Basic story idea from this Writing Prompt, opinions, advice, and comments gratefully taken and desired.
Henry balled up both his fists again, the tight olive green t-shirt straining at the mass of his upper arm as he started his swinging motion, the same kind of T-shirt he told Cynthia he used to wear during basic training.
Thwack, thwack, boom!
Cynthia felt the pain explode in her head as she fell onto the kitchen floor, her hands shielding her head as she went into a fetal position. Cynthia’s right hand felt around her temple and her fingers slid into something wet and slightly warm, like some soup left in a pot that had to be reheated before it could be served.
Her eyes were closed but Cynthia could hear Henry take a step closer in his steel toe work boots. There was a minute moment of perfect silence, a muttering of what might have been the word: ‘Bitch,’ and then the pain and the blood from her now throbbing head was quickly forgotten as a worse pain exploded in her stomach and all the air was forced out of her lungs.
It was as if one pain outranked the other and told it who was in charge when it came to the pain game.
All this over a spider.
Ever since Cynthia was a little girl she had been kind to the little creatures around her, she said good morning to the trees and used to yell at the neighborhood boys down the street when they used to run around in those sweet summer dusks of childhood, capturing fireflies only to smash them to the ground, where that beautiful and magical yellow glow would slowly fade, like it was soaked back into the sacred ground from which it came.
Cynthia had not dared to have a pet to love and care for since marrying Henry twenty years ago, not after the disappearance of her beagle Jack during their first year of marriage, who one day was a happy little puppy in his yard and the next day was gone.
While never be a woman of confrontation during her marriage Cynthia was definitely a woman of keen observation. She knew Henry hated Jack for how much he thought she doted on the dog and would tell her point blank that she loved that mutt more than she loved her own husband.
One night Jack was barking downstairs at the kitchen door, most likely because one of the families of local raccoons was looking for a garbage can take-out again, which did not mean Jack was being a bad dog, he was protecting his master and his home.
Henry got out of bed and said he would let the little bastard outside if that is what he wanted and told Cynthia that mutt makes too much god damn noise when a working man is supposed to be able to get some sleep.
That was the last night Jack had been seen and although Henry had come to the conclusion that the raccoon must have been out there and Jack chased it into oblivion after jumping the fence, Cynthia always suspected Henry either let Jack loose or actually got rid of him, which was why the very next week she stopped dreaming of having a child of her own and got back on birth control without Henry even knowing about it.
If he this was jealous of a dog she had thought, how jealous would he be of the bond she would naturally have with her future daughter or son?
Then came the cabin, and the spiders.
The cabin was about two hundred and fifty miles from their home, something Henry had wanted since he was a boy, a cabin on a lake where he could escape what he called: ‘The world full to the gills of liberals, pansies, and cross-dressing faggots.”
Over the years they had found the cabin was also prone to having some mice and spiders when they returned each Spring to check for Winter damage, and while Henry went into the small town to get some supplies and some traps, Cynthia would try and see if she could find as many of the mice and spiders as she could find to try and free them, it was almost to Cynthia like saving someone from Henry’s cruelty because she could not escape herself.
The mice, of course, were not only dormant during the daylight hours but not as easy to trace and capture like the spiders were so quickly (plus Cynthia had read you had to free rodents far from the home they had invaded or they would just come right back), so she would quickly move around the tiny cabin, collecting as many spiders as she could find in a jar and freeing them outside.
As she unscrewed the Mason Jar cap with holes punched through it, she began to chant the same mantra year after year as she freed them: “Today you, tomorrow me.”
It was almost ritual like as if she was hoping that by excusing these spiders of suffering deaths at the hands of a man who drank too much, bathed little and also thought he was the A-plus king of the god-shitting world, to hear Henry tell it, would somehow also make her own hell better.
Except for this year when they returned to the cabin for Henry’s yearly two-week vacation from the factory, something had been different. Besides there being no mice (which Henry attributed to his foresight to block the old mouse holes with steel wool), there were no spiders to be rescued anywhere in the cabin.Cynthia searched and searched almost in a panic because soon the guard would return to her personal prison and she could not save them if she could not find them before he returned.
Cynthia searched until she heard the tell-tale sound of Henry’s gas guzzling ancient Buick coming up the gravel drive, the sound that chimed like a bell in her head to remind her to put her shields up and keep her eyes peeled.
The next two weeks went as the two-week jaunt to the cabin usually went, They had barbecues with the couple from the cabin a couple miles down the road and watched the fireworks that were shot off each Fourth of July by the girls and boys summer camp on the other side of the lake.
One night, Henry and the neighbors had a falling out, mainly because the neighbor’s wife said Henry said something lewd to her when she tried to use the washroom inside the cabin, but mostly because he was Henry Reed, king of the world and bastard besides.
After the couple had left and Henry had continued to drink into the night, muttering to himself about the events that had occurred earlier, Henry had come inside where she was trying to finish a crocheting project, which was difficult ever since the time Henry had shut her hand in the Buick’s door ‘on accident’ on Christmas Eve, at least that is what he told the doctor at the emergency room.
Cynthia instantly recoiled and tried to sink into the cushions of the plush sofa, but it was too late he was on top of her and her mind went blank, which was better than trying to fight it in the end.
Later that night in the bedroom, Henry snoring sound asleep beside her, drained and perversely fulfilled, she saw a pair of spiders walking up the cabin wall on her side of the bed. Tears rolled silently down her eyes (because to outright cry might wake Henry and he hated ‘whiny bitches.’) and she whispered so low she was not sure if the sounds actually left her mouth or in her own mind: “Today you, tomorrow me.”
The next morning she awoke and was instantly put into fight or flight mode as she heard Henry screaming from the cabin’s bathroom. Soon, his feet could be heard stomping across the cabin floor towards the bedroom and for the second time in less then twenty-four hours, Cynthia felt that old fear rise up in her.
Henry appeared at the door to the bedroom, and both of his eyes were swollen almost to the point that they were completely shut. If Cynthia did not know the consequences of such an action she would have laughed.
“God damn spider bites!” Henry growled. “God damn, this smarts, fuckers must have attacked me in my sleep.”
“Are you sure they are spider bites?” Cynthia asked.
“Of course I am sure you stupid fucking cunt! I spent three years in the fucking bush, I know a fucking spider bit when I fucking see one!” Henry had that look, the same one he had the night before on the couch and Cynthia froze.
However, it was not directed at her. “I’m going into town, going to get some poison to kill these eight legged bastards with, no fucking bug and no fucking stuck up bitch is going to ruin my fucking vacation!”
And with that, after filling his hip flask with Jim Beam, he was gone.
Throwing the blankets from her Cynthia quickly ran around the bedroom, then the rest of the cabin searching for the spiders. If she was quick, she could save them.
“Today you, tomorrow me, today you, tomorrow me…” she muttered to herself as she ran around the rooms of the cabin, hoping and praying she could find her little friends, the ones who had finally made his eyes swell for once.
Finally, there in the corner of the main room of the cabin, she saw a tiny spider on the wall. She had to stack a few old milk crates to reach her but she did, capturing the little spider in the Mason jar.
“Today you, tomorrow me.” Cynthia sighed. “One day we shall both be free.” She said this out loud and it felt right like it completed a mantra or an electrical circuit. It was as if something had snapped into place somehow.
“What in the fuck do you think you’re doing, you cocky little cunt?”
Cynthia nearly fell from the milk crates but was able to regain her balance just in time. She stepped down and faced Henry, instinctively clutching the Mason Jar against her chest with both folded arms. For once she had not heeded the sound of the Buick and she knew she might have to pay for that inattention.
“I wanted to help because you were hurt, so I decided to try and find the spiders before they bit you again.”
Henry stepped up to her, stopping when he was so close she could smell the Jim Beam from the silver flask, which was now probably empty. Henry grabbed the Mason Jar from Cynthia’s grasp and went to the table in the kitchen where a large bag from Hayward’s Hardware hung from the back of one of the chairs. He removed a large spray can from it and shook it.
“Good, now we can see how this little bastard likes a bit of napalm in the morning.”
Henry began to unscrew the cap from the Mason Jar.
“NO!” Cynthia shouted, despite herself.
“Excuse me?” Henry’s grin fell away from his face, the objects in either hand already forgotten. “Did you say ‘no?’ I think we know that word does not exist in your vocabulary does it bitch?”
Cynthia stayed silent, and then Henry threw the Mason Jar to the floor, breaking it. The little spider inside tried to escape the debris but was flattened by Henry’s work boot coming down on the remains with a crunch.
“No!” Cynthia shouted again, knowing that she now had crossed one too many lines…he was going to beat her now.
That was how she ended up on the kitchen floor, breathless and bleeding.
The next blow never came, however after that kick to her stomach. Instead, something she could only describe as some primal automatic urge welled up inside her and she began bending her stomach further into the fetal position she was in, bending her face right into the thighs of her jeans. Damn the multiple points of pain that screamed for her to stop from the injuries of two days of physical abuse. She squirmed on the ground like a worm that is stuck in place and began to chant:
“Today you, tomorrow me, then we will both be free….Today you, tomorrow me, then we will both be free.”
Henry stood over her and laughed. “Well, this bitch has finally gone coo-coo for Cocoa-Puffs.”
He spat on her she and she felt it hit her chin and begin a slow and slick crawl down her shirt onto her chest.
“Today You, Tomorrow me, then we will both be free.”
Suddenly, a sound broke the spell that held Cynthia and her body gave a sigh of relief before reminding her of how badly she was hurt. Fighting through the painfulness, she propped herself up on her elbows, watching in fascination the sight that was in front of her.
There was Henry, staring down at his legs in shock and horror as most of his legs up to his calves were enveloped in spiders, and they proceeded to climb up his legs to his crotch and up onto his stomach area, Henry stopped looking down at his predicament and stared at his wife.
“Help me you, stupid whore!” He bellowed.
“Today you, tomorrow me, then we shall be set free,” Cynthia replied, and she swore it felt like she was not alone this time when she said it, like she was part of a chorus of voices, whether they were just in her own mind or also being audibly said she could not be certain and Henry was in no position to discuss the matter.
“Fuck you,” Henry said matter of factly and uncapped the poison spray he still held in his other hand. He sprayed the onslaught of spiders on the lower half of his body but it did no good. Some did indeed fall off and fall to the floor, their legs curled inwards in defeat, but more was coming towards Henry from all over the cabin in neat lines, a spider army ready to defend.
In desperation, Henry somehow pushed past the spiders around his waist and was able to get into his pockets and pull out his Zippo lighter. Henry lit it and flipped it open while placing the can’s ‘eye’ near the grilled wick of the lighter.
“Fuck these things, fuck em’ sideways with a pool cue,” Henry said and pushed down on the spray can. Fire leaped from the can through the Zippo’s flame and Henry began to scream as of course, the fire hit not only the spiders but also Henry’s clothing and skin.
Henry fell into the living room area and right on the couch, still moved out of its usual spot and in disarray from last nights ‘fun’ and then that caught on fire as well.
About twenty minutes later Cynthia sat outside the cabin in Henry’s old Buick, a sun hat over her bruised face along with sunglasses to cut down the hurt the Summer sun was causing in her still throbbing head. The flames were now able to be seen in the cabin’s windows from outside, and suddenly in shock, Cynthia had no idea what to do, they would think she murdered him, she would go to prison and go from one cell to another of a slightly different design.
Then suddenly a new voice came into her head and told her it would be all right.
“You will go to the neighbors down the road, tell the truth about everything except the spiders…you are free, today you, tomorrow us…”
Cynthia adjusted her sun hat and let a smile creep across her face as she started the old Buick and grasped the automatic shift. She was free and that is when she saw the parade of spiders coming from the cabin. Some were heading out into the woods but still a great many were also heading towards the Buick.
Cynthia turned off the engine and waited…after all, a queen always waits for her subjects and after all, they had work to do.