Monday, 4 June 2012

Chapter Fourteen

More chittering, squealing spider-talk. Winter wished she could block her ears as well as shutting her eyes, because the noise was every bit as horrible as the sight of the creeping mass of eight-legged things. Unfortunately her arms remained pinioned over her head, long-since gone numb from the restricted blood flow. A high pitched volley of chattering was followed by a deeper one: the children talking to the mother and the mother responding.

Garmondy, standing just to the side of where Winter was bound to the wall, twitched reflexively and hurried forward at the sound, an awkward approximation of the spider-tongue spilling from his mouth as he did so. Winter saw him kneel before the hole in the wall, lowering his head like a peasant before his queen. The little spiders that blanketed the floor parted before him, and seeing him there surrounded by such monstrous things Winter was reminded of how old he was, and how frail. How could he be responsible for something so evil as this?

The queen spoke again, and then Garmondy, bowing even lower as he did so. Though it was hard for Winter to read emotion from the insectile half-language that was being spoken, she thought that he seemed scared, perhaps even contrite.

The conversation concluded, and Garmondy backed away from the hole in the wall, still stooped in supplication, taking infinite care not to stand on any of the spiders that milled about his feet. Once he was clear of them, he stood, crossed the basement and disappeared through a narrow wooden door on the other side. When he re-emerged from the door he was wearing a heavy brown duffel coat and  holding a shotgun in his hands.

Adrenaline shot through Winter in a sudden, coppery burst. She threw herself from the wall, tugging at the chains that held her there, only succeeding in cutting her wrists still further. Meeting Garmondy's eyes, she shook her head frantically, trying to appeal with her eyes. But he strode right past her, paying her so little attention that she might as well have been another item of furniture.

"It seems," he said over his shoulder, "that one of your friends has escaped. Her children saw him, limping through the woods. Off to get help, no doubt."

Winter's mind raced. Mark! Mark must have woken up, realised what was going on, and found a way out of the hotel. She felt a fountainhead of triumph in her chest. If anyone could save her and Jenny it was Mark. He would make it, she knew he would. And he would fetch the police and they would come and when they saw what was here they would burn this place to the ground.

Almost as quickly as it had come the optimism faded, cold, oily fear taking its place. Why was Mark limping? Was he injured already? What if he didn't make it? What if Garmondy caught up with him and shot him? Then what would happen to her? If Christopher could be killed then so could Mark, and so could she. She thought of her friends, her family. All of their families. Four sets of parents waiting anxiously for news, and never knowing what had happened, never understand how and where and why their children had disappeared.

Garmondy checked the gun over, slotting bullets into it from a pocket in his coat. Every metallic noise he coaxed from the device made Winter wince as if he'd hit her. Then, evidently satisfied with his weapon, Garmondy strode towards another door in the opposite wall.

"I'll be back soon, my dear. Her children will keep you company while I hunt." He paused. "Don't try to escape while I'm gone," he said, his voice suddenly more earnest, almost caring. "Please believe me, you would not get away, and I would hate for you to die before your time."

And then he was gone, and Winter was alone in the basement. Alone with the spiders, helpless as a fly in a web.

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