Well, it rained some, so,I guess I better write a gothic masterpiece.
“The drear. The watery, ashy drear.” That’s what some lady at the Haut Lapin in Interlaken had said while pointing outside. No, not just some lady. It was Madame Verenz, the cross-eyed dowager in the soiled gloves. It was the crossed eyes that made this pronouncement, and all Madame Verenz’s pronouncements, so unsettling:
THIS PUDDING IS TOO FIRM.
THE KEY DOES NOT TURN.
THE LAKE IS UNSWIMMABLE.
This particular exclamation about the drear, she directed at Stanislov Most, as he waited for his valises to be loaded into the carriage, turning to him in an ivory flurry of lace ruffs and eye whites, her right index finger pressing into the window glass.
Stan excused himself as nimbly as possible after the frisson of shock had subsided. This was his first encounter with the Madame Verenz, though other guests had warned him of her presence and her habit of sneaking up on people. Esotropia, Stanislav thought. She suffers from esotropia. That was a fancy way to say she was cross-eyed.
It seemed an inauspicious beginning to his summer stay–the incident with Madame Verenz– that he couldn’t shake on the ride from Haut Lapin to Lake Brinz– the squeak of her gloved finger on the glass; the uncannyness of her remark (for just that morning he had written in his diary the words “watery, ashy drear”!); those eyes that seemed to gravitate towards each other like opposing magnets, all swum up against the falling rain that battered his carriage.
What a horrible face! Stan exclaimed. “I hope never to see it again!” (He pronounced it ahGAYNE.) But it was the summer of 1816 and there was much more that he was to see that he would wish he hadn’t.
Stan deposited his valises along the only dry strip of the front porch untouched by rain. He shivered in his traveling clothes, and fumbled for the cold brass key in his pocket. The balustrades were streaming with water, a marais was forming on the front lawn, a moldering smell was creeping from the seams of the house. Upon touching the key, shocked by its cold sting, Stan, too, began sniveling. The key was too cold. Unnaturally cold…icy cold. How could such a thing be explained?
It was inexplicable!
He opened the door and smelt the damage before he saw it. All of the wool carpets were wet, cloying, reeking of livestock, as if the house was crammed floor to ceiling with damp sheep. Stan, not prone to squeamishness after his six (yes six!) years of anatomy school, was immediately overcome by the stench. It wrapped around him, crawled up his nose, filled his mouth with barn flavors.
Of sheep. The stench of sheep!
Whether we can assign wet wool the same powers of chloroform is doubtful but it rendered such powerful effect upon Stanislav Most, that the first thing he did upon arriving at his summer home on Lake Brinz was faint dead away.
Then Stan awakened. Not like Edna Pontellier in Kate Chopin’s “The Awakening.” More like he just opened his eyes. It was not without effort. His eyelids felt sticky, heavy, almost sutured shut. Indeed they were sutured shut! With a very fine thread, finer than a human hair, akin to spider silk in diameter and feel. “I do believe a spider did make embellishments upon me!” Stan cried.
When his vision cleared, when he literally wiped the cobwebs from his eyes, there it was–a leggy, dark and beastly creature on his chest. “I know you,” he slurred. He had seen this spider before as a child near the foot of his bed, approaching over the goose down duvet. It’s bulbous body, with a sheen like horse hair was unforgettable.
It never reached him all those years ago, for he kicked his legs as if he had been entangled in seaweed underwater and ran to his Mummy without even the candlestick in his hand. The household staff had conducted a thorough search of the room and had found no spider.
For the next six nights, he cuddled in his mummy’s bosom and thought of cream clotting. It was a thing he did to soothe himself…a bowl of cream growing ever more clumpy, clumpier and clumpier. Such images were of no use now, here in the present tense with the exact same spider. The spider lifted a leg. He was drawing nigh!
The spider lifted one leg, and then another. There were eight of them in all to lift. So it lifted them. Without rhyme or reason. Randomly lifting this leg or that.
Stan watched as the spider advanced in just this way. Until it was right over his Adam’s Apple. He meant to scream but he had forgotten how.
There was something..what was it…something you were supposed to do. Open your mouth. Yes, that was the first thing. Make a loud sound on one pitch and sustain it. Yes, that was the next thing.
But now the spider was over his mouth. If he opened his mouth, the spider would fall into his mouth! So screaming, which seemed like such a good idea a second ago, was now out of the question.
That’s when Stan had the idea to use his hands! Use his hands to swat off the spider! Of course! Why hadn’t he thought of it sooner!
So he did. But when he flicked at the spider the spider stuck to his hand.
Stan jumped to his feet. The spider, the size of his palm, but on the opposite side, stuck like sealing wax, didn’t move.
It was the most terrible feeling, a sort of adhesive, black hooking into his skin, the spider on his hand. It felt like something more than another creature…it felt like evil.
Stan searched wildly around until his eyes landed on a hatchet in the corner. “It’s time,” thought Stan. “It’s time to chop off my hand!”