A boy crouched in the shadows of moonlight, his blue eyes glittering.
By the window, a crystal swung from the ceiling. It glistened in moonlight; in twinkled in starlight. When the sun shone bright, it sent rivers of color splashing across the walls. Only in the cloudiest and darkest of nights would the crystal blacken, hanging shiny and still, as dead as the mother of Tommy the spider.
Tommy worked in the corner, swinging the first threads for his web from wall to wall, wall to ceiling, and ceiling to wall. It was an ambitious design for a spider as small as he: it spanned four feet and stretched halfway down the wall.
That's when he heard a rustle and then a sound. Not a snap: nothing so loud as that. It was a sound so small, it was almost a non-sound. It was such a tiny sound for the ripping of limbs. Tommy twirled in the air on his thread, unable to find his feet for footing.
Or, at least, two of them.
The blue-eyed boy giggled, holding up two of the spider's legs to view in the moonlight. The spider scurried up his thread. The boy climbed on his bed, careful to first fold Tommy's legs in a tissue and place them in a small, beat-up box on his dresser. The spider watched the boy's glistening blue eyes until they shut, disappearing into darkness.
Tommy spun his web as the boy slept, working until the radials made a thirteen-pointed star. It was not easy work, but he found he could manage with only six of his limbs. He imagined his long legs calling from the box, begging him to finish, to give reason for their removal and imprisonment.
It was morning before Tommy began to work in circles and spirals around the middle of his web, stretching his long legs from radial to radial. He worked all day; his mother would have been proud. With every trip around his web, his ease with being a six-legged spider grew.
But as evening came, so did the boy with the twinkling blue eyes. Tommy heard him when he stepped below. Tommy spun at the top of his web, certain the boy was too short to reach him.
The boy was not.
He plopped a chair beneath the spider’s web and crawled on top. Tommy felt his one leg stretched as far as it would go. He gripped his web; his leg snapped off. The blue-eyed boy screeched in joy, then plucked another leg.
As the spider, in agony, folded its four remaining legs to its belly, the boy jumped off the chair. He ran to his nightstand and repeated the ritual with Tommy's legs, the tissue, and the box.
Tommy flopped on his silk. He imagined he clambered higher up his cord, but it is not easy to climb when you're not sure which legs you have and which you don't.
The next amputation was quick: the boy giggled gleefully, running around the room with a spider leg between each thumb and forefinger. He jumped on the bed, then turned those blue eyes towards the shivering spider.
Tommy could hardly look at those brilliant blue orbs, so afraid he was. As he clung to his web by thread and two legs, he kept thinking of the first time his mother had taught him to spin a web. If she would've been there, she would've said, "Just two more circles to go, Tommy. Never give up!"
The blue-eyed boy rolled the legs back and forth on his hand, then twirled one in between thumb and forefinger. (His third leg? His sixth leg? Tommy didn't know.) Finally, he smushed the spider’s legs in his palms, until they were nothing, until it was as if they had never been.
Tommy tried to climb a little ways up, but his body was too heavy for his two remaining legs. And so he hung. He dreamt his six lost legs danced in circles around him, demanding Tommy finish the web. The spider waited as the crystal cast colors, then diamonds, then colors, then diamonds.
Only then was his shriveled body light enough for his two legs to carry him. He slowly crawled up his balancing line. It took all night long to make the last two circles around his web.
When morning came, the boy stood below, his hands on his waist, his mouth slightly open. His blue eyes glowed in the purple sunlight of early dawn. He dropped a pile of books on the chair, then climbed up.
Tommy waited for the plucks: he was done with his web, after all. The boy stretched both legs as far as they would go, until Tommy feared his body would be torn in half. The two legs tore off, and his black body spun on his silken thread. He blinked at his tormentor, who now was not looking at him, but at the spider's web.
If the spider had ever been in a museum (he had not), or if he had ever visited the Spider Pavilion in the Natural History Museum (the greatest and grandest collection of webs from spiders spun), he would have known that his web was neither the finest nor the commonest. Tommy's web was museum-quality art, but it was not remarkable amongst masters.
Without the crystal, that is. For now his silk weave glowed with every red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple in the spectrum.
Then the spider, only a shiny black orb, stilled. The blue-eyed boy wrapped the dead spider in a tissue, then placed it in his treasure box.