He spoke of Nature's 'inevitable revenge.'
Trapped in the fine silken threads, twisting this way and that, a fly was trying desperately to free itself from the mesh. Rainbow-colors flashed off its shining black armor. One wing was beating in a blur, its tiny legs pushed frantically against the silk restraints.
Like a tightrope walker, a spider ran out to watch.
With a sudden dart, the spider leapt forward. Part of the thorax disappeared inside the spider's maw, and the victim bounced more furiously on the imprisoning thread. In trying to break loose, it seemed to tie itself up even more securely.
A rose- petal fell to the ground, and the spider pulled back, watching.
The captive fly made one last effort to escape.
With a sudden jerk, it appeared to take flight.
Just as suddenly, it twirled and twisted, spinning round and round the vibrating silk, and all the fire went out of it. I saw the devastating effect that the spider's attack had had. The part of the body that had been caught for an instant in the spider's mouth was flaccid and flat, all the color gone, as if it had been sucked dry.
One rapid .final dart, and the fly was gone.
I was tempted to call Helena, and show her what I had just seen.
Would she believe me if I told her that it was the self-same fly that had caused her to scream the night before? Would she be pleased that it had fallen prey to a more terrible spider?
I dismissed the idea.
The sight of that voracious spider would distress her all the more.
The baby was due in a month, or so.
Since the invasion of the flies three weeks before, Helena had roamed the house with a leather fly-swatter in her hand, her mouth set hard, determined to eliminate every buzzing thing that came within striking distance. The windows were now kept constantly shut, and Helena would reprimand Lotte if a door or window were left ajar. The air inside the house was stale and putrid, as if something organic had been pushed beneath the sofa and left to rot. The children stayed indoors; they were not allowed to play outside.
Helena was afraid for them, she admitted.
I was afraid for her, instead, though I could not bring myself to tell her.
One day, while reading an article in a French publicationthe writer claimed that one fly alone could hatch a million eggsI suddenly realised that Helena was standing close behind my chair, and that she was reading silently over my shoulder.
'Does it mention that they are the eyes and the ears of the Devil?' she asked, her eyes never shifting from the page.
I threw the article aside, and jumped up. I meant to comfort her, but she shrugged me off, half stumbling away, her left hand on her greatly swollen belly, her right hand holding out the fly-swatter which had become a fixed extension of herself.
'They are, you know,' she murmured.
Her hand smashed down to take another insect life.
Last night, she had wakened the house with a cry that set my heart racing.
Lotte came running into the bedroom from the nursery, and I jumped down from the bed. Helena was bending over the cot of baby Anders. The night was hot, but Helena was as cold as ice. Her hair was a wild burning bush of chestnut curls. Her expression was that of a Medusa who had seen her own face in a mirror.
'What is it, ma'am?' Lotte implored.
I took my wife by the arm, trying to lead her back to bed.
She pushed my hands away. Her eyes were wide and fixed on the baby. She had seen a huge black fly crawl into his mouth, she said at last. And it had not come out again.
Lotte glanced at me, and shook her head.
A nightmare, she mouthed without speaking.
There was no fly inside the child's mouth. Nothing had happened, if not for the terrible vision which had wakened my wife. Lotte nodded towards the cot where Anders continued sleeping. He was the only one in the house who did not wake up. His face was serene, his breathing regular. Having finally got Helena into bed again, I searched high and low for the monstrous black fly which had cast its dark shadow on her imagination. I told her that I had killed it, too, but I do not think that I managed to convince her.
Excerpted from A Visible Darkness by Mighael Gregorio. Copyright © 2009 by Mighael Gregorio. Published in April 2009 by St. Martin's Press. All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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