Image by Albrecht Fietz from Pixabay


Spider, Spider

by Bea Cannon


The black and yellow orb-weaver chose the spot to build her web by instinct. It was secluded and away from wind and weather, and there were plenty of small flying creatures nearby, so it was a good location. She laid her eggs, ensconced them within silk and attached the egg sac near the center of her web, and then settled comfortably in.

It was growing late in the year, fall had arrived and she would spend the rest of her short life hanging upside down in her web, capturing insects for food and guarding her eggs as long as she could. It was all the mothering her young would get, as she would die with the first hard frost, leaving her egg sac to fate.

At least that was the way it was supposed to go.

The morning after the spider built her home across the sidelight and partially on the front door of the house in the curve of the street, the door opened ripping the web apart, and a woman stepped out.

“Ah crap!” she cried as the ends of the broken web stuck to her face and caught in her hair. She waved her hands in front of her, sputtering and pulling at the gossamer strands.

The woman caught a movement out the corner of her eye and spun around, spotting the large spider as she swung down from what was left of the web on a strand of silk.

The woman let loose a loud shriek and hopped down from the porch. She grabbed up her garden hose from its container, turned on the water full blast and let loose at the hapless spider.

The orb-weaver skittered around, unsuccessfully trying to avoid the hard blast. The water washed parts of her broken web and her egg sac from the porch, knocking the spider onto the ground behind the boxwood bush beside the front steps.

Spotting the egg sac where it landed on the bottom step, the woman crushed it under her foot and kicked it off into the shrubbery. She watched the spider to see if it was going to move, and when she saw one of its legs twitch, she tore into the house and came back out with a spray can, which she used to thoroughly drench the spot where the spider went down. Then she glanced at her watch and muttered a curse upon seeing she was running late. She hastily shoved the spray can behind a porch column, jumped into her car and took off for work.

Two minutes after the woman left, leaves at the edge of the bush stirred, and the orb-weaver pulled herself out from where she had hidden underneath the bush, inching over the poisoned soil. She crawled laboriously up the red brick beside the steps, and onto the porch, coming to rest next to the spray can, where she sat recovering.

She should have died beneath the boxwood because the woman had soaked the branches, and the spray poured down on her. However, this orb-weaver had a unique genetic make-up, part of which kicked in back in the spring when she was tiny and just out of the egg sac. At that time, the woman sprayed her garden, and a tiny droplet of the same type of spray landed on her. It hurt but not only had she survived, she’d also gained a certain amount of immunity.

After that incident, being a denizen of the garden subjected her to a variety of chemicals, including insecticides and fertilizers. The insecticides only caused her some momentary respiratory issues, and she’d gotten over them. The fertilizers hadn’t been a problem at all, as she had crawled away without any ill effects.

It all served to toughen her. Still, she would have died with the first frost like any ordinary orb-weaver if it hadn’t been for this last, more pervasive spraying. She felt pain in one pair of her legs and her abdomen but it gradually dissipated, and again, she did not die. Instead, the ingredients worked into her body and the rest of her singular genes activated, and she became more than a simple creature of instincts. She became cognizant – and much more.

She gazed down at her ruined web and broken egg sac. Her hard work and preparations for the next generation lay crushed on the ground. She could rebuild her web but it was at the end of the season and there was no more time for mating and procuring fertilized eggs. Under ordinary conditions, such a disaster as this would terminate the lineage of this particular spider because while orb-weavers usually procreated twice during their time, she had gotten a late start so this was her first – and only – batch of eggs. She would die at first frost without progeny.

Except her new changes negated that scenario.

She looked within herself, getting an understanding of what it meant, how she could retain the existence that she wanted to continue. Ordinarily, the orb-weaver was a peaceful creature that went about her way avoiding conflict. She generally ran from danger, hiding until such disruptions went away. And she was not a hunter as she waited for food to fly into her web. But, this behavior no longer applied to her. She made her plans.

First, she went down to the ground where her egg sac lay and carefully chewed the soggy, mud-covered silk open. She examined the unhatched young within and discovered six eggs had survived. Upon further assessment, she determined three – one male and two females – were the same as she was. The others, all females, were ordinary orb-weavers. These three she ate, then she cast webbing from her spinnerets securing the others to herself, and crawled back up.

Her entire life had been lived within the yard and garden surrounding the place where she’d built her web, and only now did she understand that the structure to which she had attached her web was the abode of the gigantic being who crushed her egg sac. Until today, it would never have struck her to go inside. Indeed, until today, she didn’t know it was an abode. Now, she searched the porch until she found a place over the door that was just large enough to accommodate her body with the three tiny eggs attached. She went through the crack and into the house.

She surveyed the place from atop the doorsill, and then crawled down the wall and climbed into a large potted plant that stood near the door. Her old instincts tried to lead her into making a web within the spiky leaves but she ignored this. She didn’t sense any danger or that the house had any occupants at the moment so she carefully wrapped her three eggs into a new sac and attached it on the underside of a lower leaf of the plant. Then, she went exploring throughout the house.

She found the scent of the woman everywhere she went but it was heaviest in one particular place so she crawled up on a soft surface, the one with the strongest scent, and spent some time in there making her preparations. Hungry once she finished, she went looking to see what food might be available. She caught seven beetles and two house spiders, which she killed. She ate the spiders and two of the beetles and folded the rest into webbing and took them back to the flowerpot for later consumption. Then she dug a burrow and waited.

A few hours later, the woman returned. She went about her normal routine upon getting home from work, and after cooking and eating her dinner, she sat at her computer for a while, chatting with friends on social media and playing a game, then she went to her bedroom where she undressed, went into her bathroom and showered. Then she got into bed and as was her habit, propped herself up with pillows and switched on the bedroom TV. Tonight, the bed was unusually comfortable, and a few minutes later, she dozed off.

A while later she snapped awake. She felt constricted and figured she had wound herself up in her bedding. She could hear the TV still going but when she tried to pull her arms out and reach for the remote to turn it off, she couldn’t move. She tried to sit up and couldn’t. Fear seeped into her brain. Had she had a stroke? She tried to call out but there was something over her mouth muffling her voice. That was when she felt the web the spider had spent the morning and afternoon carefully spinning to resemble her bedding. It had slowly contracted around her as she slept. The only things not covered were her eyes and nose.

The woman rolled her eyes downward and in the flickering light from the TV set, saw part of the gossamer strands that encased her. Her eyes frantically darted around and caught a motion above her. The large orb-weaver swung down from above and onto her chest where it sat and stared at her. She was still trying to scream as the spider rushed forward. It scrambled up one of her nostrils, and into her brain.

The next morning, the spider, having learned everything she needed to know from consuming certain areas of the woman’s brain, kept the body alive and used it and its voice to call in and resign from the woman’s job.

In two weeks, the orb-weaver’s eggs hatched. The hatchlings were not quite as astute as their mother, but they improved when she used the spider spray on them. She spent the winter educating them in the ways of humans.

She used the shell of the woman effectively, handling everything online and turning away visitors, and by early spring, she and her progeny had been quite prolific so there were thousands of her children and grandchildren that inherited her genetics. They went forth into the world.

In due course, humans learned they were no longer the top predator.


(One of last year’s winners in the Support for Indie Authors short story contest)

(Reedited 12/12/2019)