The storm gave its first flash and its first roar at eleven; that’s when he woke up. Feeling some sort of crunching pressure in the back of his head, smelling some sort of alcoholic aroma, he sat right up and looked around the room. Something here is not right, he thought. And he wasn’t far off; he just wouldn’t be able to put his finger on what wasn’t right so long as he had his eyes open.
There was no trace of alcohol to be seen. He’d expected bottles and cans all over the place. Wasn’t there a small party there just the night before? But, ah, probably not. The room was way too small for anything like that. And then the doubts came rushing in at him – is this even my place? A party? Then what are these memories and why am I hungover? No bottles and no cans, but pieces of food everywhere and dirty, dusty clothes that wouldn’t be washed before they were worn again.
Lucky, all the questions and doubts didn’t put him at any unrest. No, he was completely content with the thick clouds in his memory. In fact it seemed to offer a kind of comfort that he embraced. He had no intention of cleaning up, either; seemed he hadn’t for a while. But everything was OK! There wasn’t a single reason to swing his skinny little legs around and get out of bed and that was just fine by him. It was warm in there anyway. Still, he remembered a party, laughter, friends.
The air was humid. Breathing seemed in some way painful, like smoking cigarettes with full awareness of the harm they’d cause, but not feeling it immediately and so it was easy to overlook. But he didn’t need to be aware of that. He just stared into space, looking around, until snaps of electric fired through his nerves and sent him to his feet. That was an involuntary action, or else he’d have sat there in bed all day. Well, then he pulled the curtains apart to admire the view; an endless red brick wall, the sight of which turned his stomach. There was not one window nor one door built into that wall. It was just a wall and it went on for as far as his eyes could see.
Such a familiar sight, as it was for him, so suddenly lifted part of the cloud he felt in his memory. His state of mind took a slight change; nothing too noticeable. He looked up to the corner of the window only half expecting to see what he then saw. Another involuntary action, and he was looking at a thick, three or four-floored spider’s web. No spider was present, but he could feel it somewhere in the room. The worst: it could have been anywhere, and that’s when the fear began to set in. Unable to move a muscle, locked tight into the fear, he just looked at the spider’s home, examining it, perhaps even with some admiration. Nevertheless, he started to itch. There were three dead flies caught in the same web he was. It stretched a long way, too. Not to mention, it was joined with other webs up towards the ceiling. There was a spider, he remembered. It had been busy, clearly an old spider.
Besides that fear which he eventually distracted himself from, the guy felt empty somehow; distant. If someone was there speaking to him he would have found it impossible to respond. It wasn’t the same as waking up after sleeping too little, or too long. No, because he felt that exhaustion alongside the emptiness. But he was completely disconnected. Nothing could touch him in any way at all, if only for a second, and he became conscious of it. He could only watch; not interpret, not comprehend, not endure or enjoy, but only watch, and so for a few seconds, from that mind state of some kind of isolation, he was able to look on into nothing particular in complete indifference. Such a thing would not last and so he eventually ‘snapped back,’ this time with a little more recollection of where he was. He took a deep breath in through his nose – old milk, he smelled for sure – and went back to looking about for his spider.
The cupboards were bare, and hunger came. Oh yes, a sphere of emptiness took shape in his stomach, screamed and pushed out. It hurt.
There was no reason to speak; he had in fact forgotten how to do so by his own will. Only every once in a long while would he blurt out a few words unconsciously. He’d sometimes try to repeat himself or even rearrange the words to build new sentences but would fail miserably each time. He made only incoherent sounds, the whining of a young child who had yet to learn even to walk. It was and sometimes he was so pitiful; his thoughts had become so desolate and he, so alone, that communication had become obsolete. He once picked up a book in an attempt to keep his world but the sentences shattered at the second chapter: he didn’t read anymore after.
Party with friends? The memories, clear as they had been, were escaping him, as fleeting as a dream. He became unable to tell any difference, unsure whether or not these wonderful memories, which were so clear and somehow still felt, were nothing but dreams. A cruel trick on him his mind would have played should that have been the case.
He started to kick things to his sides, finally taking a few steps as he did. He wished he would have accidently crushed that spider. He found his way to the front door, the entrance to the apartment which was next to another door, the top broken off from the middle about half way. That one led to the toilet, a room that was little more than a two by two meter box. He would regularly catch splinters from that door in moments of carelessness as he brushed it with his hand to close it. And the entrance door was that of soft, rotten wood. Bloody doors! But what was he doing over there exactly, over at that side of the room? He hadn’t been there for quite a while and even he knew he couldn’t go out. He stepped back again.
As the cold set in and the itching didn’t seem like it was coming to an end anytime soon; obsessive thoughts about the spider, there was a sudden flood of memory. Then he knew in an instant; exactly who he was, where he was and what he’d been doing there. See, he was in hiding. He’d once had a family; a mother, father, sister, even a girlfriend and a hundred friends who would stand by him. They all admired him and held him in such high regard, but one morning he was gone without a trace and thus, they would suffer with his fears, those that sent him to stay and slowly waste away in that damp, condemned room. Well all that was a long, long time before. He never wondered whether or not they were even missing him or looking for him. He never felt anything for any of it. His wasting away, with the ultimate goal of death, was taking far too long.
Call it some sort of sick experiment to which he’d never discover the results; he’d spent two months removing as much evidence of his existence from the possession of others as possible. He took away the photographs, deleted e-mails, text messages, forwarded all his post to an overflowing post office box etcetera, etcetera. All he allowed them were diary entries and memories. Sure enough, some that he was never too close with did in fact forget him.
There was the spider! above the light switch next to the door to the toilet. He saw it; tears filled his eyes in absolute horror. It had spiked legs and a huge back for a huge, hairy spider. At a halt, it stared right at him and he started back at it. The first one to look away would be killed – that’s how he saw it. The young man, no longer a student, was frozen stiff but was almost able to break away. If he could just take a few steps and run out the door…
In his fear he gave way and allowed himself to switch to auto-pilot, and, before he knew it, the door was open. A black corridor of dark, and so, so cold. He just peeked around the corner, holding onto the doorframe as tight as he could for dear life. He coughed. It echoed down the corridor. His stomach bubbled up like fizzy drink poured into a glass with a little milk inside. He was in physically agonising fear. The lights flickered in the corridor to which there was no end, just an everlasting black hole that went on for miles like his red brick wall. And if a light would flicker all the way down there, there would only be a white dot rushing in and then straight back out of existence. That, by itself, was torturous enough. Suddenly he became conscious again. He saw he’d gone too far, took a step back and slammed the door shut. The spider responded and took three cautious steps. The young man watched closely again. Clearly he was way too used to putting himself through this kind of thing.
He would take no more! He picked up an old sports shoe and hurled it towards the spider, and by some stroke of luck, he seemed to have hit it! For a second there was a wave of calm. The shoe fell, as did the spider and then all was still, even he. He breathed slowly, in then out, then out some more. Convinced of his victory and his superiority, he took a step forward. But suddenly, the spider came to and ran at full speed across the floor. The young man jumped on to his bed and almost suffered a heart attack. The spider was gone. And, shaking on his bed and feeling extremely weak, convinced of his failure and his inferiority, he cursed himself for taking a step as if by doing so he’d brought the spider back to life. He’d much rather have stayed frozen and stood up forever, with his feeling of victory. He wept, whaled, cried aloud. Pitiful.
Remaining on his bed, he allowed himself whatever meditation he needed to calm down. The fear of that spider had been torturing him for two months and, that day, a determination to do something about it was born.
Another experiment; a hunt. He had to go back into auto-pilot but he jumped right up. There was no expression in his face, no emotion, but for that he felt no fear and he did not itch. He threw his focus left and right, shifting anything at all that may have been blocking his vision. He hopped from the door to the window to the bed, and back again. Man, what a rush! He went on for quite some time before…
Under the bed, right in the corner, the spider itself was meditating. It was hit by the shoe, and then stunned with the fear that the young man was losing. It was very aware; its time was running out. The man giggled to himself. Finally he’d found it! And so he threw the bed over and the spider made a quick run for it one last time, but the man had new power on his side: he was not afraid. No, he dived over the bed and landed with a thump on his stomach and both hands together, cupped on the ground. He knocked the wind right out of himself, couldn’t breathe, but he had time. Not even the feel of the huge arachnid in his hands, his very own, could set him back, no matter how much its long hairs stroked against his fingers. Not at all, he was a God; a God who rose up with a spider in his right hand; a God who crushed a spider in between his fingers and his palm just to feel it, and then, a God who put his hand to his face, put his fears in his mouth and chewed at it, tasted it, pushed its horrible dead body under his tongue and sucked the insides right out of it. What a taste! and he licked his right hand clean.
There he was; the new man, at his window, looking out over blue skies, a hill and open water. He stood and he watched. Then came a knock on the front door just a few minutes after, the first since he had been there. But the new man was not afraid…