Remembered Kisses: Chapter 17: Spiders in the Shadows
Sam was restless after he closed the Dusty Covers. Audrey was studying, Methuselah was content to spend the day exhibiting his human-esque shape, playing checkers with himself, so she was looked-after. Sam checked on her and then, taking his long coat to ward against the cold, slipped out into the foggy night. He didn’t know where he was going, so he just walked and thought. He thought about Marcus and Kendra. He thought about Audrey. He thought about Sofia. So many interlocking parts. He was more convinced than ever that Kendra’s murderer had not been a vampire; but concerned that it had been made to look like one. But what if that’s what the Lorenzos want me to think? It’s all too easy. All carefully arranged. Accept no answer as impossible until it’s been thoroughly debunked. Accept nothing on faith; trust only the evidence of your eyes.
It started to rain a little, just an ice-cold drizzle, but enough for Sam to be thankful for his coat and wish he had bought a hat. There is a brownie that runs a haberdashery up in the old city. I should look into that. He took another left turn, bending down another side street where the street lamps were dim and few. He was not sure how long he had been walking, but he knew he was nearing the old lighthouse. The ancient sentinel, a relic from an early time in coastal navigation, was rarely lit any more, but still it stood, an important landmark in a city that so desperately needed the light. They have tours of it every day, he thought. Maybe I should go one day.
Sam had not been down this way in some time, not since walking Eileen home after the goblin attack some months ago. His work was more towards the park and the Dusty Covers, but he knew this was Marcus's territory. But his apprentice was so distracted, now. Has he even been here lately?
There was a sound he couldn’t place. The hair on the back of his neck was starting to rise. He half turned. The rain was still coming down, but he saw something at the edge of his periphery. Not much, just a shape in the dark. He went further, picking up the pace, just listening. He heard it again, a scraping, the sound of too many feet skittering along. He went faster still, taking a turn at random, and the sound picked up. He didn’t know how many there were. There were too many feet to track them all. He emerged from the side-street to a small monument square. Sidewalk cement replaced by granite slabs in a circle where three streets met, planted round the edge by silver-beech, and in the center a statue three stone redcoats looking east toward home, bayonetted muskets held at ease and pointing toward the sky, and as he moved around it his foot got stuck in something he couldn’t see.
Sam swore and tried to pull his foot out, but as he pivoted his arm stuck in something, too. The skittering was getting closer. He looked, and he saw the rain splashing off of shadows the size of house cats. Several of them. He swore again, and with a mighty heave pulled his foot free, but his arm was still stuck. It got closer, and something leapt, and he threw his arm in front of his face. Something thudded into it and didn’t quite bounce off, wrapping spindly legs around it as it tried to get around, but he threw it off.
There was no choice. He opened his third eye. His world shifted and blended and he saw them, a dozen enormous spiders, some sitting in the otherworldly web with strands the size of steel-cable that Sam was now entrapped in.
A web that spanned the entire monument. I’ve been herded into place like a mammoth led over a cliff. The rain was getting worse, pounding down, and a bitterly cold wind was ripping down the road. He tried to pull his arm free of the web, but it was stuck, and the web seemed to be growing on him. The spiders lingering on it had gotten closer, but they seemed to be taking their time, and the others were starting to circle, waiting for an opening. Despite the cold, Sam was sweating. One darted in, and he kicked it away, but suddenly that leg was snared, and another got him on the back of the leg. It burned like fire and acid. He turned, awkwardly, conjuring energy from the otherworld, and a blast knocked the spider back, but it landed on its feet and started circling again.
There were so many. And now there were small ones appearing out of the dark, ones no bigger than small coins, coming along the web, crawling onto his arm. He remembered his dream, the spiders dragging him down into the dark, and in his heart he cursed Arachne and all her nightmare children.
Lightning flashed across the sky.
His leg was bitten again, and he screamed, and was then spitting out spiders that climbed in his mouth. He fought back vomit and terror and darkness and desperately reached out to the storm, and for the first time since he was a boy his heart and mind reached out in prayer.
Not to the distant god of his father.
Not to Hecate, whose service he owed through his college.
Not even to the storm-king, whose javelins he saw dance across the sky, but to his daughter who sometimes made use of them: and who bore no love for the nightmare-weaver.
Pain threatened to shut everything off, terror ate at the edges of his sanity, but he reached out with hope and found what he was looking for and when lightning flashed again the whole monument was lit like mid-day under an open sky.
The web collapsed in blue-white flames, the spiders around him consumed by arcs of burning light, and Sam fell the ground in a heap. The last thing Sam saw as he hit the granite, his brain on fire from the sheer amount of power he had just ripped from across the world was the shape of the light-house, illuminated by the lightning’s brilliance. His heart seized up in his throat.
The lighthouse was covered with webs.
The world went dark.
(Read Chapter 16 here)