The publication of Figment earlier this week marked a quietly profound moment in my writing career: it was the first time I’ve ever taken a story I’ve written and posted it online for the whole world to read. I’ve been writing fiction my whole life. I still hope to get my magnum opus, The Legend of Kung Po, published one day. But even sharing the little, silly stories I write over a 24 hour period still feels like a big deal- even compared to writing blog posts about myself, sharing stories, characters and worlds I’ve created feels way more personal.
Now that the ice is broken, so to speak, I’m going to keep on sharing some of the random stories I’ve got piled up on my hard drive. The story you’re about to read, Tarantula, is the first short story I ever wrote, and remains probably the strangest little thing my mind has ever coughed up. I came up with it in a single sitting towards the end of my first year of University, after all my exams were done and I was basically spending all day and night sat in my room watching weird sci-fi movies and listening to experimental rock from the 80s, with occasional trips out to Cost Cutter to buy Monster Energy Drink and packs of Frazzles. I was definitely in a pretty weird place when I wrote this, and I think it shows.
Here we go then! This is a story about dreams, power and giant spiders that’s been sat on my laptop gathering dust for over seven years. It’s finally time for it to see the light of day. Enjoy!
The man ran as fast as he could but the creature was catching up. It never got tired. Its eight legs pounded the earth relentlessly, rhythmically. Its eight eyes were fixed on the running man, piercing, pulsating. Its fangs clicked together in anticipation, glistening, gnawing. It was going to win.
This is a dream, thought the man desperately. It has to be. He looked around. The bulbous buildings bulging around him, close on all sides, were not familiar. He had never seen them before. He ran on. Every time he got near one of the dark, dreary dilapidated buildings, it moved out if his way. The maze of the city re-formed itself to accommodate him, assisting him is his escape.
“This has to be a dream.” he said aloud, echoing, exhausted. “Fabricated.”But he didn’t stop running. No really, it HAD to be a dream. Buildings don’t move. Giant spiders don’t chase citizens down city corridors. Is it my dream or his? Do other people think in my dreams? Is the spider thinking? What is it thinking? He turned a corner and the city labyrinth ended abruptly, absolutely. He ran out onto a green, growing, generous lawn. It stretched for as far as he could see which, he realised, might not be very far at all. Do dream worlds stop existing when the dreamer isn’t around? Or do they wait for him to come back- a little different but still the same dream? He ran on a few feet and turned to look at the city, skyscrapers huddled together, looming, leering.
“Time to see who is in control here.” said the man. Reaching out his dream-arms, poised, precise, he concentrated on the fictitious buildings with the one thing that was real- his mind. Like drawing curtains, he brought the buildings together with his mind’s eye -his only eye in this place- trapping the monster in the city, sealed, sterile. Safe. He sighed loudly.
Looking around, he wondered what he should do now that the imaginary spider wasn’t bothering him. He was still pondering, preoccupied, when it smashed its way out of the wall of buildings. Covered in bits of roof and floor it scuttled up to the man who stood before it, realising over the crashing of the collapsing city what he had to do.
“This is MY dream.” said the man. “I don’t have to be afraid of you, creeping creature dwelling in my own private kingdom. I can do whatever I want. I should be enjoying being the creator of this universe, this tiny reality, not running from one of my creations! All change in this existence comes from me alone! If I close my eyes, you disappear, forgotten, fallen. This world begins and ends with me!”
“You dropped your purse.” said the spider.
“What?” said the man.
“Back at the bus stop. You started running when the bus didn’t stop for you. Your purse fell out of your pocket.” He reached out one of his hairy, hideous legs and held up a small blue object. The man recognised it- he had one in the bigger, non-dream world as well.
“It’s a wallet, not a purse.” he said, taking it from the spider. “Women have purses. Men have wallets. Silly spider, foolish, fallacy.”
“Looks like a purse to me. Graceful, girly.”
“No. But at least I have it back. Helpful spider, honest, handy. I thought it was going to eat me.”
“Well of course I’m going to eat you. Idiot.” grinned the spider, vicious, venomous, violent, victorious, swallowing the man whole.
Inside the creature, dark, dank, disgusting, the man saw a guy he knew from work sitting in a pool of stomach acid, dissolving quietly.
“Derek! It got you as well?”
“Why are you holding a woman’s purse?” said Derek, looking up.
“It’s a wallet!” said the man, incensed, incredulous. Derek was now only half left. The rest had melted.
“I thought I could control the spider.” said the man, who was melting as well. “I thought that since I made it, it was mine. I guess I’m not in control of dreams or destiny or death or anything in this world or any other.”
“Should’ve legged it.” said Derek’s head. “You’re so stupid.”
Slightly ashamed of himself, the man woke up, wishing he’d spent less time philosophising and more time running, and making a mental note to buy a new wallet.