By Luke Bailey | BA English and Creative Writing, Stage 3
She is large and overruling. She is an Australian beauty, high up and discrete through kaleidoscopic light that steams over waves of green. She is a queen cocooned in delicate silk, all eyes, all watching, her bulbous abdomen pulsating, intense and dark, a bog of black. Legs slick and slender, and arched like wings. Miniscule claws jut from the very tips of each curled limb and help her grip the bark. She is made up of two tagmata looking like the infinity sign.
She’ll protect herself; it’s a vertical drop. She’s a skydiving extremist. It is not fierce and swooping but light and soft – weightless. She lands among the brown crisps that matting the earth. A wild predator, she is nestled flat like a dismembered and buried hand, waiting. Her two front tongs raise into a ‘V’, outstretched and stiff, two pointed fingers aiming upward, as a boot approaches. The complacent stroller is ignorant; if he was aware of her presence he’d cower in fear for she preys on males. He must stroll onward or be damned. The pointed ‘V’s are a warning. Or she can drop onto your shoulder, unnoticed, and creep toward the collar, tickling the fabric with her many protruding legs of hair. Then an airstrike of fibreglass clings to the flesh, causing a fatal field of crimson. Your fingers rise to rub the balls jittering within cave-like sockets. Streams of hairs dazzle and disperse.
She wants a mate. She won’t go out in search like a hound, he must come to her. Maybe the male approaches with caution, maybe the male has only a vague sense of his fate. He doesn’t know exactly why he must fear this Australian beauty so much. The male could dance around her, a distraction perhaps, like a jester dancing for a tyrannical queen – dancing for his life. However, he can also be cunning and tie her up in silk as he moves to hold her still. Legs tangle and double, looking like the fierce holding of gorilla hands. The male injects himself into her, a dexterous surgeon. Her underside is poised, flat and ready. The ritual may last up to an hour of intensity. If the male has any notion of what will happen next he should evacuate her domain immediately. She is unrelenting, twice his size, unsated and hungry. The insignificant male has played his part in the act and becomes devoured. She does so not because she can but because she wants to.
Then, she is nourished.
She is a mother and needs shelter. She prowls, travelling between branches, under fallen logs rotting like decaying soldiers forgotten on the battlefield. She stops at the threshold of a human home. Perhaps there is a porch and a quaint swinging seated area going back and forth like a pendulum as two young lovers clutch each other in tangled arms. Perhaps there are little children playing on freshly cut grass under the watchful sun and in range of the oblivious lovers. Perhaps as the children prance too close, unaware. She poises, fangs thick and black, the sun quickly glistens upon them like a searchlight penetrating the black of a deep ocean. And she springs, sinking venom deep down into the flesh of innocence, fangs so strong they pierce the toenail through. Perhaps the child yelps out and the unwatchful lovers on the porch, now all too concerned, leap into action and run, leaving the pendulum summer seat swinging faster than ever. Perhaps she has to be pried from the child as she clings tight. The victim could die within the hour, after intense fits of muscle spasms, sweating, salivating and twitching of the tongue.
She’ll find her home somewhere damp. An attic is perfect. No disturbances, she can take her time. Inside her body is all the contents needed to prepare a home, silk stronger than a steel sword. Her engineering marvel commences without the slide of sand grains in glass so she takes her time to make a great work of art. Thick and grey as the hairs of the old is the deep funnel at the centre of the web; this is where she dwells. Here, she can rest through colder times, curled deep inside the netted cave. Her work of art grows, becoming mighty, evolving to a wide curtain; a white oriental shawl; a split bride’s costume spread like the skin of a yak. It doesn’t catch tiny winged things as much as smaller, inferior versions or herself.
Deep into the thickly enforced funnel, layers are formed like the catacombs of ancient Egyptian pyramids. Nothing would dare travel inside and if they did would be trapped by the impenetrable darkness. She is a clever thing. Her legs are sensitive to the slightest vibration, a single disturbance is enough to alert her. A smooth shell carapace like a charcoal helmet of steel surfaces, but unseen, camouflaged by the night. A quick attack and it’s too late for her prey. Copious amounts of venom work quickly to paralyse the meal. Liquefied internal organs are sucked up.
Her offspring are transferred into a bulb connected to her silken kingdom and wrapped intricately to keep them warm. Soon they will thrive. For months they will grow and explore, and learn to catch unknowing victims of their own. On a line of silk that shines against a moonlit window, they abseil, touching down onto a sheet, moving with mechanical purpose. They will need cover. The familiar funnel shape of an old boot will be perfect.