The Angel Damian

Spiderling – A Short Story

Spiderling

i

Scott looked down onto the road, trying to recall the exact moment of change. The point of transition from ‘he’ to ‘it’. Identifying by a gender seemed absurd now but there must have been a final few seconds when the notion had still had some sort of merit. Presumably while it – he – was in the shell. Sometimes it wondered if it should feel sad for that old identity, but there was nothing resembling grief that it could find. There was only the knowledge of how things had once been and how they were now.

The sun had risen ten minutes ago. Everything felt slightly out of focus, as though the world was taking its time to emerge fully from the night. Scott knew full well that the haziness was simply due to the way its eyes now reacted to the dawn. In a few minutes, the focus and clarity would be absolute.

The road stretched out from beneath the narrow pedestrian bridge on which Scott stood. Clusters of flowers and clumps of tall weeds had broken through the tarmac in numerous places. The once grey surface was spectacularly patterned with full-bloodied orange and red blooms. The air was heavy with the smell of pollen. Clouds of bees, disturbed only by gliding, darting dragonflies, hovered greedily around the flowers.

People used to spend so much time imagining the end of the world. It had never occurred to anyone how pretty the end might be. Scott had seen many places but none as beautiful as that which its home city had become.

About half a mile away, the road was swallowed up by a tunnel that Scott knew would be full of cobwebs. Above the tunnel mouth were the jagged lines of tower blocks. There were faint squares of illumination in some of the windows. Most were broken and dark.

It rested a sinewy, hairy limb on the railing. The metal was icy to the touch. The mornings were cooler now, just as the afternoons were so much hotter. Everything was changing. Everything was becoming that bit more extreme.

There were cars on the road. Most of them had been abandoned mid-journey, left at awkward angles by drivers who had sensibly given up trying to find their way through the rampant plant life. A few were parked neatly by the roadside. One looked as though it had recently been cleaned. Perhaps the owner thought that there was a chance that normal life might one day resume.

It had owned a car. An orange one. The car had eventually cost more in repairs than it had done to buy. Possibly it was still parked outside the house. Scott was fairly sure that, if necessary, it could drive. The altered limbs would just about work a steering wheel and a brake. Those skills from the past might prove useful, especially when the time came – which it one day must – to leave the city.

There were more spiders today, squatting on the abandoned cars. The majority of them were a vivid blood red, their long, thickly jointed legs patterned with orange blotches. They had angular bodies, with fat abdomens that tapered to a narrow point. The sharp tips of their legs clung effortlessly to the edges of the car roofs. The smallest of the red spiders was just over a metre from end to end. There were also three of the larger, black type. These had to spread themselves across the backs of two or more of the vehicles.

The spiders sat nearly motionless. Occasionally a leg shifted slightly, just enough to set a small tremble running through the frame of the car that the spider was sitting on. Scott felt its mandibles move whenever it looked one in the eyes. Some people, it remembered, had gone mad at the first sight of the giant arachnids. Some had even killed themselves rather than share a world with such monsters.

It heard Stuart before it saw him. His definite tread was carelessly heavy, announcing his presence to any waiting predator. Stray creepers cracked under his feet. His artificial organs bubbled and gurgled as he made his way up the bridge. Whatever priorities his creators had had in mind when they made him, stealth clearly wasn’t among them. Without Scott to protect them both, he would certainly be dead by now. The spiders’ diet was far from exclusively vegetarian.

It manoeuvred itself around to face Stuart. Scott found it odd to think that, if you considered birth a criteria, Stuart was the less human of them. From the outside he was a dark haired, narrow figured man with slightly pinched features. He wore a light green suit that was in surprisingly immaculate condition. Only the sheen of fluids on his skin and the sounds of his internal workings betrayed the fact that his entire body was composed of synthetically grown limbs and organs, some of which included experimental adaptions and additions.

‘Did you come to watch the sunrise?’ asked Stuart quietly. As he spoke, he reached up and brushed his forehead with one hand while, with the other, he fidgeted in his trouser pocket. The synthetic found it almost impossible to stay still.

‘I wanted some time to think’ said Scott. It still surprised it how little its voice had changed. Perhaps the pitch was a little higher but otherwise the tones and accent were the same.

‘And you had to come here to do it?’ With a slight gesture of his head, Stuart indicated the road and the spiders. The meaning was clear. You put yourself in danger just to think?

‘I don’t think they’d hurt me’ said Scott. ‘Not now. They don’t hunt that often anyway. Besides, it’s quieter up here’

‘Did I wake you up again?’

Scott tried to work out how often its sleep had been interrupted in the night by the synthetic’s wandering from room to room in their makeshift home. Was it about six times?

‘It doesn’t matter. Though one day I’m going to find someone who can fit you with an off switch’

Stuart looked alarmed. Scott kept forgetting that the synthetic’s grasp on humour wasn’t the best. It must be hard for him to try to read any kind of indication on Scott’s face as to when it was serious and when it wasn’t. All those old visual clues he’d been designed to recognise were absent.

‘Not a permanent one, obviously. Just for when I need a long sleep’

‘Oh. Good’

‘I was trying to remember something’ explained Scott. It was glad, as always, that the synthetic was here for it to talk to.

‘What?’

‘Something from before’

Stuart tugged at his lip. A rapid burbling came from his chest.

‘You mean before you were changed?’

‘Yes’

Scott found itself thinking about the differences between them. The synthetic identified himself as a ‘he’ despite being a made thing whereas Scott had abandoned being a ‘he’ for an ‘it’. Would that difference matter in the long run?

Beneath them, one of the red spiders rose her body upwards and clambered down from the car that she was sitting on. With a long, drawn-out hiss, she lurched forward, navigating a way through the greenery. Eventually, thought Scott, there would be no humans left in the city, only spiders. That might make it much more dangerous for them both to stay here. But where could they possibly go that was safe?

‘Did you remember?’ asked Stuart.

Scott shrugged its high shoulders.

‘No. Maybe it doesn’t matter’

ii

It is six months previously and outside of any sense of time.

Inside the egg, Scott is neither awake nor asleep. Held tight within the folds of membrane, his consciousness is drifting in blissful detachment. He’s aware of the changes in his body. Fluids streaming over fresh limbs that have replaced those that withered away. His face is now a mystery to him.

It won’t be long.

By the time that he was twenty-five, Scott had thought that he had seen most of what life had to show him. He’d had plenty of friends whose company he’d enjoyed in an unexcited kind of way. Though he’d never quite got a handle on confidence with his body, he’d had enough girlfriends to make him the envy of other men. Relationships had, however, been far less important to him than his career. At a young age, he’d discovered that he had an aptitude for maths. That skill had taken him through school, college and finally to university. After completing his education, he’d found underpaid but rewarding work with several research organisations.

His great passion other than work had been travel. He loved to see new places, the further afield the better. Nothing bored him more than being stuck in the same surroundings day after day. By twenty six, he had visited more of the globe than most people managed in a lifetime. He’d been planning a trip to Morocco – a place which had somehow always eluded him – when he first became aware that the world around him was slowly changing.

The stories had been rumbling away in the news for a while, always tucked a long way behind other, supposedly more serious items. At that time, half the world didn’t have enough money and the other half was scared of losing the money that they had. With wars erupting in several continents, no-one had had the time to pay attention to what was happening beneath their feet.

It had begun with the plants. Suddenly they were bursting up through pavements and tugging down buildings from the foundations. Trees grew fatter and taller, dandelions swept into the heart of big business and armies of giant hogweed made canals and rivers inaccessible. Train lines and roads became obstacle courses and disaster areas.

The great economies of the world had trembled under this unexpected onslaught and eventually, to everyone’s disbelief, they were somehow toppled. In the midst of the devastation that was left behind, people had managed to carry on almost as normal for a while. There were still jobs to be done and games to play. Distracted by the twin forces of normalcy and chaos, it was a while before anyone had realized that the insects were on the move too.

First there had been swarms of ants. They had streamed in suicidal masses across motorways and expressways, feasting on discarded foods and the leaves of the now abundant vegetation. Dragonflies, ladybirds, bees and flying beetles had followed, forming huge, ever-moving clouds that engulfed towns and made vast hives of the houses. A living, buzzing fog laying claim to the skies.

As the structures of civilization had begun to loosen further in this drastic new environment, the first spiders were seen. Initially, the sightings had been dismissed as fantasy. Arachnids over a metre in length, erupting from the soil of parks and gardens, was the stuff of horror stories not reality. Once a few specimens had been filmed on phones and the footage made available online, no-one could deny the shape that reality now took.

Theories had abounded as to where the spiders had come from. Mutation caused by radiation or a visitation from outer space were the two most popular and predictable explanations. Panic had set in but, by then, everything was breaking down and no-one had been in a position to do much about it.

For Scott, the end of the world had meant not so much disaster as a chance for an adventure. Perhaps it had been his form of denial. It was easier, after all, to be excited than it was to be scared. He had managed to discern in the changes around him the possibility of finding new places once more. International travel was no longer practical. Holidays had become the last thing on anyone’s mind. But Scott had heard stories of underground parts of the city that the spiders had filled with their webs. Going to one of these places would be dangerous in the extreme but it would also be an experience, while experience was still a possibility. Like most people, Scott had already, at some level, prepared for the possibility of death sooner rather than later.

So it was that, a week after his employers had finally accepted that they were no longer needed and had gone silently out of business, leaving him unemployed, Scott had decided to head underground.

He had chosen a series of tunnels which had been used as car parks for office workers. The tunnels were very old and had, in their time, previously served as industrial storehouses, traders markets and hippie communes. The roadway leading down to them had remained passable on foot. Scott had packed a rucksack with food, a camera and a flashlight and had descended into the tunnels.

As it had turned out, the flashlight was unnecessary. What should have been pitch blackness had been illuminated by thousands of glowing points of light, suspended from the arched ceilings on long filaments of silk. It had been as though a brilliant starlight sky had been installed for his convenience.

As Scott had moved down the first and longest of the brick tunnels, he had seen that the walls were smothered beneath a heavy muslin of webbing. Many of the entrances to the parking bays had been completely blocked by the white shroud, but one or two were still accessible. The air had been heavy with a sweet, dusty odour that had made his body feel like someone else’s property. In the distance he had heard the sound of rushing water – an underground stream or river somewhere – and the scrabbling of sharp, pointed feet. There were spiders close by, he had been certain of it. In a detached manner, he had wondered if he would see one up-close.

Scott should have felt scared. Looking back on that moment, long after he had become it, Scott was still astonished at the absence of any fear. More than anything, the place had made him feel that he wanted to lie down and sleep the longest sleep of his life.

After five minutes, he had tuned right into one of the bays that was still accessible. The brick room had been short and wide. A mass of web had covered the far wall. A long-dead lamp had hung on an iron chain from the curved ceiling.

He had heard a voice hiss in his ear and then caught a toxic stench of body odour.

Don’t move, yer bastard!

Then he had felt a hand wrap round his throat from behind and something cold entering the side of his stomach. And then Scott was collapsing to the floor, tasting his own blood.

Two figures had swum indistinctly into view above him. Old guys he had thought, both reeking of booze and sweat. Brutal, dirty hands had rummaged through his pockets and a wallet – his wallet – had been held triumphantly in the air.

Then the old men were going, one swinging Scott’s rucksack carelessly onto his back. Absurdly, he had wanted to call out after the man ‘Don’t break my camera!’

They had left him, alone in the darkness. None of the things that he had heard about had happened. There had been no tunnel of light. No flashing of his past life before his eyes. Not a single thought of his family or loved ones. He could only think about how much pain he was in and how he absolutely didn’t want to die.

The far wall had burst open, strands of web flying through the air like streamers at a parade. Eight long, black legs had held him close to the coldest flesh he had ever known.

He has no idea why the spider chose to save him. The creature has cocooned him in silk. He cannot move. He can hear nothing, see nothing. He is outside of time.

He feels the spider carefully at work, repairing the edges of the cocoon where they have slightly frayed. The delicacy of her touch is astonishing. She must be very strong, Scott thinks, because sometimes he is certain that she is carrying her precious egg from place to place.

Time passes.

He becomes it.

It hatches

iii

Six months later, it saw the city

A new city, far away, completed in the month of September. It was of place of intimidating elegance. A latticework of metal and silk spinning outwards in multiple spirals. The mathematician that Scott had once been would have been awed by the level of calculation that must been necessary to call forth such perfect lines and intricate angles.

From the centre rose a slanting tower from which the Builders looked out over their work with supreme satisfaction. Spiders, all of them, with legs more like scorpions.

September’s City was calling, the sound resonating throughout the whole structure and beyond. It was incomplete. It needed all the children of the new world to come to it. Spiders alone were not enough

Scott ran.

Stuart was standing beside it, a look of concern on his pale face.

‘Are you okay?’ he asked, sounding more worried than Scott had ever heard him.

Scott levered itself up on the desk. Early morning light was just visible through the dense plants that crowded against the blinds of the office window. It sometimes wondered what had happened to the people who had worked here. They had left behind battered filing cabinets and desks laden with gutted electronics. Heaps of soggy paperwork were strewn over the dirty carpet. Ragged holes in the foam tiled ceiling yawned into shadows. From the state of this room and the others in the office building, the place had been broken into several times. Little of value was left now, which made it a comparatively safe home. The only real danger came from the nest of wasps that had occupied part of the upper floor. There was still food left in the chocolate machines, which was handy considering the massive appetite for sugar that Scott now had. Stuart didn’t need to eat, but occasionally he did, seemingly just to be sociable.

Scott rubbed a limb across its face.

‘I must have been dreaming’ it muttered. It felt confused, uncertain of the sights and sounds around it.

Stuart shook his head vigorously, his throat whirring softly.

‘You were awake. Your eyes were open’

Scott gave a brusque laugh.

‘They always are, Stuart’

‘Not when you sleep they’re not. They close over. I’ve seen them do it’

Stuart’s makeshift bed of sheets lay a little further along the wide desk from where Scott slept. For the short stretches of time that the synthetic managed to sleep, he did so next to Scott. Sometimes it wrapped its limbs around him to soothe them both into unconsciousness. Such close proximity to another male –   or at least something in male form – was a new experience to Scott but also one devoid of any sexuality. Once transformed into a kind of giant insect, it was hard to see the world from a romantic or erotic viewpoint.

‘You were moving around like you were trying to run from something’ Stuart told it.

Then Scott remembered. Yes, it had woken up when it was still dark. There had been the usual sounds of wildlife and the occasional human wail outside. It had heard Stuart’s heavy footsteps out in the corridor, pacing around the piles of cardboard tubes that lay there. And then it had seen September’s City. Or rather the City had revealed itself. Not a dream. Something else. Some new way of sensing sights from across the world.

It sprung to the floor, savouring the morning elasticity of its legs. This was a good time of day.

‘Did you see something?’ asked Stuart.

Scott nodded its head.

‘Not something’ it said. ‘A place. A city’

And then with absolute certainty: ‘We should look for it. I think we might be safe there. Or safer anyway. I think it was made for… people like us’

In the long silence that followed, a staccato clicking sounded from inside Stuart.

‘And you saw all this in your head?’ the synthetic eventually asked. ‘That doesn’t exactly make me feel safer for some reason’

Scott laughed. It hadn’t heard Stuart be sarcastic before.

‘I guess not. I know it sounds insane. But we can’t stay here much longer anyway’

It recognised in Stuart’s face a child’s fear of moving house or of being left behind.

‘Why not?’ the synthetic asked softly.

‘This place hasn’t got long, you know that. Half the buildings are falling down and eventually they all will. A crazy chance must be better than no chance’

‘But still…’

Scott cut him off. Its mandibles moved frantically as it spoke

‘Stuart, you told me that you owed me a favour. That I’d saved your life and one day you’d pay me back. This is it. This is how you pay me back. Come with me and help me find the city’

‘Even if might not exist’

‘Even so’

The synthetic didn’t answer straight away. In the suddenly quiet, wrecked office, Scott could hear his artificial organs gurgle and pulsate. It found the sound curiously comforting.

Finally, Stuart spoke.

‘When were you thinking of going?’

Surprised by the question, Scott considered before replying. This idea had, after all, come to it very suddenly. It might be better to wait a short while. Take some time to fully prepare.

‘We’ve got enough food here for another week. After that’

Stuart nodded.

‘Okay then. I’ll come with you. I just hope you’re right’

Scott was astonished at how relieved it felt that it wouldn’t be alone.

‘Good’

Stuart looked at the desolation around them and smiled.

‘At least we won’t have much to pack’

He was finally starting to get the hang of humour, thought Scott

iv

Stuart was not the first person that Scott had met after it hatched. It was, however, bar several swarms of wasps and bees, alone for the first few days of its new life.

It had emerged from the shell to find itself beneath an electricity pylon. The first sight that had greeted its eyes had been a cloudless blue sky, split into triangles and pentagons. The first sound it had heard had been the hum of an electric current. Only later had it reflected that this must mean that energy was still being generated somewhere and for some purpose.

The egg had been placed beneath the metal giant, exactly aligned with the centre of the pylon. Of Scott’s surrogate parent there had been no sign. Other than the pylon and the insects – the other insects as it now regarded them, despite how tiny they were by comparison – there had been only tall grass that stretched to a dense thicket of trees and bushes on one side and the low shapes of derelict buildings on the other.

It had taken a while for it to master walking. The sight of the latticework of bone that ran along its hard, brown body, connecting the hairy, tapering limbs to the shell on its back had caused Scott to panic at first, terrified by what it had become. Its new eyes were incapable of tears, so it had sat and screamed for what had seemed like several long hours before an unexpected calm had descended. Its mind, it had felt, was already beginning to work in subtly different ways. There was no use in sitting here, wailing into the sky. It must learn what it now meant to be Scott. Putting one leg in front of another was as good a place to start as any.

In the days that followed, Scott had learnt how it now walked and how it held things. It had got used to seeing the world from different angles and to hearing familiar sounds at an altered pitch. It had worked out how its mandibles could chew grass and had swiftly decided that this was a far from satisfactory diet. Once Scott had mastered how to clear its bowels following a feed, it had concluded that it had enough knowledge to think about moving to somewhere else. That desire, at least, was still with it.

After a few hours walking and discovering just how incredibly strong and energetic its new body was, it had found itself back in the centre of the city in which it lived. Of the few people that it had passed, some had screamed in fear and run but most had simply accepted this fresh breed of giant insect moving amongst them. These were, after all, strange times.

It had made no effort to talk to any of the human life. It had felt a certain sympathy for the undernourished state that most of them were in, but they no longer seemed particularly relevant to Scott’s existence. Even those with violent intentions it had found itself able to repel with minimal force.

For the next few days, Scott had scavenged for food in the abandoned supermarkets. It had a newfound love of anything sweet. By night it had slept on roofs, disturbed only by rain and the sounds of people fighting futilely in the darkness. When the sun came up, it had spent its time exploring the transformed streets of the city, taking in the hundreds of ways that the familiar had been rendered unfamiliar. Occasionally it had encountered the new religious groups that some of the human survivors had formed. Much of their time was spent seated in silent circles, rejecting any activity beyond contemplation.       Scott had found them kind enough.

It had begun to test its abilities. Its body was filled with the appetite for experience. Running through a grass choked high street one morning, exulting in the power of its multi-jointed legs, it had found Stuart. Or, to be more accurate, it had found Stuart and the spider.

It had grown used to the sight of the enormous arachnids stalking the roads or sitting on the roofs of cars. Often it had felt their multi-faceted eyes scrutinize its body but it had detected no threat from them, merely interest. So when it had turned the corner of a boarded-up restaurant into a blind alley that was half-filled with the bulk of a lorry, and nearly collided with the huge black spider, it hadn’t been immediately alarmed.

Scott had halted its forward motion and leapt back a pace or two. The spider’s eyes had stared at Scott. Its own eyes had returned her stare. Sizing each other up with respectful curiosity.

Then Scott had seen Stuart. The spider had the synthetic pinned down under her right front leg. Her jaws were swollen and dripping with anticipation. This was a new type of meal, untasted and yet fascinating.

Scott had looked at the helpless synthetic and had known that it had found something it wanted. An energy vibrated from this thing in the shape of a man as intense as Scott’s own. His desire for life blazed through his fear of death.

The spider had registered Scott’s interest and interpreted it as hunger. A rival for her feast. She had reared up on her back legs, her front leg still pressing down on the synthetic, and her hiss had seemed to shake the very bricks of the buildings around them. Flocks of seagulls and pigeons had exploded in fright from the rooftops.

Scott had known fear before, in the dark, waiting to die. Even that was nothing compared to the terror it had felt in that moment. The spider could kill them both in seconds. Jaws, venom, smothering in silk, whichever most pleased her.

But Scott hadn’t run. Even though it knew its legs were capable of great speed, it had stood its ground.

It had pointed at the synthetic.

‘I want him’ it said. ‘There’s plenty of food in the city. Let me have him’

Eyes watching. Scott’s reflection eight times over.

‘You did this to me. You spiders. You made me like this’

The silence from the spider had communicated a simple message. And we saved your life.

It had answered without thinking.

‘Yes, you saved me. But it’s not enough. I need someone to talk to. Not a human. You have to let me have him’

A moving of jaws. A lowering of her body. Her head, small in comparison to the rest of her, coming down close to Scott’s face, until mere centimetres separated them.

The spider’s eyes had blotted out Scott’s world.

‘Please’

And then she was moving.

One leg had pushed Scott firmly but gently to one side while her other front leg had released the synthetic who had quickly scrambled away.

Her departing form had still had the poise of a huntress. Someone else would be her meal today. But it couldn’t be helped. Everyone had to eat something.

The synthetic had huddled himself up against one of the flat tyres of the lorry. Unlike Scott, he could cry.

Scott had heard about the development of synthetics in the days before the world had changed. The unveiling of the first models, in strictly experimental settings, had caused outcries, protests, even the murders of some of the designers. Rumours had circulated of covert military and medical purposes to which these artificial people were to be put. Scott had been interested at the time, without expecting to ever actually meet one.

Scott had stood over him, trying not to appear threatening. The synthetic probably wasn’t going to be comfortable around insects for a while, even ones that had saved his life.

Making its voice as soft as possible, Scott had said ‘It’s alright. I’m not going to hurt you’

Slowly, very slowly, the synthetic had uncurled his body, a tear stained face looking upwards.

‘But you’re…you’re…’ he had stammered, while from his chest had come a convulsive coughing sound.

‘An insect. A giant bug. I know. But I don’t want to eat you. I just need someone to talk to’

Still on the ground, the synthetic had stared at his rescuer in disbelief.

‘Talk?’

‘That’s all’

A question had occurred to Scott. Another good place to start from.

‘What’s your name?’ it had asked, reasoning that the people who made the synthetics must have given them names if they had wanted them to seem like people. Even Scott still held on to a name as part of its identity.

‘Stuart’

‘Stuart’ repeated Scott.

‘Yeah. They named me after someone else. I don’t know who though. I think he died’

Scott’s face couldn’t smile anymore. Something about the way Stuart spoke had made it wish that it could.

‘So tell me, Stuart, where can we go that’s safe?’

v

 The night before they left, Scott’s mind found itself in September’s City once more.

The lines were as beautiful as before. The structure was surrounded on every side by petals and leaves, greenery that rose to support it. Swarms of harvestmen had already made their home among the entwining barricades of foliage. Above, huge clouds of bees, laden with pollen, drifted back and forth.

The city was still calling out to the new children of the world. There were not just spiders living there now. Others who, like Scott, had been transformed, walked the woven streets. Hundreds of them. The spiders and their creations were living together in a strange sort of harmony.

This time Scott registered the sound the city made. The throb of a thousand generators running through the colossal metal rings. Scott remembered the pylon that had stood over the egg it had emerged from. How it had hummed with power. Energy was still being produced by someone and it was going somewhere. Which meant that following the right power lines would lead…

It was irritating that the earthquake chose that exact moment to interrupt.

The next morning, half the city was rubble. Flowers and weeds were already forcing their way up between the collapsed masonry. Water released from deep underground had formed a vast lake where there had once been an extensive shopping centre. Flocks of ducks and geese were making a home of it. In a few weeks, the old city would be the site of one of the biggest rockeries that the world had ever known.

The spiders were all gone. Maybe they had known that the earthquake was coming. Maybe they had caused it. There were no signs of human life at all. Either they had left too or they were all dead. Probably the latter.

Scott and Stuart stood on one of the few remaining bridges and looked down at the road beneath which had, more or less, survived the devastation. On the horizon, a dense curtain of rain readied itself to sweep across the shattered landscape.

‘We should go today’ said Stuart. ‘Before it happens again’

He sounded worried, but also excited. In the last few days, he had become noticeably keener on the idea of searching for September’s City. It seemed to have given him a sense of purpose. Scott was pleased. It would have been a shame to have saved the synthetic’s life only for him to be unhappy. Sometimes it felt almost parental towards him. After his creators had abandoned him, there was no way that Stuart could become whatever they had intended for him. Perhaps Scott could help him to become something else. The idea had a certain beauty. At the back of its mind, it wondered what it might learn from Stuart in return.

‘You’re right’ it said. ‘We can carry all the stores we’ll need for a while and later we can look for more’

‘How long do you think it’ll take us to find the city?’

Scott shrugged its limbs expressively.

‘I’ve no idea. But we’ll find it’

Stuart nodded, apparently satisfied with that before another question occurred to him.

‘Scott, you said that you were there again last night’

‘In a way. I don’t understand how, not yet’

‘Did you learn anything more about it?’

A silence broken only by the sounds of artificial organs.

‘I’ll tell you later’ said Scott. It tapped Stuart on the arm with a hairy forelimb.

‘We should go now’

‘Yes master!’

The irony in the synthetic’s voice was clear. He was learning to banter. It was going to be an interesting journey, thought Scott.

‘Unless you wanted to stay here, Stuart?

Stuart smiled. Scott still envied him that ability.

‘No. I’d probably get bored without you’

‘Eventually’

‘Yes. Eventually’

They walked, over the bridge and away. Leaving the ruins of one city, in search of one just newly built.

He and it.

Synthetic and Spiderling.

Damian Mark Whittle

 

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This entry was published on December 21, 2015 at 4:16 pm. It’s filed under Fiction, Science Fiction, Short Story and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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