- The Spider’s Seven #1 – The Trickster God
- The Spider’s Seven #2 – The Penitent Thief
- The Spider’s Seven #3 – The Enforcer and the Faceman
- The Spider’s Seven #4 – The Wheelman
- The Spider’s Seven #5 – The Plan
- The Spider’s Seven #6 – The Base
- The Spider’s Seven #7 – The Myth
- The Spider’s Seven #8 – The Genius (Part 1)
- The Spider’s Seven #9 – The Genius (Part 2)
- The Spider’s Seven #10 – The Genius (Part 3)
- The Spider’s Seven #11 – The Monster (Part 1)
- The Spider’s Seven #12 – The Monster (Part 2)
- The Spider’s Seven Annual #1 – The Team
“This… doesn’t look encouraging.” Wendell voiced the thoughts all everyone else in the room besides Anansi.
They were in a room at World Spider HQ that they’d never seen before, one that had been hidden behind a wall panel in the main room. It contained two heavy duty prison cells. Inside one was Aidan Beck, shackled with his arms in front of him and his legs hobbled. The entire time the were there, he glared at them with his head slightly bowed, looking much like a predator that knew there was prey, but couldn’t get to it.
“I cannot trust him walking free here.” said Anansi with a graveness he rarely used. “Mr. Beck is a narcissistic, antisocial, megalomaniac with a number of murders under his belt and a desire to increase that number.”
“And you bought him here?” Wendell asked, exasperated.
“Mrs. Polanski has killed people as well.” Anansi pointed out.
“That’s different. Killing for money is one thing—you can be trusted not to kill if you’re not being paid. Killing because you like it, well it’s exactly what it says on the tin.” He looked up to see the surprise on Susan’s face and for realized that in a round about way, he’d defended her.
Terrell ignored the pragmatic argument and stepped up to speak of the Spider’s shoulder before he could address it. “He isn’t here by choice, is he?”
Anansi said nothing.
“Goddamn it.” Terrell said with a growl. “Is that how it is now? If one of us wants to walk, you’re going to toss us in a cell? Is that what the other one’s for?”
Again, Anansi was silent.
Susan looked at Coyote, who was standing in the corner, arms folded, head down. She looked far older and more serious than a girl her age should. Her tone wasn’t accusatory, but it bought with it the promise that it could become so very quickly. “What do you think of all this?”
Coyote raised her eyes to meet the other woman’s. “I wanted nothing to do with it, but I still have some faith that he knows what he’s doing.”
“Can I go back to my lab now?” Flo asked. She didn’t see the controversy or the point of going to gawk at the new ‘recruit’, not when she was making important progress on her a new kind of compressible propellant to incorporate into her grenades.
No one paid her any attention.
“The question,” Susan said, “Is ‘does he know what he’s doing?’”
“He does not.”
Everyone excepting Flo and Aidan looked up together to find that the words came from the Spider himself. He looked back at their shocked expressions as if chiding them for expecting anything less, though his expression was still uncharacteristically serious.
“I will tell you the truth; this is a story who ending I don’t know. The words are still being written into the future and until it plays out, I am as blind to it was you. The difference is, I know how the great tales work; not what transpires, but what is written, for even history is bent by the mind into a narrative instead of chaos.
“There are those who say that life is meaningless, that sometimes stories do not have satisfying endings and that sometimes what we do is for nothing. When it comes to reality; cold and virginal and without the touch of humanity’s perspective and imagination, they are absolutely correct. But when it comes to what we create from the raw materials of reality and temper into what were call true and knowledge and memory, I will tell you that they are wrong.”
He didn’t actually grow, or change to the recollection of the others, but he seemed to be something more; something timeless and immense, with a billion faces and a billion voices. And it held not fear for them, only awe.
“I am one of those who have been gifted in the understanding of how it works; how the patterns fall into place. And that is why I feel we need this man, this murderer, this monster and though it pains my morality, the consequences of not breaking my own mores pains it more.”
His expression became at once dark and hopeful. “Believe of me what you will; I have not always won and my tales will bear this out. But I have won and those victories were on my wits. And now my wits tell me that this is the correct decision even if it is not right. Even a god must at times give himself to Fate and pray that he will not fail.”
Silence started to fill the room, but it was slaughtered by a harsh laugh from Aidan.
“All this drama and it doesn’t make an ounce of sense. Whoever you are, whatever you think you are; just tell me this straight: why me? You’re calling me a monster and you are abso-goddamn-lutely right. So why not kill me? Why put me in a cage and put on a show for this… people.” He said ‘people’ as if the very idea offended him.
“They say he’s a vampire.” Tommy informed the others, realizing that bit hadn’t been bought up yet.
“A strigoi.” said Coyote.
“But not at the moment.” said Anansi. “I’ve taken that from him for the time being, and can restore it at my discretion.”
Terrell studied Aidan through the bars. “And you saw that for yourself?”
“No, he was just like this when they bought him out.” said Tommy.
“I’d really rather he not prove it if he can.” Wendell took a step back from the bars just in case.
Susan didn’t move away, but she did clinch her hand into a fist. “So what’s the point of locking him up now if he’s been… devamped? He’s just a normal human now. Not dangerous.”
“Humans have killed each other for a very, very long time without powers.” said Anansi. “And a strigoi can live on animals; they need very little blood and marrow for their size. Mr. Beck just like killing.”
“Something tells me he’s not part of the ‘redemption’ thing you mentioned.” Terrell never took his eyes off Aidan.
“I personally find him irredeemable.” said Anansi. “But sometimes people who don’t really need redemption seek it,” He looked at Tommy, “And those that don’t look for it are still wholly capable.” At this, he looked to Wendell.
He ran his tongue over his teeth behind closed lips. “I’ll remind you all that you were bought here for the purpose of saving one single, solitary life. There is a young boy in Colorado who not only has his life on the line, but his sanity and his very existence. I have bought together the skills and the resources to do this and hopefully, by extension, protect millions who would die or worse if we fail.
“You can walk away now, abandon your part and the possibility of proving that you are more than the dishonored, the reviled and the belittled. I will not stop you or discourage you.”
Anansi waited, no one looked ready to leave. Not out of a sense of right, he suspected, but the desire to get paid, pride, or curiosity. They were good enough. It wasn’t the intentions that became part of the legend but the deeds. At least, for the moment, their minds were off the subject of Aidan.
“Good. Then our job of doing just that begins right now.”
Life had started taking a sudden turn south in middle school for Jeremy Galloway.
Long before his life had been completely ruined, it had been a more generic kind of bad. By the time he graduated to sixth grade, he had glasses, he was fat, and his doctor had discovered that he has a genetic defect in his lungs that meant he got only about three quarters as much oxygen in every breath as a normal kid his age.
Being bad at sports, constantly winded, and as a result of that, constantly lethargic made him a popular target.
It started with name calling and when that didn’t hurt him as much as his classmates hoped, it progressed to pranks; stealing his things, defacing his locker, knocking his books or launch over. He had a few friends, but they didn’t last long; being friends with him was just an invitation to getting the same treatment he endured.
Eventually, his mother got involved and that made things worse. One of the vice-principals actually scolded him for not handling his own ‘minor’ problems and bringing his mother into it. That episode made it clear that as far as any semblance of authority was concerned, there were no consequences for tormenting him.
The ‘pranks’ got more blatant and even more mean spirited. People would dump drinks on him and shove him in the hall. Punches and pinches got added in for good measure. Jeremy started missing school, not only deliberately, but because days that were particularly heavy with abuse made him feel too faint to go on, thanks to his condition.
Finally, the superintendent of schools got wind of what was happening. The vice-principal was transferred and the adults congratulated each other on a job well done.
Of course, it wasn’t well done. The same kids that liked to cause Jeremy the most pain also like the vice-principal for his stance that let them get away with that kind of thing to him and everyone else they pleased.
What did change was the venue. School was a safe zone, but outside of it, in town, that’s where they waited from him. And because now they had to wait through the whole day to teach Jeremy his place for having the nerve to be fat and weak in their presence, what had been an occasional shove or punch became full on beatings and the occasional ‘prank’ theft of school supplies became robbery.
After one day, in which his tablet was taken from him and stomped into worthless, shattered plastic and circuitry in front of him, Jeremy stopped going anywhere in town. The only times he left the house was to meet the bus to and from school. He became detached from the world and started having stress headaches from all his time spent dodging his tormentors between the bus stop and home or school.
By high school, his health was suffering. Besides the headaches, his lung function was decreasing. Now, he needed to spend an hour a day on a breathing machine to try and improve it. He begged his parents to let him drop out of school, but they insisted he needed school for socializing, seeing as he never left the house otherwise.
Later, he blamed that moment for what started happening in his mind.
It started with revenge fantasies. They weren’t new in concept; he always fantasized of besting his bullies in a fight and making them eat dirt. Maybe this time, their expensive computers and nice clothes would be ruined.
The new ones were nothing like that. They were dark and violent. At first, it was just bloody; he would beat them with abandon and make them bleed; maybe he got a hold of a weapon of some sort and did it.
One night, he dreamed he killed Troy Hannah.
Troy wasn’t the most tenacious in the group that bullied Jeremy, but he did always seem to be around when things got to their worst. Most of the time, he didn’t even participate, just stood back and egged the other one.
But he was always there; his face has become a shorthand for the beatings. Jeremy guessed that was why he was the first to ‘die’ in his dreams.
It was a short, brutal affair. Jeremy dreamed he was being chased. In those days, he always dreamed he was being chased; even when he managed to avoid trouble for more than a week, his nightmares kept things fresh in his mind.
He tried to cut down an alley to escape only to find a dead end. As he turned, preparing himself for yet another round of abuse, he fell firm pressure on his hands, as if large fingers were pressing them closed. When he looked, he found that they were wrapped around a wooden baseball bat.
Troy was the first to come at him out of the faceless crowd that presented itself, and Jeremy didn’t let him get close. Again and again, he swung the bat until he was swinging overhand into a crumpled, bleeding heap on the ground. It was thrilling and satisfying and he kept going long after Troy stopped moving.
Eventually, the repetition became monotonous and only that finally stayed his hand. It was then that he finally got a good look at his handiwork and woke up with his stomach heaving.
Another week passed, and each night, someone else died. The weapons varied, but after a time, he noticed that they were always red; not red like the inevitably spilled blood, but reds so dark that only the light catching it just right distinguished it from black, but the surface was always cracked and pitted, revealing a dully glowing crimson beneath like magma in a vent.
At the same time, something strange and wonderful was happening: his lung capacity was getting better. Not just improving from the depths of his health, but improving beyond anything his doctors expected.
For an entire week, he got progressively healthier, but languished in murder scenarios in his dreams. After that week, he tried to resist the urge to kill in his dream. Shockingly, he was successful, but the next day, he found himself laid up in bed, only able to breath in short, shallow breaths.
Over the course of a month, the pattern emerged; on nights where he gave in and killed, not just one person now, but sometimes two or three each night in his sleep, he would wake up physically better than he felt in years—he was even starting to lose weight. However, on nights where he managed to stop himself, to put down the knife or the gun or whatever instrument of death he’d been given, he woke up at his worst.
Something was very wrong with him and it wasn’t normal.
He tried to tell his parents, and they made an appointment with a therapist working for the state. Maybe he could have helped, but no matter how much Jeremy indulged his urges the night before, he woke up on appointment days almost unable to breath at all without a respirator.
On the fourth morning, Jeremy woke up in acute respiratory distress and was rushed to the hospital.
His parents were terrified, the doctors were baffled, and Jeremy thought that this would be the worst day of his life.
They were about to become much worse.
To Be Continued in The Spider’s Seven #13, Publication Date TBA.