fbpx

Caught in the Spider’s Web

750
2

I was inside a ship when I heard some metallic sounds from underneath. Suddenly, something tore its way inside through the metal floor. It was a crab – a large, orange crab – and dozens followed. I backed away towards the door as many more crawled their way inside. Fear started to take its grip on me and I panicked. Running towards the controls, I opened the door and dashed outside. It was very sunny outside and looked as if it was noon. I was in a large field that appeared yellowish green in the sunlight. The ship became flooded with a cast of crabs, and they all started coming towards me like one big, red carpet coming to cover me up. I ran. But there was nowhere to run – no hill I could run upto; no trees I could climb; no nothing; just one vast field. After running for a while, I gave up and fell to the ground, feeling sick in my stomach. By then the crabs had already surrounded me and they were all starting to crawl onto my body. I hated the feeling of thousands of tiny, pointy legs waking all over me; just the thought of it made me shiver. For a moment, before I was completely covered, I was glad that they were crabs and not giant spiders. 

I woke up sweating. My bed was wet with my perspiration and the weird sensation in my body hadn’t gone away. I sat up on my bed and saw that a part of the room, in which I was in, was lit by a faint blueish light – which I took to be the moonlight – coming in through the window; otherwise it was all dark. Nevertheless, I had a feeling that something was strange, like  something was out of place. Then I heard a loud shudder outside, and the windows banged as if someone was hitting on it. I wasn’t able to make out the faint shadow of the figure outside the window, yet it didn’t seem like it belonged to a person. The shadow started to move towards the window on my right, through which the light was coming in, and this time, the outlines became more clear… its legs moving in unison, the round body rocking up and down. There was a loud tap on the window again; this time it broke… 

I opened my eyes. I knew that I had woken up for real. There was no light coming in through the window, and the only light in the room was from the LED display of my clock. I laid awake looking at the window for a long time, till a faint light started to appear. Slowly, the light brightened and the blue tint of the window pane imparted a light blue hue to it. 

I got up and opened the window. The sun was still minutes away from rising, yet the light hurt my eyes as I opened it. The ground was wet and there was the stench of rain in the air. A humming bird, suddenly, rose up from a hibiscus flower right outside the window. It stood hovering before me, staring into my eyes. After what seemed like a few seconds, the bird slowly moved back and flew away. I had never seen a bird that early in the morning. 

My friend’s house was on my way to school. And – as I was standing in front of his house, waiting for him – I noticed that his dog wasn’t barking like it used to. I looked at the shed where his dog used to lay, but it wasn’t there.

As we started walking towards the school, I wanted to ask what happened to his dog but didn’t. 

There was a shrine on the way which displayed the idol of mother Mary stepping on the head of a snake. And, since it was October, there were people gathered around to celebrate her feast. There were two loud speakers placed in front of the shrine, in which devotional songs were being played loudly.

On the opposite side of the street – behind a large, abandoned bungalow – there were two large banyan trees, on which there lived thousands of bats. On my way to school, I sometimes used to watch some small groups of bats flying back to the trees – after the night’s scouring – and fighting for a place to hang on the branches which would have already been covered with bats. But this time I noticed that the bats were rising up from the trees in large cauldrons and flying away. It must be the speakers, I concluded, remembering my physics teacher saying that bats use sound to navigate. Maybe they are highly sensitive to loud noise. 

Then I noticed another sound: the rumbling sound of some sort of machine running near the old bungalow. After looking for its source, I found an excavator near one side of the building; almost hidden from view by the extended side wall of the huge bungalow. So that’s why the bats are acting crazy! 

“My dad told me that they’re taking it down today”, my friend said, running upto me from behind. He had gotten into the shrine to pray, while I was watching the bats. It was one of our daily routines. I didn’t believe in praying (my whole family being communists and all), so I would wait and watch the bats till he came back. “Finally, we can play in these woods without being afraid to the bone all the time.”

The bungalow had been abandoned for many years. I think it had been like that even when my parents were young. There were many stories about the place, and about the strange man who use to live there – a man they called Menon. No one knew his real name, or his family; he had lived there a long time ago and had, mysteriously, disappeared – long  before I was even born. All that was left were stories told by our grandparents. 

“Really? But no one knows to whom it belongs to”, I said. And in a whisper, to mock my friend, I added, “Has he really come back?”

“Who knows!” He exclaimed, his voice automatically shifting into a whisper like mine. “I heard by brother say that one of his friends had seen a huge bear in the woods.” He paused, and then gulped. “Maybe one of his descendants has come back. My mother tells me that they are a family of witches.”

“But I thought he had no family,” I retorted, trying to recall any mention of his family in the old stories. Suddenly, something my grandfather once told me came to my mind. “Maybe they are chosen, like the vampires.”

“He had been dead for a long time.” He gave a sigh of relief. “He didn’t choose anybody. So it’s over.”

You don’t know whether he really is dead. And the bear… 

I had heard many stories about this Menon. Some say that he was possessed by an evil spirit, and that he could talk to animals that came from the underworld. I remember what my grandfather once told me about the Menon and the mysterious life he lead: he almost never left his bungalow, and since his arrival in the village, there were reports of stories of mysterious animals and beasts being seen, and people going missing in the woods; my grandfather himself had once seen the giant bear that bore demonic markings on his body. But what terrified me most was the story of a giant spider that sometimes frequented the woods. Some even say that the spider was Menon’s favorite pet. 

These, of course, were all just stories. Nevertheless, even the adults were afraid of going into the woods behind the bungalow. The recollections of my past visit to the bungalow still gives me chills… 

We had mathematics for our first period, and, although I was fairly good at it, I hated the period because the teacher always made us do so many difficult problems. After the bell rang, our homeroom teacher came into our classroom to announce that our mathematics teacher was absent. We all gave a sigh of relief. Our homeroom teacher said that he would leave us alone as long as we didn’t make too much noise. We were more than happy to oblige. 

As I sat there brooding over the strange dream I had had last night, I started tracing a sketch on the open notebook I had before me, using a black fountain pen. 

“That’s diabolical”, the boy sitting beside me said, peering into my notebook. “You planning on becoming the next Dali.”

Surprised by his remark, I looked into the notebook. Even I was a bit startled to see the sketch I had made – it was the grotesque sketch of a human skull on which several spiders were sitting. I had pressed the pen down with such force that the ink was oozing out trough the broken nib – giving the sketch an even more sinister appearance of thick, black blood oozing out through the skull’s right eye socket. 

When the bell rang for the morning interval after the third period, I was relived to go out and breath some fresh air – for I was having some itching inside my right ear and feeling very uncomfortable. After visiting the washroom, I went and sat on a bench near the green lawn facing the playground. Before me was a group of children playing football, and the sounds of their muffled shouting reached me as if it was carried gently by the morning breeze. For some reason, I felt like they were all chanting something. The dominant sound, however, was that of a rumbling lawnmower. It was on my side of the lawn, operated by an elderly, senile man who appeared to be in his sixties. Although the man had been working there since I could remember, none of the kids knew much about him. To me, and all the other kids, he always seemed to be a weird old man. Some even used to say that he was partly blind. 

I wondered whether it was the rumbling of the lawnmower that was causing the tickling sensation in my ear, or whether I had gotten some water trapped inside my ear canal from the morning bath. 

My solitude was broken by the arrival of two of my classmates. They started talking about the usual stuff we always talked about, and before long, their topic landed on the bungalow. 

“So they really are taking it down, huh?”. I asked, becoming a little uncomfortable as the sun was beginning to shine brighter now. 

They both said that they had heard about it, too, and one of them suggested that we should visit the bungalow on our way home after school. Not having anything else planned, I too agreed. 

I told them about the sighting of the bear my friend told me about. They, too, shared their accounts of the rumors they had heard – about the weird things that had been happening lately. They’re all just rumors, I reassured myself. I knew that our town had its fair share of fabricated rumors spread by superstitious town folks. Not long back, this story was even broadcasted on a TV program. It increased the number of visitors our town was having, and it only lead to the increase in these so called superstitious rumors. Probably just a ploy by the mayor to attract more tourists, I had heard my dad talking to my mother. However, with an initial success, the ploy had failed. 

“Anyway, we’re going to the bungalow this evening,” my friend said, jumping up from the bench, “right?”

“Right”, we both said in unison. 

“You kids really shouldn’t mess around that place”, I heard a deep voice from behind us. “You don’t know about the things that lurk behind in the woods near that place.”

I was startled to see that the old man with the lawnmower was right behind us. I found it strange that I hadn’t noticed the rumbling of the mower getting closer. Then again, the whole day was indeed a very strange one. My friends – hearing the man’s warning – gave each other strange looks. The man looked really old up close. Maybe he is much older than I had thought. He wasn’t looking at us, he kept his eyes fixed on the mower he was holding. Then, suddenly, the bell rang. There was a change in the atmosphere as all the children started rushing back to their classes; muffled footsteps and the sound of kids mumbling to each other filled the air, along with the rumbling of the lawnmower. My friends ran back to the classroom before me, and as I was about to follow them, the man turned his face to looked at me. His eyes were blank and there was that expression on his face I couldn’t recognize (now that I think about it – it was one of genuine fear). As I ran off to my classroom, a strange thought crossed my mind: maybe he really is blind! 

For some reason, he made me think of the one time I had visited that place. It was a few years ago and, if I recall correctly, it was in the middle of a summer vacation. I was out in the woods with my friends and cousins. And, although our parents had advised against it, we decided to venture far into the woods. I thought it was okay because my cousins were older, and it wasn’t like you could lose your way either – for there was a clear path that cut right through the woods. 

There was a spot with an abandoned tree house that we used to frequent. The tree house had been build to overlook a small hillside, on which there used to be a large pineapple farm; but the place had been abandoned many years back. We decided to play a game of hide and seek like we used to. They tricked me into being the seeker because I was the youngest, and they loved pulling tricks on me. 

When I finished counting and looked around, the place had the atmosphere of an eerie silence; with nothing to be heard except the soft howling of the wind and the occasional rustling of leaves. It was a little past noon, so the place was covered in a yellowish hue, with patches of sunlight coming down through the openings in the canopy. After making sure that no one was in the tree house, I started to walk around, peering behind each trunk to make sure no one was there. 

After a while, I heard the footsteps of someone running behind me, and, believing that it was one of my cousins, I darted in the direction of the sound. After some hundred yards, the whitish walls of the bungalow became visible to me behind a copse of overgrown bushes. Although I had heard a lot about the grotesque place and seen it from the road side, it was my first being that close to it. It was an old building build in traditional Hindu style; it had clay roof tiles which were mostly broken; and the outer walls were beginning to break off. Hearing some sounds from above, I looked up. I was almost terrified to see that the branches of the banyan tree were almost covered with bats. 

For an instant, I even thought that my friends were hiding inside the building. Being too afraid to try and get inside that place, I decided to looked for a broken window through which I could peep inside. I immediately found a window that was slightly ajar – the entire thing was made of wood and looked like a small door. Grabbing the lower corner of the window with both hands, I pulled with all my strength. With some initial resistance, the window came open with a creaking sound. 

A couple of bats immediately came out of the window and flew away. I was almost thrown back, but I regained my composure and looked inside, hoisting myself up by grabbing the wooden railings of the window. My breathing almost stopped when I saw the silhouette of a man staring at me from inside the abandoned bungalow. What terrified me most was the appearance of a larger figure behind the man. Both the figures started moving towards me. I gave out a shrill and ran back home. As I ran, I was able to hear the sound of the disturbed bats rising behind me.

My friends and cousins denied having anything to do with it (although I really doubted it), and my parents assured me that it was only because I had been listening to too many stories. That night I wasn’t able to sleep because the air seemed to be filled with the screeching of bats. 

Now, as I was running back to my classroom, I murmured to myself, I’m glad they’re taking that place down. 

I couldn’t bear sitting in the classroom because of the sunlight reflected onto my face from the large pond right outside the classroom. It was past noon, and we were in the first period after lunch break. The reflection was getting unbearable and my eyes were starting to hurt. I glanced at the pond but suddenly turned away because of the blinding shimmer. What happened to the curtain, I wondered. The hooks that hung the curtains were still there, but only some torn pieces of the curtain remained on them. It must have been one of the kids

The chemistry teacher was writing a chemical formula on the blackboard. I could only see half of it because half the blackboard glared in the sunlight coming in through the windows. The itching inside my ear was growing more and more uncomfortable, but I couldn’t move my head and my eyelids felt heavier than ever – like there were stones tied to it. My hands were no longer able to support the weight of my head and I could feel it slipping down. The sun seemed to shine so much more brighter now that the pond now felt like the sun; the blackboard began to turn white; the teacher and the students were beginning to dissolve into the light. 

I heard someone call my name. 

I suddenly jumped up; my head feeling lighter than ever. 

“Could you get me some chalks from the staffroom?”, the teacher asked. The room seemed brighter now; the sun was still shining brightly and the pond shimmered but it no longer felt hot. 

As I walked through the corridor, towards the staffroom, I felt that something was strange with the place. Everything looked a lot brighter than it used to, and the place was filled with a silence – unlike any silence I had known. 

I entered the staffroom. Strangely, there was no one inside, and all the windows were wide open. Although it looked sunny outside, there were many trees on that side that blocked out the sun. Then I saw – or thought I saw – a dog standing right outside the window. Somehow, I knew that it was my friend’s dog. For some reason, I ran outside to find it. 

By the time I circled and reached the other side, the dog had disappeared. There was a huge crack in the fence – big enough for a person to walk across – which I was sure wasn’t there before; yet it felt very natural. I saw the dog on the other side, staring in my direction as if it was waiting for me. Seeing me cross the fence, the dog started to run – fast enough to not let me catch up, but slow enough for me to not loose sight of it. 

As I was pursuing the dog deep into the woods, I noticed that the trees hovering over me were becoming thicker; they completely blocked out the sky. I felt the place becoming a lot darker and colder. There was a stream – a few meters wide – that flowed through the heart of the woods, and there was a thick piece of log laid across it – wide enough for one person to walk across. As I looked down into the water, standing on the log, I saw a fish swimming up the stream. I didn’t know fishes swam this far up stream. Anyway, as I stood there staring into the water, I had completely forgotten about the dog. On seeing an orange crab near the end of the stream, I came to my senses and ran ahead. 

The dog was nowhere to be seen. I, however, decided to follow the small clearing in the woods before me. The woods were familiar to me, for I sometimes used to walk home through it. But I felt that I was engulfed in an air that was completely alien. 

The white walls of the bungalow became visible, and I felt my heart rising as I neared the place. The itching in my ear was becoming more sharper and I felt that I could hear muffled voices of some distant chanting. There was an enormous spider’s web on the banyan tree, but it was too dark to see any of the bats. Maybe the spider ate them all. While I stood there staring into the open back door of the bungalow, a giant bear walked right past me from behind. It had markings on its dark brown fur that appeared like scars, and there was an oddly familiar, dark green cloth tied around its neck. Suddenly, my eyes became fixated on the threshold of the door, on which the silhouette of a man was appearing. The figure came forward – it’s face was pale like it was illuminated by the moon; instead of eyes, the figure had black holes through which spiders were coming out. The chanting in my ears sharpened as the figure opened its mouth; a larger, dark figure was beginning to appear behind him… 

“Don’t say you’re a hypersomniac now”, I heard someone say from behind, as I lifted my head from the bench. “You’re weird enough as it is.”

My friend told me that I had slept for two hours straight, even through the interval. Since the teachers were having a meeting, no one came to take class and no one had bothered to wake me up. I thought that it was weird, but, as I said earlier, the whole day was indeed a strange one. 

While the three of us were making our way into the woods to follow the path that lead to the bungalow, I was startled by a strange sight: a tree had fallen down, breaking a part of the school’s fence – at the exact spot where I had seen the crack in my dream. Weird. 

When I asked my friend, he told me that it had fallen down in the previous night’s storm. 

“I didn’t even know that there was a storm last night.”

He seemed really surprised that I didn’t know about it. 

“You really do live in another world”, he laughed, “don’t you?”

I guess. I thought about the strange dreams I’d been having lately. 

The woods felt very different from that of my dreams. It wasn’t that dark or thick like I used to remember. Many of the trees had been cut down, and some parts, which were being cleared for construction, exposed the red mud that stood in contrast to the rest of the place. I felt as if the feeling of mystery that I used to feel when walking through these woods was slowly fading away. And, for some reason, everything appeared to be a little melancholic, bathed in the rich evening sunlight. 

“Hey”. My companion grabbed my shoulder. Then he pointed to a spider’s web that was right in front of my face, woven between two tiny branches that extended into the path. “You don’t want to get caught in the spider’s web, do you?”

I kept thinking about what he said for some time. Something felt awfully strange about it. Strange. 

The bungalow laid in rubles before us, it’s entire structure knocked down with only a couple of walls standing. I was glad that the place that haunted my childhood was no more; but at the same time, I felt a pang of sadness. 

We made or way into the middle of the large group of people that had gathered around one side of a giant excavator. They were all staring into what looked like an old coffin – inside the coffin was the whitish skeleton of a person with an open mouth. And the coffin was crawling with tiny spiders; siders were crawling out of its eye sockets… its eyes… 

I learned that they had just found the coffin inside a hidden basement under the bungalow, that was plastered from the inside. It was estimated to be many decades old, and I later heard from someone that the skeleton was that of a middle aged male… 

When I was a child my grandfather had told me the story of a man who was cast into hell. The man was a sinner, yet, considering his act of sparing a spider’s life once, Buddha decided to help him by giving him a spider’s thread, so that he could climb up to heaven. The man, noticing that several others were trying to climb up the thread as well and fearing that it might break, shouts that the thread is his alone. At this moment the thread breaks, casting him and the others back into the abyss. What a strange story! 

That night everything felt very quiet. I laid awake in my bed for a very long time, thinking about… nothing. The silence was suddenly broken by the screeching of a bat; or, perhaps, of several bats. My right ear was starting to itch again. I got off from my bed. I didn’t know what time it was, but the moon was shining very brightly that night. I opened the back door and stepped outside. 

The moonlight appeared to bathe the trees that covered the hillside in a sea of greys. A cauldron of bats were circling over me; their moving shadows animated the whole place. I saw several animals emerging out from the woods; leading them was a giant bear with a cloth tied around its neck. I was able to hear the chanting in my ear again. The trees moved as if someone was swinging from branch to branch. Then, from the shadows of the trees, the giant figure of a spider materialized before me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

2 thoughts on “Caught in the Spider’s Web

  1. Hi how many words is this?