The Struggle. Short Story.

Bill buried himself deeper under the blanket, it was a glorious weekend, one in which he had nothing to do and three whole days in which to do it. He even had the whole house to himself, Karen was off at some business thing and wouldn’t be back until Sunday night. Soon he’d get up, once he stopped being so warm and comfortable and the call of the bathroom became too much, but for now, he was content. It had been a long time since he had a weekend, hell even a day, to himself. He would miss Karen, but sometimes you just needed a break to recharge the batteries. Work had been hectic the last few weeks too, but their project was all done and ready for Monday morning, finished, with much relish and triumph yesterday afternoon, ahead of schedule. Bill yawned and, smiling, drifted off to sleep again.

He woke an unknown amount of time later, it felt late, but it was probably because he was used to getting up early. He guessed it was probably around half nine, and he had no intention of moving any time soon. He drifted in and out of consciousness, then he started to roll over, trying to make himself more comfortable. He got halfway through the roll before something gently tugged him back. Frowning and still half asleep he tried again, the pulling became harder, insistent, a steady pressure that was only relieved by him laying back. Groaning he opened his eyes, it looked like he’d have to face the day sooner rather than later. Unconcerned he yawned and stretched, but his body would only stretch so far because something stopped it, that same strange tugging sensation. He looked down at the duvet, it looked strange, like it had some kind of pattern criscorssing it. Huh. He looked down and saw that he was stuck to the bed, after a second he realised he wasn’t stuck to the bed itself, he was stuck to some sort of sticky string that covered the bed. It glistened lightly when he shifted his head. It was a thin, fine material. He tried to pull away from it again and it stretched slightly, moving a short distance before pulling his arm back to where it was before. If he didn’t know better, Bill would have thought it was some kind of giant web.

He tugged and struggled against the grip of the mysterious substance, trying to get free but failing again and again. After a while he began to tire and slowly gave up. He just had to stay calm, that was all. He would wiggle free eventually and even if he couldn’t surely someone would come by and visit. His parents were talking about coming over to visit one of the days, and people would worry when they couldn’t get in contact with him. His mobile phone was on his bedside locker, tantalisingly close but just out of reach and with how he was stuck it might as well have been on the other side of the world. Someone would find him, they would, worst came to worst he’d just have to stick it out for a few days, Karen was back on Sunday, she’d find him then, three days wasn’t that long. He thought back, what was it? 3 months without food, 3 days without water, 3 minutes without air? Well, he could do with losing a few pounds anyway, there was no real danger there. And he could breathe just fine. No the problem was the water. He would be fine though, surely? If he was stuck here he couldn’t move, if he couldn’t move he wouldn’t sweat all that much and there was no unbearable heat to make him sweat. He’d be fine for three days, wouldn’t he? He thought back to his struggles earlier, how a thin sheen of sweat had formed over his body. No more of that. He had to stay calm, think tactically, that was all. He looked around the bed, at the nightstand, trying to see if there was anything, anything at all that was in reach, but there was nothing, not even a glass of water or something that could be used to try and cut the thread. And worse, he could feel the uncomfortable pressure growing, he needed to pee.

 

Bill didn’t know how much later it was when he felt a kind of vibration through the string. It was odd, like it was being shaken. Maybe that meant someone was moving through the house, but he didn’t hear someone come in. What if it was a burglar? He weighed the options, the vibrating was getting stronger so they’d find him anyway, so what if they stole his stuff while he was stuck here, they were welcome to it as long as they called for help before they left. He took a deep breath, then started to yell, “Hey! Help! I’m in here, in the bedroom, I’m trapped, please!” He saw the handle turning and breathed a sigh of relief, they had found him, he was saved. The door swung open and a giant creature entered. Bill let out a shout of surprise and terror, standing in the room it seemed impossible that it could have fit through the doorway, its legs seemed to span the entire room, it was low and squat, with a large, slightly hair body. It took Bill a moment to realise it was a giant spider. He began to shiver, and without him noticing, his bladder released itself. The spider opened and closed its maw, its fangs were long, about two feet and looked sharp. The mandibles twitched, then it made a noise, almost like a throat clearing.
“Oh good, you’re awake.” Its speech was perfectly clear and held a faint English accent.
“What?”
“I enjoy having a little chat before we get down to business.”
Bill looked at the spider for a moment before deciding that he had to be dreaming, or he had gone insane.
“Well, it won’t be much of a chat if you don’t say anything.”
“I have to be dreaming. You can’t be real.”
“I assure you, you are very much awake and I am very much real.” One of the spiders legs reached out and touched Bills leg, it was bristly and warm, Bills skin broke out in goose bumps, he shivered uncontrollably for a moment.

“No. It’s just a dream. Like that story, what’s the one? The one with the cockroach by that guy, Katz something.”
“Ah, I believe you’re referring to Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, and it wasn’t a dream.”
“I’m pretty sure that wasn’t his name.”
“It was. I am certain of it, I have a very good memory.”
The spider moved closer, travelling with ease over its web. It leaned down slightly at Bills foot and scraped its fang across him, Bill let out a yelp of pain, “See, not a dream, you felt pain.”
“I’m mad. I’ve gone insane.” He felt a dull heat move through his leg and into his torso.
“What’s that? What did you do?”
“Just something to keep you calm and help you relax a little.” The spider moved closer, there was a strange smell about it, not quite animalistic, something was off about it. The stronger the smell became the more Bill began to panic, for some reason the smell made it real. His mind couldn’t fake something like that too. The spider plucked Bill from the web smoothly, Bill tried to struggle, hoping it would drop him, but his movements were slow, weak. carefully, the spider began to wrap him in a cocoon.

When it was done his arms were tightly pinned to his sides, and only his face remained free. The spider placed him on the bed again.
“Now, all done. The hard bit is over. Well, over for me anyway.”
“What are you?”
“Isn’t it obvious? You can plainly see what I am.”
“No. It’s impossible.” The further away the spider was the easier it was to deny its existence. “You couldn’t have come in, someone would have seen you, you’re too big, besides you’re speaking, English no less. Even if there was a species of spider as large as you once there would be myths and legends about it. No. You’re a delusion, a fantasy.”
The spider sighed, “So many of you retreat into that. What ever gets you through it.”
“See, you have an English accent, how did you get over here? There’s a sea between there and here, spiders can’t swim!” He paused for a second, could they? He wasn’t too sure about that.

“There are boats you know.”
“Yes, small confined spaces in which you’d be caught.”
“Assuming I have no one to help me.”
“Who would help you?”
“Well, you never know, do you.”
Bill shook his head. “Nope. No. Just no. I will wake up and this will be a dream or I’m in an asylum somewhere. No. This isn’t possible. It just isn’t. I refuse to believe you’re real and I’m going to have to ask you to leave. Just get out. Go on.”
The spider laughed, “I have you here, trapped in my web and you are asking me to leave? You’re in my home.”
“It was my home first.”
“If I leave now no one will find you you know. Three days at least. My web will probably absorb moisture from you. You’ll die.”
“Well, you’re not real, and neither is this web, so obviously it’s some kind of mind over matter situation.” Bill struggled in the cocoon, trying to break free, but he was even weaker than before. After a moment he stopped, panting.
There was a faint gurgling noise from his stomach. “Hear that?”
“What?”

It gurgled again.

“That, that right there.”
“Yeah, it’s my stomach, I’m kind of hungry, what about it?”
Somehow the spider smiled, its mandibles stretching grotesquely, “That’s the sound of your internal organs liquefying.” It smacked its mandibles together twice, “yum.”
Bill started to struggle again as the room filled with his screams.

 

He was so tired, so very tired and weak. The spider had left maybe an hour before and Bill hadn’t stopped struggling. The cocoon was damp with sweat and he was shivering. The spider had left the door open and he could occasionally hear it, scuttling through the house. He didn’t know what it was doing, he didn’t want to know. He began to retreat into the belief that it wasn’t real, none of it was. It must be some kind of delusion. Obviously he had stuff he needed to work through and the best way to do it would be to go along with the delusion, try and escape and kill the spider and what ever it represented. Or just get out of the house, that would be good too. He could always confront it later, during some kind of therapy. Bills stomach had been hurting for a while but the pain was spreading, his muscles felt both crampy and weak, a steady burn seemed to fill his entire body.

 

The spider returned occasionally to “check in” on Bill. Sometimes it would prod at his stomach lightly, when ever it did Bill felt a sharp stab of pain. The last time it came back, the spider pronounced it “perfect.” Then it leaned over his body, Bill couldn’t see what it was doing, the angle wasn’t right. Pain, bright and all consuming, so intense he couldn’t even scream. When it finally stopped Bill was exhausted and barely conscious, his body spasmed and shook. The spider looked up at him, a bead of liquid formed and fell onto the cocoon, just before he passed out Bill realised the liquid, the juice, was him.

 

It was two days before Bill finally, mercifully passed out for the final time. He didn’t wake again. The spider continued to feast until there was nothing but a desiccated husk left.

 

Karen put her bag down in the hall, glad to be home. “Bill? I’m back!”
There was nothing. Strange. She turned on the hall light, she had expected him to be here, and had hoped he would have had dinner ready. There was a strange smell in the air, but she couldn’t quite place it. She moved into the kitchen and opened the fridge, she was starving, she hadn’t eaten since lunch. She grabbed a slice of cheese from the fridge and closed it, it almost looked like Bill hadn’t eaten anything from it. He probably gorged on take away for the last three days. She’d have to get some veg into him before he developed scurvy. She grabbed her phone out of her pocket and rang Bill, but it went straight to voicemail. She frowned, it had been Thursday when she last spoke to him and she had been so busy, and so tired at night, that she forgot to call him. Maybe he forgot that she was coming back tonight? “Hello? Anyone home?”
She went back into the hall and grabbed her bag, she might as well tidy it away while she waited. She looked at her watch, if she didn’t hear from him in half an hour she’d just sort herself out for dinner. The smell was stronger as she went up the stairs and towards the bedroom. As she flipped on the lights she placed it, stale urine. She looked at the bed, the stained sheets. “Oh Jesus that’s gross.” He must have gotten absolutely off his face and pissed the bed. She frowned, surely he would have cleaned it up by now. She went across the room and opened the window, letting some fresh air in, hoping it would get rid of the stench. She removed the sheets from the bed and carefully brought them downstairs to the washing machine. How long had it been like that? The mattress was probably ruined. What ever about Bill, she was going to sleep in the spare room tonight.

 

When the washing machine started the worry kicked in. Maybe he was sick? Or he hurt himself? What if he had alcohol poisoning and needed to go to the hospital? She checked the house again, no sign of Bill, no sign of a note. Feeling panic flutter in her stomach she took out her phone and began to ring their friends, someone would know where he was. As the phone rang she took a deep breath, it was fine, she was going to find him and then she could be mad at him. He couldn’t be too badly hurt, surely someone would have called to tell her if he was. No, he probably shamefacedly fled the house after realising he’d left the pissy sheets on the mattress for too long.
“Hi Frank, it’s Karen, listen you haven’t seen Bill have you? I got back tonight and he isn’t here and his phone is off.”
“No, sorry, I haven’t talked to him since Thursday.”
“All right, thanks, if you hear from him let me know ok?”
“I will, bye Karen.”

“Bye.”
Hanging up, Karen sighed and went to the next number, when she found him she was going to kill him just for putting her through this worry.

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About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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