THERE WAS ONCE a little boy.
No great surprise there. There were always little boys, and there always will be.
Little boys and all the things that little boys like:
Puppies, die-cast metal toy cars and trucks, plastic robot-shaped things that could convert – with a few clicks – into weapons, or animals, or transport devices. Go-karts, chocolate, tents, imaginary worlds where they are soldiers fighting in a post-apocalyptic war. Red cordial and cartoons. Digging in the dirt. Playing in the mud with their moveable muscular action-figures. Bugs, lizards …
… and spiders.
In this, little Jimmy was no different than any other little boy. He liked all of the above-mentioned things, and more besides.
But he liked spiders most of all.
Not the big, hairy ones, mind you. The way they skittered all over the place, he knew they’d be too fast for him to stop if they ever attacked him.
No, he didn’t like them at all.
Ah, but the ones that simply hung serenely in their webs, motionless …
… he did like them!
All day he could just sit and watch them, and all day they could just sit there, motionless.
… unless, of course, some unfortunate insect found its unsuspecting way into the web!
At which point the spider would suddenly shudder – with excitement or surprise, little Jimmy didn’t know – but then, it would dart at the trapped creature! Bite it! Then proceed to web it up into a ball … which it could eat from later.
The insect – usually a moth, or a fly, or a mosquito – would usually emit little buzzes of pain and fear as the spider sunk its fangs in and pushed venom through its helpless victim’s system.
Such spiders were always to be found in his backyard … in bushes, in corners of the fence, along the undersides of the guttering, on the house, or … best of all …
… in the backyard toilet.
The backyard toilet was a small, wooden, shack-like edifice, two metres tall, two long, and one wide, with a triangular corrugated iron roof, a door which left a good thirty centimetre gap above the ground, and which wore patches of some unnamed ivy on its walls, causing what was left of the dull, brown paint it had once been coated in to peel off here and there, exposing the weathered timber beneath.
The backyard toilet was little Jimmy’s favourite place, because, inside – up in the top right-hand corner of the room, just above the door – sat his favourite spider!
Endlessly fascinated, little Jimmy would often go into the tiny room, put the seat down on the old, old toilet, and just stand upon it, watching the spider.
It was only about the size of a one cent piece (the measurement including leg-span), and was coloured jet black, with small silver lines on its back and legs.
Its web wasn’t like any of the other ones that little Jimmy could find in the backyard, or in bushes, in corners of the fence, along the undersides of the guttering, on the house, or around the fence, or near the house … or anywhere else at all … and this is probably what made it little Jimmy’s favourite.
The web wasn’t all nice and geometrically-shaped, you see, with a spider plunked neatly in the middle. Instead, it was a rough mish-mash of spun silk, placed as if the spider hadn’t really known what it was doing when it had constructed it. And little Jimmy – judging by how often he saw the odd web empty of ‘food’ – figured that this was probably the case, and that the poor spider in the corner of the web must be pretty darn hungry.
… he decided to feed it.
Oh, he wouldn’t reach up from his standing-position on top of the toilet, lean over and reach out, holding food to its mouth, or anything like that. He knew enough not to touch it. Not to let it bite him.
He was a little kid, adventurous and absolutely rapt in spiders (no pun intended), but he’d listened to his well-meaning (but vastly overprotective) parents well enough to understand:
“If you ever touch spiders”, they had told him, “they’ll BITE you, and YOU’LL GET TAKEN AWAY to the HOSPITAL, and it’ll HURT, and you’ll DIE … and YOU WON’T SEE US ANYMORE”, drawing the last four words out for emphasis.
“WON’T … SEE … US … ANYMORE!”
The very thought of this (as is perfectly normal so far as a little boy was concerned) scared the hell out of little Jimmy, so terrible were its implications.
However, his love for things creepy and crawly remained … with spiders foremost. And so, while he was always happy to look, he wouldn’t … ever … touch.
And feed his favourite spider.
At first, he tried the bits of meat he’d brought down from the kitchen upstairs, standing there on the toilet seat and tossing them up into the web.
But this didn’t work.
At first, the spider would just shudder, as if angry at the savoury intruder which had invaded its web. Then it would suddenly dart down towards the small slivers, whereupon it would bite the web around them … and just let them drop to the floor.
Little Jimmy would let them stay there, of course, because they’d been IN CONTACT with the spider, and he didn’t want to risk touching anything that the spider had … just in case he DIED.
Little Jimmy sensed, after a few tries, that throwing pieces of meat into the web was something that annoyed the spider … and he didn’t want to do that, because the spider was his friend.
He decided that he needed something smaller than the chunks of meat he could only rip from the long cylindrical roll of processed ham (he couldn’t – was NOT ALLOWED to – TOUCH THE KNIVES) …
… but what?
In an attempt to ponder this question, little Jimmy climbed down from the closed toilet seat and sat on it, leaned back on the cistern, and began contemplating in the time-honoured way that most every little boy has practiced since humans first came down from the trees.
He picked his nose.
Picking your nose was an interesting business. You couldn’t actually see what was up there, which only made it all the more fascinating to look at what you pulled out.
Sometimes, the snot was long, stretchy and nothing but mucous, like what he sometimes coughed up when he had a cold. But on other occasions, it came out of his nose and sat on his finger in a chunky, tough little blob, dirty-coloured and mean-looking.
You could eat it.
He knew that.
“Heyyy”, he said aloud, his voice that of one upon whom the ultimate answers to all the questions of the universe had been bestowed.
“If I can eat it”, he thought, “maybe the spider can, too”.
Certainly, the sticky little mound on the end of his finger was far smaller than the chunks of meat he’d ripped from the roll upstairs, and – therefore – much more likely (he hoped) to be eaten by the spider.
Instinctively, little Jimmy rolled the amorphous mass up onto his palm. He had to scrape it off his finger first, then roll it ’round his palm until most of the moisture in it had gone. But then it was just like a tiny, grimy, mottled little ball, no bigger than the head of a pin.
He pushed it onto the tip of his thumb, climbed back up on top of the closed toilet seat, reached out towards the web …
… and flicked it, hoping like blazes that the poor spider would – at last – get a good feed.
For a second, the spider just hung there … shocked.
Little Jimmy almost had time to have his emotions begin a steady downward swing, from hopefulness and elation, right over into disappointment and resentment for the spider …
… but suddenly …
… it shivered.
… it shivered for a few seconds, as if unsure of what to do …
… and then …
… then it skittered over the nearly invisible web, tentatively approaching the unmoving object caught firmly in its trap.
Little Jimmy let out a whispery squeal of delight and excitement as the spider reached out to the ball of snot, decided that it was, in fact, food after all, and not one of those horrible blobs of processed meat …
… and bit into it.
Watching with utter fascination (and a huge sense of happiness since he had managed to feed his friend), little Jimmy saw the spider begin wrapping the tiny ball up in its webbing.
His eyes widened when he saw the spider take the web-wrapped ball of snot back to the deepest corner of its web, burrow itself into a crack between the wall and the ceiling …
… and proceed to eat.
Jimmy was so very happy!
From then on, every single day, little Jimmy would go downstairs to the outdoor toilet, just to pick his nose, roll the snot up into a disgusting little ball, and lob it at the spider’s web. And every single day, the spider would come down, bite into it, wrap it up, and carry it off to eat.
And because of this, each and every day, little Jimmy seemed to be floating on a cloud of happiness!
One morning, so happy and expectant was he in his rush to get downstairs and feed his friend (to make sure that his friend the spider wasn’t going hungry anymore because the stupid bugs and moths wouldn’t fly into its web and ha ha it didn’t matter anymore, so there), that he didn’t bother to close the door of the toilet.
He just went in, put the lid of the toilet down, climbed up on top of it, picked his nose, rolled it up, and flicked it at the web, then stood looking with glee towards the upper right corner of the room.
However, watching from the kitchen window was little Jimmy’s mother, looking with love in her eyes as her son made his way from the back door to the toilet.
Quickly, though, the look of love was replaced with one of curiosity …
… which happened, because she didn’t see the toilet door close.
As she continued to watch, her eyebrows raised and her eyes squinted when she saw little Jimmy climb up on top of the closed toilet seat. And then her brow furrowed in disgust as she saw little Jimmy picking his nose.
To explain the complex ripple of muscles in her face and the resulting expressions as she saw what he did next would be far too difficult.
Suffice to say, she was overcome with enough distaste to let out a muttered, “What the hell?” before marching out of the kitchen, out the back door, down the stairs and over towards the toilet, where she yelled, “Jimmy!”
Little Jimmy froze when his mother yelled.
She only used that tone of voice when she meant business – when he’d been A BAD BOY – and, apparently, that was right now.
But what had he done?
“Just what the hell are you doing, young man?”
‘Young Man’ was another nail in the coffin as far as little Jimmy was concerned.
He stammered out, “Whuah?” Then, “Buhh”. And finally managed to say, “But … I’m just feeding my friend! He’s hungry!” And he pointed to the spider’s web.
“What?” said his mother in an annoyed voice, as she followed his arm to where it was pointing.
She saw the spider in the process of webbing up the tiny ball of snot …
… and pieced it all together.
After all of her and her husband’s warnings, little Jimmy was still playing with spiders … and now he was …
“Uugh”, little Jimmy’s mother said in loathing, as she imagined what had been happening.
“Jimmy … that’s dig-GUS-ting!”
She whirled on him.
“Do you know what’ll happen if you keep this up?”
Little Jimmy just blinked at her, unable to see why she was so mad.
“That spider will decide that it likes what’s up your nose”, she yelled, “and come along one night while you’re asleep … and GET YOU!”
Little Jimmy could only blink, shocked.
“AND YOU’LL DIE!”
“AND YOU WON’T … SEE … US … ANYMORE!”
Some people’s parents would, instead, tell their child (if they were to catch them in a similar situation) something along the lines of, “Well you shouldn’t really go near the spider, because it’s poisonous and could bite you. It’d make you sick. Not a good thing. Plus, picking your nose is not really very nice. In fact, it’s quite unhygienic”.
But not little Jimmy’s mother! In order to stop little Jimmy from doing something that she perceived as bad, it was her way to tell him that said action was likely to produce the worst possible result, little realizing the effect this had on little Jimmy; how little Jimmy’s imagination would take such a statement as, “It’ll decide that it likes what’s up your nose, and come along one night, while you’re asleep, and GET YOU … AND YOU’LL DIE … AND YOU WON’T … SEE … US … ANYMORE” …
… and blow it out of all proportion.
Which is strange, because she was a kid herself, once, and should have known better.
Little Jimmy didn’t think of any of this, however.
He just blinked, because he didn’t know how to take it.
He’d just been feeding his friend, the spider, because the stupid moths weren’t flying into its web, and why would it hurt him by crawling up his nose, anyway?
But his mother wouldn’t LIE to him, so he just said, “But … he didn’t have enough moths!”
“What?” little Jimmy’s mother screamed. “Ohhh … go to your room!”
Little Jimmy did as he was told, tears welling up in his befuddled eyes as he ran upstairs, crying at the fact that he had been betrayed by his friend the spider (because he’d gotten IN TROUBLE because of it), and also because of the fact that he’d been A BAD BOY.
He ran past his father in the kitchen, then into his room, where he closed the door and fell onto the bed, sobbing into his pillow.
His father glanced up from the newspaper and his breakfast while his wife walked in.
“Do you know what I just found your son doing?”
And then little Jimmy’s mother proceeded to tell her husband of the spider, exactly what little Jimmy had been doing, and just how disgusting it all was.
“I want that spider gone, too”, she added.
“I’ll take care of it before I go to work”, little Jimmy’s father said, glancing up at the can of bug spray sitting on top of the ‘fridge.
That night, little Jimmy lay on his bed, too frightened to even think of sleep.
He kept thinking of his ex-friend, the spider, and of how it would come up and GET HIM!
His mummy said so!
Besides, if people – or spiders, or any kind of friends – weren’t your friends anymore, then they were your ENEMIES, little Jimmy knew.
And ENEMIES wanted to HURT you!
The bullies at kindergarten proved that.
And now … now he had another enemy.
Thus, frightened – his eyes wide open in the darkness of his room, his ears listening intently for any sound other than that of his father snoring in the next room after both he and his mother had gone to sleep – little Jimmy lay awake.
Terrified and exhausted …
… but awake.
It had been a long and busy day.
First off, he’d lost his friend and gained an ENEMY, and – at the same time – he’d been A BAD BOY!
Then, he’d sat and watched TV until it was time for him to go to kindergarten.
There, he’d sung songs, painted and read some books (well, enjoyed the pictures).
After that, he played in the sandbox.
However, despite all that, he’d found that he just couldn’t sleep during afternoon nap …
… because he knew that he HAD to stay awake.
If he fell asleep, he KNEW that his ENEMY the spider would come along, trying to get at his snot, and that it would go into his nose and up into his brain …
… and he’d DIE!
And he WOULDN’T SEE MUMMY AND DADDY ANYMORE!
But … all through the afternoon and all through the evening, he grew more and more tired.
And now, lying in bed, his eyes were getting heavy, and he kept yawning, and all around his eyelashes stung.
But he HAD to stay awake!
It was very quiet for a while then, and little Jimmy was almost thinking that nothing was wrong, because he hadn’t thought of the spider in a while. Hadn’t thought of how he’d been A BAD BOY. Hadn’t thought of anything, actually.
But he must’ve stayed awake, because he could now hear a sound …
… a disturbing sound.
A sound which sent chills along his back, and goosebumps up and down his arms.
He pulled the covers up further.
And, as he turned on his pillow …
… he saw it.
He didn’t know how he saw it, because it was down at the end of his bed. But it was so large … like it was right in front of his face!
Right ON his face!
Crawling RIGHT UP HIS NOSE!
He could only stare in horror.
He couldn’t do anything else.
It was too late.
Little Jimmy could only stare as the spider … his ENEMY … crawled up towards him …
… and, after a while, he couldn’t even do that.
He shut his eyes tightly, pressed his mouth firmly closed, and lay motionless.
But he could still FEEL.
He could still feel as the spider inched its way along the bed … up over his blanketed form … slowly, ever so slowly, agonizingly slowly … but surely.
He could still feel and he could still hear.
Hear as it skittered, exactly the disturbing noise that little Jimmy had heard just before … a ‘skitter’, as it increased its speed upon reaching the skin of little Jimmy’s neck, where his pyjama shirt went down in a ‘V’.
It skittered up and over his exposed throat …
… and onto his chin …
… and there it sat for a while, it just sat … motionless … just like it did in its web … its eight tiny legs digging into the skin of little Jimmy’s throat like tiny pinpricks …
Then suddenly … as if seeing what was in little Jimmy’s nose …
… it shuddered.
It shuddered … and the shuddering was the most horrible sensation that little Jimmy had ever felt …
… it shuddered and shuddered and seemed to shudder forever …
… and then …
… the spider suddenly darted forward …
… darted right up over his lips …
… darted right up little Jimmy’s nose!
Little Jimmy didn’t feel anything then, other than the horrible pressure in his nose, as though he needed to sneeze, but couldn’t.
He couldn’t breathe!
And then …
When he woke up in the morning, the sun was shining through the window, the door of his room was open and he could hear the sizzling of his father’s bacon being cooked out in the kitchen.
He sniffed to catch the aroma …
… and, for some unknown reason, felt disturbed by using his nose.
Before he could think on this further, he suddenly heard his mother.
“If you don’t get out here right now, Jimmy, I’m giving your breakfast to the dog!”
Little Jimmy leapt out of bed, suddenly realizing that he needed to go to the toilet.
As he wandered out into the kitchen, little Jimmy looked at his parents and said that, yes, indeed, he did want his breakfast, but that he needed to ‘go’ first.
They let him.
Trudging downstairs and outside to the toilet, little Jimmy was once again overcome with the same disturbed feeling he’d had upon waking up.
A feeling which intensified as he neared the backyard toilet.
Little Jimmy went inside, turned on the light and closed the door.
As he lifted the seat and turned around to sit down, for some reason little Jimmy looked up to the right-hand corner of the room, near the ceiling …
… and froze in terror …
… the corner that used to house the spider … his ENEMY …
… was empty.
The webs were still there. The little knots of webbing rolled around the little balls of snot were still there. There was even a moth! Caught in the web and desperately trying to escape. But unwrapped, uneaten …
… because what wasn’t there …
… was the spider.
The spider wasn’t where it was supposed to be.
But little Jimmy knew where it was …
Copyright © 2007 by David Scott Aubrey
All Rights Reserved
This short story is a work of fiction. Any and all names, characters and/or incidents are either products of my imagination or are used fictitiously. Where any such resemblance may exist to actual persons (living or dead), actual events or locales, it is purely coincidental.
Please don’t assume that my characters speak for me or carry my own opinions on various matters in any way, shape or form (though some might … you never can tell).