May 28, 2013


Each Tuesday, rather than a POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY, I'd like to both challenge you and lend a helping hand. I generate more speculative and teen story ideas than I can ever use. My family rolls its collective eyes when I say, "Hang on a second! I just have to write down this idea..." Here, I'll include the initial inspiration (quote, website, podcast, etc) and then a thought or two that came to mind. These will simply be seeds -- plant, nurture, fertilize, chemically treat, irradiate, test or stress them as you see fit. I only ask if you let me know if anything comes of them.

H Trope: Cobweb jungle

“I love spiders,” said Farzana Niazi.

Byron Neson shuddered and said at the same time, “I hate spiders.”

Farzana shot him an irritated look and said, “Why would you volunteer to come on this trip, then?”

Byron blushed and turned away, saying, “My therapist said that I needed to face my fears.”

Farzana shook her head, “Oh, I understand the concept – it’s just that there must be a…safer place to face it.” She gestured to the forest covered by the webs of a dozen different spiders. “Who knows what kind of spiders are on all those trees?”

He shuddered, “Thanks for helping me overcome my fear.”

She relented, “Fine – there’s obvious evidence that they’re not carnivorous.”

“How would you know that?”

“Well, first of all, there are a zillion of the things and they’re all still alive. If they were carnivorous, they’d be eating each other.”

He sniffed, “I pretty much agree.”

“What other reason could there be?”

“An absence of their own kinds of food.”


“Maybe they don’t like eating each other – maybe the different ones have different prey and right now they’re starving to death and waiting to drop on to something like…me, maybe.”

She shook her head and set up the capture traps. Each one had a ring of water in the center suspended from a Teflon, “no-stick” cone. Thirsty spiders would be drawn by the water then slide down the funnel through a scanning micro-camera with a computer chip that would identify each one and count them.

“It’s getting dark,” Byron said.

“Duh. That’s when the spiders are most active. They don’t sleep like us,” Farzana said.

“We’ll be heading back soon, right?”

She gestured at the wagon he was pulling and said, “What’s it look like you?”

He bit his lower lip then said, “So one trap for each of six trees?” He pointed at six nearby trees and counted. “So we should be able to leave in a couple…”

“Don’t be silly! What kind of sample accuracy would I get if I just took from the trees in one section?”

“A sensible one?” Overhead, Byron was sure he heard the webs rustle, as if something were moving around more than usual. A gentle breeze blew across the flooded land from off the Indian Ocean.

“No, a sample that would get me laughed out of grad school.”

He grunted and went with her as she tugged him along after her. They continued to set the traps, moving deeper into the web-shrouded forest. The sun set behind roiling clouds on the horizon, promising more rain even as the monsoon season came to an end.

“Are we there yet?” he asked.
“We’re not there,” Farzana said irritably. Overhead, the tent shivered like something was settling in for a night’s sleep. She didn’t appear to hear it.

Byron did.


He said, “We need to go now.”

“We’ll go when I say it’s time.”

The rattling overhead increased and Byron said, “How long has it been since these things have eaten?”

She shrugged as she set out and armed the last device and stood up, arching her back, fists in the small. Byron couldn’t help but ogle for a moment. Something moved over his head in the tent, making a sound like tearing crepe paper.

This time Farzana looked up and said, “That’s an odd sound. I’ve never...”

Names: Pakistani, Pashtoon; English, Spanish

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