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Steve The Spider

by Zigeroon 

Posted: 25 April 2005
Word Count: 2677
Summary: One spiders fightback against birds with no regard for the symmetry and perfection of web design and construction

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Steve surveyed the ragged remnants of yet another web and cursed loudly. If it had happened once, it had happened a dozen times and he was fed up with it. This time it had been a swallow but it could have been any type you like, it didn't matter, they were all the same, careless. Birds, he hated them with a passion.

Every time he found the perfect spot with branches of trees or large plants to connect the structural threads of the webs to, in a location with a high incidence of insects, he meticulously constructed his web. When it was finished he would settle down, out of sight, but with one foot on the 'telephone line', and wait. He could have taken a degree in waiting.

An insect would hit the web, the telephone line would reverberate in his lair and he would venture out, incapacitate what he had caught with a bite or two, because all spiders have a poisonous bite, cocoon his victim then roll it off to his larder. It would hang for days, another succulent morsel for the discerning arachnoped.

Then there were the birds. They liked insects too. Unfortunately they hunted the same corridors between the trees and bushes that Steve hunted. He knew that a web constructed on the side of a bush could be successful but it was never as verdant a hunting ground as one that was run across an open stretch of ground where hundreds of bugs passed through every day. The birds knew that too, that's why his webs were regularly trashed.

He realised that he could put up with their total disregard for a fellow hunter's equipment or he could get even. He relished a challenge so he decided it was even he would get. For that he would need a strategy.

As he repaired the web he thought and schemed and planned. By the time the web was complete and he'd caught two flies and stored them in the pantry he knew what he had to do.

Steve realised the location would have to be right. Somewhere like a gully that the birds would have to dive down in to and fly low in a straight line. So he would have to be ready when the weather turned cooler. At the moment it was hot and there was a lot of humidity in the air, the insects were flying high. The birds should have been too, which was all the more galling that his web had been torn apart.

As the air became cooler the insects would fly down closer to the ground and that's when he would have his chance. He racked his brains. There had to be somewhere and it had to be fairly close, he didn't want to go traipsing for miles and miles looking for the perfect spot. For one thing he wasn't designed to cover great distances and for another he wanted to remain angry. Revenge might be a dish best served cold but he wanted to remember how it felt to have two days spinning destroyed by the brainless morons who only thought about the next mouthful rather than the majesty of his engineering.

His webs were a faithful copy of his mothers and her mothers before that and her mothers before that, and so on. All spiders had the ability to spin webs, females carried the knowledge with them through their lives but only a few adult males retained the knowledge as they grew. The others relied upon a lightening quick raid on an unguarded larder to eat regularly. Steve however was one of the few.

He walked over his repaired web, the secretion on his skin preventing him from sticking to the tacky webbing, and headed for his larder. He often thought more clearly when he was eating. Five cocoons hung from beneath a roof formed by the leaves of the oak tree. He made his way along the moss-covered branch, searching for the oldest kill. He sliced the web away from his chosen meal and munched contentedly upon a decaying blowfly.

The texture and aroma were heaven. Blowfly always reminded him of his first web and his first successful hunting trip. They were fat bodied, lazy creatures. Then he had it, the perfect location. One where the blowflies zigged and zagged, stuffed full from grazing on the humans rubbish, and it wasn't too far away.

He made sure he ate every last piece of the delicious fly then rolled the empty cocoon out of the larder, looked longingly at the four other bulbous food packages, decided he had had enough to eat and began his journey to the hi-jack point.

He had chosen a pretty-much abandoned footpath. Close-boarded wooden fences lined either side of the overgrown alleyway. To one side was a traditional butcher's, to the other side, a greengrocers. The pathway was choked with stinging nettles, tall grasses and wild parsley that filled the air with its pungent aroma. The branches of immature trees reached out to each other from either side of the path but the central corridor was fairly clear. And, more importantly, the air was thick with flying insects when the weather cooled down.

Steve had lived here for quite a time until the damn birds had made his life a misery. But now the tables were being turned, he was fighting back. They would talk about him a lot at spider gatherings up and down the land, and others would follow. The birds would learn or the birds would suffer.

Steve climbed on to the top of a fence post and scanned the gully. He looked up into the sky, measured the width of the alleyway between the fences by sight, determined the probable trajectory of a hungry bird and made his decision.

It was late evening when he started and almost six solid days later that he was finished. Fortunately for him six days during which the weather held and the warmth had kept the birds flying high. He was tired when he had finished.

The silk he spun flowed from the spinnerets on his body, which were fed by hundreds of tubes. The silk threads were twisted to form incredibly strong cables that he laid out with a precision that could only be achieved by teams of dedicated men and women in the big world of humans. Steve was unaware that human engineers studied spider's webs to improve the capabilities of structures such as suspension bridges. All he knew was that he hated birds and that this was the first skirmish in a long campaign.

A good friend of Steve's, Samantha, had sat in her lair watching him spin web after web. The webs now waited, resplendent in a coating of early morning dew, the droplets defining the symmetry of Steve's artistry.

Samantha worried that Steve might be going insane. She had seen other spiders spin and spin and spin until they had collapsed, unable to go on. Their final spin out unusually resulted in an abstract ball of silk, twisted and convoluted, reflecting the jumbled workings of their tortured minds.

This was different. What Steve had created, Samantha realised, was more of a manic repetition and she had to say Steve looked great after all his exertions. Bright eyed and vigilant, moving from web to web, fifteen of them in all set parallel across the fading footpath. She wandered over for a chat.
"Nice webs," she said when she had revealed herself to him, ensuring that he didn't think that she was raiding his larder, not that there was one she noticed.
"You like them?" said Steve eagerly. Adrenaline or the spider equivalent, raced through his body. He felt alive, alert, satisfied. He should have been completely knackered, thought Samantha; he's been at it for six days.
"You got a big family these days or are you just stocking up for winter?"
Steve's eyes glittered when he laughed, a sort of derision, not aimed at Samantha. "It's a bird trap," he said.
Samantha took two paces back. "A bird trap?"
Steve giggled. "I'm fed up with the them flying right through my webs so I'm going to get one."
"What will you do then? Eat it?"
Steve thought for a bit. "It would keep me going for a while."
Samantha nodded warily. She was not sure what to say.
"No. I'll talk to it. Make it understand why I trapped it so that it can tell its mates."
Samantha nodded, slowly this time, signifying understanding with a dash of disbelief. "Do you think it will?"
He looked at her quizzically.
"Tell its mates," she clarified.
"It'd better," replied Steve and turned his back on Samantha and settled down to wait. She wasn't sure what to do so she sat down behind him and realised that they had a commanding view of the fifteen webs strung out down the passageway.
"Cooler today," muttered Steve. "They'll come today."

He was right. The flying insects came first. Bees, wasps, blow flies, midges and assorted others impacted with the webs their bodies struggling against the sticky coating. So many of them that, with the webs lined up behind each other, Samantha thought she had spots before her eyes as she concentrated on the spectacle before her.

A seagull flew low. Steve held his breath. He had not calculated upon such a large bird tangling with his untried technology. It was Sid flying home from Kew Gardens. Sid looked down, saw the veritable feast in the alleyway but decided he would get back to the seaside as quickly as possible, he had had enough of going anywhere near man and his buildings, glass, wood or brick.

Then it came. A swallow, its slender body supported on swept back angular wings, twisted and turned around the front corner of the butchers, levelled out and lined up for his run down the footpath. The potential danger of fifteen meticulously constructed webs did not register as clearly as the flying banquet that buzzed busily before him.

The swallow streaked through the first web. Steve's eyes slitted in concentration, he had allowed for that. By the time the swallow had ripped the heart out of all fifteen webs, with no discernible affect upon its eating momentum, tears of frustration were seeping out of Steve's eyes. He was gutted. Samantha laid a friendly leg on his back and hugged him, awkwardly.
"I'm not finished yet," he said through gritted teeth.

As he walked dejectedly back to his home web he felt weary beyond his years. He knew that the swallow had not even felt the strength of his webs it had been travelling too fast.

The following morning he had an idea. One that he told Samantha and a few of the others about but they all declined to help him. So he was on his own, again.

This time he didn't have to travel so far to find the killing ground. It was at the edge of the sparse woodland in which he lived, an area of young trees with thin branches that would be required for attempt number two.

It took him over a week of preparation this time. A few mishaps, a few low flying birds flying through, unaware, but he got finished in the end. Samantha and one or two of the others he had approached kept an eye on him, more out of curiosity than concern.

The objects of his desire continued to feed upon the abundance of insects that flew around him. Their dawn chorus woke him from an exhausted sleep each morning and their incessant chattering followed him to sleep. Then he was ready. After a period when the temperatures soared to record levels and most of woodland animals only moved when absolutely necessary.

Steve climbed up a beech tree his legs barely supporting him. His spinnerets were aching; his silk production was depleted. He felt awful as he settled down on a branch of the tree and once again, waited. He wondered if everything in the world waited as much as he did. He had no conception of the state of the world's roads and the high incidence of road works or trains with square wheels or leaves on the line, and he wouldn't have cared if he had known. He only had one purpose in life, one dream, and the fruition of his plans was waiting, along with him. All it needed now was a bird. And this time it would not matter how big it was.

The other spiders sat on the branch of an adjacent oak, watching him and staring down at what he had done to the whip thin branches of the young trees that formed a small copse below them. Steve had somehow bowed the branches over, securing them with lines of silk cable to the exposed tree roots at ground level.

Nothing happened that morning or most of the following day. Sparrows, wood pigeons, swallows, house martins all flew through the area, but too high to trip the traps. By mid-afternoon Steve was starting to hallucinate. Lack of food, lack of water and exhaustion were taking their toll. He was seeing six-foot high birds marching across the sky.

A fat wood pigeon drifted clumsily down towards the young trees, chasing a drowsy blowfly. The pigeon's wings clipped one of Steve's carefully placed anchor cables. The cable broke and the branch slapped over and whacked the bird. It spun to its left clipping another cable. That branch whipped the pigeon over in a flurry of feathers. Flapping its wings wildly, it tried to gain height and flew into a flurry of whipping branches that whirled around its dazed progress. The bird climbed unsteadily out of the danger zone hoping that this was not a trend or some kind of evolution that would affect the usually placid trees. Small branches, OK he could cope with that but what if the oaks decided to turn nasty? He wheeled away and headed for home, trying not to think about that and kept well clear of the trees. By the time he had returned home to roost, in a rather grand oak tree, he had forgotten about it.

Steve danced with glee; his tiredness put on hold. The other spiders were impressed and shouted and clapped and cheered. Steve waved at them, a manic grin spreading across his face. He slipped and fell. He spun silk as fast as he could but it was an intermittent effort as he was so tired.
The thread he spun was of a variable thickness that could barely take his weight.

He could see what was happening and was afraid. The ground was a long way a way and he was headed for it in long jerky, downward movements.

A swallow, its wings outstretched, its beak open wide, headed towards him. Steve stared at the sharp beak and screamed defiantly. "I got one of you!"

The swallow, oblivious to Steve's ranting, changed direction fractionally. The silk thread caught on the bird's wing and Steve was pulled along in the slipstream, frantically trying to make silk. He dangled, breathless; on a lengthening strand of suspect silk at a speed that he had never imagined he would ever attain. He was also flying. It did not engender any affinity with his arch enemy, one of which, if it bothered to look down, could quite easily eat him and even up the score in the war only Steve knew was being waged.

The swallow veered around to the left and headed for a group of mature trees. Samantha and the others closed their eyes as the trailing silk thread caught on a thin branch and broke. Steve hurtled on, then was swung round and round the branch on the end of his thread.

He came to rest, clinging desperately to the branch with seven legs; the eighth was being shaken angrily at the swallow.
"Next time!" screamed Steve a little ungratefully.

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Comments by other Members

Jumbo at 23:04 on 25 April 2005  Report this post

Terrific stuff. And another spider story.

Is Steve related to that other spider? Wasn't his name Zigeroon as well. Or am I getting myself confused here?

In any case, this was very clever and I enjoyed it a lot.

A couple of picky bits.

The sentence, Every time he found the perfect spot with branches of trees or large plants to connect the structural threads of the webs to, in a location with a high incidence of insects, he meticulously constructed his web. seemd overlong and klonky (great word).

Maybe its a 'tense' thing. Would he would meticulously construct his web smooth it a little? Or maybe it's just too long? (But that's just a personal point of view.)

And is 'arachnoped' a real word? If it's not, it blooming well ought to be!

This is a great story. Are you working towards an anthology of children's stories. I think you could be on a winner here!

All the best


me at 07:18 on 26 April 2005  Report this post
A fantastic tale of micro-epic proportions, which should definitely find a market.

Had me feeling for the little fella, especially his frustration.


Zigeroon at 09:47 on 26 April 2005  Report this post


Thanks for your comment. I'll look at those points.

I thought arachnoped was the genus of spider but I'm not so sure now as the spell checker doesn't recognise it. I'll check the Oxford again. Perhaps I read it somewhere, fictionally and I now believe it's true.

The other spider is possibly related, a descendant of Steve, because the other one was a time traveller. Not too sure whether from the future or the past, so he might be an ancestor.

I've got a few stories of this kind and i am seeking to get them printed up for my children; a collection of their bedtime tales.

Thanks again for your time.


Zigeroon at 09:48 on 26 April 2005  Report this post


Thanks for comments. I'm glad his frustration came across that was the basis of the tale.

Thanks for your time.


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