- The Spider’s Seven #13: The Absence
- The Spider’s Seven #14: The Enemy
- The Spider’s Seven #15: The Homecoming
- The Spider’s Seven #16: The Dearly Departed
- The Spider’s Seven #17 – The Visitation
- The Spider’s Seven #18 – The Others
- The Spider’s Seven #19 – The Misfits
- The Spider’s Seven #20 – The Setup (Part 1)
- The Spider’s Seven #21 – The Set-up (Part 2)
- The Spider’s Seven #22 – The Set-up (Part3)
- The Spider’s Seven #23 – The Execution (Part 1)
- The Spider’s Seven #24 – The Execution (Part 2)
- The Spider’s Seven Annual #2 – The Execution (Part 3)
- Spider’s 7 – Journey’s End
The Spider’s Seven #18 – The Others
The room had been locked, and no one at the front desk had mentioned anyone having come to call on him. All the same, Anansi didn’t bat an eye upon seeing her in his room, staring out the window with a glass of white wine in her hand.
She was of average height and build though her arms and legs were toned from climbing around digs all day. Her skin was sun-kissed naturally and darker still from days spent beneath the unforgiving desert sun. Three ties wear tasked with binding a mass of dark, curly hair so that it fell in an orderly fashion down to the small of her back.
When she turned, a gold-brown eye glittered with knowledge and cunning far beyond her years, just as Coyote’s did much of the time; just as Anansi assumed his did as well.
“Ah. So good of you to join me, Dr. Frist.” he greeted her warmly, closing the door behind him. The room wasn’t a suite; just a good sized space with a queen-sized bed, a small table, dresser with a television on top, and a few chairs. There was a bathroom an alcove off to one side that held the closet and sink as well as the door to the bathroom. He hadn’t picked it for anything but a quiet place to meet and talk.
Anansi removed his suit coat and took a seat at the table. “Dr. Lilith Frist.”
“For you, my dear friend, I am always only Lilith.” She turned from the window with a welcoming smile. “It’s good to see you again. I’m only sad that you didn’t bring Coyote along.”
“Coyote’s situation is complicated. I’m wasn’t sure it would be a good idea. And even so, this is a side trip: I was already abroad on a mission to find myself.”
Lilith sipped her wine. “’Finding yourself’? Quite a big order for us, isn’t it? Being that we have so many selves.”
“It’s easier for some than for others.” said Anansi, “You must remember: I am Anansi, who is largely defined by his stories and how I got them. It isn’t that difficult for me to be all of my stories as a whole rather than each on individually. By virtue of who I am, my truth is a simple one to tell.”
“Especially compared to, say, me.” Lilith sat her wine on the table and turned back to the window. “Without much concrete known of me, but millions of millions of minds imagining? Yes, it’s difficult, but that’s why I don’t chase after myself, I…”
“Chase after humanity’s self.” supplied Anansi. “The archeology, the art collection… yes, I’ve read a lot about your escapades since you returned.”
Lilith laughed musically. “Oh, Anansi, you know better than that: none of us returned because we were here the whole time. Just because we weren’t material doesn’t make us less real.” She put a finger to her chin in thought. “I prefer ‘since we became flesh’.”
Anansi leaned over and opened the honor bar, selecting a bag of gummy bears from the selection. “A bit macabre, but it does have a nice sound to it.” Tearing open the bag, he dumped the candies out on the tables and started standing them up in a random pattern.
“Do you know how many of us… ‘became flesh’? When I first awakened, I looked for the ones I expected, given where I was: La Croix, Maman Brigette…”
Lilith shook her head. “I’m not surprised you didn’t find them. I’ve been traveling the world and do you know who I’ve come upon?”
“Sun Wukong, Prometheus, Eshu, Enyo, Scheherazade, Mimir, Isis and Set, Maui, Nike, and Vegoia .”
Anansi picked up a gummy bear and studied it as if it held the answers he was looking for. “Tricksters, Lore Keepers, Tacticians… those whose realms dwell in the mind rather than elements or physical ability, or metaphysical constants. Do you know why?”
“Not a clue.” said Lilith. “And it begs the question why I’m here.”
Popping the candy into his mouth, Anansi chewed thoughtfully before speaking. “You truly don’t know why you would be included? Because I do.”
Finally, Lilith sat down across from him and retrieve her glass. “Do tell, dear friend whose cryptic nature is endearing when directed at people who are not me.”
Anansi smiled. “Because from a certain perspective, you are the First Rebel. You defied the will of YHWH and stuck out on your own path. If that doesn’t put you in the same rank as myself, Prometheus or Sun Wukong, I don’t know what would.”
“That doesn’t answer the question of ‘why’ though.” Lilith reached, and stole a gummy bear, and ate it. “Not as it applies to the situation we’re in.”
“No it doesn’t.” admitted Anansi. “The burst that jump-started Earth’s magic should have either returned us all or none of us at all.” he picked up another gummy bear and rolled it in his fingers. “Do you think one of the higher powers returned ahead of the others and managed to hedge them out?”
Lilith shook her head. “Any higher power with an existing power-base in the here and now that returned would be schismed to uselessness by the vast gulfs of difference their modern followers have created of their image. They would be weaker than even we are.”
Very carefully, Anansi put the candy back down. “What about things from outside?”
A small, knowing smile twitched Lilith’s lips and she raised her glass as if to toast. “Oh yes. Now we get to the real reason you came to see me: Amorocca.”
“I didn’t want you to think that was the only reason I came to you.”
“Even thought it was.”
Anansi didn’t try and hide it. “Yes. Even though it was.”
Sliding the wine glass away from her, Lilith turned serious. “Well then: you know the story as well as anyone—probably better than anyone living right now. She crossed into our world in the time of Ur and was a benevolence in the face of all the malevolence the early magi accidentally brought into the world before they fully understood the orrery of worlds.”
When she paused, Anansi took up the tale. “She taught humanity save ways of magic, the nature of the Astral plane, and she fought things like herself that came from other worlds. Many of her followers rose the greatness, as did many of their lines. Including the Lovers. Did you know they’d found each other again?”
Lilith nodded. “Being strangled by chains of fate. Amorocca’s magic survived the centuries of dormancy in the world’s magic.”
“Not entirely intact.” Anansi said.
“Better than most.” Lilith’s eyes narrowed. “You brought up the Lovers for a reason.”
“Is it possible,” Anansi spoke carefully, “That it isn’t just a very good spell? That she is still here?”
Lilith dragged the wine glass idly along the tabletop, a look of worry continuing to grow on her face. “She wasn’t immortal, Anansi. And she wasn’t like us. She left long ago and even if she hadn’t, she would be dead.”
“Do you know of any others like her? I know the Green World has been overlapping for some time now…”
“No, Anansi. No.” Lilith sat up straight, looking him in the eye. “What is this about? What has you casting about for ancient demigods and in search of ‘your self’? You don’t worry. I’ve never known you to worry because you’re just following the story to its conclusion. So what is it that has you so… afraid?” Her own spine felt a chill as she identified what she saw in his eyes.
Anansi looked away, hiding his eyes so she could not see. “I believe in stories, yes. In the story, the one we create by weaving our individual tales together. But I do not believe in an author because we are all our own authors.”
“You sound like you’re babbling scripture.”
“You could say that. But it is also an explanation. As you say, I trust in the story. And I have taken steps in an attempt to write an outcome that I find favorable: The Spider’s Seven. Only now, I see that in order for me to succeed in my own plan, I would have to act wildly out of character. And I cannot do that, Lilith.”
She looked at him in sympathy. A smooth hand reached out to take his. “My friend, I know that. But what could make you so afraid that you would even consider it?”
This time, their eyes did meet and Lilith got the full brunt of the kind of fear only a god of knowledge could harbor.
Anansi’s lips parted and two words flew from them: “The End.”
It was half past eight in the morning in Kansas and Wendell looked like death warmed over as he looked at the others from across the table in the ops room. Aidan was still in his cell, but Flo had been coaxed from her lab with the promise that she could explain her grenades to the crew. She sat at the far end of the table, twisting paperclips together at a frenetic pace.
“Alright.” his voice came out as a croak until he cleared his throat. “I’ve been up all night on this. Hope everyone had breakfast already because from here on out, we’re going to be running and gunning on this.”
Terrell, Susan and Coyote, who all knew bits of what was going on, all nodded almost imperceptibly. Flo ignored him entirely in favor of her project with the paper clips. That left only Tommy to gauge and in him, Wendell’s con artist training saw nerve but also a willingness.
Wendell tapped his tablet to bring up the holographic display of the boy, Jerry and an overhead view of Casper. “What we know: This boy is of particular interest to a cult dedicated to a particularly nasty piece of work called the Adversarial Force. The goals of this cult is death and mayhem in the image of this Adversarial Force, and the reason they want the boy is because he has a very scary power to turn things to dust.
“Somehow, the cult knew that he’d have these powers before he was born, because they were seeding the city of Casper on every level with cult members so that they had a hand in every aspect of his life. This gets much darker when you realize that likely as a result, the kid started suffering from paranoia, depression and delusions.”
Everyone but Flo, he noticed, were shifting in discomfort now. He continued.
“Our lucky break is that eventually, Jerry’s parents noticed that his cult-supplied therapist wasn’t cutting it and managed to have him sent to a facility that specializes in descendants with mental health issues. Not so lucky: the cult has started infiltrating to get at him there.”
Wendell set his tablet aside and got up to pace the floor. “And at that point, Anansi put together a team to rescue him from the cult. Only then he left without telling any of us the plan, or the danger involved. I just spent all night putting it together by trying to think the way Anansi thinks and believe the things Anansi believes.”
He held up a finger. “The thing about Anansi is that he thinks of everything in terms of stories. Stories follow tropes; they follow structures and conventions, so when he made his plan to save this kid, he had those things in mind when he brought us together. That means that we weren’t chosen just because we’re the best at what we do, but because we serve the story he’s trying to tell best: each one of us works out to an archetype to him. And based on what I know about each of you, I’m willing to make some guesses.”
Stopping just in front of them, Wendell pointed to himself, then each of them in turn: “Con-man.”
Then he pointed in the direction of Aidan’s cell. “Brute.”
“Seven people, Seven jobs. Bu there’s also a theme. Anansi talked about redemption before and I think that was another point of bringing us specifically together. I don’t want it, Susan is conflicted because she feels justified, Terrell is atoning, Tommy was blamed for something that wasn’t his fault, Coyote has to overcome her weird dual-souls thing, Flo wants to prove that her ideas are worthwhile and the vampire is irredeemable. Seven people. Seven types of redemption.”
Wendell ignored the odd looks he was getting because he knew those would be worse in a moment. “And then we’ve got our meta roles in the story: “ Once again, he pointed, starting with himself: “Skeptic.”
Flo. “Comi… Unique mind.”
Finally, he nodded toward where Aidan would be. “Monster.”
Everyone but Flo looked at one another, though Coyote was smiling as she did. Tommy raised his hand like he was back in school. “Um… what’s the point of all this?”
“Spoke like a true Everyman.” said Wendell, suppressing the manic grin he felt coming on. “The reason it’s important is because this is how Anansi sees us. He sees everything as a story and we were part of the story he was writing to rescue the boy and stop the cult. He had a plan and he thought it would work. In order to figure out that plan, we have to think like him. It’s really very simple.”
Terrell shook his head. “I understand what you’re trying to say and it doesn’t sound simple at all to me.”
From beside him, Coyote chuckled. “That’s because you aren’t the con man. Wendell has made his entire life on getting into people’s heads. This time he’s in the head of someone who isn’t like any of you. Anansi is a creature of vast knowledge and a certain point of view: ‘simple’ to him is an entirely different prospect.”
Wendell licked his lips and paced a bit more. “I know it’s confusing and it doesn’t make sense to… well anyone who is sane. But reality left a long time ago even if Anansi turns out to have been crazy. We’re dealing with a cult who believes they can get what they want by breaking a boy’s mind: beating them will take some thinking outside the box.”
He smiled slyly. “But that’s what my job is. So trust me when I say that I have a plan based on what I’m sure Anansi would have done. And I think it will work.”
To Be Continued…
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