Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Dragons Eye - Part Three


Spiders. Involuntarily I thought of the bite on my finger, which still throbbed.

In the past, I have awoken from deep sleep with big spiders crawling all over me.

My reaction is fast and furious.  I kick everything off or near the bed into the walls, and sometimes through windows – sheets, pillows, bedside lamps, glasses of water, whatever book I am reading and the iPad.

In the general confusion that follows, the spiders always seem to get away. Except for Phred, who sensibly keeps his head down behind the clock radio.

There is that short period of time – perhaps, looking at the destruction around, going for 5-10 seconds – where the spiders were real. Where, when I brush one, I can feel it – likewise soft, rough, sticky or sharp. That is followed by a period of a couple of seconds of confusion – where did all the spiders go and why did they make such a mess.  Followed by the dawning realisation that they got away again. Without a trace...

That did not happen this time.  I was lying on a soft surface that was quietly vibrating and I was thinking to myself – There are no spiders. I am in a hospital ward in New Zealand… And I have hurt myself bad.  I just fell off a hospital bed and someone will come along in a moment and pick me up and put me back in the bed.  Maybe, this time, they will give me better drugs and tie me down.  I do not have to do anything. Just keep my eyes shut.

It all made sense except the bit about New Zealand and the vibrations. 

The little dark alf said: Eyes open, human.

There was an edge to the voice.

She sang: The spiders are coming. They will tie you tight.  Inject you with poison stunning.  Until they are ready for a bite.

Nup. Not going to open my eyes.

I said – I don’t believe in you.

She said – A kitten, poof!

Another voice cut in – I don’t believe in you either. But we do not have time for that. Now, open your eyes or I will make you sorry you ever saw us.

I said – Are you the nurse, Kathy or Karen or Tethy? The one that answered the phone?

I remembered this time to not complicate things with a "whatever" or "whoever". 

The second one paused for a moment and said – I am Onesti, I bit your finger before.  You have already met Teathyme, she bandaged your head and gave you salve. There is no Kathy or Karen or Tethy.

Teathyme sang – None of them.

Onesti said – Now open your eyes or I will bite you again.

I could still feel the vibrations coming from the surface.  It could just be vibrations from a generator, or people moving on another floor, of the hospital. I moved my hand to feel for the legs of a bed – hoping to find a nice sharp metallic bar, perhaps with a leg attached.  Instead I felt a gritty rock wall.

My head was throbbing. The gritty rock wall was wet with small plants growing in the crevices.

So I opened one eye.  The two dark alfs were mounted on the cats. Blanket was down on all fours, eyes shut, dozing. Waylander was crouched, ready to run, her hair full of static and her eyes darting at the shadows moving high in the distance.

Onesti said - Good. You tasted terrible the first time. We cannot stay here.  We had to stop to patch you up. The landing is close. We would like to take you somewhere safer, but we will have to go back down the way we came.

I asked – The way we came?  I do not remember that. I don’t think I can move.

Then I remembered the rainbow.  And the dragon. And I remember you saying "With all that gold, I'm sure the dragon won't mind sharing". A big basking dragon, golden in the sunset, keeping the treasure safe. Then I thought of the blue tongue tasting the air.  You wanted to see the blue tongue. I shivered.

I said – The rainbow.  We can give the dragon a miss.

Onesti said – No.  We are going to the elevator. The dragon, well, maybe, maybe not.

Teathyme sang: Salve will give you wings. You are just confused. You will forget things. And your memory pursued.

Memory pursued?

I said – What salve. What did you give me?

Onesti – Some red mushroom. Perfectly safe.

Dark Alfs and red mushrooms - Fly Agaric – very potent medication. Grand Aunt Victoria Edmonstone thought dark alfs lived inside Fly Agaric back in the old country, Ireland.  She never lived to see the fungi in Australia - it is a recent introduction here.  Her parents had never seen the fungi either.  When she told me her old stories about dark alfs, rainbows and red mushrooms, she was repeating those told by her seanathair to his children, around the fires of the Victorian goldfields.

Could that do it?  Fly Agaric is poisonous. It will make you sick or kill you.  It is also psychoactive. In past ages, it was used by the brave or foolhardy to induce intoxication - after preparation processes to remove the toxin.  Viking berserk can be traced to the fungi.  A Dead Sea scholar wrote about its possible use in early Christian communities. 

I shook my head. 

A bed. I remember my bed. The one without the spiders. And my farm. And the ridges and the sky.

Ok – adventure over.  I just want to get home now.  My own bed.  Right now. I will shut eyes and wake up there.  As an afterthought, I thought quietly, or the beach. With sun.

I shut my eyes, tight.

Onesti got Waylander to bite me this time.  I opened both eyes and winced.

Onesti shouted – Freeze.

She got close and said –The spider can feel you move.  When we start moving to the elevator we will have a very short time.  If it was up to me, I would leave you. But the cats want to bring you back. 

Waylander made a dismissive sound.

Onesti corrected - Well, Blanket wants you back.

Onesti patted Waylander and Waylander licked its lips.

There was some blood oozing out of the bite.  I should not have brought the cats.

I said – I don’t believe this.

Teathyme rolled her eyes – Another kitten, poof!

I said – I didn’t do that.

Teathyme glared at me.

I got up onto my arms.  The vibrations suddenly stopped.

Onesti said – It knows where we are. Come. Ignore what you see or feel – just follow me.

She patted Waylander and both cats sprang into the air, flying up and they kept going.

Teathyme turned back and sang: Salve will give you wings - You are just confused - You will forget things - And your memory pursued.

My back exploded in pain as wings unfolded and I followed. High into the air. Avoiding strands of web.

As we rose, I could see the spider coming. Legs folded and riding a strand of web like an arrow. Banks of eyes glowing with gold heat.

We were heading towards a node in the network of webs. The light was different here.  The soft light of late afternoon. The smell of a summer storm and static electricity. The smell of a thunderstorm that has just passed.

The cats landed on a ledge close to a tear in the world.  I missed and hit the wall instead.
The spider jumped from the transport strand and turned to our new location. Its legs huge above us. It was so close and I could see its claws.

Onesti shook her head said – Last chance. You will have to help open the elevator door.

I shook my head.

A pair of elevator doors were ahead of me. 

Onesti looked into my eyes – Prise these open.  Trust me. 

I could feel the spider moving towards us.  Ahead of the big spider were thousands of small spiders. Small hairy spiders.

The cats and the dark alfs tried to keep the small spiders away, while I tried to prise open the elevator doors.  An alarm started to sound in the distance.

There were spiders all over me.  When I brushed one, I could feel it – likewise soft, rough, sticky or sharp.  I kicked everything off or near me.  I saw sheets, pillows, bedside lamps, glasses of water, books flying all around. 

The elevator doors opened.  But there is nothing there but an empty shaft into the darkness below and an alarm screaming.  And then the faintest glimmer of a rainbow.

Onesti said – Now jump.

The cats and the dark alfs went first. 

Teathyme gave me a look as Blanket leapt – Catch a falling star! Put her in your spire!
They were gone.

The small spiders disappeared as soon as they had arrived. Just the big spider. A bank of eyes staring at me. A murmur of voices, a quite short argument.

The spider said in a soft quiet reassuring voice – Restez avec moi. Vous ne pouvez pas aller.

I shook my head. The murmur resumed, the vibration recommenced, another short argument. The spider dropped its head close, and said in a soft quiet voice. This time with a slight New Zealand accent – Stay with me. You cannot go.  

Closer and more urgent, with that accent now very pronounced – I have a message for you.

I don’t like spiders.

And so I jumped, just as the spider made its move.

Peter Quinton
February 2015

>  Part Four

Image - Molonglo High Plains, after a storm, yesterday

(No dragons or cats were hurt writing this part. Lots of small spiders were squashed – about which I am very sorry.)

An index to the parts of the story is here.

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