A group of writers in Chichester coming together once a month for inspiration, collaboration and sensation
Burn amber spider,
Soar still in fevered green pane.
Beware passion’s web.
H.McCoy ~ 2005
On the edge of the city where wasteland and desert meet lies the Titan. In a certain morning light it is etched in fire and bronze, rising to sail the rusting waves of the scrapyard beneath it. It is formed in the likeness of man, being both monstrous and beautiful, and it stirs the thoughts strongly as to what good or evil it would wreak if it were truly to breath and stalk the land. Though it would seem almost complete to the onlooker it is in fact a failed birth, assembled from the scraps of civilisation, gnawed and disassembled daily by it’s obsessed creator.
I had journeyed to the scrapyard to find the recluse who had carved the leviathan from that sprawling mass. My aim, as both an aspiring artist and journalist, was to interview the maverick polymath, Dr Hank McCoy. A man who had both inspired and terrified children all over the world, myself included, as news channel after news channel showed the birth of his cybernetic creations. The same man who disappeared after the very public breakdown of his marriage, career, and rumour has it his mental health, some twenty odd years ago.
When I arrived at the scrapyard it was only to find locked gates and the barking of guard dogs. One hound though, a large augmented albino, only whimpered and begged. It was in some state of alarm, looking at me then dashing off deeper into heaps of machinery, and then back again. It was then I heard faint cries of a man calling for help and understood. Scaling the gate with some difficulty I entered. I was wary of the dogs but the albino had silenced them with a flash from it’s steely eyes and a growl more the metallic shrieking of blades.
The wiry grey haired man was trapped and had been for some time, his blue eyes were fury and embarrassment on seeing me. A man reputably of both of immense pride, as well as genius. A pile of machinery had fallen on him and where he could have removed it himself, to do so would have caused a larger portion of debris to collapse and so damaging part of the Titan. An unforgivable act to perfection he told me. Not that it was perfect, in fact far from it. The monument, machine, or lament (all three he told me) was far from perfect. For years he had tinkered and changed parts endlessly but in this brush with mortality he had realised it was driving him mad.
Once I had helped him free he thanked me then embraced the albino hound, that had been barking ecstatically at it’s masters release. His only true companion. His perfect mess he called it, as it bounded about licking both him and me in it’s glee. We retired out of the day’s heat to a cobweb infested building. Upon hearing my intentions Dr McCoy’s brow darkened, furrowed with suspicious thoughts. I feared I’d be leaving at some pace pursued by snapping jaws, as many other inquisitive and ultimately unwelcome visitors had found in the past. This time though the old man stated that he had need of me, the night trapped had changed something in him. He had need to send a message and so here I type his story.
“When I was a boy, my mind a leaping fire of curiosity, I studied natural history for a phase. I collected specimens of all shapes and sizes. I pinned them in containers from shoe boxes to make up tins, much to my mother’s displeasure. One day I spotted a tiger striped tear drop of a spider, suspended in the window pane of the kitchen. The small arachnid was but an infant of it’s kind, and a runt at that. I deemed it suitable to study, to calculate growth rates and so on, specifically as a distinct lack of food in the sterile environment of my mother’s kitchen meant it was all but starving. At the time I had only watched in fascination as it remained there waiting, waiting and slowly starving to death. It was but an experiment, and I marvelled at the manacles of evolution that bound it blindly to it’s fate. But in my night trapped I ruminated feverishly on this memory. It even pervaded my dreams, in which I found myself metamorphosed into that very same spider of my youth. I was trapped by my very own nature, casting net after net but catching nought. Hanging before some translucent terror, some incomprehensible force, keeping me from my prey. Prey I could see but never touch. The web slinging was a compulsion and rapture I could not resist, and so in oblivious obsession I starved. But in the dream a mighty and merciful hand freed me from the trap to run and hunt where I pleased.
On waking I realised as a child I had only watched the spider die. It had been free in my mind to scuttle and inspire musings, poems, and stories, but in reality the thought of setting it free had never occurred to me. Not till last night.”
It was then the Doctor looked me in the eye and told me he had been saved by that merciful hand. I thought he was referring to the hand in the dream but here he would glance at the bulk that towered outside the building, and with a strange look in his eyes, told me that the debris was pushed. Pushed by the Titan. Now here reader I must insist these are the doctors exact words. At the time I ascribed some doubt, dehydration, sun stroke, shock, a head wound, these things can all confuse one’s memory. However, events to follow have since muddied the clear waters of my cynicism.
Seeing my incredulity the Doctor was angered and our time together was soon put to an end. Before I departed the Doctor told me that “I have seen my chains, my obsession and it’s folly. Now I would only seek to further the merciful hand that has saved me.” Again at these words I was troubled and left doubting the man I once hailed as hero. I feared him driven mad by solitude and obsession.
The Doctor had agreed that I could return, albeit briefly the next morning to take a few photos of the Titan. On arriving though I found the Doctor gone. Not only him but so too the Titan. The only clue being the giant foot prints, leading like some prophet into the heart of the desert. Though this surprised me it was what I found in the Doctor’s dwelling that scared me the most, and haunts me still. Rumour had it that before his disappearance the Doctor had ventured further into uncharted and altogether darker realms of science, areas of genetic research now banned. As such it was with some trepidation that I entered the dim building. It is the spiders that haunt me. It was not any visible aspect of the eight legged aliens that scared me, it was the hundreds of webs that festooned the place like fairground bunting. Each web more intricate in design than any I had ever seen before, each the geometric crystal veil of a corpse bride, but worse still, each and every web was empty.
Now I can only write this and wonder at the empty webs in my own home, every home in fact, every tree, and jungle, if the news reports are to be believed. I can only shiver and live again with my childhood fears, fears no longer abated by the thought that at least where the web is, so too the spider.