Monday, 6 August 2012


The spiders let them go. At the moment their mother had screamed they had forgotten all about the humans in their midst, surrounding her instead and crying out in grief and helplessness. No knowing how long they would be distracted for, Mark thought. Best to get out while they could.

The three of them managed to squeeze past the car and hobble out into the middle of the car park. There they stopped, Mark holding up a hand to halt Winter in her tracks. Garmondy stood at the head of the lane, looking weaker and frailer than ever. Blood stained his clothes like a tidemark, and he was leaning heavily on the rifle like a crutch, his left leg held tenderly off the ground.

"You," he breathed. His voice was quiet, tentative, but somehow perfectly audible too. "You've killed her, haven't you? You've killed her!"

"Yes," Winter said, almost shouted. "She's dead! She's burned up! Dead!"

Mark held out a hand to try and hush her, terribly aware that Garmondy still had the rifle, that he could shoot them dead with hardly any effort at all. But he did not raise the weapon. All he did was look at them sadly and shake his head.

"I really did have no choice, you know," he said, his voice steady, almost conversational, but with a tremble in it that betrayed the truth.

"Yes you did," spat Winter. "Of course you did. You could have killed it. Should have."

Garmondy nodded reluctantly, as though acknowledging a well-argued point. "After...after my daughter died I was very lonely. I needed... company. In a corner of the attic I found the egg, brought it down, incubated it, hatched it, cared for it--"

"Fed it?" said Winter. Behind them the screeches and insect noises of the spiders were starting to tail off, the sounds growing weak and reedy. As he glanced back Mark saw a glow behind the windows, flickering like a hearth fire. The smell of acrid smoke was on the air.

"Fed it, yes," said Garmondy, and then wistfully added, "They really are such fascinating creatures."

"How long before it started eating people?" said Winter, her voice cold and hateful.

Garmondy didn't reply. He shook his head again, and Mark was surprised to see tears in his eyes. "I had no choice," said the old man again, and then he started walking towards them. Mark pulled Jenny aside quickly, and Winter took a step in the other direction, Garmondy passing between them without another word or glance. He hobbled up to the front doors of his old hotel--his old hotel from the windows of which smoke now billowed blackly--hobbled up to the doors and slipped inside.

Winter didn't waste a second staring after him. She grabbed Mark's arm. "Let's go," she said. "Please, let's go."

"What about Chris?" said Mark. "Where is he? You wait with Jenny and I'll go in through a side entrance and get him."

Winter didn't say a word, just looked at him, and in her expression he saw everything she needed to know. He had thought it an odd question a moment ago: how long before it started eating people? He had wondered how Winter knew that the spider preyed on the guests of the hotel. And now he knew, and the knowledge was like a knife between his ribs, a puncture wound, wide and deep, letting all the air and warmth and life seep out of him like air from a balloon.

"No," he said, half questioning.

"I saw..." said Winter, but swallowed and tailed off, unable to speak. She didn't need to. Mark took her arm with his free hand, and together they turned towards the lane and started to walk, an odd and tattered procession, quiet in their grief.

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