A book, covered in spider webs

Short Story Challenge Week 20: Harold Falls In Love

A fresh short story for my challenge, in which a character I’ve written about before makes another appearance. A bit of a content warning here though that it might not be suitable for arachnophobes.

Which is odd, because I’m something of an arachnophobe myself. I’ve gotten better at dealing with spiders through the course of my life, though — there was a time when they’d reduce me to a gibbering wreck, and I can generally (but not always) cope with them now.

Which also means that I’ve had to do some rather unsettling research for this particular story. Does that count as struggling for the art? Perhaps.

In any case, it’s time once again to say hello to Harold, who first appeared in my initial 52 short story challenge.

So if you enjoy this story, why not consider buying an inexpensive eBook and finding out more about him (and 51 other excellent tales?)


Buy Fifty Two through Amazon for your Kindle e-reader here.

Buy Fifty Two through Apple for your iPad or iOS devices/Macs here.

Buy Fifty Two through Smashwords for any other e-reader format here.


Enough blatant eBook plugging, Kidman. On with the story!

Harold Falls In Love

A book, covered in spider webs
Harold, was, as you already know, a spider.

Harold was a generally happy spider, because life in the library was on the whole, quite good and easy living.

Harold knew the layout like the back of all forty-eight of his knees.

Harold liked to hunt in the reference section where the students sometimes left chocolate wrappers that inevitably attracted hordes of tasty, tasty ants.

If that was bereft of prey, you’d sometimes find him in the fiction section, complete with its high, dusty shelves that were rarely perused, ideal for spinning up a quick sleeping web.

Not so much the front of the library where the people borrowed the books, or for that matter the periodicals section. That was best avoided due to the tendency of the humans to shriek and roll up newspapers to squash the unwary arachnid.

All of this was familiar ground to Harold, and life was easy. Harold hunted his prey with efficiency, but also with style.

Other spiders might just snap off heads with not much more than a grunt, but Harold was proud of his work towards having an intimate relationship with his breakfast, lunch and dinner.

After all, did other spiders have business cards with “Advanced Insect Securing Specialist (B.Sc)” printed on them?

They did not.

Harold had made them up because he found that his insect prey tended to get all panicky if he introduced himself as a spider, and that spoiled the taste of the meal.

He’d tried to explain this to the cricket who had wandered into the children’s sections, but all it did was scream and shriek and chitter in its incomprensible cricket language as Harold’s poison slowly robbed its limbs of the ability to move at all.

Harold felt that he was doing a public service simply webbing its mouth shut. I mean, this is a library. One must be quiet in a library, that was rule number one.

Harold thought, on the whole, that it was awfully obliging of the humans to create a special library rule just so that Harold could hunt in silence.

True, every once in a while one of the librarians would spot Harold and try to flatten him with a copy of the World Book, but this just served to remind him that he needed to maintain fitness at all times.

Why, that’s exactly what it said on that one page of “Health And Fitness For Boys (1832)” that had fallen open on one of the top shelves in the west wing.

The rest of the page seemed to talk about the natural growth of hair in human males, which confused Harold no end. Humans were such weird creatures.

Imagine not having thick strands of sensory hair on all of your legs until you reached maturity!

Such an odd concept, but Harold remembered the part about daily exercise in service to something called “King William IV”. Harold wasn’t sure what a King William IV was. Possibly some kind of vegetable, or maybe a rare and tasty butterfly, Harold guessed.

Harold was just finishing off the cricket’s face when he spotted it out of the corner of his sixth eye, the one to the left.

A stray thread line, breezily flickering around in the neon light of the periodicals section.

Which was odd, Harold thought. It had been weeks since he’d been through the periodicals section, because the lights never attracted insects, and the danger of being spotted by the humans was just too high.

He remembered scuttering across its roof one night about a month ago while chasing down a particularly cheeky — but delicious — ant — but he was pretty sure that he hadn’t spun any webs while doing so.

How embarassing, Harold thought. Was he losing track of his webs, or perhaps becoming web incontinent?

This clearly warranted further examination. But not now, when the senior citizen group was all sitting there, reading newspapers and gossiping.

So Harold waited, and watched as the web line swung in the power of the air conditioning.

The time seemed to pass so slowly, so to amuse himself Harold tried to work out how many words he could make out of the word “Web”.

We was easy, almost cheating, Harold figured, but it took him longer to figure out Be and We were hiding in there. An excellent pursuit, Harold figured, and one that helped the time pass a little more easily until the sun went down. Suddenly, the familiar chime of the library closing speaker sounded out.

“THE LIBRARY WILL CLOSE IN FIVE MINUTES. PLEASE ENSURE YOU FINALISE ALL LOANS AND DO NOT LEAVE PERSONAL ITEMS IN THE LIBRARY OVERNIGHT.”

Harold usually spun just a few webs at night, because the lack of lights tended to limit his meal potentials, but tonight he was going to find out where this mysterious web had come from.

Once the head librarian — Harold presumed he was called the head librarian because of his shiny, hairless skull — had locked up for the night, Harold scurried over to the periodicals section where he could still see the thick strand dangling from the ceiling.

As soon as he could focus more than three eyes on it, it became clear to him that this wasn’t one of his webs. No, the threadwork was all kinds of wrong, with a triple looped cable stitch style. So much work for the same stickiness as a basic rib stitch, Harold found.

Harold approached the line, and suddenly he realised something.

Something new.

Something he had never experienced before.

The web line smelled AMAZING.

It was dizzying, and intoxicating, and enthralling, sweet and yet somehow also rich and meaty, like a really fresh and fat ant that somehow had a blowfly trapped in its madibles at the same time.

Harold had never experienced this kind of smell before, and the only thing, the absolute ONLY THING that he wanted was MORE.

Before he realised it, Harold had run up and down the line, just taking in that glorious scent, his legs trembling behind him.

That’s when he saw her. Staring out from one of the loose polystyrene tiles in the ceiling was a set of eight enormous and glorious ruby-coloured eyes.

She scurried out from the tile, proudly displaying her large body to Harold.

“Oh… hello. My name is Harold. And who might you be?”

The larger spider said nothing, but Harold could see that she was eyeing him up, with at least four of her eyes at least.

“Look, I… um… this is all kinds of awkward… really… because I’ve never… well… you know… no, forget I said that…. of course I’ve… well… yes…hah, what was I saying?”

Harold realised that he was rambling. He also felt a strange rumbling in his abdomen, a bit like that time he’d eaten that family of fire ants.

“So… anyway… um… yes, now look here… I think that…”

The scent of the web was nothing compared to the amazing smell coming from the larger spider.

It was like a thick cloud of perfume that constantly surrounded her, invading Harold’s senses all at once. His knees felt wobbly and his vision was starting to blur.

“How are you doing that? That smell, I mean, it’s so very, very… well, very, really, you know what I mean, right?”

Suddenly Harold realised that he was releasing web, even though he wasn’t actually hunting anything.

What was more, this web was much stickier than his usual kind, and his feet were dancing around in a wild pattern on the ceiling. Harold could feel a drumming in his head that he felt compelled to hop along to, back and forth.

“I say.. what I meant to say was, and I know, dreadful manners, really, we’ve only just met, but would you be… I don’t know… perhaps… interested in… well, you know, do I have to spell it out… could you perhaps be keen on… mating?”

“DARLING” said the other spider

“I’VE BEEN WAITING ALL DAY FOR YOU.

YOU LOOK POSITIVELY…

DELICIOUS!”


I’ve challenged myself (once again) to come up with a short piece of creative writing — typically a short story, though I’ve already deviated from that form — every week for a year. It’s very different from the writing that I do to pay the rent, though if you do want or need a freelance tech writer, drop me a line!

If you click on the short story challenge tag you should be able to find everything that I’ve tagged that way.

If you’d prefer to hunt and peck and choose, here’s what I’ve written to date:

Short Story Challenge Week 1: Before The War

Short Story Challenge Week 2: Apples Cannot Scream

Short Story Challenge Week 3: Blankets

Short Story Challenge Week 4: Charles Leadworth

Short Story Challenge Week 5: Cloud Running

Short Story Challenge Week 6: The Bowl

Short Story Challenge Week 7: Mr Breckinridge

Short Story Challenge Week 8: Inspiration

Short Story Challenge Week 9: FreeDog

Short Story Challenge Week 10: Black Dog

Short Story Challenge Week 11: I Don’t Know What To Do

Short Story Challenge Week 12: Sacrifice

Short Story Challenge Week 13: Oak House

Short Story Challenge Week 14: Inside The Tube

Short Story Challenge Week 15: Sackcloth and Ashes

Short Story Challenge Week 16: Comedy Isn’t

Short Story Challenge Week 17: The Joint

Short Story Challenge Week 18: Small Steps

Short Story Challenge Week 19: Sofa Surfin’


And if you want something entirely different, there’s also my B-movie novel, Sharksplosion. Yeah, it’s pretty much exactly what you’d think a book with that title might be like:

Buy Sharksplosion for Amazon Kindle

Buy Sharksplosion for iBooks (iPhone, iPad, etc)

Buy Sharksplosion for all other e-readers through Smashwords


About the author

Alex Kidman is a multi-award winning Australian technology writer, former editor at Gizmodo, CNET, GameSpot, ZDNet, PC Mag, APC, Finder and as a contributor to the ABC, SMH, AFR, Courier Mail, GadgetGuy, PC & Tech Authority, Atomic and many more. He's been writing professionally since 1998, and his passions include technology, social issues, education, retro gaming and professional wrestling.

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