Story for the Day: The Cross Spider
Rautu is not the only giant in the world who dislikes spiders.
Rannig had only just surmounted his panic from the swarm of gadflies when, stepping into the narrow path leading down the mountain, lined with copses of close trees, he felt a strand of something graze his neck. At first, he thought little of it and continued down the path with all his usual good humour, happy to think it only a nearby bough that had reached out and browsed him, but another step brought the full feeling of a thread breaking across his throat, and he was instantly plunged into the throes of anxiety: I just walked through a spiderweb, he said to himself, the acknowledgement of which thrust him into a fever of dread. He trembled in consternation, palpating himself, touching his neck, his shoulders, and his chest—was it there? Was it there?-- to see if a spider had landed on him. He felt nothing, however, until he moved his hand to his back. His fingertips touched something clinging to the bottom of his shirt, and Rannig was in an instant rage. “Is it on me—is it on me?” he shrieked, flailing his arms about. “Is it on me, boss?” he cried, turning his back to Danaco. “Can you see it? Is it there at the bottom?”
The giant trembled in terror, his voice wheepling out through his chattering teeth. His legs shook, his knees knocked, his brow furrowed and sweat, and he began biting his nails as Danaco approached and assessed him.
“If I tell you,” said the captain, canting his head, “that there is nothing on you, should you believe me, Rannig?”
“If--if ye mean it,” said Rannig tremulously, “that there’s nothin’ on me and all.” There was a dreadful pause. “Do ye—do ye mean it, boss?”
“As a matter of fact I don’t mean it, and there is something on you.”
Rannig gasped, hurpled under his arms, and began to weep.
“Do not panic, my dear Rannig,” said Danaco, in a tender hue. “It is only a cross spider.”
“I don’t like those!” Rannig cried.
“Then you shall be happy to know it is injured. It’s two back legs have been severely shortened by something, or by its own carelessness. At any rate, it cannot escape and cannot move very far. It probably latched onto you because you walked in its way.”
“Oh,” said Rannig, in a more sorrowful accent. He could never love a spider, but he did not wish them to be hurt; he only wanted them to remain in trees, in corners, under rocks—to be anywhere else far away from him, but hearing that this one was wounded and had attached itself to him because it could probably go nowhere and do nothing else, the giant began, against his better judgement, to feel some sympathy for the unfortunate creature. He did not want to make friends with it or to pet it, as Danaco had often recommended, but he did not want it to die. It had a right to live as anything else did, and might do very well making its web and killing the gadflies that were continually attacking Rannig’s face, but it must not ride him, must make house on him, must not creep up his shirt and crawl up his neck and burrow in his ear and—“Boss,” said Rannig, in a whimpering voice, “please take it off me?”
“I would, my dear Rannig, but considering how injured it is, I might only do it harm by moving it.”
“Bhi Borras,” Rannig wept, “please, boss. I don’t wanna be stuck with it.”
“It is not a very large spider. It is only a small male. You know they do not bite, Rannig, and this one can hardly crawl.”
Rannig stopped breathing. “Is the female on me?”
The captain made a thorough inspection. “I do not see it. Step over to the left and I will try to have it off you.”
“But if I move, boss, it’ll move too.”
Danaco gave a pensive hum. “I do not think so, Rannig. I think he knows he is fairly caught, and if he try to escape now in his condition, it might very well be the end for him. I lifted your shirt a bit, though you were too busy crying to notice, and it did not even try to move. It must be very frightened to realize that the tree it landed upon does not like him there.”
“I’m not a tree, spider,” said Rannig, with feined valor.
“You were two minutes ago to the birds,” Bartleby grumbled.
“I know you might think so ‘cause I’m so big and all, but I don’t rustle, I breathe, and I don’t sway, I walk.”
“I think there is no use talking to him, Rannig,” said Danaco, with a mournful air. “I think he is well aware of his mortality, and he well understands his fate.”
Rannig slowly dropped his arms and looked bemused. “Yer makin’ me feel for it on purpose.”
“Oh, am I?”
“Aye, boss,” Rannig sniffed. “Yer tryin’ to get me to be friends with it.”
“Well, you are rather friends with it now, I daresay. You have let it stay on you longer than you have any other thing that crawls, you have called it by its name, which you hardly ever do for anything else that you are terrified of, and you have not asked me to kill it yet.”
“Well,” said Rannig, a little ashamed of himself, “ye said it was hurt and all.”
“But killing it would surely be kindness now. Think of how much it suffers with its two back legs crippled like that. Perhaps I should kill it to end its misery--”
“Don’t.” Rannig sighed. “Don’t kill it, boss. I’ll step over to the left how you wanted.”
He lifted his leg, croosled to himself, encouraging himself to take the dreaded step, he winced, and with a most mortified countenance, stepped one step to the left.
“There,” said Danaco, lifting the bottom of Rannig’s shirt. “Now you are close enough to the tree that I can have him move safely to it.”
“Why didn’t ye tell me ye wanted to put it in the tree, boss?”
“I wanted to see you panic a bit. You are a darling, Rannig, but we really must get you over this fear. You certainly made progress this time. You asked me not to kill the spider, and you even went to great lengths to have it safely deposited somewhere else. That is progress, is not it?”
The giant miffled that he guessed so.
“Well, there you have it, then. And your spider friend is removed. He is on the tree, resting pleasantly on the trunk. You may be easy.”
A sigh here, an exclamation to the Gods for delivering him from anguish and horror to come, and Rannig was tranquil again.