Posted by: victanguera | August 8, 2009

Exercise #40

Glossy brochures vied for Manuel’s attention, each one gaudier than the last. He thumbed through another one, trying to find the perfect side trip for Trisha. She’d been withdrawn and uncommunicative ever since they’d arrived in Mazatlan, and he hoped a distraction might perk her up. This one contained nothing but bright photos of mass and vine encrusted stairs. Fingering another resulted in images of underground cavers festooned with crystalline stalagmites, just another horrible tourist destinations.

Shoving the pamphlet back into the rack, Manuel turned to leave, almost running over a man in a battered, multi-coloured poncho who stood much to close. The man held out an innocuous piece of paper without a single photo or bit of gloss.

“Here. You take.”

“No, gracias.” Manuel waved at the paper, sliding sideways past him.

“Si. Si. You try. Very nice. No peso.” Opening the paper, he spread it out enticingly. Manuel’s eyebrows rose in interest, but he shook his head, pushed the man out of his way and walked outside. The oppressive heat, complete with enough humidity to start an indoor swimming pool, accosted him. Swiping at the perspiration already gathering on his brow, he strode down the street, the man hopping along beside. Ignoring him had no effect.

“Señor, please. Great place. You go see.” Folding up the paper, he stuffed it inside Manuel’s pocket and disappeared.

Pulling it out, Manuel intended to discard it, but adrenaline tingled through his fingertips as they touched the paper. Gently unfolding it revealed a detailed map. Interspersed between intricate drawings of palm trees, almost life-like images of spiders marched across the page. Tracing the line they made, another jolt of anticipation tingled through his body. He smiled.

Tricia had to like this, the most unique adventure either had undertaken.

She yelled at him instead.

“What the fuck are you thinking?”

He’d spread the map out on the battered table in their tiny hotel room.

“It looks interesting. Come on, we’ve got nothing to loose. I’ve read everything on here. It doesn’t even cost anything. We’ll be home in time for margaritas by the pool before dinner.” A pool the size of a battered suitcase and about as clean, he thought.

“I can’t.” Trisha turned her back on him, hugging her body with her arms. Even in the heat, he could see goose-bumps on her arms. Folding her into his embrace, she shuddered against him.

“What’s wrong?” He held her while she shook. Scalding drops wet his shoulder, and he stroked her hair, whispering soothing words into her ear. “Will you come. Please.”

“It’s a bad idea, Manuel. You don’t know.” Her body stilled against his. “You just don’t know.”

Stroking her hair one more time, Manuel kissed the top of Trisha’s head.

“Okay. I’ll see you for diner then.”

She grasped his wrist as he turned to leave.

“No, I’ll come.”

Manuel followed an invisible line, unable to stop himself. The light faded into the distance behind him, but he’d long since forgotten it existed. Trisha’s hand rested on his back, like a tiny fragile bird in the darkness. He thought he should know what that touch meant, where it came from, but the noise inside his head drowned all thoughts out. All thoughts but one. The thought pulled him inexorably forward, ever deeper. Ever further from the entrance. Moisture traced down his face, but Manuel didn’t notice.

“We need to go back,” I said. I knew what waited for us at the other end of this gossamer trail with her fat black body and pulsing red underbelly. I knew how juicy she’d find Manuel.

And what she’d demand from me.

Paper rustled beside me as Manuel examined the map. Small red x‘s marked off our passage deeper into her lair. And closer to Manuel’s death.

In front of them, a door blocked his way. Spider webs festooned broken wood. Reaching forward, he hesitated, unsure. He pushed Trisha in front of him.

“Can you move the web out of the way,” he asked.

“No.” She wiggled away from him, ducking behind him.

“Don’t be such a wuss. Just push it out of the way,” Manuel said. “It’s only a spider web.”

“No it’s not,” Tricia said. Reaching out, Manuel’s fingers brushed across the gossamer web. Rolling it between his fingers, a spike of energy ran down his arm, entangling him.

“She’s beautiful. Look at her. She’s beautiful.”

Not knowing the truth, he could make such flippant comments. Me, I could stare at the thing in horror, watching it pulsate in front of me. Even the phobia part of arachnophobia doesn’t seem to do the word justice. Staring at the web in front of me didn’t make it disappear either. Instead, intense scrutiny seemed to make it bigger. But that had to be the phobia talking.

“You really are trying to kill me, aren’t you,” I asked.

“For god’s sack, Trisha. It’s only a spider web,” he said. Yeah, he really didn’t know anything. Then again, Arachna wasn’t his mother. Laying my hand on his forearm, I drew a deep breath, prepared to tell him the truth. But it was already too late.

“Mother,” I said. Her pulsating red underbelly glistened above me. Above Manuel. Webs encased his body before I could pull him out of her reach.

“Trisha. So nice of you to bring me yet another sweet morsel. You have the best taste in men.”

“You can’t have this one,” I said, grabbing Manuel’s wrist and yanking. Nothing happened. Not that I’d expected to be able to wrest him from my mother.

“I’d say I already do.”

Drops of poisonous saliva glistened on her mandibles. Manuel’s eyes stared at me from inside his consuming cocoon. His lips, turning blue even as I watched, moved. No sound came out. Stealing myself, I hauled on the thread hanging out of my mother’s torso. The skin on the back of my hand hissed and sizzled as her spit hit me. Wincing in pain, I held my hand close.

“Trisha.” Manuel’s thin voice, on the edge of death, jolted through me.

Kicking at the door didn’t result in anything more than broken toes. I pounded at it with my hands, bruising my fists. Manuel’s breathing stopped, the blue of his lips now faded to white. Dragging his body, Arachna crept deeper into her lair.

Bracing my feet on the broken wood, I grasped the web trailing behind her. She stopped. A scream ripped from deep inside me, and I reefed again on the cord. Arachna swiveled, and the web spun through my fingers, burning my palms. Gasping at the pain, tears pricked at me and my vision dissolved. Hand over hand, I pulled. Screaming. Pulling. Tearing.

Manuel popped into my arms, covered in roppy webs, white and unbreathing. My mother loomed over me, jaws dripping.

“You will die now,” she said.

“No,” I said. Behind her, I saw a sparkle. A drop of her own spit had hardened on a sliver of her own web. Driving it deep into her belly, she hissed, falling on top of me. The world went black. My last thought was that she’d won in the end after all.

Manuel woke up, festooned inside spider webs. Trisha’s body lay beside him, her chest rising and falling in a gentle rhythm. He wanted to brush the hair off her face, but he couldn’t move. Beside them, was the largest spider he’d ever seen. Strange fluid seeped over the ground from a gaping wound in her belly. He hoped that meant she was dead, because he couldn’t do anything if she wasn’t.

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