you stare up at the mountain. it is tall, steep, wide like your grandmother’s shoulders. you shade your eyes, but you cannot see the top. dry as a dustbowl, pock-marked and scarred where boulders have tumbled and small creatures once made their homes. patches of yellow grass struggle against the heat. insects buzz. it is burning electric. despite the arid land you hear trickling all around you. beneath your feet, above your head. it is coming from within the mountain itself. you squat to listen to her blood beneath your feet.
you cannot see the top, but if you crane your neck, you can see the place where the sky hits the earth. “yes”, you think. “there”.
it is the day the spiders hatched.
all summer long they spun their cloth, yards and yards, becoming curtains, drapes that create new rooms within your small brick home.
in june, the windows turned white. gossamer thread floats on the midsummer breeze, catching your lashes, a film across your eyes.
july, you had two kitchens
the stove on one side, the table on the other.
by august, you could no longer enter the bedroom and were forced to sleep on the back porch with the frogs and the sweet, rotting pears.
the spiders grew fat. soft, soft, their ghostly candy-floss balls began to fill the doorways. just a few at first, crowding the corners, making arches out of oblongs. come september, it was fleece. you spit, egg-sacs in their thousands, millions.
friends stopped visiting weeks ago. *“i’m busy with the kids”*, they would say over the phone. or, *“i have this cold that’s going round, i’d hate for you to catch it.”* and you would nod dumbly into the mouthpiece, hating them for fearing you like this.
the root is knobby and hard, red-pink like a beetroot, branched and bulbous like the strange limbs of ginger. it smells of damp toe-fluff. you found it in the overgrown ice-house, out beyond the orchard where the ground is moist and heady with rotten fruit becoming sweet cider in the autumn sun.
you stand in the cool green shade, balancing this treasure on your flat, wide palm. you are afraid to close your fingers in case it springs to life, or perhaps you are afraid you may choke it.
back at the house, you stand before the mirror. your grandmother looks back at you. she nods, flicks her eyes towards a jar of old kitchen utensils – tarnished spoons, a rusty fish-slice. you select a steel meat fork with a worn wooden handle, fall to the floor, and dig.
it does not take long for the shoots to appear. eighteen months, perhaps two years… you are not sure. you lost sight of the moon after the fire, which in the space of an hour razed the orchard, the cornfield, the walls of your home. by the time the neighbours arrived with their gasps and their buckets of sand, there was nothing but a garden of smoke and ash. in the silent solitude of the aftermath you slept twenty hours a day. you still do, waking only to take a little water, to stretch your legs, to see if someone has left you a morsel of food, an apple, a piece of bread.
today, you wake early to a sharp sensation in your shoulder. a yellow-green spear, strong and hard, is pushing up and into your flesh. you roll over; it follows you, twisting to keep it’s pointed contact. you stand; it stands with you, bright blades opening into blood-pink petals that push and push like a kiss that will eat you up. you are dancing, dancing with this vine. it blooms again, twisting and twirling you, tangling your limbs like a fly in a web. you realise you are caught, but by now it is too late.