This story comes from a prompt from Chuck Wendig‘s Flash Fiction Fridays on his website. For this FFF Challenge, we were told to use the Secret Door website and write a 1000-word story about wherever it took us. My door took me to Gyokusendo Cave in Nanjo, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan. This is what I came up with:
The Tsuchigumo – 936 words
She watched the tourists from beneath the turquoise pool. Something in the screen translated their words, or perhaps she, herself, had changed? Any language, any dialect – they were all as plain as her own native tongue and as clear as if she stood beside them. Their complements on her home warmed her while the dismissive arrogance of the ignorant irritated her. If she heard one more person declare that the colors had to be man-made, or that it looked like the set for a Science Fiction movie, she was going to scream.
She turned away from the watery monitors and paced the small chamber. She had once been like them, awed by the beauty of Gyokusendo Cave, but without understanding of its true majesty. She, too, had exclaimed over the impressive stalactites and waxed poetic over the glorious colors of the underground lakes. And then she had promptly moved on to the next bend in the walkway; to the next beautiful feature, to the next photo opportunity.
That is, until her Prince had claimed her.
She rubbed her distended stomach with a smile. Yes, her Prince had definitely been a surprise. He had introduced himself after the tour as a member of the administration. Though he claimed he wanted only her opinion of the tour and cavern, by the end of the night he had claimed so much more. By the end of the week, she had taken the tour a total of twenty-five times in order to meet with him. By the end of the month, she had cancelled her tickets home and joined him in his palace beneath the lakes.
Warm arms surrounded her from behind and she leaned into his embrace. He covered her hands with his and caressed the evidence of their love.
“Do you miss being in the world above, My Queen?”
“Sometimes.” She tilted her head and shivered as his lips played over her bare neck and shoulder. “As much as I adore you, I sometimes miss the sun on my face. My family.”
“It won’t be long now and you’ll see it again. I would not want you traveling in your condition.”
“Of course not, my love. I wouldn’t put our child at risk for anything, but once he’s born…?”
“You are so certain the child is a boy?” He guided her around the room in a gentle, swaying dance. One hand supported her large stomach while the other roamed over her skin in an erotic tease. “Perhaps she will be a girl with her mother’s green eyes?”
“I want to give you a son, My Prince. An heir to be proud of.”
“You will give me many children, My Queen, and they shall need you as I have needed you. They will hunger for you, for your attention. It shall be beautiful.”
“If they are half as demanding as you, my love, then I shall have little time left.” She pouted, tilting her head back to gaze into his dark brown eyes. “I have missed you these last months, missed your touch.”
“I know, My Queen. It won’t be long now.” The main lights in the cavern flickered off, signaling the end of the day’s tours. “Can’t you feel it? They are quickening. They wish to be free.”
“What do you mean? Are you saying I’m going to have twins?”
“My children are ready. It is time.”
He guided her into the nursery, only it no longer contained the soft pastel blankets and baby animals that she had chosen. Gone was the crib painted in the palest yellow. Gone was rocking chair where she had planned to sing her precious bundle to sleep each night. Red light emitted from a sphere in the center of room highlighted the only remaining item: a giant web. As her Prince pulled her towards the center of the terrifying structure, she felt the first labor pain.
“Yes, My Queen, they come! Aren’t you excited?” He pressed her against the web and bound her wrists and ankles with its sticky strands. “They hunger for you.”
“Oh my God, what’s happening?” She screamed as the pain in her stomach grew in intensity. “Save the child! Please!”
“My children will be saved, never fear. They are working their way out even as we speak. Can’t you feel them, My Queen? Feel their many legs clawing for freedom? Feel their mandibles gnawing at your flesh as you give them life? It is a glorious day, and all thanks to you.”
“Wh-what do you mean? They’re going to eat their way out?” Hysteria wrapped its cold hands around her throat and lent desperation to her struggles. “What the hell are you?”
“You should have asked that long ago, My Queen, though the end would have been the same.” Suddenly his face lit up with unholy glee, and he moved towards her. His hand transformed into a hairy, claw-tipped leg, and she shrieked as he enlarged the small tear forming in her stomach. “Yes, my children. Come to me. Feast upon your Queen and grow strong. Show your mother your hunger for her love.”
Her agonized screams echoed in the small chamber as a swarm of tiny spider-like creatures clawed and climbed their way from the gaping hole in her stomach. They rubbed their heads against her cheek adoringly even as they snapped off bites of flesh with their sharp mandibles. As they gorged on her dying body, she swore she could feel the warmth of the sun on her face once more. With an eager smile, she turned towards the brilliant light and began her journey home.
** The End **
I took artistic license with the tsuchigumo, or male spider demon, in order to make this story work.