A Spider's Tale
He's going crazy.
Dom stared at him. Cree was shivering, but not from cold. The prison cell was very warm. His jaw was working and he was grinning, but no words were coming out. Just short croaking noises. Irritating as hell.
He'd seen it 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 was pure insanity, come to roost here, again, like it always did.
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.
And the fighting always kept him sane, he thought. Made him tougher than the other punks. Smarter than the rest. Dom was a survivor, he told himself. A long-haul con and he was going to do his time and ring that bell. He was going to march out of those gates one day a free man, ready to take on the world all over again, but this time, by the balls.
No screwing around in the future, Dom mused. Just one big score and then chicks and booze. Maybe a nice spread too. A big swimming pool. Parties.
Payback time was coming.
A falling star flashed across the sky, exploded on the horizon. Dom awoke with a start. A cold sour sweat, in the hot damp. His blanket soaking wet, like he'd whizzed, 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. So he had, supposedly, off'd himself. Dom smirked at the inner joke of it.
Dom rubbed the crust from his eyes. Pulled the wet blanket off. Let himself air dry on the top bunk. Flapped the blanket. 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. Cree the demon trying to haunt him from hell, he Dom thought.
"Screw you, Cree," he said to the empty cell. Empty, except for what ever that was curled up in the shadows above his head. A spider?
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. Sobbing like a damned sissy. God, how he hated that whimpering kid.
The rage started to build again, even though Cree was gone. "Get out of my head punk," Dom said.
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, not the sunrise. "Such beautiful creature. I wish I was him, you know. Just crawl around, biting other bugs, bringing home the food, sticking it in the spider fridge." Then he'd laugh, before he'd cry again.
Dom hated spiders and he hated Cree. The kid was always spouting off. Most of the time about his furry little spider. Then crying. Hours catching flies and crickets to feed the damned spider. And the thing had gotten huge, fat and furry. Cree even let him crawl all over him.
"You know, Dom...it drinks tears and it will even drink my blood," Cree said once.
Dom just shook his head. "Why don't you just piss on it then? Maybe it likes that too."
Cree didn't answer. Every now and again he'd talk to his spider. "It's okay. He's just kidding. Don't worry, I'll take care of you. Here, look what daddy has for you today."
Cree would give the spider his daily catch from the Inmate Dining Hall. Roaches, beetles, even a few ants. The thing would grab it from his hand, inspect it, then scramble back to its web, bundle the trophy and in no time it was back for a second morsel.
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. And his stupid spider.
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.
It was 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. He skulked up to the window, where Cree always stood, checked the spider's home, but came up empty. 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 hairy spider - gone!" He said it aloud. Dared the insect to react. Maybe crawl out from under Cree's bed, but he had checked there.
So Dom had taken his second nap of the morning. Happy in the peace. Serenity at last, he thought. "I'm glad both of you are gone," he said.
But today, a month later, a blinding pain awoke Dom. A pinch on his right foot and worked its way up the leg. Coursed into his groin next, then upwards. It was such a shock. So fast, was the 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. Spit phlegm on his sheets. Cough.
"Jesus," he said as he tried to roll out of bed. Get to the door. Call a guard. "Holy Christ," he whispered, in agony now.
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 stars. He turned his head again. It took extreme effort. His ears burned and his neck felt like harden 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.
Dom tried to say something, anything, but his jaws seemed utterly clenched. A vice of grinding teeth.
"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 wanted to say. I saw you die. Nothing but moans escaped him.
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? A blackness with form, but also anger. Hatred. Evil.
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.
"You see them, Dom?" Cree was saying. The dead Cree.
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.
I see them, Dom said to himself. As if his thoughts could answer what ever had asked the question. Cree?
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. Flinging bleeding flesh into the air, like missiles.
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 in the scene began to flash in the bolts of lightning. God's flash bulbs in rapid succession. Then crimson lightning stabbing at everything. The trees. Buildings. The flaming guards. A flickering movie nightmare.
The yard -- the scene -- reversed itself now. Like a negative photograph. The fiery people turned black, with grayish flames licking the white air around their heads. Heads aflame. Mouths vomiting glowing white bile.
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. Specks of throbbing black stars.
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 wave in a desert heat peculating from the reddening grasses of the prison yard. The razor-wires, attached to the tops of the fences, lashing out in unison. The fiery people fighting back, even as they were 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 began to move strangely. Angular things jumped back and forth in the melting red grasses. Shapes like zebra tigers, two-headed spiked bears, insect-like guerillas wielding spears, all rushing madly into the ever growing demolition of life.
The fiery people began to fight the jumping things, but these beasts, like car sized crabs, were too fast. They were mowed down wholesale. Splashes of black on red. All back-lighted in the violet dead sun. All flashing in the lighting from an ancient place.
Twisting bodies and other forms, crashing into one another, huge fangs impaling, screaming, shrieking and dying on the now smoldering red grasses. Wet with burning viscera and gnarled bones.
The fighting below continued, but the ferocity of it was abating. The things had come from below the yards, from some place deep in the earth, under the smoking grounds. They were done with the fiery people now. Done consuming them. And yet, they were still famished.
They wanted something more. Something else. Tastier. Something evil. Something hateful, like them.
Then other things seemed to sense that something. That missing thing they needed. Snouts raised into the white sky. Seemed to sniff the ashy air. Heavy huffy sounds. Black nostrils 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?
They found it. The thing they wanted. The thing they had to have now. Had to drain of its life, now. Make it scream, now. Eat it alive, now.
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. Fists pounding. Spiders, millions of spiders, pouring from every orifice of his body. Creating a virtual tornado around him. Lifting him as he sprayed a never ending stream of vomit out of the window onto the prison yard. Signalling them. Letting the worst of the things down there that Dom was here. He was here!
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. A soiled pile of shaking meat.
Dom wanted to lash out at Cree. Crush the spiders crawling all over the cell. Freaking flying spiders from hell, landing all over him now. Getting into his eyes, mouth, on his legs...biting over and over. Swarming like ants.
Hang Cree all over again. Hang his ghost. Get out of my head, he told the ghost. He flinched repeatedly. Visions poured into his mind. He tried to roll in his bed. This was not real, he said to himself. It couldn't be.
Dom tried clutch at his chest. But he couldn't move from the bed. Couldn't even move his hands now. God, he thought. When will this end?
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. Fighting each other for the prize. Shattering themselves, for him.
Then shrieks rent the morn. Success! The feeding hoard was here. Such purity of fear, Dom thought.Breathing rapidly now. A acid taste. A metallic smell.
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. Defecating in preparation. Shifting around each other, for the best position. The biggest portion of his sweaty flesh. Digging in their clawed hind paws into the concrete. Howling over and over.
Dom's ears were past ringing now.
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. In no hurry. Seemingly satisfied, bored even.
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.
Crap, he thought...a spider's bite.
© 2016 jgshorebird