He wrote of a middle-aged man. A middle-manager type. Successful but not overly so. This man had a loving wife. Two kids. He had two cars as well. One, a working vehicle, a silver sedan for dropping his kids off at school on his way to the office. The other, a matte black sportscar, which he only put insurance on in the summertime when he could put the roof down and drive with his sunglasses on.
His wife was affectionate; she kissed him often, oftentimes in front of their kids or their friends. She would look at him across their dinner table with a prying look in her eyes and then soften her face into a warm grin. He would raise an eyebrow back and trace his eyes along the wall behind her. Sometimes, while he was doing the dishes, she would sneak up on him, embrace him from behind and let out a soft moan. He loved her and this is why it was hard to accept the realization he had one morning. The realization that he could not look past the wrinkles which had steadily appeared out of the points where her lips met. When she kissed him, he fought the urge to pull away. Their cross-table flirtations which he once held dear, which he once thought of as something of a resistance to their ageing, became sickening as he found his eyes locked on the folding of her skin, the way it pulled apart as she smiled. When she moaned, in the kitchen or otherwise, he pictured her breath tracing along the edges of these folds before reaching his ears.
It was long before this realization that he’d taken on a mistress. His mistress, in which he indulged in the early hours of the morning, was an infatuation with the art of web-making. He would spend hours in his study, before anyone else had risen, watching videos of spiders at work. He was fascinated by the exacting nature of their movements, the consistency they could exhibit from strand to strand, section to section. There was a certainty about the way they operated all eight legs, the ceaselessness of their actions that seemed to him more machine-like than biological. He wondered if spiders ever thought about population control, or if humans thought about that for them. If a spider’s only motivation were that of survival, there was no way they would be so careful in the weaving of their everyday webs. He understood very quickly that somewhere deep in the subconscious of every spider was a sense of divine creation, and that this is what informed the careful strokes of their tiny hands, thread by thread, section by section, web by web, day by day.
He began seeing spiders everywhere. Behind rows of mugs in a cupboard above the sink in the break room of the office he worked in. Underneath the plywood staircase of his unfinished basement. In amongst the jackets of his coat closet. He found their instinct for privacy endearing, the way they kept to dark corners, sought out neglected bits of wall or ceiling. He felt the blood rushing through his veins every time he shed light on them, on their webs. His hands shook with excitement as he carried them, jar by jar, into his study to watch them weave.
It was soon after he began weaving his own webs that his wife left him. He found a lab online that would ship him genetically engineered spider silk by the roll along with sealed beakers of adhesive, not unlike the one secreted by normal spiders to spread over their webs. This was all at a very high cost, of course. He had these packages shipped to his office and would smuggle the contents back to his house in his briefcase. He began spending more and more time in his study after she went to bed. It was inevitable that she would wake in the night and wonder where he was. She walked in on him early one morning as he was taking down the web he’d been weaving that night. He tried his best to pick one of his spiders and emulate its style. That night it had been the dense web of his golden orb-weaver. He worked from the original which was displayed on his bookshelf. He’d found this spider, his favourite, on one of the many walks he’d taken through the forest on the edge of town in the weeks prior.
She barely asked him what he was doing. She’d already made up her mind to leave him, doing so soon after, bringing their children to her mother’s house. He wasn’t upset to have lost her; she was more of an obstacle than anything, but he did want his kids to live well. So, he gave them the house and everything in it, barring two suitcases of important belongings which he emptied out of his study. He settled to keep most of the money he’d saved from working for so many years, quit his job, and rented a farmer’s shack on the edge of town. He told the farmer it was fine if he kept his supplies in the shack, the lawn tractor, the bags of manure, the many hoes, shovels, scythes. He saw opportunity in their curves, their edges, their proximity to each other in the tightness of the four thin walls. It was here that he believed he could weave his masterpiece.
For years he made friends out of the spiders who found their way into the dark corners of the shack, learning from them, taking the techniques he liked from each style. This, the ability to overcome instinct and adapt his approach over time, is what he considered his great edge over spider-kind when it came to weaving. Yet, he was never quite satisfied with his creations.
At first, he had to steal carrots or scraps of lettuce from the farmer’s garden in order to survive, but he got to a point in his practice where he could survive only off the fruits of his own labour. He often considered if he were sacrificing the aesthetics of his webs for their utility and went through periods wherein he would weave webs of perfect symmetry, but which didn’t catch enough to satisfy his hunger. These periods would last only a few weeks at most, before, unbeknownst to him, he would ease back into denser, sloppier webs which fed him well. The farmer died thirteen years after they first met. The land was sold, and the new owners evicted the web-weaver. To his surprise, the eviction only brought him relief. He’d become tired of his routine, but too fearful to change anything himself. He didn’t make any attempt at contacting his ex-wife or his kids. He moved far away from the shack on the farm and never touched a strand of silk again, instead taking a job far beneath his level of experience and moving into a modest apartment. He met someone else, someone comfortable, and lived out the rest of his life content.