CARAPACE – a 900 Club Short Story

Happy First Birthday to The 900 Club

Happy First Birthday to The 900 Club

Please join me wishing The 900 Club a happy first birthday. We have just posted our twelfth monthly batch of five  very different short stories, we would be honoured if you would pay The 900 Club a visit and have a read. Soon we will be publishing the 2013 anthology to mark a year writing together, so keep your eyes peeled for a unique collection of tales in all styles and genres.

Fantasy Sorrow Part 13: The Sack of Hasan

In other news, Sorrow Part 13: The Sack of Hasan, latest in the epic fantasy series was released today in ebook format by Musa Publishing. The story is nearing the end now, as part sixteen is the final part, and the plot thickens.

Below is my latest offering for The 900 Club, I hope you like it.

* * * *

Carapace

by Martin Bolton

The weatherman used the phrase “mainly windy”. That made me laugh, not just because it sounds like such a ludicrous phrase when considered out of context, but also because the weatherman was my husband, and that was exactly the sort of thing he came out with all the time. He made me laugh every day then.

I remember that laughter now like a distant dream, another life, a memory shrouded by the mists of time and the madness that comes with it – and time is madness when it is all you have. It seeps into you, it eats away all the tiny barriers in your mind until you are left with stark reality, and with that comes raw madness. I have learned that since I was trapped here, in the darkness, with nothing but the silence, the cold, and this… thing.

I was Professor of Arthropodology, specialising in arachnids, for The Department of Zoology, Oxford University. We were on an expedition to Laos to visit the caves in the Mekong Subregion and follow up on local reports of a species of spider thought to outgrow the biggest known – the giant huntsman.

Had I known what really existed, deep in the heart of these ancient caves, I would have stayed in England, safe in my laboratory, where my scientific mind could cling to its superficial pretensions that man’s innate fear of the dark is purely visceral.

Our intention was to explore beyond the mapped network of passages with the purpose of plotting more of the cave and discovering new species. We were about a mile into virgin tunnels when I came upon a vast crystal chamber about the size of a football pitch. As I shone my halogen lamp across the space, the light was refracted by huge, perfectly transparent crystals like cut diamonds. The effect was breath taking: the vivid display of colours, the dazzling kaleidoscope of alien shapes. The rest of my team were behind me, but I was transfixed, enthralled, as though in a dream, isolated from the real world. Then the floor of the cave opened like a trapdoor. The colours vanished, replaced by blackness.

I ran out of breath screaming long before I hit something. I must have struck a ledge or a protruding rock, because I felt my legs shatter, making a soggy crunching sound. The impact sent me spinning helplessly into empty, black space.

What I landed on was not rock, or I would certainly be dead. How I long for such a blissful end now. We go through life fearing death, all our instincts geared to towards avoiding it. I wonder if our primeval ancestors knew what I know now. Surely if they did, they would fear the end no more, because they would know as I do, there are things on Earth so much worse than dying.

After landing on this strange, springy surface, I lay for sometime. The pain in my legs was intense, and I passed in and out of consciousness. Either that or the dreams I had of daylight, laughter and fresh air were just hallucinations caused by agony and shock. I lifted my head to look down at my body. I could move my arms but my legs were a twisted wreckage. I moved my head from side to side, initially relieved there seemed to be no injuries to my back or neck. That relief turned to dismay, then terror, when I saw what I lay on.

On either side, stretching away into the seemingly infinite darkness, were taut, thin strands of some tough, flexible material. I tried to move my upper body and felt the surface give slightly beneath my elbows. I shook my head vigorously and felt myself, almost imperceptibly, swaying back and forth. There was only one thing I knew of that came close to the description forming in my mind.

A web.

No sooner than the dim light was finally extinguished by the inevitable death of the batteries in my headtorch, I felt vibrations. Something moved in the darkness. The web shook more violently, and soon I felt its touch. The way the web moved, either side of me, gave me the impression that whatever it was, it was behind me. It was on the underside. Then I felt a sharp pain in my neck, a bite, and just before I succumbed to paralysis I felt the web shake as the thing scampered away.

I wish I had been devoured then, but the grisly fate I had imagined for myself was nothing compared to the sickening reality. It is now apparent when that thing bit me, it set into motion a ghastly, insidious process; a metamorphosis more hideous than anything I have seen in my study of arthropods, or ever imagined possible. Nor did my paralysis bring with it the inability to feel sensations, so I have felt the realigning of my very molecules like a permanent, tormenting itch.

To my horror, the first parts of my body to develop their new form were my eyes. I can see again now, even in the total darkness, only this time I can see in all directions at once. I can see myself, or at least the thing that used to be me. My transformation is at an advanced stage: I have a complete cephalothorax, spiny carapace and abdomen, and the beginnings of eight huge legs.

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4 thoughts on “CARAPACE – a 900 Club Short Story

  1. Really enjoyed it Bolton. The plot certainly has a twisted ending. I think my favorite part about it is that it leaves me thinking of questions and possible answers. Such as, why the need to transform a random female into a spider. The point of view of the story leads me to wonder what her psychological state will be when the transformation is complete. Here is a question that I would be interested to explore, what would it be like to tell the story from the point of view of the spider?

    Your style strengthens my own understanding of how to provide just enough detail to describe while withholding enough to let my imagination have some freedom. I have been experimenting lately with how best to give just enough detail to let the reader’s mind fill in the gaps. Your tale contributes to my attempting to understand the process and style.

  2. Hello Marcus, thanks for your comments and feedback, it is much appreciated and I wish I could got more feedback on the stories I post on here and on the 900 Club blog.

    I am new to writing this sort of story too, I normally write fantasy fiction. I’ve been experimenting with some different styles with The 900 Club, that’s the beauty of writing a 900 word story each month – you can dabble in different styles and use the different influences you’ve had from across all genres. I think while writing Carapace I took a lot of influence from Stephen King’s short stories (I haven’t read any of his novels yet) and H.P. Lovecraft too. Plus my brother is quite severely arachnophobic and I was trying to frighten the crap out of him! I think it worked.

    Thanks for your feedback and good luck with your own writing. Oh, and happy new year!

    • That is a good thought on the matter. No thanks is necessary for the comment. I know what it is like to write something that you really enjoy even love and the fear of placing it out in the open air of the web. Sometimes nothing can be just as bad as getting negatives, thought not quite.

      I too have read some of Stephen King’s short stories. The thing that interests me in his writing style is that he seems to limit himself to the first person. He speaks strongly from personal experience, which is what I think makes his writing so attractive to readers. From the little I have seen this is his strongest point of view, if not the only point of view, that he writes from. In my opinion that limits him. Point of view can provide the freshest breath of air to an old story. And in a way almost all stories are old in one way or another.

  3. Oh, and the other thing is, I have always been fascinated by spiders and how their venom works, dissolving tissue. I wondered what could be worse than being devoured by a spider, and this was what I came up with.

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