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Damn it! The octogenarian had been tossing and turning in bed for several hours, unable to sleep. And just when it seemed to be coming soon, his bladder brought him back to waking life. Alone in his bed as well as in his life, he sighed.

Fantastic short story

Seth Messenger

Damn it!

The octogenarian had been tossing and turning in bed for several hours, unable to sleep. And just when it seemed to be coming soon, his bladder brought him back to waking life. Alone in his bed as well as in his life, he sighed. Christophe hesitated for a moment to try the adventure of dozing off with his urge to doze, but the thought of having to deal with the likely consequences in a few hours dissuaded him. Resigned, he struggled to get out of bed, grimacing as his osteoarthritis came to mind, chasing Morpheus out of his reach, probably for the rest of the night. In the chiaroscuro of a full moon that bathed the room, he didn't need to light it up to accomplish his mission. The chamber pot was not far away, ready to handle what the old man refused to call incontinence, but preferred to call it the normal aging of a function.

The little affair was over, when he felt something tickle his leg. Driven by an idiotic, uncontrolled reflex, his hand slammed down with all the speed and precision it was still capable of on the thing. He instantly regretted his actions, but too late.

At his feet and that of the chamber pot, under the cold, clinical rays of the moon, a small, dark, curled up form no longer moved. A spider.

Fully awake now, he regretted his instinctive gesture. He was fond of spiders, and was generally content to take them down to the cellar or throw them out. They helped protect the home from other pests, including flies and mosquitoes. When the regrets were over, for Christophe was not a man to pity, he was astonished. This is because spiders were not used to climbing on people. On the contrary, they avoided contact. No doubt, he concluded, she had begun to weave a web in the darkness through which he had risen as he rose.

Sorry little one, he thought. And he went back to bed. But of course he didn't sleep through the night.


In the early morning, tired of tossing and turning in bed in vain, he got up with a beautiful summer sun and this time made the effort to go to his bathroom to honor a real toilet. He took the opportunity to empty the contents of his nocturnal aide-de-camp. If he had still had a partner, or close relatives, they would probably have told him that he should consult. And no doubt he would have listened to them. But at eighty-six, Christophe was an old bachelor who had no children. He was an only child himself. With him a whole human lineage would be extinguished, which saddened him a little. Especially when he thought of his parents, who had been gone for several decades, to whom he would have loved to give the gift of grandchildren. But life had wanted it differently for him, that's all. And today the old man was what was called a hermit. He hadn't chosen it, not really. This had happened naturally, gradually over the years. He had lived his life, loved, been loved, had had friends. And then his loves had been lost, his friends had been overtaken by time and illness. He was the only one left. And his bladder the size of a pea.

With the chamber pot emptied, he prepared to perform his ablutions at the sink, bending down to turn on the tap and splash his face. At the price of water, and with his small pension, he reserved the showers for the good days. And once a year he even allowed himself a bath. As he stretched out his hand and leaned over the sink, he suddenly instinctively recoiled.

In the drain hole, something had moved. He waited a few moments and saw an attic spider appear, seeming to crawl out of the drain.

Decidedly, these little critters had decided to change his habits, he told himself. He then carefully picked her up in his hand and opened the window to release her into the garden. She would find her way back to a cellar or an attic on her own, he thought to himself.


It was a beautiful day.

It would probably be very hot by the end of the morning, but for now the air was still cool and damp with dew. The old man breathed it happily, and left his porch with an inelegant but resolute step to go to the nearest village, four miles away. Despite his age and osteoarthritis, Christophe had always been and still was a good walker. In barely an hour, the octogenarian would reach the bakery and cheese factory in the village square.

As he left, he didn't bother to lock the door. The old farmhouse, inherited from his parents, had nothing that could be stolen. He didn't even have a television or a computer. Just dusty old books, and a cheap e-reader, the only concession he made to modernity with his smartphone and an internet connection to order a few groceries from time to time, or download new e-books.


As his steps guided him along the country lanes of the Creuse, he savored the smells and silence of his countryside. Its nearest neighbour was more than a mile to the south. His farmhouse owned all the acres within a radius of more than a kilometre. Uncultivated for years, they had mostly returned to the state of nature. Meadows dotted with shrubs and tall grasses. Only the local roads that crossed his estate were maintained by the intercommunality which came to clear them once a year. Christophe had the incredible luxury of living in a world with no neighbours, no cars, no air pollution. He hadn't had a vehicle for nearly twenty years. And he didn't miss it at all. Neither do technological gadgets like televisions or computers. According to him, the media only served to stir up sterile desires and useless desires.

The truth is, you don't miss what you don't see, he told himself. No doubt you could be happier with it, or at least differently. Or maybe not. Be that as it may, he had learned many years ago to appreciate what little he had left. He no longer had any desire for possession, for conquest. He was content with the present moments, always being there. He was simply living.

As he made his way at his own pace towards the village, he noticed the cobwebs all over the shrubs along the path. And even on top of power and telephone supply poles. There were many more than usual, it seemed to him.


"Good morning, Mr. Malveau! The cheesemaker said tonically. »

"Good morning, young man," Christophe replied with amusement. The cheesemaker was actually well into his sixties, but that had been their ritual for many years. It's one of those little pleasures of repetition that make social life simple and fluid.

"As usual? The man said with a cordial smile.

Christophe nodded before adding:

"If the Beaufort has arrived, I'd like you to give me a good share of it as well, please."

It was. Christophe patiently watched the young man prepare the cheese platter that he would enjoy in the days to come. As he passed through the checkout, he handed his credit card to the man, who suddenly laughed, before adding:

"Come on, I have the impression that you too have been invaded," he said with his usual good humor.

Christophe didn't understand. He followed the cheesemonger's gaze on his sleeve stretched out towards the box. A beautiful specimen of a ceiling spider walked stoically about it. Just as stoically, he picked it up in his hand and went to release it in front of the shop entrance before returning to the cashier:

"Indeed," he said with a smile, "it looks good."

"You're like me, you like them. Isn't it? Most people are afraid of them, but the ones we come across are harmless. We are not in Australia. My wife, on the other hand, you would have heard her screaming this morning in the bathroom... It was as if she had discovered Jack the Ripper himself behind her shower curtain! »

And he laughed out loud and frankly.

Christophe liked him. He wasn't really a friend. But he liked her.


On the way back, he made a slight detour through the village square.

On the window frames and shutters, the invasion was indeed present. Here more than at home. No doubt the consolidation of dwellings had encouraged the phenomenon. Canvases of all sizes brightened up every auspicious angle, giving the village the appearance of a ghost town. In the center of the square, the fountain was no exception. Hundreds of spiders had taken up residence there, taking advantage of the humidity. They had crossed their webs in a complex network whose subtleties it was difficult to grasp. A true natural work of art.


It's true that he liked spiders.

He had often been told that it was not natural. And he had often wondered why he wasn't like most people about them. With the benefit of hindsight, he had finally figured it out. The spiders he knew would just spin a web and then wait for prey to get lost in it. Some types of interiors could wait in a corner of the ceiling for several years. They never attacked, but waited for nature to give them what they needed. In the end, she was content with what they had. And they helped to clean up the ecosystem, to keep homes healthy. Christophe saw in this philosophy of life something with which he could identify. A certain form of wisdom. That's probably why he liked them.


Returning from his journey to the village, Christophe found the interior of his house somewhat changed.

Guests had moved in her absence. At almost every corner of the wall. Underneath and between furniture. In short, wherever the spatial configuration allowed it. There was no doubt that the octogenarian was no longer really alone.

Noon was in full swing and the sun was now harshly warming the countryside. So the man decided to leave the windows wide open, but to fold down his shutters to keep some cool. And also to please his guests, who surely preferred the darkness to the heat of a bright summer sun.


Then he settled into his reading chair.

But he didn't open his e-reader. He observed, scattered in the darkness around him, this new emerging civilization. This colony of arachnids that seemed to have peacefully taken over his home, but also the village. And probably the rest of the country. Crowds?

Yes, serenely, he watched them.

Lurking in their cloak of darkness and silence, they did not move.

They were content with what they had. They were waiting.

And so does the old man. In good company.


Seth Messenger, finished at Poissy on the seventh of March, two thousand and twenty at fourteen forty-eight.