A Spider’s Tale
Growing up inside a Grandfather’s clock is quite an ordeal. Even before I was born, I could hear the chime and feel the vibration inside my sack. There’s never a moment’s peace. Well, there are fifty-nine minutes of peace, every hour on the hour, but is it really peace? I mean, I have no concept of time, so I never really know when that chime is going to happen. I can be happily climbing along and suddenly get jarred out of place. What kind of life is this?
Mamma says not to worry so much. Eventually one day I will move out on my own and perhaps find a china cabinet or the underside of a table to call home. Somewhere away from the suspecting eyes of humans. Every spider is taught from an early age that our life is limited by how carefully we creep about, slowly so not to alert attention. No hanging out for long periods on the walls, in windows, sinks or in the bathtub. Those places will get us killed immediately. And mamma should know, we lost our dad before birth because he decided to catch flies all day once in a windowsill. Still, finding a place to squat inside a house in much easier than living outside in the wild.
Today, just after the first set of eight chimes, Uncle Joe takes me and my brother Max out and about. The humans are away – school and work, Joe says. We leave the clock through a small opening in the face, slide down our webbing and then slowly creep along the floor. Our goal is to catch some fleas from the cat in a long string of webs and drag them back to the clock for everyone to feast upon. The cat is easy to find. She’s curled up on a window-pad sleeping. We slowly ascend the wall and make our way across the windowsill. The fleas are jumping sporadically all over the place. Uncle Joe hangs out at the edge of the sill, ready to escape at a moment’s notice. Meanwhile, Max and I are tossing out webbing as fast as we can to catch those crazy fleas. We hear the chimes, but pay no mind. We have hours, right?
Eventually, we gather enough fleas and begin to descend down the wall. Suddenly, we hear a door open and shut. We freeze. A slight breeze leaves us swaying. The cat jumped down. A female voice coos at the cat. It rubs up against the woman’s legs. She moves on into the kitchen. We are safe for the moment. Onward we descend until we reach the floor. Uncle Joe goes across first, checking for the woman. He makes it halfway across when the woman returns and spots him. She shrieks, grabs a broom and begins smacking it across the floor. Uncle Joe just barely makes it to the underside of the clock. Max and I remain near the window, afraid to move an inch. The woman scans the room for more of our kind. Thankfully Max and I are still small. She doesn’t spot us. She returns to the kitchen, rattling things and finally leaves the house again. The clock strikes one chime.
Now all we have to worry about is that cat. It likes to chase our kind, play with us until we are too wounded to move, and then snubs its nose up at us while we die a slow, painful death. Max and I have heard the stories a million times. We glance about, but the cat is nowhere to be found. We take off, dragging our flea-filled webbing behind us. The going is slow. We get near the clock and out pops that damn cat. I feel it’s paw and get knocked off-balance for a moment. Suddenly, Uncle Joe dashes across the floor, catching the cat’s attention.
“Hurry along boys. I’ll hold off this beast,” he shouts at us.
We do as we are told. We tug and pull the webbing, closer and closer to the clock. Then we drag it upward as we ascend it and slip inside the clock’s face. Two chimes, then three. Finally, Uncle Joe slithers into our dwelling inside the clock, dragging one of his legs. He’s been mauled by the cat, but he made it home. Mamma tends to his wounds as best she can, but by the series of four chimes, Uncle Joe passes away, his body taking the ritualistic upturned form. We gather around him for a brief moment. The clock chimes five times. The house fills up with noise – children laughing, parents screaming and the cat meowing. They don’t even know we’ve suffered a death. They’d probably cheer if they did.
©2017 Lori Carlson. All rights reserved.
for Just Jot It January – Prompt: ‘spider’ – Hosted by Linda G. Hill
Today’s prompt is brought to you by Barb of teleportingweena
for Stream of Consciousness Saturday – Prompt: “first/last”
Routines & Choices
First choice? Not really. I could have chosen anything other than this. That’s what peer pressure gets you – choices other than your own.
We started out early that morning. Piled in the car were Tracy, Jack and Albert. I drove. I couldn’t trust that lot with my convertible Corvette. I know, it’s a sad day when you can’t trust your friends.
We left the city and headed toward the forest in the outlying suburbs. Albert had heard about a bbq party at a campsite. We brought our own booze and weed. You never know if the hosts will supply those things. Always better to bring your own. The drive there began a bit unnerving. Jack sat up front with me and kept switching the radio from station to station in search of anything that resembled the normal metal we listened to. Country music dominated the airwaves. Tracy finally took out her smart phone and called up her music library. It was a mixture of rock, alternative and metal. It would have to do.
We finally settled into our routine of passing a bottle of vodka and smoking the weed through small bullets. With the music blaring, we didn’t even hear the cop’s siren behind us until it was too late.
I pulled over onto the shoulder of the road. Albert stuffed the bag of weed deep into the backseat cushion of the car and Tracy pushed the vodka bottle into the cooler. We stashed our bullets deep under our bodies in the seats. Hopefully none of us would have to get out of the car.
I said a little prayer as the cop approached the car. Our only saving grace was the open space of the Corvette. No smells lingered.
“Driver’s license and registration, please,” the cop said as he looked me straight in the eyes. At least I think he was looking at me. He had on shades, so it was hard to tell.
I pulled both out of my wallet and handed them to him. “What’s this about?” I asked him. I knew there weren’t any technical issues. I checked all of my lights before we left. It was routine, especially if we were going to drink and smoke on a trip. I wasn’t speeding either. I always drove the speed limit, even while intoxicated and high. Another routine.
“I’ll be right back,” was all the cop said as he walked back to the squad car.
We sat there waiting for what seemed like an eternity. Albert and Tracy kept giggling in the backseat. I glared back at them through the rearview. Their behavior would certainly be judge suspiciously if the cop saw and heard them. They stopped after my third glare. Jack just sat calmly. He’d been through this far too often. I tapped the steering wheel, not really nervous, just a bit nonchalant.
The cop finally returned. “Sorry about that, Mr. Roberts. We’d had a call about a red Corvette in connection with a murder. Your licence plate had the same partial as the one we were looking for, but the suspect has already been apprehended.” He handed my driver’s licence and registration back to me. “You kids be safe.”
I watched as the cop returned to his car through my side mirror. Once he stepped inside his car, I turned over the engine and continued on, a wide grin upon my face.
My friends didn’t know. And now someone else would be going down for my crime. I pulled out my bullet and had a smoke. A bbq would be a great place to look for my next victim. Make nice, get a name and maybe a phone number, weasel my way into her life and wait for the right moment. It was another of my routines. Something I did on my own time away from the peer pressure. No, this trip wasn’t my first choice, but tonight, it definitely wasn’t my last.
©2016 Lori Carlson. All rights reserved.
PHOTO PROMPT © Shaktiki Sharma
I cruised by slowly. Everything looked hazy.
“What’s your pleasure tonight?” I asked.
“Girls? Cocaine?” I inquired.
“Already high. I vote girls,” I decided.
I nodded my head. “Good choice.”
I drove past the drug corner and toward the red light section of town. I slowed down when I reached the girls.
“Redhead. I need some fire tonight.”
I nodded. “Good choice. Tall or petite?”
“Petite. I feel the need to dominate tonight.”
I rolled down the window. Yelled at the petite redhead. Flashed a Benjie. She sashayed over. Got in.
Ten blocks of silence. Four hours of screams.
©2016 Lori Carlson. All rights reserved.
to read others’ stories click here
I stood outside in the rain. They were all there. Friends, family, the arts community. Dressed in finery. Gathered around the table. Cheese, crackers, wine. All I had to do was walk inside and join them.
Why the hesitation?
My feet felt like lead.
My cousin gazed out the window. Waved. I couldn’t wave back.
The world spun. The building shifted. The sidewalk shimmered. I closed my eyes and inhaled.
You can do this.
I opened my eyes and exhaled. With shaky knees and trembling fingers, I opened the door and walked inside – my first gallery showing since the break down.
©2016 Lori Carlson. All rights reserved.
To read others’ stories click here
Zanzibar – Part 46
If Rodney had expected to be returned to the Village at that point, he would have been disappointed. Looking around, he saw that Billy was still with him and sensed Ruth’s continued presence; only Tracey had left.
“I’m sorry, Rodney,” Ruth said, “I should have foreseen this. I wouldn’t have encouraged you to be chosen had I known that he would have been so… so… Norman.”
“You knew all along?” Rodney asked.
“I suspected more than actually knew. I hadn’t seen his true form or heard his real, rather puny voice, but I had long believed that he was a great deal less than he said he was.”
“Now that you do know,” Norman whined, “what do you plan to do? I still have considerable powers, you know.”
“No you don’t. You have only what the Architect gave you, and what He gave, He can take back again.” The words came from out of thin air, but the voice sounded like Chad’s.
“That you, mate?” Billy asked.
“Where are you?”
“I’m with Tracey, in the Temple.”
“So how come we can hear you?”
“Not important. Listen. I’ve been told some things about that weasel Norman that might just change your attitude to him. Tracey says that once he knows what the Architect told me, he’d make some plans. Any idea what they are?”
“We don’t know any more than Tracey does.”
“Well, whatever. The Architect and I will not let that happen.”
“Who are you talking to?” Norman asked.
“Can’t you hear?”
“No, Rodney, I can’t. Yours is the only voice I can hear.”
“Great. If he can’t hear me,” Chad said, “then we’re free to talk. Listen to what I’ve got to say without reacting or replying. That way, old weasel-face’ll be none the wiser.”
Norman changed his form to the slug-like projection they had first seen. “I asked who you were talking to,” he boomed.
“None of your concern,” Ruth said.
“None of my concern? None of my concern? I am the Curator of this realm. Everything is my concern.”
“Except this,” Rodney added, causing Norman to fume, shudder and revert to his normal, weasel-like form.
Chad went on to explain in detail everything that he and the Architect had talked about, including His idea that Norman could be trapped and shipped off to somewhere he can’t do any harm. Of course, much of what he said to Rodney, Billy and Ruth was also new to Tracey, who was with the rest when the Architect was talking with Chad.
“Wow,” heavy, Rodney said once Chad had finished, “I think we need to get the rest of the gang on board.”
“Agreed,” Chad said, “next sunrise, in the Village meeting place. Bring them all up to speed, will you?”
Rodney immediately returned to the Village, Billy to the Settlement, and Ruth to her duties at the Temple. Norman was left totally alone, painfully aware that he had no hand in the departure of his erstwhile guests.
“Are you okay now?” Jacob asked when Rodney regained consciousness, “That looked like a bad one.”
“In a way, it was,” Rodney replied, “but yeah, I’m fine now.”
He filled Jacob in on what had happened in Norman’s lair and, after swearing him to absolute secrecy, brought him up to date with all the information he had gleaned about the Architect, Norman, and the relationship between them.
“So the Curator isn’t as powerful as we have always believed him to be, then?”
“Apparently not. As far as I can make out, it wasn’t him who sent me back here. I can feel him calling me again, but he isn’t strong enough to make it stick.”
“So all this praying to him…”
“Total waste of time. The Architect is looking for a way to disable him completely. If He can do that, He’ll be able to put the orbits back to normal and straighten out this time problem once and for all.”
“But if He’s the Architect, can’t he just…”
“You’d think, wouldn’t you? But he’s given too much of his power to Norman – I mean the Curator.”
“So what’s the plan?”
“The Motorhead Gang will meet at sunrise tomorrow: all of us. I’d like you to be involved, too, and I’m hoping that Ruth can make it in some form.”
“Will Frank, Scott and James come without the girls, though?”
“I have no problem if they want to bring them, but it’ll be up to Chad to decide if they get involved. He’s the only one has actually spoken to the Architect.”
“Hang on a second,” Jacob said, “How are you all going to meet up here, if two of you are in the Smoke and one of you in the Settlement?”
“The Architect will see to that. We know now that the vortex that brings people here is His, not Norman’s, and He’s just sent me back here, so it should be easy for Him.”
“Sorry, Rodney. I can’t get used to the idea that there’s a higher power than the Curator. It’s been so long…”
“I know. It seemed strange to me, too, but now I know that Norman’s not much more than a jumped-up janitor, I have little or no respect for him. Now, let’s go and see if we can round up the lads. I need to make sure they know as much as we do, before tomorrow’s meeting. I’ll get Frank, Scott and Jimmy; can you see if you can find Sandy? We’ll meet up in my house.”
“I think I know where Sandy will be today – there’s a planning meeting in the Village Hall for next month’s Pride. He’s sure to be there. He’s been identifying less with your gang and more with the LGBT crowd, ever since your guys took up with the girls.” Seeing the look of confusion on Rodney’s face, Jacob added, “Hey – you’re not the only one knows stuff…”
Rodney and Jacob went their separate ways. Sandy was, as Jacob had surmised, at the Pride planning meeting. Approaching him quietly, Jacob tapped Sandy on the shoulder and whispered, “Rodney needs you back at the house – quick as you like.”
“Well, boo-hoo for him. Tell Rodders that this is more important than whatever he wants.”
“I doubt it is,” Jacob replied, “this has to do with the broken timeline and the future existence of the planets.”
“Is that all? Haven’t you been listening? This is Pride, and they’re offering me a place on a float!”
“Fair enough, Sandy. You stay and deal with this, while the rest of the gang sees about saving the world. You be the star on the op of the Christmas tree; your friends will be trying to stop the tree being felled.”
“You people are very good at hanging guilt trips on people, aren’t you?” Sandy leaned across to the young woman on his left and whispered something. She looked at him and nodded. “Okay, Kemosabe,” Sandy said, rising from his seat, “let’s go.”
“Never mind, let’s just go already. Oh, and thanks for saying the star on top of the tree, not the fairy!”
When Jacob and Sandy arrived at Rodney’s house, the rest were already there.
“What’ve I missed?” Sandy asked.
“I don’t know what you’ve missed, but we’ve sure as Hell missed you lately, mate,” Jimmy said.
“I can’t see how; you’re spending all your time with your girlfriends; I’m spending time with mine.”
“You have girlfriends?”
“You wouldn’t understand.”
“Come on, guys,” Rodney said, “Time to be serious. We’re going to meet up at sunrise tomorrow, with Chad, Tracey and Billy, to talk about the problem with time. But first, I need to bring you guys up to speed on a few things. I’m afraid it’s all heavy stuff, but it won’t take more than fifteen minutes.” He turned to Jacob and said, with a wink, “Could you and the girls get provisions for the ritual meal we have to eat in preparation for tomorrow’s meeting?”
“Sure thing. C’mon girls, let’s go shopping!”
Left alone with his fellow gang members, Rodney passed on every bit of information he had at his disposal and answered as many questions as he could. When Jacob and the girls returned with the ingredients for the special meal; details of which Jacob made up on the spot, so goodness only knows what was to come; the lads were chatting casually in a way they hadn’t managed since their arrival in that place.
“We’ll go cook up the meal, shall we?” Jacob said.
“What are we having?” Frank asked.
“I don’t know,” Sakura replied, “we bought what Jacob told us. I hope he has the recipe.”
“So do I,” Frank agreed.
“So do I,” Jacob added with a shrug.
This is now a round-robin between Keith Channing and I.
If you missed a chapter, click to read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6,Part 7, Part 8, Part 9,Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15, Part 16,Part 17, Part 18,Part 19,Part 20, Part 21, Part 22, Part 23, Part 24, Part 25, Part 26, Part 27, Part 28, Part 29, Part 30, Part 31, Part 32, Part 33, Part 34, Part 35, Part 36, Part 37, Part 38, Part 39, Part 40, Part 41, Part 42, Part 43, Part 44, Part 45
or Jump ahead to Part 47
(Sorry this is late, dear readers. I had a family emergency Saturday that lasted all through yesterday. All is well though. Thank you for your patience.)
Zanzibar – Part 45
by Lori Carlson
Tang felt odd praying to a being who, by his own omission, was not a true god, but if it would stop the impending catastrophe, then he would do it. He chose the location for ceremony away from the dwellings. If something weird happened, he didn’t want it to destroy their homes. He didn’t trust this Great Black Head and didn’t put anything past him.
The Settlers gathered along a barren stretch of mesa. When they tried to form a circle, Tang stopped them. He knew it was their way, to always go into a circle when celebrating, but this was not a celebration. At best, it was worship, something he could deal with. At worst, it was a farce, but Tang didn’t want to tell them that. He instructed them to form four rows and then to sit on the ground, something they weren’t accustomed too either. Confusion washed across all of their faces. When they’d formed the rows and sat down, Tang went in front of them and stood on a large boulder.
“My new family, I know all of this is different for you, but I come from a place where worship is a daily routine. In order for me to perform this duty, I need you all to do as I ask. As I pray, I will pause every now and again. At that point, I will need you to say amen. Is that understood?”
The Settlers nodded.
“Very well. Please bow your heads and close your eyes.”
Tang looked out at those gathered. They all bowed their heads and most closed their eyes. Tang was familiar with this. There hadn’t been a mass yet that he presided over where some didn’t keep their eyes opened. His eyes scanned the gathering once more and then he realized Lena wasn’t present. Would this affect the outcome of the prayer? Should he go look for her? He shrugged it off. If the Great Black Head spited them for one absence, then they would just deal with it when the time arose. He began the prayer.
“Oh holy Great Black Head, we come to you as your servants and pray for absolution…”
When Comet relayed to Miss Simone and the other Caverners what she had heard and witnessed, they were all outraged.
“Pray to him? What gives him the right? He banished us here without a thought and now he expects us to pray to him?” Miss Simone exclaimed.
“Of all the egotistical…” Hannah began, but was too furious to continue.
“I know how it sounds,” Comet said, “but if it stops this catastrophe from happening, shouldn’t we at least try?”
Bukura stepped forward with his hands one his hips. “I’m with Hannah. I think this is all an ego trip. If we are to pray to anyone, shouldn’t it be the Architect?”
Miss Simone’s face suddenly lit up. “That’s it. We will pray, but not to the Curator, at least not inwardly.”
Comet scrunched up her face. “What do you mean?”
“It’s true that we owe the Curator nothing, but we owe the Architect everything. What’s in our hearts is all that matters. Correct?” Miss Simone asked.
“So we will say the Curator’s name outwardly, but inwardly, in our hearts, we will speak the name of the Architect. He is our sole advocate. The Curator will not know what’s in our hearts. He is not omnipotent. Agreed?”
Again, everyone nodded.
“No sense in making a big to do about this. Since we are all here, let’s pray. Who wants to lead us?”
Hannah raised her hand. “I was a Sunday school teacher. I will lead the prayer.”
Everyone bowed their heads. Their thoughts lingered on the Architect as Hannah prayed to the Curator. When she finished the prayer, they opened their eyes and smiled at one another. They’d done as the Curator had instructed, but their loyalty still rested with the one who’d given them everything. They decided to mark the occasion with a feast and celebration.
While everyone ate and danced, Comet wandered away from the group. She worried about what they’d done. The Curator had said he could read their thoughts, but she wondered if that was only while in his presence. She certainly hoped so. Her wandering lead her to the Temple door. She sat down in front of it, watching the red lines. For now, they were at the lowest point of the doorway. Suddenly, she heard banging coming from inside. She reached out her hand to touch one of the lines, but felt her body shimmer, almost as if she was having a convulsion. She knew what that meant.
Once again, Comet was in the chamber with the Curator, and once again being addressed by her real name. She glanced around. There was Rodney and Billy. She could also feel Ruth’s presence. Where was Chad though? She ran over and hugged her friends, but before she could say anything to them, the Curator began to tell his newest tale.
Comet had listened to everything Norman said, but when he suggested that she deceive Chad and help him with his latest scheme, she wasn’t sure she could. Chad was the love of her life. Could she really trick him into giving her information? Did she really want to help Norman? He’d been lying to them from the start. Why should she trust him now?
When she reappeared at the Temple door, she could still hear the banging. She reached out and touched the red lines, and thought about Hemi trapped inside the Temple. She poured every ounce of her love into her intentions and soon felt the whoosh of warm air. The Temple door opened and there he stood. Hemi. Her true love. Comet stood up and rushed inside, hugging Hemi tightly.
“Hey, hold on,” Hemi said as he squeezed Comet. He gently pulled her away and gazed down at her. “Why the long face?”
Comet sighed. “We’ve got to talk.”
“Yeah, in a serious way.” Hemi replied. “Want to go to my room?”
Comet walked over to the doorway and touched it. The Temple door closed.
Hemi glared at her. “Why’d you do that? Now we’re trapped again.”
“I can get us out, but what we need to talk about, can only be said in here.”
“Let me guess. Norman?”
Comet nodded. “He’s scheming against you and the Architect. I don’t trust him.”
“What’s he want now?”
“For me to gather information that the Architect told you and give it to him.”
Hemi’s face went red and his eyes turned dark. “That little weasel! What’s he planning?”
“I don’t know. Something diabolical, I am sure. He says you know the full truth now.”
“I do. He won’t get away with this, Comet. I don’t know how we will pull this off, but we’ve got to trap this weasel somehow.”
“Will the Architect help?”
“Indeed, I will.” It was the Architect, in all his booming presence.
This is now a round-robin between Keith Channing and I.
If you missed a chapter, click to read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6,Part 7, Part 8, Part 9,Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15, Part 16,Part 17, Part 18,Part 19,Part 20, Part 21, Part 22, Part 23, Part 24, Part 25, Part 26, Part 27, Part 28, Part 29, Part 30, Part 31, Part 32, Part 33, Part 34, Part 35, Part 36, Part 37, Part 38, Part 39, Part 40, Part 41, Part 42, Part 43, Part 44
or Jump ahead to Part 46
Humanity reborn on distant alien planets.