An edited and improved version of this story is now available for purchase as part of the ‘Prophecies of the Drowned Oracle’ collection.
Shane fluttered his hand in front of his face, waving a tiny fly out of his vision. “Spiders weren’t hungry?” He once again sat in his favourite armchair, Danielle across from him on the sofa, sunlight from the window casting strange shadows on her face through the leaves of her Monstera plant.
She shook her head. “Oh no, they were hungry alright. I saw one stuck in a web, but there must have been more I didn’t see at first.”
The ice cubes in his coffee clinked together as he took a sip. “Maybe you should get some pesticide, get rid of them before they become a real problem.”
“Maybe.” Offhandedly she pressed her finger on the table, squishing a fly on the stone surface. “I don’t want to use poison inside the house. They’re annoying, but they don’t hurt me.” Next to her hand laid a dried flower that must have fallen off the small rose bush. Shane was happy she kept the plant on the table, it really looked good there. “Besides, it’s good food for the spiders, so I don’t mind too much.”
In the corner of the room an even fatter spider than last week sat in a web speckled with little dots; the desiccated remains of all the flies it sucked dry. Despite the number of flies dead in that web, there were still a few hovering around in the room. Shane’s gaze tracked one crawling in the soil of Danielle’s beloved palm-tree. “You should consider it.”
“D’you think I can still save it?” Danielle asked. Shane looked at the pitiful rose bush. The flowers had withered weeks ago, only a single bud still hung limp between the wilting leaves.
Danielle slumped on the sofa. Even the proud palm and enormous Monstera flanking her throne had lost their lush shine. Or maybe that was just the lack of sun. “It feels so useless. If I can’t even keep the rose alive, what was the point of bringing all these stupid flies into my home?”
“For the spiders?”
Danielle hummed noncommittally. “Come to think of it, I haven’t seen my spiders in a while.”
Huh, Shane hadn’t noticed it yet either, but now that he looked, he saw the corners of the room were all empty. Not even an abandoned web was left to offer proof of the fat spider that had lived there for months.
“They’ll come out again come autumn,” Shane said. The clean corners made him uneasy. They were… immaculate. Lifeless. They reminded him of his own home.
“True.” Her eyes lit up. She shot up and pressed her finger on the table with a vindictive grin. That was the third squished fly in the past fifteen minutes.
“Talking about autumn,” she said as she relaxed back into the sofa, “I need to start going to the forest more, gather some acorns and pinecones. I need something new in the hallway. And I guess the table here needs something decorative as well. Maybe a pumpkin…”
Shane listened contently to Danielle’s ramble about autumn decorations, occasionally interspersed with another squished fly.
Shane brushed the dirty strands of web off the wood with his shoe. It was mostly pine needles caught in it and some seed husks, but he didn’t want to risk grasping right where a spider sat.
He inspected the other sides of the quarter log, then placed it on his pile. That would be enough for now. Huffing with exertion he lifted the pile in his arms and carried it to the back-door.
He pressed the handle down with his elbow and pushed inside. His shoes smeared dirt across his dark hardwood floor. He walked past the granite kitchen counters, into his living room.
The wood clattered on the floor. Shane knelt next to the pile and neatly stacked them under the fireplace. There, that should be enough for a couple of weeks.
Autumn had come early and the air in his house was chilly. Despite his general preference for summer, Shane was happy about the change of season. Not even the bright summer sun could compare to the comforting warmth of his fireplace.
An hour later the living room had warmed up considerably. Shane stared into the flames, content to let his mind wander.
This spot here, on the armchair in front of the fireplace, was his favourite spot in the house. While he loved the work the designer did, he sometimes felt it was lacking something. But this corner of the living room was perfect. The fireplace radiating the warmth the other rooms lacked. The textured stone adding just the right visual interest. The window next to it preventing it from becoming too dark and secluded while not being so big as to stop it being cosy.
The wood popped, and a spider crawled out in a panic. He wasn’t surprised, no matter how thoroughly he inspected the wood, there would always be a few he missed.
He thought of Danielle, of her empty corners. Maybe she would appreciate a new spider?