A Spider's Tale
I wonder if he is having a breakdown?
Dom looked at him. Cree was shivering, like he was cold, but the prison cell was very warm. His jaw was working and he was grinning, but no words were coming out. Just short croaking noises that grated on his ears.
He'd seen this before. A mental health crisis. That's what the doctors called it. But it was just pain, Dom thought. Pain from a wound that needed to heal, but couldn't.
It always started in the head, seeped into the heart, coiled up inside of your stomach and made your legs tingle until they burned. Dom had felt it many times, especially when he got really mad. Like right before a good fight. Like the time that dude tried him. Grabbed his privates.
A falling star flashed across the sky, exploded on the horizon. Dom awoke with a start. Cold sweat, in the hot damp. His blanket soaking wet, like he'd had a night accident, but he checked and he hadn't.
What had he been dreaming about? It was right there, on the edge of his thoughts. He grasped for it. Cree. It was about Cree. Cree's depression. Twenty-five years, the kid had. Too many. He couldn't take it.
Dom rubbed the crust from his eyes. Pulled the wet blanket off. Let himself air dry on the top bunk. Stared at the low ceiling in the half-dark. Something seemed to move there. Then it was gone.
I had a bad dream, he thought. That was all. A nightmare.
He imagined Cree again at the window, where he used to stand for hours. Elbows on the dusty concrete windowsill, still wearing yesterday's blue striped uniform. His prison garb. Watching everything and crying.
He didn't smell so good either. Like something dead maybe. But Cree hadn't cared. Cree just liked to look through the barred window out onto the prison yard every morning. Watch the dull orange sun-ball as it crept over the razor wire and glinted off of his pet spider that had made its web between the bars of the window.
"Beautiful." That's what Cree used to say about his spider.
Dom hated spiders and he hated Cree. The crying. Hours catching flies and crickets to feed the damned spider. And the thing had gotten huge, fat and furry.
But Cree saw nothing now. Dom saw to that. He was dead. Dom kept reminding himself about that. It would take time, he thought. Time to forget Cree, but not how he died. Cree didn't hang himself. Dom just got tired of his crying.
On a morning, just like this one, about a month ago, Dom had choked Cree out and flopped him over the second tier railing. Hung him by his bed sheets. Suicide to order. No witnesses. Dom then went back to sleep, until the hollering started.
After all of that, after they cut Cree down, questioned Dom, found him innocent, they let him go back to his cell. Then Dom looked for that damned spider. Oh how he hated spiders. But it was gone. Not even a bit of web. It had closed up shop and departed. Took its web and all. Good riddance, thought Dom. A two-fer. Cree and his fat ugly spider.
So Dom had taken his second nap of the morning.
But today, a month later, a blinding pain awoke Dom. It started in his right foot and worked its way up the leg. Coursed into his groin next, then upwards. It was a shock. So fast, was pain. So quick to radiate. Was this death, Dom wondered? A queasy feeling grabbed at his stomach, then Dom's heart began to race. What was happening? He began to pant.
There was a smell too. A putrid stench crept into the cell from the barred window. Reminded Dom of garbage. Maybe a combo. Meat, bacon, ham, vegetables and urine, rotting together in a nice sack somewhere near his window.
Dom concentrated, tried to separate just one more piece of information from the scent lingering in his cell and not think about his pain. Laundry detergent? Maybe. Cornbread? Probably, but maybe that was the Dining Hall. And what else? Cree. Cree?
Dom grunted as his eyes seemed to explode with white-hot pain. He turned his head again. It took extreme effort. His ears burned and his neck felt like hardened rubber.
At the window where Cree use to stand, something fuzzy was there now. The stench flowed from that spot, not the window and not garbage, but from him. From it. From Cree? But Cree was dead. But there he was.
"I killed you!" Dom tried to say. But his tongue felt like it was glued to the roof of his mouth. He gurgled instead. Then gave up. I hung you man, he thought. I saw you die.
Now who was having the breakdown? Dom closed his eyes. Tears began to well up. He opened them again. Shook his head. The apparition remained at the window. It began to coalesce. Was it Cree? Am I awake?
Dom saw through Cree's eyes then. He or it looked out of the window. The guards were doing their morning checks on the yard. The people of the mist, Cree had called them, like moving wraiths, seeming to mill around at random.
Some guards were tapping the fences with metal clubs. Others were talking on their radios as they moved along. Still others sipped coffee from paper cups and kicked the dirt in the yard for no apparent reason. Others were checking locks, pulling on chained-up fences or peering into darkened barred windows. A peaceful, serene, almost idyllic scene, for a prison.
But things changed rapidly.
As Dom watched, the guards and all the rest, caught fire. Human torches, now running, swinging clubs at each other, biting, gorging on detached limbs, screaming, growling.
Dom was shocked again. The pain in his eyes and head only matched by the horror before him. Through the eyes of Cree the dead the scene began to flash. Like bolts of lightning. Red lightning stabbing everything. The trees. Buildings. The flaming guards.
Then the yard -- the scene -- reversed itself. Like a negative photograph. The fiery people turned black, with grayish flames licking the white air around their heads. Hair in flames.
Birds, which often held fast to the razor-wire along the fences, burst into black-gray flames and flew off, leaving a trail of gray smoke in the glistening white sky.
A nearly black sun sent spears of impossibly violet light outward, singeing the buildings and the nearby trees. Bushes and rooftops burst into gray-black flames.
The outline of the fences now a stark gray, seemed to waver in some type of desert heat peculating from the now reddening grasses of the prison yard. The razor-wires, attached to the tops of the fences, began lashing out at the fiery people who fought back, even when decapitated, often stumbling over their own heads in the melee.
The fences themselves became a tangle of angry red-bellied white snakes, striking at the fiery people and even themselves.
As Dom watched through Cree's dead eyes, a molten field of gruesome forms, too difficult to describe, began to move strangely. Angular things jumped back and forth in the melting red grasses.
The fiery people began to fight the jumping things, but these beasts, like car sized crabs, were too fast and mowed them down wholesale. Splashes of white on black.
Twisting bodies and other forms, crashing into one another, huge fangs impaling, screaming, shrieking and dying on the now smoldering red grasses.
And the fighting below continued, but the ferocity of it was abating. The things that had come from below the yards, from some place deep in the earth, under the smoking grounds, were done with the fiery people now. Done consuming them.
But they were not finished. They wanted something more. Something else.
Then the things seemed to sense that something. That missing thing they needed. Seemed to sniff the white hot air. Heavy huffy sounds. Black snouts long and pointed. White saucer eyes, like beacons. Over-sized triangular shaped heads, swinging back and forth, trying to find the source of scent. Biting the ground. Roaring and screaming. Over and over. Would it never end?
Then they found it. The thing they wanted. They moved en masse, like a pack of insatiable gargoyles, toward him -- his cell. Toward Dom. Cree the dead was calling them. His black mouth open, howling. Head spinning.
Of course, it was the stench in his cell, thought Dom. Cree was calling them, using his own rotten smells of death. Letting them know there was a better meal here, in this cell. Prepared. Frozen in place. A turkey ready for carving. Him.
Dom wanted to lash out at Cree. Hang Cree all over again. Hang his ghost. Get out of my head, he told the ghost. He flinched repeatedly at the visions that poured into his mind. Tried to roll in his bed. Clutch at his chest. But he couldn't move from the bed. Couldn't even move his hands now.
They were coming! Let me go!
He could hear their scratching next. They were outside. Climbing the outer walls. Horrible sounds of breaking concrete, rebar being ripped from the outer walls of his cell, but he still could not move. Could not fight. He was frozen in place.
Steel bars were being pried apart and he was motionless. Snouts fighting to get into his cell and Dom was powerless to react. Teeth and claws and giant white eyes. Crumbling concrete and the God awful squealing.
Then shrieks rent the morn. Success! He had company. The feeding hoard was here. Such purity of fear, Dom thought. His bladder released.
Dom felt like his whole body would explode. But suddenly, there was no pain. His heart calmed and his eyes focused for the finale. Like a dinner table, he thought. I am their last meal. My deflating lungs are ready.
God-like creatures, all black, infinite tendons, shiny and swollen, were scrambling for a place at the table. His table. His feast. He was their prize. They lined up, waiting for some signal. Anticipating. Salivating. Shoving each other. Unsheathing talons. Rotten meat breath.
Then it began.
Dom heard a gurgling scream. His own.
In the last moments, as his body vibrated under the attack of teeth and claw, as talons ripped, as he was shredded, Dom's head lolled to one side. His neck torn open, drowning in his own gore, but somehow, during this last, he was able to focus.
Above his feet, from the ceiling, hanging fat and moving slowly, purposefully, Cree's spider was creeping up its sticky web.
Dom looked back down, to see the beasts one last time, to take in the last horror of his life. But his cell was quiet, clean and locked, just like he always kept it. He lay there, in his boxer shorts, peacefully.
The only thing Dom noticed before his life ebbed away, was a small bite on his big toe. A welt had developed there.
A spider's bite.
© 2016 jgshorebird