Self-aware. Self conscious. Self induced.

Intermission 1E (Telling Tales)

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Bundled Nightmares

That afternoon, her mother heard the princess singing again. The music was unlike anything she had ever heard, and reminded her of far off oceans and adventure. When she asked about it, her daughter replied, “I didn’t know I was singing.”

On the third night, the spider feasted on pork, cooked carrots, more wine, and of course, chocolate cake. Its span was larger than a dinner plate, now. The princess lay down in her bed and closed her eyes but did not fall asleep. She knew all the tricks to keep herself awake. It was difficult to pretend to sleep without doing so, but she managed it long into the night and she wanted to glimpse the half-seen dream that had come the night before.

The princess opened her eyes when the moon was high and looked around her. The spider was busy at work, but not with the web itself. Insects struggled in the web, a grasshopper, two crickets, several flies, and worst of all, a huge cockroach. The spider was busy wrapping them all up in gold thread.

“Where did they come from?” the princess asked, rather frightened.

“Some people attract bad dreams and these are they,” said the spider, not surprised at all that the princess was still awake. “But not to worry, I’ve fixed it.” The nightmares struggled against the intricate web but only grew more entangled and the princess shrank back. The spider began to hum and the princess drifted off to sleep.

When the princess awoke, the spider was disposing of the last of the bundled nightmare corpses. With a shudder at the memory of what she had witnessed earlier, the princess pulled her blanket closer to her chin. “Not the most restful of nights?” asked the spider.

“No,” admitted the princess.

The spider began to work at the web, taking it down strand by strand.

“You work so hard,” said the princess, “only to take it down and build it up again.”

“It’s what I do,” said the spider simply. It hummed to itself.

“That tune,” said the princess, aware of truly hearing it for the first time. “It sounds like… loneliness and moonlight.”

“I learned it from the wolves,” said the spider.

“Spider! I dreamed last night!” The sudden memory flooded in, a wolf on a mountain who climbed and climbed to reach the moon.

“Yes,” said the spider, “you’re learning how to listen.”

“What do you mean?” asked the princess.

“Look at my web. Look closely at the pattern. Don’t you notice anything?”

The princess examined the gold threads. They shifted in the flickering morning light. The spiral design from the floor to the ceiling was made from five parallel strands. The lacework along the lines jumped out and she remembered the awful piano lessons she used to hide from as a child. “Why, it’s music!” the princess exclaimed.

“It’s a song. And a story,” the spider explained. “I know how to listen and now you’re learning, too. I collect stories. Each night while I catch your bad dreams, I sing you a pleasant one. Or at least an interesting one. One you can cope with, one you can learn from, or maybe something just plain silly.”

“How beautiful!” the princess sighed. “How absolutely extraordinary. A new story every night, woven just for me!”

“Yes,” said the spider.

… And this was one of them.

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