Red and black, the two colours will forever more haunt me in my dreams as a result of a tale that starts on a mundane Monday afternoon as I travelled country roads under the overcast sky of the English summer, how far from the picturesque image of poets our countryside truly is. The destination to which I was travelling was an old farmhouse that I was temporarily renting, I was to stay there for the duration of May as a holiday to cure my writer's block.
Upon my arrival, I was greeted by the farmer’s son, a rotund boy in the waning years of his adolescence who gave me the keys to the house before giving me a tour of the building. The house, as it was made some time ago, was lacking any real insulation rendering the efforts of the radiators unapparent and the barren walls of the main living room made one feel the cold all the more.
I was left alone in the cold chamber that was to serve as my bedroom. I began to unpack my suitcase, placing my clothes in the oak wardrobe that stood opposite of my bed and placing a lighter on an oak bedside cabinet. It was late when I had finished so I went to bed.
Upon waking to the crowing of a cockerel I got up out of bed. After I had finished my breakfast I decided to go for a walk over the fields, taking my wellington boots and umbrella as the sky was even more dreary. After making sure the boiler was lit I made my departure. I wandered alone across the green seas of grass in silence, save for the occasional mooing of monochrome cattle. As the pale sun was halfway on its journey to its throne in the Stygian sky I found myself on the border between the desolate sea of grass and a dark tangled wood, a veil of bramble bushes serving as a barrier barring my entry. However, as I walked along the thorny border I found a portal of oval shape in the bush, so I ventured through it into the twisted wood, my clothes being clawed at by the bramble bush’s tenebrous thorns. The wood was unusually untamed, the little sunlight there was, was barely able to penetrate the twisted canopy of the tartarean trees whose bark was ensnared by the ghostly pale webbing wrought by the satanic swarms of spiders that resided in this woeful wood.
Despite the weird and wild nature of this wood, there was a small mud path that extended from the opening so, curious as to what anyone was entering this wild wood to see I followed the small mud trail through the twisted tangle of branches.
As I ventured further my passage became ever increasingly obstructed by the webs of the caliginous crawling children of Arachne and the trees became more tartarean. Bulbous Egg sacks hung from the twisted branches of the tenebrous trees. The sight of the crawling shadows and their repugnant brood caused my skin to writhe as if they had burrowed into it but, I ventured on.
As I plunged further towards the heart of darkness I began to see markings engraved into the mangled bark of the branches of the twisted trees. The esoteric etchings that were crudely carved into the black bark of the tenebrous tree bore no resemblance to any symbols I had ever seen prior to my descent into darkness.
I eventually reached a spot in the wood that was more open yet it was by no stretch of the imagination. In the centre of this wood, I found a circular clearing that had within its centre a solitary tree with an alcove carved into its trunk. There, in that alcove, I found a strange effigy composed of straw and string. The figure was of vaguely anthropoid outline however, it had eight lengths of string that protruded out from the figure’s sides.
I found myself being overcome by an atavistic feeling of awe. The figure disturbed me, in a primal way that one could not quite explain and comparable only I suppose to that of a penitent worshiper before an image of the Nazarene. Whilst some would have left it be and fled, which had been an ever-present thought as the I progressed into the kingdom of these most detestable creations of nature, I chose differently…I picked it up, pricking my finger as I did so. I had decided that a figure that can affect the atavisms of one’s mind in such a way would serve as an aid to the conception of ideas. I was scared of it and that was the very reasons I took it, as such fear may lead my mind to terrible new vistas of nightmarish realities that it might produce a new work. After all, the cure to an ailment can sometimes be itself traumatic.
Having satisfied my curiosity and having found a dark muse I fled from the webbed kingdom of the abominable arachnids as they crawled after me, some even dropping from the branches to join in the pursuit. It was only as the golden rays hit my face that the foul forms fled on their eight loathsome legs back into the heart of darkness.
Once I was home I quickly ascended the staircase in search of the shower, chucking the effigy onto a chair as I did so. I stood under the water letting it burn my skin in order to rid my self of the feeling of millions of spiders crawling under my skin. I only got out as the water turned cold.
Having had my shower, I went downstairs to pour myself a drink; I sat down next to where I had thrown the effigy with a glass and bottle of wine. I drank myself into a stupor before falling fully asleep.
In my sleep, I had a dream. I dreamt of a distraught female voice calling out from the void. I stood alone in a hallway entirely devoid of light, whose walls were only known to me as my hands groped at cold, moist stone. I tried to follow the woeful wailing but, as I grew nearer my movement through the shadow became slowed as if I were walking through something sticky.
I woke up as the orange rays of the dawn sun shone on my eyelids and the return of that uncomfortable feeling of my skin crawling. I also found that a red mark had appeared on my pricked finger. The feeling persisted throughout the morning as I proceeded to jot down my dream, in order to draw on it, before making my breakfast. Finding that I was lacking any suitable ingredients I decided to take a trip to the nearby village; as I was made my way down the twisting road I saw in the fields a dew covered blanket resting atop the corn, there was a great web stretching across the field that I had been in the previous day. The sight of the spiders’ silken effluvia caused my skin to writhe in disgust at the thought of their night-time construction of it.
Upon returning from the village my finger had begun to itch, with the red mark spreading to dominate the entirety of my fingertip, with a vermillion dot at the centre of the fingerprint. My entire hand began to grow itchy as the evening began to draw in. I decided to such for medicine in an attempt to sooth the inflammation however, I failed so instead I resorted to drinking myself into a stupor.
My sleep was dominated by a repulsive reverie in which I found myself once again the tenebrous halls of the night prior. However, it was no longer just me and the distraught voice, the shadows now writhed as though alive. The voice was also louder than before. I felt a strange sensation in the palm of my hand, as though something lay under the skin that pushed outwards. As I approached the voice the pushing in my arm grew more intense, I felt as though my skin was going to burst open, so I turned and fled from the voice. I pushed forward into the void that lay before me but, the pushing only grew more intense.
I awoke in a cold sweat, finding that the entire palm of my hand dominated by a red rash that vaguely resembled the outline of a person. I decided to go downstairs to write down my dream as I ate my breakfast. As I walked downstairs I felt something prick my foot, looking down I saw the effigy squashed underneath the sole of my foot. I picked it up and placed it on the table while I prepared breakfast.
As I sat at the table I found it hard to write as the rash on my hand itched intensely. I just about managed to eat before the itching got too much, forcing me to look for a cream to put on it. Failing to find any I resorted to running a hot bath, to give at least a temporary relief from my inflamed hand.
As I lay there in the warm water I noticed the itching begins to increase. At first, I tried to relieve it by running hot water over my hand until it began to burn then I switched to cold, the latter worked only slightly. So instead I grabbed a beige loofah and began to rub it against my palm; starting slowly I rubbed at the skin of my hand, increasing in speed and ferocity over time. As my rubbing reached its peak the loofah began to flay my palm causing the true horror to begin. Millions of infantile arachnids were expelled from the wound, falling alongside my blood into the bath. As I saw them come out from me my heart sank into my chest and my body went cold. I stood up in horror and attempted to shake the crawling creatures from my arm as I fled for my bedroom. I thrashed about as I made my way to my room but they clung to me.
I ran towards the bedside cabinet; groping at the cabinet to find my lighter with which I immolated my arm, sacrificing my flesh to remove the foul arachnids from me. As the stench of burnt flesh filled my nostrils the spiders not consumed by the flame flung themselves from my arm, scurrying along the floor towards the staircase. Before following after the beasts, I wrapped my hand in a handkerchief.
As I went downstairs, lighter in hand, I trod very carefully as the thought of feeling the body of one of the spiders crushed under my foot made me want to tear off my skin. Upon reaching the bottom of the stairs I saw that the spiders had swarmed around the effigy, so I picked it up, placed it into the sink and then set it alight, which caused the spiders to scurry towards the blaze. At that moment I knew I could not stay comfortable if I remained there, so I hastily packed my things and made a swift exit from the farmhouse.
After returning to my apartment in Oakstone I sent a message to the farmer saying that I had had a funny turn causing me to return to my home. I now set down the details of this most disturbing period of my life in the hopes that I might be able to remove it from my memory, but my skin still crawls at the sight of those eight-legged fiends.
Written by MaryNabokov