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spider's nest
by Myra Çakan

translated from the German by Jim Young

Spider hated daytime — especially mornings, if he happened to be awake at the time. He was a creature of the night. Spider's middle name was invisible, and everybody knows a guy's never harder to see than in the dark. Sometimes, if he was going somewhere just before nightfall, his senses sharpened so he felt like a fine-tuned instrument. Spider liked that feeling. It gave him power and a certain sense of control that he thought he had lost long ago during the dark, sultry hours of the intertime.

It was morning and the sun shone harshly into his eyes, right there in his hideout. Today the whole sky was glaring, a shrill yellow — vomit yellow. He was inexplicably lethargic, almost like after a bad trip. Every cell in his body seemed to have been deprogrammed during the night, and the old software replaced. Must of had a total blackout, Spider thought. Or pretty near. Almost off-handed, he noticed his muscles twitching. They were the seismograph of his nervous system, and they were telling him it was almost time. He was going to need his next hit soon if he wanted to avoid having the contractions turn into cramps.

Sandoz and Geigercounter were supposed to be making their rounds soon. Sandoz was heavily into Eiscream. One time Spider had asked Sandoz why she was so heavily into it, and she said, "Because it goes with my hair." When she said that, she grinned through the neon-silver of her bangs. She looked like a ghost smiling at him from inside a coffin. Real spooky, man.

Spider yawned again. He was trying to outlast the ever stronger vibrations of his muscles. So he tried to remember when he last saw Ant. Ant was his dealer, and without him, he had to depend on what that fucked-up shit Geigercounter and his girlfriend were doing. Until he traded up to Eiscream or one of the other designer items, it must have been hard on him.

"Hey, Spy, my man, what's going down?" Sandoz shoved herself into his field of view. She knelt down beside Spider and drew hectic little circles in the dust on the ground. The whole damn town was overrun with hectic little circles.

"Heya." Spider nodded at her. Somehow, that girl made him nervous. It was high time that he talked to the Silver Spider about the matter. He looked around. The street looked the same — empty. "So where's Geigercounter hanging?"

"Dunno. Dunno." Her finger kept moving around in spirals in the dust. Her pale blue eyes looked at him without really seeing him. From time to time she got that look, and not even Geigercounter could figure out if she was gonna freak or not. Spider stood up and stretched. For a moment, he almost thought he recognized his mirror image in a picture window on the other side. He was almost sure he looked pretty good, he thought, considering.

Suddenly it was very quiet, clanking quiet. Spider didn't know what it was, but a hungry little noise had overtaken the whispering of the street sweepers. Sandoz crouched there, watching him. His mirror image sank into Sandoz's pale eyes. And all of a sudden he felt both hot and sick with desire. He looked away. Then came a distant salvation. He saw a flurry of dust along the street, a vibration that rode in on the midday sun — Ant on his hoverboard.

Ant stood loosely on the board, one knee slightly bent, his arms swinging in rhythm with the street. Man, oh man, he looked just like the Silver Surfer and he brought fulfillment with him, crystalline, clear, resolution.

"Heya, Spider," Just floating in the air, he could heal the sick. A post-atomic saint. "The iceman cometh."

Spider guzzled the sound of the words, turned them around, tasted their timbre. Damn it all, something here was completely turned ass-backwards.

"What's the matter, man?" Ant wrinkled his forehead.

"How do you always manage to find power cells for your board, man?" Spider hadn't wanted to ask that; it just burst out of him. The words had turned around on their own as they made their way from his brain to his mouth. But damn it all, Ant was his dealer. His. His. Spider placed his arms behind his back, formed his fingers into fists, and tried to hide how badly he needed his next fix.

"Yeah, and where do you get your shit?" Sandoz's bright voice cut the air in helixes.

"To hell with both of you, you assholes!" Ant put his foot to the ground, speeding up.

Spider leaped forward and tried to stop him. Too slow, and too late.

"Fuck, fuck, fuck!" Sandoz screamed, drawing the word out into a long howl. "He had the stuff with him, he did, man, and now he's gone." She slid down the wall of the house and, like something with a mind of its own, her finger once more started drawing those stupid circles on the ground.

Spider turned himself off. How had he ever spent even one second thinking about her? And girls were the one thing he really couldn't figure out. They smelled different from men, and whenever he talked to them, he wasn't sure what they were talking about.

Silver Spider was different. In his dreams, he saw her as the woman with the killer eyes and hard muscles under her silvery skin. Everything about her was silver — her eyes, her voice, her breasts. Silver Spider understood him. She stroked his senses better than any drug. Because she was the drug. She laid herself upon his brain and took possession of every cell in his body until he was paralyzed. He never wanted to resist. He wanted her to suck him out. Then he'd wake up in a sweat and his body would be heavy and disoriented. Every time he swore it was going to be the last time — these dreams were killing him.

Once he tried to talk to Geigercounter about it, trying to find out if Geiger talked to Silver Spider, too, in the early morning light. But he couldn't say a word. It would have been, like, a betrayal. But beyond that, it would have been like surrendering an inexpressible secret, not least because there was, in fact, a secret between them. In some manner it was dirty — dirty and exciting at the same time — the thing that lay between him and the Silver Spider. Sort of like the feeling he got when Sandoz looked at him. No — he'd never talk to anybody about it.

She wouldn't like it.

Spider morphed around the heels and stretched himself out once more. His right hand beat rhythmically against his thigh. The girl continued drawing her stupid circles in the dust. With the most precise motion, almost dreamlike in its dance-like grace, Spider unscrewed his leg from his hip, and as though it were lighter than air, swung it to the ground over Sandoz's mute conjurations. Whoosh, they were gone. Sandoz cursed him wordlessly as the circles she had been drawing disappeared, and in the echo-shadow of her shrill scream he pulled back his leg. Suddenly he felt downright good.

But the feeling passed much too soon. Ant, that stupid asshole, was driving around the place with all that goddamned Eiscream ice in his pocket. Maybe he should hurry up and get a new dealer. Spider couldn't help but notice how his thoughts were going around in circles, as though Sandoz was whirling them around him like the dust. That was the punishment for putting an end to her circles, and the reason Ant hadn't given him the stuff — a presentiment of things to come, an omen. Spider's entire life was built on a foundation of such signs. They were his guidelights through the labyrinth of the days, just as the Silver Spider illuminated his nights. And in fact it was she who had led him to Ant to begin with, since she knew so exactly what he needed. Now why had she left him in the lurch?

No. Wait. That didn't make sense. The Silver Spider had never left him in the lurch. He just had to be patient, to wait until night fell. Then she'd be there for him with all her tenderness and wisdom. He began to run, and then to run faster, into the blurring sunset.

From a long way off he could see Sandoz. Slowly he made his way to the meeting point. Actually, it wasn't much as landmarks go, just a place where you could hang out, where you could wait for your dealer and sit out the goddamned gray-yellow day. There weren't many of the old gang around any more after the last big crash. They were all scared of the coming winter. But why think about the cold when the sun is still shining and the nights linger long and warm.

Was she still ticked off at him because of what he'd done to the circles? After due consideration, Spider thought it was decidedly more clever to keep quiet than to try to say something to her. Besides, he was really too tired to talk. His head, no, his entire body, felt sore, almost as though he'd been going through withdrawal all night long. Weird.

She was alone and didn't see him coming. She stood there before these cracked windows, looking off into nothingness. Spider wondered if she were high, which brought him to the question of whether she had any of the good stuff on her. But all of a sudden it didn't matter anymore.

Almost hypnotically the mirror image drew him. She was stretching, and her small breasts pressed against her sweatshirt. She drew her hands through her hair dreamily, almost as though she were moving under water. And then he knew it — she was putting on a show for him because she sensed his gaze on her and it was turning her on. Still, he couldn't stop himself from staring at her, holding his breath, waiting for her to pull her shirt down over one shoulder. He reached out his hand and traced her silhouette on the dusty glass.

"Spider, ya stupid asshole, whaddaya think you're doin' with my old lady?"

Geigercounter. He'd finally arrived. Laughing hysterically, he slapped Spider on the back. Geiger was full of Eiscream and was dancing on its ersatz energy. Spider tasted his own bitter anger. His fist wanted to drill itself into Geiger's dumb mouth — it was begging for it. Why in the hell hadn't he showed up any sooner? If he'd gotten here when he was supposed to, nothing would have been screwed up. What the hell had happened?

Spider had never felt such anger before. Was he mad at Geigercounter because he caught him staring at his girl? Or was it because Ant was going to link him up? Naw, that wasn't it. That asshole dealer hadn't been around for days, so how was he supposed to link him? But then how did Geiger get off, if Ant wasn't around?

Spider's thoughts whirled around in circles, hopping around in his head like happy little plush rabbits. Pink and green velveteen bunnies. Spider noticed, as though it was a long way off, that his entire body was shaking and dancing with silent laughter.

"Listen, man—" Spider searched for the words, but he couldn't get the bunnies to stop.

Geigercounter. His eyes were open and looked sort of scared. Scared and sort of goofy. Maybe he was seeing the bunnies, too, and didn't realize they were Spider's. Or maybe Geiger was reading his thoughts. Abruptly, Spider stopped laughing hysterically. The idea that Geigercounter or somebody else — or maybe even something else — could see inside his heard scared the bejesus out of him. Thoughts could be like bad shit, you know.

And still Geigercounter just stared at him. Then Geiger's view strayed to Sandoz, who was methodically chewing on a strand of her own hair. For sure, this was one serious communication problem. Shit, the city was really going down the drain, Spider thought. Ever since the Obernet had crashed last winter, everything had been sliding straight downhill. But not with him, since he had Silver Spider to look after him. Then he sensed the anger rising in him again. Maybe it was just because he wanted to bust that fuckin' dealer one. And as he was thinking that, his feet were running down the street.



[ Part 1 ]    [ Part 2 ]

Myra Çakan is a novelist and journalist living in Hamburg, Germany. She is the author of three novels, including the acclaimed German cyberpunk novel When the Music's Over. Her fourth novel is due out this year. Her work appears in Die Woche, Konr@d, Der Spiegel, and Der Suddeutsche Zeitung. She is presently writing the screenplay for When the Music's Over.

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