The Bower
by Katy Naylor, 3:49am July 10th 2022

The web vibrates. The dead are singing again. At first the song was a barely perceptible, easy to mistake for a draught gently rippling the air. Now the threads dance in time to the song.


 

Bear Creek mortuary is bigger that you might expect, if you are only familiar with the services supplied in a regular small town. It’s cavernous, in fact, a great hall with a grand arched ceiling curving, curving up towards the light that never quite makes it in.


 

Dangle, dangle, dangle from the shadows in the dusty corners. My eight legs dance as I spin and spin and wait, wait, wait for the flies to come.


 

My life may seem sedentary, routine even. Spin and wait and eat, spin and wait and eat. You may think I get bored. I never do. I watch, I stretch, I spin. The craft is a endless fascination to me: no two webs are the same.


 

I talk to my hundred brothers and sisters, too. Though we hatched from the same sac, they often have quite a different perspective on things. I see plenty with these eight eyes, and I turn turn turn it over and over. I have plenty of time.


 

The dead have been coming in faster lately, that’s for sure. My brothers and sisters bring me rumours on the breeze: times were hard for the dead. An accident at the crematorium had stopped the furnace burning. The Gloaming Ritual had been halted by unusually windy weather. Mad Bob’s Special Tacos had caused a resurgence in the walking dead, who can be seen queueing peaceably but all too numerously around the block outside the Bear Creek Pineapple Palace and Undead Holding Facility. The mortuary is the closest to full that it had ever been.


 

Still, I was quite suprised, perhaps even disturbed, when I first heard the dead woman sing. She was small, very pale, with dark hair cropped blunt. She didn’t move – there was no flutter of an eyelid or parting of lips. But she sang all the same. The song rose from her flesh like smoke, fine and light, ever ascending.


 

It wasn’t something I’d seen before. I had watched for a long time, and in all these long nights the dead had always kept their counsel.


 

I had watched the little man who cleans and dresses each of them, before they are put quite neatly into their box, perform his services over and over again, always with a quiet care that I couldn’t help but respect. He may mutter, or hum under his breath, but the dead had always kept their own counsel. Even now, he didn’t seem to notice the song. Perhaps it was at too high a pitch for him to hear.


 

The little man didn’t hear, but I did. I listened and watched as the dead woman sang under his hands, and the traces of my web began to vibrate. I’m proud of my webs. No two webs are the same. They are craft and they are art and they bring me my flies. But now, vibrating with the song of the dead, my web was transformed. It glittered as the song settled in bright beads along its threads. It quivered with desire.


 

The threads quiver, and I remember.

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I remember the life before. The press of the sac, nestled among the soft bodies and feathered legs of so many of my brothers and sisters. A warm wriggling mass, a comforting pressure, all one until the sac ruptures and we are free.

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The next time I heard the song of the dead I was less suprised. A man this time, well into middle age. The little man dressed him carefully, and combed his hair, as the song shimmered around him.

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I remember how dizzying it is to be in free fall. To float through the gentle air and wriggle, wriggle, wriggle my legs as I please. And just as I float a little too far, just as I glide on the edge of control, the realisation that I can SPIN. I can make my own nets and my own tightropes. Clumsy at first but then I learn, oh how I learn. My eight eyes shine with delight. Look, brothers and sisters!


 

Suspended in a mote of silver light, I dance.

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The next singer looked stern. Their hair curled around them like snakes.

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I remember how it feels, to learn the beat of my own rhythm, the pulse of my own necessary bliss.


 

Oh! The wonder of it! How I make my nets fast, silver, alive with a faint gleam. How the air is thick with the buzz, buzz, buzz of the little winged creatures, always so busy, so busy to find the next oasis of decay. There’s no buzz or bustle for me. I only have to wait, quite still, as they move, as they always do, towards the silk threads, enchanted by their shimmering glamour. Then whoops! Too late. The magic turns to something else, something slow and sticky and before they know it they are stuck. The buzz turns to a struggle, turns to a wiggle, turns to sweet still.


 

My dance grows ever more complex, yet still I dance alone.

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This singer was frail. I could hardly believe that thin, grey body could make such a beautiful sound.

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I remember the day when the dance changes. He is small, so much smaller than me. But how he can dance. I see him dangle, dangle, dangling from a thread of his own. He darts and twirls, tracing wild patterns in the air. His every movement is entrancing. The neat sufficiency of his small, gleaming body. The sparkle in each of his eyes. The lazy swing of each leg as it caresses the air.


 

He wants me. I know he does. Every twitch and ripple betrays it. I sit still, but I know my body betrays me too. The twitch and shiver of a leg. A rapid blink circling my head. The rise and fall of my abdomen that little bit too fast. The air crackles between us. Yet still he keeps his distance.


 

Back then I didn’t understand why.

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The next body was small. Far too small. The song quivered with longing to find out more, a yearning now forever cut off.

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I rember those nights watching him. The shadows on the wall waxing and waning in the moonlight. Each night he moves a little closer. I imagine what it would be like to feel him next to me, on me. The light brush of his downy skin. The joyous tangle of limbs as we finally meet. The pressure, different to the crush of the sac, but no less welcome. As thrilling as freefall, as sweet as the tenderest bluebottle. I can almost taste it.


 

But still he does not make the final jump. For all his whirling bravado, he is nervous. I try to show him comfort, to be a reassuring presence. I spin and sit, at the heart of a bower of silk. I will give him the welcome he deserves.

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Two singers this time. They lay side by side, cold hands and voices intertwined.


 

I remember how delicious it is to wait for him. Night has fallen. The morgue is still and silent. I sit, ready, as I’ve sat for so long now. I could hear him coming to me.


 

And then, finally, finally it is here. He is here. One deep crushed velvet moment, a tangle of gossamer and silver thread and bliss as he moved within me. Finally, finally, my love has come to me.

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This singer was unremarkable to look at. A plain suit. Dusty brown hair. But she exuded such loneliness, that the walls reverberated with her pain.

 

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I remember how it feels, now our moment of union is complete. Our joy is fulfilled, as perfect as the finest web. But it cannot last. Now I understand his long wariness. A spasm. A jerk. And he is gone. His curled body tumbles from my web, to the floor below.


 

At that moment, I felt the whole world warp. The web we’d made together had torn, and could never be repaired. A great shudder moved through me, and my eight eyes filled with tears.


 

And so I sit alone again. And so I sit and spin and sit and spin, as the dead sing and time passes and my shrivelled love lies shattered on the ground beneath me.


 

My hundred brothers and sisters try to console me. Think of your thousand eggs, they say. Think of the future: there will be another. They should understand. No two webs are the same. How can another match what we made?

 

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The little man still works below, his eyes always fixed on his charges. If he had the ears to hear, what they could only tell him.


 

The song of the dead moves through me, and my web sways gently to its rhythm. For a moment I imagine I can hear another voice, down below, small, raised in harmony. But I know what I can really hear is a song of my own. A song of tomorrows. One day I know I will descend, and meet it at the source.