Jorōgumo

Massimo lay staring at the ceiling. His waking hours were filled with boredom and madness.  He watched the opium smoke curl about his head and trail out of the open window.

He hallucinated a strange thing; a giant spider much like the golden orb weaver in the garden, lumbering in through his open window. It stalked in and out of the shadows of the room before leaving again. 

Immediately after, his usual nightmare took over, suffocating his mind. The dead he had sent to his deepest subconscious to sink into the black depths rose silently again to stare back at him with yearning, accusatory eyes.  When he finally fell asleep his dreamt the giant spider was chasing him, its body was plastic, shining and huge and its fangs dripped with venom.

Later that afternoon Massimo woke, rolled out of bed and showered.  The face that stared back at him in the foggy mirror was a stranger. He was losing his mind he knew. He had been for a while, but did he feel regret?  No. A job was a job and being a hired killer paid well. Despite his mental state, he was still a predator at the top of his food chain.

The town of Fukiya was neat and its architecture was ancient and pleasantly red, beige and brown.  He wandered through its backstreets and down ancient alleyways. Hanging signs written in kanji jutted from the sides of buildings in crowding succession.  This was where the people went about their daily work making their wares, some still in the ancient ways.

On the way out of town, he passed a derelict house with broken windows and rotting walls. Its dereliction sent a shiver up his spine. He walked into the warm still countryside. A peaceful feeling replaced some of the frantic insanity and Massimo was lulled by the comforting sound of crickets chirping in the afternoon sun.  

It was night time when he came back into town, the lights shone painfully in his night adjusted eyes.  People had gathered in small open-air restaurants eating and talking.

Red and orange lights from a café sign glinted off an interesting woman’s oiled and perfectly coiffed bun. It shone like black lacquer and contrasted perfectly with her porcelain skin.  Long latex clad thighs were revealed enticingly by a short yellow kimono, a red obi circled the narrow waist and curved black nails clicked slowly against a patterned sake cup.  He met her eyes, they were black and glinted with a hungry interest. Massimo had the momentary unsettling image of an insect viewing its prey. If you think about it, she was wearing the typical warning colours of a venomous creature.

The woman’s face seemed ageless. There was also an attitude about her that seemed to him to reflect upon Japan itself. She appeared both ancient and modern, both geisha and Harajuku girl.  He found her very interesting. She smiled at him and leaned forward bringing her lips close to his ear, she whispered: “will you marry me?”

Massimo laughed and said he would. They stayed together and talked into the night eating and drinking sake together. Her name was Masako. As his vision began to blur she seemed to remain sober.  When they got up to leave she asked him to come to her house.

They stopped in front of a rundown house on the edge of town that looked familiar. As Masako walked up the stone steps to the front landing Massimo hesitated to wonder at the broken tiles that crunched under their feet, he also noticed through the pleasant fuzz in his head that the weathered grey walls seemed very old.

Inside the house, Masako lit a small lantern and the inner room was warmly suffused in a soft yellow light.  She beckoned for him to sit down on a futon and picked up a lute. She kneeled daintily and played a lilting tune for him.  He relaxed and pondered this strange woman, maybe he should marry her, it would be a pleasant arrangement he thought and imagined himself introducing her to his dark life.

He lay down to get more comfortable, sleep was overtaking his body when Massimo noticed that his feet seemed stuck together. He struggled to move them apart without any luck. Reaching down he felt a sticky binding holding them tight.  He came fully awake and his eyes shot up to see Masako kneeling a short distance from him and looking him over. Her eyes burned darkly with that strange hunger.

She smiled at him with a mouth full of fangs, their pointed tips gleaming in the yellow light.  She shuffled over to him on her knees and climbed onto his chest. She undid her red obi and let it fall to the floor, her kimono fell apart and he could see the soft curve of her breasts.  She reached back and let her hair fall down in a soft shadow, the kimono came open then and revealed shining, long black spider legs. Massimo’s throat constricted and his mouth opened in a silent scream.  Delicate black feet touched his face and felt his body.

Masako leaned down and bit gently but firmly into his throat, venom pumped into his veins paralysing his body. She discarded the kimono and began to bind his body with her web, her lower body was now an ugly red and yellow oblong shape. Thoughts raced with all the possibilities of how this could be happening and could not find an answer, it can’t be real his mind kept screaming, it’s the opium. He had finally gone insane.  He could only stare out of his frozen face as the giant spider spun him in her dextrous limbs, the only remaining humanity to the beast was the beautiful woman’s face and dark flowing hair, the rest had changed into a spider. Its webbing had reached his shoulders when she let him drop to the floor.

His eyes looked into hers pleading for mercy but their shiny black points were cold, animal and uncaring.  There was nothing of the human left in her. He was at the mercy of a killer born of nature, merciless and without a conscience.  His death would not haunt her or drive her insane.  She leaned down and sunk her teeth into his neck again and began to suck. He felt his life being drained away as the spider drank greedily and deeply from his body.  When she had sucked him dry of his last juices she discarded the desiccated body in a back room of the tumbledown house and retreated to a corner of the room where she had spun a giant web, she climbed into the middle and went to sleep.

© Ellis Landon

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