so large, because perhaps it was feeding off the flesh of this crazy man’s previous victims. 


“Nooo!” I pleaded. I could see a shimmering scalpel in his hand. I shut my eyes in terror before I felt myself swept away. 


My eyes tore open immediately, I still felt paralysed, but I was not at the hands of the deranged man anymore. I looked up and could see I was wrapped in silky strands of webbing. 


Above me stood the purple spider, only it towered above me, and was at least five times my size. I looked up at it’s round face, covered in many large blinking eyes. Behind it’s massive magenta abdomen, decorated in strange brown markings. 


“Little fly.” The spider spoke in a voice that sounded like ten wise voices compressed into one. “I wasn’t the first one to inhabit this forsaken place, and I won’t be the last one.” The spider spoke through it’s furry pincers.


“But..” The giant spider seemed troubled. “You aren’t like any of the thousand i’ve met.” 












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