Crunch. Crunch. Harold stepped along the makeshift trail of wood chips in his brand new hiking boots. Joy scanned the tall, tan tree trunks and took a deep breath, letting the scent of the forest infuse her soul. Crackle. Harold’s clean blue boot snapped a small branch in two. His perfect untarnished boots conquered every stone, branch, twig, and any other obstacles with ease as he walked briskly up the trail. Crack. Crunch. Crack. Joy lengthed her stride to keep pace. She looked down at her shabby brown boots caked in old mud. Not as nice as Harold’s. He always got what he wanted.
She had climbed many peaks towing behind Harold. This one was different. They were in a part of the world new to them. This forest was different. A woody smell replaced the scent of citrus she was accustomed it. It was calming, like the sandstone beads on her mantra necklace. She pictured the necklace resting in her hands as she meditated and washed away every bit of irritating Harold.
Her feet sunk into the soft dirt trail. The sunlight seeped through openings in the trees. A glimmer caught her eye. She paused and looked up. Shiny strands of silk stretched tight, forming a hexagonal pattern. A web. Her stomach tingled. No spider. Her heart sank. Patience. It’ll take hours to reach the top.
Harold was way ahead. She skipped along to catch up. The shiny web remained in her mind. A web was such an intricately woven creation. It took time, effort, and skill to create. Just like the web of lies that Harold had woven through the five years of marital bliss she had shared with him. Bastard. Not to worry. Karma’s a bitch.
Staring at Harold’s back, she continued walking. A light breeze caught her hair and brushed against her face, blowing away the sticky sweat clinging to her cheeks. She picked up her pace and focused on keeping up with Harold.
Time passed. No more webs. Until she spotted it. A giant black spider with long legs, clinging to the center of a shiny silver-white web. Yes. The spider was still, waiting for some silly old insect to fly stupidly into its web. Patience. You’ll get your silly old Harold. He’ll fly dumbly into your web. Every cute little tart he had tasted and every lie he had woven onto his massive web would wrap themselves around him and suffocate his sick cheating lying ass. Marital bliss…right.
Crunch. Crunch. Crackle. Harold’s boots continued to conquer. The wet, sticky heat clung to her skin as she stepped her pace up another notch. One. Two. Three. Four. She counted the spiders waiting for their dinners. They were abundant in the heart of the forest. All of them had the signature red dots. Poison. It only takes five minutes to course through the bloodstream of a man of average height. Harold was only 5 foot 5. Less than average. His stunted stature was finally right for something.
Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten. Eleven. Twelve. Hunters waiting. Black and red.
“We’re about halfway. How about a break?” Harold stretched his mouth into that sickly sweet perverted smile of his. Gross.
She forced her tone to match her name. “Sure. That spot looks cozy.” She pointed at a log shaded by a tree. “I’ll be fine here.” She plunked herself onto a rock.
She opened her bag and fished around for the sandwiches. She handed one to Harold. He looked comfortable on the soft log.
“You’re welcome.” Her words were like sugar. She unwrapped a sandwich and took a big bite. Her gaze wandered up the tree shading Harold from the wet heat. Silver-white strands stretched in a series of hexagons. Long black legs protruded from a large round body.
Harold wolfed down his sandwich. Such a pig. Joy took a bite and slowly chewed. The black hunter crawled down the web towards Harold. Its red dots glowed in the sun. Such a rare and beautiful species. It liked the scent of orange spice. Or so she had read.
Joy took another bite of her sandwich and chewed slowly. Harold finished devouring his second sandwich and squished both pieces of saran wrap into tight balls. She looked at him, swallowing the bite. “Let’s take a few more minutes. It’s nice in here.”
“Sure.” Harold stretched out his legs and leaned back against the tree. The black hunter spun a strand of silk, lowering itself away from the center of the web. Hanging in the air, the spider propelled down towards Harold. Joy chewed her sandwich as she watched the show unfold.
Bite. Chew. Swallow. The spider hung halfway between the web and Harold’s shoulder. Bite. Chew. Chew. Swallow. The spider hovered two inches from Harold’s shoulder. Bite. Chew. Chew. Chew. Swallow. The spider rested its legs on Harold’s shirt. It crawled toward Harold’s orange spice dotted neck. Orange spice was undetectable to Harold’s immature palette and blended nicely with his Aqua Velvet. What sweet-tart would like that cheap shit? Brainless ones.
Bite. The spider stepped a leg onto Harold’s skin. Chew. Black tentacles raised in the air. Chew. Spider teeth sunk into orange spice skin. Gulp.
Joy’s stomach flip-flopped. She finally felt how her name had been telling her to feel her whole life.
She smiled long and hard at Harold.
“What?” He looked puzzled.
“Oh, just enjoying this peaceful moment.”
“It is nice, isn’t it?” His sickly pervert smile shot her way.
Bite. Harold slapped his neck. Chew.
“Damn mosquito.” He rested his hand on the log.
Chew. Chew. Harold rested his forehead on his hand, his elbow on his knee. “Wow. That heat must be getting to me.”
Swallow. “Have some water.” Wash down that poison.
Bite. Harold reached for his water bottle. Chew. Harold’s arm went limp. Chew. Chew. Harold slumped over onto the log. “I’m gon…res..min…”
Chew. Swallow. Joy slipped the empty sandwich wrapper into her pack. Perched on the rock, she took a deep breath. The web of deceit caging her heart disintegrated. A warmth pulsated in her belly. The spider climbed back up the strand of silk to its web.
Joy picked up her pack and continued along the trail.