Thursday, 26 August 2010

Eight Legged Army - Friday Flash


The bull-roarer whirring above my head since sundown. Saturated by the rain shower, the cord demanded constant snapping to keep taut. Hands raw where the hemp had bitten into the flesh, while my shoulders ached with the ceaseless effort. Right now my whole being feels like the groaning stick itself. Finally entered its stream. Its force. Its vibration.
All animals had fled the din, perceiving some great winged predator was overhead. Now the spirits could take up occupancy. Gradually I stilled the roarer and set it down on the ground next to my bundle. I removed a bound leaf wrap and offered it up towards the trees. Sinking down to my haunches, I carefully untied a single binding. I squeezed until one corner of it yawned open, then I brought it to abut my wrist.
Tentatively a small appendage snaked its way through the aperture. It was covered in hair. A second followed, and clamped itself bent at the joint as had the first. Braced like the tribal chief's outriders, twin upright poles hoisting a tent skywards. Two more limbs, then emerged the two parts of a mouth, crested by the fearsome fangs and a pair of eyes. I couldn't help but flinch as the slow moving cortege heaved itself on to my bare arm, its hairs brushing against my own.
Gulping and with my heart pounding like a tribal drum, I pressed my finger down on the creature's head. Immediately my skin was chastised with the prickle of puncturing fangs. Swiftly I tipped up the bundle, forcing the beast to tumble back into the leafy cocoon and resealed the aperture with the twine. I threaded a twig through the two loopholes at either end of the wrap, then balanced the twig across the two receiving cups of stakes planted in the ground. I raked the kindle between them and stoked up the fire.
I glanced at my wrist. A speck of blood was trying to bubble up like pressing one's head through a poncho. But it seemed to lack the necessary energy, though my whole arm was certainly throbbing with pain. My body started to numb. I felt both leaden and yet leavened, as it started to fall away from me. Rocking my torso, I was able to flop so as to lie fully supine. I shut my eyes and awaited the summons of the spirits.
I conceived I was being trussed in the tarantula's silks. Like my body formed part of the covering of a tent back in the village. My bones the poles and mountings for my hide that kept my surging blood from leaking out. I now sensed I was entirely mummified, the mantling being particularly thick over my mouth and eyes, for these prime senses were to be negated.
A fiery agony was flowing throughout my body. But dimly, somewhere just beneath that I was able to feel a pricking along its course. The pricking palpated the pain into numbness, so I was able to breathe some calm back into my diaphragm straining against its silky windings. But soon enough the pricking itself became a fresh torment, scratching and clawing at my mind.
Now I experienced my skin falling away in great flakes. I was being unpeeled. Exposed with nothing to hold them in place any more, my gizzards slithered down out of my abdomen and on to the grass. And then came the great host. Ants, caterpillars, millipedes, beetles, carrion crawlers all, fell upon the scree of me and bore it away on their backs in every direction. I apprehended a column until it disappeared wholly from view into the undergrowth. I envisioned them layering their nests with me. Others casting me in the river. Some further burying me under soil.
Along came larger beasts for my organs. Monkeys, birds, jaguars, each setting aside mutual enmities to harvest this human bounty. They too took me to their eyries , treetop vantages and canopied perches. Gripping me in beaks, talons, jaws and padded fingers. But none were consuming me, of that I was certain, even though there was no longer anything left of me to gauge this by.
Whatever "I" was, seemed to be just hovering above the stained grass where my mass had recently lain. Eyes I no longer possessed seemed resolutely lidded, as my senses went black and blank anyway. Seemed I was embracing death, though still able to commune with it. I was shown all sorts of spirits and supplied their names. Were these to be my companions in the after-life?
Then I was confronted with another host, heading towards the blister of me on the grass. Hordes of tarantulas, each bearing a silky parcel on their backs. Some were dripping water as they advanced, others had bits of foliage snagged among their hairs. On reaching my mark. they set down their packages and unravelled the silks to reveal some slither of my skin or section of my viscera. Had they come to mock me? They had reclaimed me from all parts of the forest. I scarcely dared believe they had gathered up every single shred. Yet here they were sowing me back together, firing hair stitches into skin, shooting silky ligatures for the sinew.
I rose back to my haunches and swivelled my wrist. It moved seamlessly and without pain. I scuttled over to the fire and unhooked the leaf pannikin. I unfurled it to reveal the roasted tarantula. The only indigestible being that of the fangs, yet they made for handy toothpicks to excise any wedged hairs. Ingesting its power and offering praise to its kindred who had revived me, I knew I had attained the realm of the spirits. That I could travel there once all due courtesies had been observed and roam freely to attest its wisdom and lore.
Extinguishing the fire, I picked up my bundle and returned to the village, now a fully fledged shaman. The noble tarantula my spirit guide and familiar.





This story appears in my first flash fiction collection


available from Amazon Kindle



30 comments:

Laura Eno said...

Shudder...blech, although with your usual well-styled writing. I'm afraid I'd never make shaman status.

Sulci Collective said...

I think they're rather beautiful creatures. I'm not saying I'd cuddle up with one on my pillow though...

Marc

Carrie said...

Spiders are such unique creatures, and the tarantula is by far the most amazing. Generally they are docile. We have them here in Texas. They look like little machines. Curious things. Wondrous writing.

Marisa Birns said...

Because I love your writing, I kept on reading despite the odd shudder or two. And the picture! 3rd shudder.

But the language captivated me. And the imagery! So many to like but particularly am fond of this line:

"A speck of blood was trying to bubble up like pressing one's head through a poncho."

Happy that it ended on a note of power. :)

Linda said...

Well, I'll buck the trend and say I have no beef with spiders, though roaches...

Unique piece from you, thought it was going sci-fi at first. I wonder what herbal or fungus he ingested to get him into that fugue state with the tarantula. Then again, I always wonder what drugs folks are on (and they usually are on something). Captivating prose, per usual. Peace...

alisonwells said...

Another extraordinary piece. This writing is amazing, a fabulous tale in both senses but I also realy like its measured tone and completion. I don't know how you do it, goes away pondering. Really well done.

Sulci Collective said...

Linda I didn't see that he took any drugs, but the fugue state was induced by the drone of the bull-roarer. The visions were induced by the venom in his body.

Kath said...

At some point, I'll hopefully have the time to go back and read all your writing, having only "found" you last week.

But, in the meantime, this is another remarkable piece of writing, and I enjoyed how he gave himself up to the flow of the forest and became a part of it, before being put back together by the tarantulas. Great sense of controlled abandon before he realised his goal of becoming a shaman. So well written.

J. Dane Tyler said...

A great piece. You did a fantastic job with the voice. It fit the piece perfectly.

Also, I hate spiders (arachnophobic). *Shudder*

Still, great writing.

shannon said...

Do people really do this?! This seems too well detailed and crazy not to be true. I, too, kept reading through the shivering and glad I did. Magical piece!

Gracie said...

Beautiful writing as always. Excellent portrayal of a journey to the otherworld. And perfect that his ally is a spider, since as weavers, they're known as creator spirits.

One of my favorites of yours.

Melissa said...

You got me from the very first paragraph. So poetic. I absolutely love the circularity of the story. Going into trance from the tarantula venom (into "death"), being exposed to so many facets of the world with which to identify as his layers are being stripped, then being healed--and coming back to life--by what had originally brought him "death." By the very being(s) he had sacrificed over the fire, by the very being(s) who would now show him his way through life.

Monica Marier said...

I've known several people who went into the wilds on a spiritual journey. I envy those people. They all suffered similar hardships but also gained rewards that far outshone the torture.

The addition of creepy-crawly arachnids made it twice as cool.

CathrynLouis said...

Enjoyed it. The spirit realm beckons us all. :)

Icy Sedgwick said...

Such subtle yet powerful evocation of an otherworldly experience.

Yet tarantulas will continue to freak me out.

Sulci Collective said...

Wait Icy, you write all the dark stuff you do and some furry spiders freak you out?

Icy Sedgwick said...

Hahaha, yeah. I once held a Chilean Rose spider and it stopped me being scared, but that way they move their legs independently of each other? FREAKY.

Sulci Collective said...

multitasking? My wife can only dream of me moving two or more limbs in different directions... (not meant in a smutty or lewd way in the slightest).

Maria A. Kelly said...

Creepy. I love it! Great descriptive narrative of the drug induced vision. Nice twist that he turns out to be a shaman. :)

V.R. Leavitt said...

Oohh!! Definitely a shudder, but the sensory imagery is just beautiful. Well done!!

G.P. Ching said...

A spiritual journey of being completely destroyed and then rebuilt, not unlike the phoenix, I think. But here we have a shaman rebuilt by his spirit animal. Gorgeous writing.

Pamila Payne said...

Amazing. This was so beautifully written. You totally tapped into the aboriginal dreamtime voice. It made me wonder why he aligned with spider spirit. So interesting.

mazzz in Leeds said...

Loved this! Awesome journey, and birth of the shaman. Lovde how the ants started taking him apart, then the larger animals, and then being put back together by his spirit animals

I want a pet tarantula now. I promise I won't cook and eat it though.

rachelcarter.me said...

A great read and a superb opening paragraph. I am aching and longing for a cup of sweet tea and a lie down after that. Tremendous invasion of the mind

Lou Freshwater said...

This was too good, meaning I could feel it and hear it and ooh and ack but then in the end...Wow. I also read the tarantula as love, or art. Anything that transforms you so deeply as this.

afullnessinbrevity said...

Intensely hypnotic with a measured voice.
Adam B @revhappiness

Anonymous said...

Awesome blog, I had not noticed sulcicollective.blogspot.com earlier in my searches!
Continue the superb work!

vandamir said...

Great job in describing the ecstatic state one reaches on a vision quest, with or without drugs. Excellent description of the tearing down of self and rebuilding of it one goes through during a magickal initiation. Thankful my own wasn't so graphic, though there's been a lot of forced self-examination.

ganymeder said...

I love spiders, but... *shudder*

brainhaze said...

*shivers* spiders are one of my fears and the writing here is very descriptivve and enticing I couldn't stop, even with the odd shiver down my spine - great work