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The Fairy Fly Chapter Fifteen



Spider had once seen a boy seeing a boy seeing a boy seeing a boy and so on, in a gray mirrorworld, reflected smaller and smaller.  But the first boy was being seen by a spider in a world with color, divagating from the pattern.  He had viewed this odd series of images on the talking window at home.  Or did he dream it?  Was it the face of the boy with the red pocket?

He felt like that Mirror Boy now, reflected in subtle stark shades of gray over and over, unable to look away and prevent it.  As if he were floating in a current beyond control, eddying in a circle while he could only try not to drown.  And yet he couldn't find the place where it began.  It all went by too fast.

This time he had hurt Gnat intentionally, when he wished not to with his entire heart — feeling equally helpless despite making a choice.

Exiting the calamitous room, his life snared out of Death's long-toothed cuspen maw, he tagged after Gnat in a stupor.  The words were on his tongue, earnest phrases from deep within his gist.  He just couldn't speak.  It wasn't that he didn't feel gratitude and sorrow.  It was that the day seemed so unreal, like déjà vu, a repetition of events with a hazy recollection.

And it also seemed that he either always said too little or said too much.

He was preoccupied as well over the absence of the Fairy Fly.  Why hadn't she been there?  Did he hurt her feelings?  Did everything he said have to come out wrong?

His gait lagged, a gulf of separation growing as Gnat winged forward.


Spider scrambled up a baseboard and quivered as the janitor stumped toward him.  The man was horrifying, with or without The Sweeper.

"Pssst, in here!"  Three sets of eyes peeped from a gap behind the wall's molding.

The tremulous jumper ducked inside a cloistered crawlspace, the den of a larger pale-brown arachnid with six orbs in lieu of eight.  Elsewise he had the legs and body of a spider.

A peculiar web occupied a corner, with no symmetrical design; more of a tent structure, its grayish silk consisting of a fungus-like texture.  Insect and arachnid parts, the remnants of meals, were ghoulishly woven into the hutch's composition.

Shivering still, Spider fretted that the creature might add him to the decor.  But the sienna-tinted arachnid welcomed him in the ghostly pallor of his parlor.

"Make yourself comfortable.  I don't have many guests, being a Recluse.  A Reaper some say, due to my penchant for feasting upon the dead.  I scavenge more than prey.  And, as you may observe, I keep souvenirs."

"I think I'm a hunter," the jumper politely answered.  "Right now I'm hunting for Home."

"Ahhh.  Best of luck.  This is my home.  I like the seclusion.  Except on Halloween.  Trick-Or-Treaters pass me by.  But now and then even loners get lonesome, even hermits need companionship.  We're all connected."  The Recluse garnered a loop of loops from a knothole in a wooden beam.  "We all need one another.  Like links in a chain."  He shook the silver bracelet.

Spider was reminded of shiny tubes that tinkled in the breeze, outside the tall gateway to Home.

His host nattered away like he had been stockpiling thoughts for the occasion.  "It isn't that a Recluse is anti-social, merely shy.  We only bite when we have to, then watch out.  I assume this is true for all of my kind.  I'm not exactly friends with any of them.  In fact, I'm not even sure we're all brown.  There could be purple and pink and green ones.  Striped or Polka-Dotted Recluses.  Most solitary types are misunderstood.  But don't go near the likes of me.  And never turn your back on a Widow.  Heed their space.  Be very careful in a shadowy place."

What?  Spider's trachea (in his abdomen) had clenched.  He was already near the Recluse, and smack-dab in a shadowy place!  Things couldn't be much worse, could they?  But he didn't say this aloud.  He gave a squeal between "Huh?" and "Wah!":  "Hwah?!"  He had blundered out of one dilemma into the jaws of the next one poised behind it to swallow the dilemma and him.  Way to go!

The Recluse stretched a limb.

Spider knew he was about to become wall art and a rush of sentiments inundated his medulla.

Was it necessarily needful to take a life?  He felt very certain that it wasn't, though he was on the fence about so much, neither here nor there, unsure if he wanted to be on either side.

The easiest way was to stay in the middle with the Thinkers, the Philosophers.  Maybe that was his niche.  Or maybe it was too crowded with those who couldn't make up their minds, afraid to take risks.  Everyone was afraid, it seemed.  At least some of the time.  He knew that he didn't want to be a greedy Have or a needy Have Not.  He didn't have wings to go to Extremes.  And he didn't want to be a spider who made people and insects run.  He just wanted to make his way in the world, by his own terms.  Was there a side for that?

Everyone had their ways, their perspectives, a diverse lexicon of convictions and views.  He was so busy worrying about going home that he wasn't where he was at the moment, he was always someplace else, so he wasn't sure what his perspective might be except that he was certain of that one thing in particular.  All right, two things:  not taking lives and living on his terms.

There were those who were on a journey like him and those who just lived.  Some of them sleepwalking, needing to wake up like him.  Some always telling others how to live, while others just watched without participating.  Perhaps numb and phobic like him.  Perhaps, as they yearned to understand, capturing the world in words and images like a bug in a jar (or bits and pieces of corpses immortalized in a wall, he thought with a shudder) . . . displaying life (and death) as art.

When the Recluse's arm came toward him during this epiphany, Spider concluded that perhaps heightened awareness transcended fear.

The brown arachnid patted the black and white spider's back.  He didn't utter anything inspirational like "Open your heart and mind to let the beauty around you in!" or "Let a smile be your guide and you won't travel alone!"  He said nothing, as if he had run out of things to say.

The spiders crouched amicably side by side.

"Well, I guess I'll follow your advice now.  Is there any more you'd like to give?" queried the jumper.

"It depends.  What would you like to know?"

Spider mulled.  "How do you find your place?  How do you know which direction to take?"

"That's as individual as the rings of a tree.  Or the spots on a lady-beetle.  You could try spinning a stickbug and see where it points," the Recluse suggested.  "Do your thing.  Don't be a copy.  Don't be a clone and follow a swarm, unless it's your decision to go where they are headed."

"Not a problem.  Spiders don't flock together.  We're not birds or bees or gnats."  A tinge of sadness.  The jumper predicted to himself that once he discovered the way home, his friend would return to a flock.  It was where a midge belonged.  "What if I don't have a thing, or know what it is?"

"Then you try some things and see what you're good at it."

"I'm afraid I'm only good at hurting my friends."

"Shucks.  I'm no expert, but I doubt that you can care about someone without hurting them and being hurt or you don't care enough."

The black-and-whiter nodded, eyes glistening.

"Friends come from other eggs.  Respect that.  Don't jump to conclusions or leap before you look and you'll be okay."

That sounded important.  Spider worried he might forget.  His mouth compressed, the corners pulled down.  Two large liquid eyes peered up, as the outer set of medium eyes gazed sideways.

"Don't mind me.  I'm nobody's friend so what do I know about it?"  The Recluse chuckled.  "I tend to think too much, accumulate words in my brain that need to be heard.  Even if it's by myself.  And yet some words need to be shared.  It was nice talking to you.  Most folks are too afraid."

"Well, I'm new.  And I'm different."

"Everybody's different, kid.  And everyone's the same.  We even differ in how different we are.  And that's what makes us special.  But methinks you might be specialer."  The Recluse gave him an awkward hug.  "Hope you find your place.  We all have one.  Mine used to be elsewheres, until I came to this place in a box I thought would make a nifty hermit-hole.  It wasn't.  It bumped awhile and then was opened, so I climbed out quick and moved in here.  Don't stop till you find your groove."

Hurrying to the corridor, the smaller arachnid was eager to locate his best friend.  What if the insect was too far away?  "Gnat?" he called, standing in the ample shaft, unconcerned about danger.

"Spider?"  A thin cry.  "Spider!  There you are.  I've been looking everywhere!  You disappeared.  I thought that big brute must have . . ."  The midge trailed off, his features finishing the sentence.

Spider was relieved to see the No-See-Um.  "I didn't mean to frighten you.  I made a new friend!"

"Oh.  Another one?"  Before Gnat could smile, his anguish morphed to disappointment.  If the spider kept making friends, he wouldn't have time for them all.  It was simple arithmetic.

"Yes, a spider who didn't have any friends.  Like I was.  Except he's old."

"You probably have a lot in common."

"Not really.  I think you and I have more."

"We have?"  The midge's face brightened.

Spider grinned.  "Absolutely.  And I missed your weisenheiming."

"My what?  You did?  I missed you too."  Gnat cleared his throat.  "Well, we'd better get off this road.  Here be giants."

"And giant spiders."  A dwarfed spider pointed behind the insect, eyes impossibly wide.

"It's the peewees," a bass timbre growled.  "Or are you pygmies?"

The midge torpidly turned.  He jolted, tongue slack, nose to nose with a one-eyed mastodon.  "Eeek," he mumbled.

"Gnomes?" the tarantula japed.

Spider wedged himself between them to shield the gnat.  "I won't let you eat him!"

"Then how's about I eat you instead?" sneered the Cyclops.  He ousted the black and white arachnid with a swat.  "Lucky for both of you I grabbed a couple roachburgers.  But don't give me no guff.  I'm here for the humdinger.  The queen sent me to bring her the little fly."

"Who ya calling little?"  Gnat feistily balled his forefeet.

Spider picked himself up, defiant.  "I told you, Gnat is my friend.  Where he goes, I go!"

"It's your funeral."  The tarantula hoisted them by their napes and strode on six legs through eerily quiet spaces . . . lugging the pair to the queen's court inside a kitchen counter, where he dumped them at her feet.

Mave had been pacing the floor, stepping over the dead.

"There you are!  What took so long?  Oh, I see you've brought prisoners!  I love a captive audience."  The rapacious Black Widow sashayed to examine her prizes.  "You!" the harpy screamed at Spider.  "I am very glad to see you!  And what is this?"

She inspected Gnat.  "A scanty insect?  A sweet nothing?  You shouldn't have.  However, I did work up an appetite with all of my scheming.  All the intrigue and strategizing.  I could use a snack."

"It's the little fly, at your behest," her rugged one-eyed henchman reported.

Mave's visage crimsoned, as red as the hourglass tattooed on her belly.

She spoke with subdued malevolence:  "My dear Juggernaughty.  I am sure I told you that if there were such a thing as a fairy fly, you should bring the creature to me.  I did not say to bring whatever little fly you found!  This little fly happens to be a gnat.  If I wanted a gnat, I would ask for a gnat.  I wanted a fairy, if and only if a fairy fly exists.  And that is a very big IF!!!"

Cyclops rolled his eye.  "What's the difference?  He's little and he's a fly.  I don't know nuthin about fairies."

"Neither do I, so they must not be real."  The Black Widow collected Gnat from the tarantula's grasp.  "I'll deal with you after my snack," she pledged to Spider.

The tarantula plunked the black and white arachnid down and made to leave.

"Where are you going?!" demanded Mave.

"I'm not done yet."

"But I wanted you to hold him!"  The queen waved a limb toward Spider.

"Babysitting wasn't on the list.  And he isn't going anywhere.  That gnat is his friend."  Cyclops trudged to a crevice and wriggled out of the lair.

"His friend?"  Mave ogled the No-See-Um.  A pernicious smile lit her countenance like the sunrise splitting night.  "His friend!"  Her grip tightened, strangling the gnat.

"Let him go!"  Spider couldn't restrain a tremor in his voice.

"By all means . . ."  The queen dropped the insect.  He made a small thud.  Her head thrown back, Mave cackled wildly.  Then cast a mordant glare at Spider.  "He's mine!  And so are you!  This is my kingdom, and I won't have any friends in it.  Friendship is hereby outlawed — banned!  The penalty is death!"

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