Ruddy and rutting, the beast enraged, gouges the hills and banks in pursuit of you.

You who foolishly stumbled upon the Surloch engaged in a mating dance.

Here there be monsters, the map had said, but that could not be. There were no fucking monsters. Except there were.

And you interrupted.

Tree trunks snap like twigs on the tusks of the Surloch. Your bones won’t fare much better, so you run.

You run for all you’re worth.

A meager sum perhaps? We shall see.

Run and run some more – daring not to slip or to slide. Perish the thought to turn and fight. Pure flight it is for you who ignore the well written warnings of the map.

Never ignore the map. This is not some adventure tale made of heroes and myths for what is a myth when made true?

Aye, here there be monsters and you’d do well to remember that.

Should you escape the bellowing Surloch. Closer now.

You can smell the foul stench of the beast in heat. Noxious, acrid, permeating the forest.

Hints of it you remember from strange markings and rubbings on trees and stone as you passed.

Fool you were, to not recognize the musk of Surloch sex invading your nostrils, now flaring with exhaustion.

Quick to the cave!

You remember now, the map had noted well the spider hole in the sheer rock.

The Surloch was a burrower to be sure but in soft loam and well rich dirt and rotting logs. Mayhap stone would be your salvation?

You dive for the darkness, headlong.

CRACK the earth resounds with the Surloch’s furor.

Stones shower your cowering breathless form as they begin to crawl up your spine.

Not stones, then. No.

The map is quite literal at times and so these are indeed spiders in a hole which you have invaded without so much as an invitation or a ‘By your leave, good Spider King Mawrwah”

Mawrwah isn’t the forgiving sort either.

The Surloch harrumphs as it rings stone soundly once more and seems to gruntle smugly, if a Surloch could smugly gruntle, that is. A fact of which you are uncertain and dubious of, in some part of your brain not occupied by the terror currently coursing through your synapses. Twinged and tweaked with each hairy leg caressing your skin with web.

That part of your brain does not currently hold priority though. The one going ‘AGAFABWAHeheheehehegYAAH’ in a rising crescendo does.

Though I will let you know that the Surloch was indeed well gruntled as it trotted back to be about it’s baby-making business.

The scene of snogging Surlochs washes from your mind by the flood of terror coursing through your being. Heart near to bursting as the chittery whisper begins to form.

From thousands of tiny mouths at once the voice of good King Mawrwah forms around you.

“Impudent curr! Who dares defile my web in such abject rudeness? Where is my offering?”

“GBUGABHAAHH” You manage.

“A flesshhbag, too dumb to hold the barest civility, I take it.”

“YAAHHAAYAAA” You cringe as the snaring silk tightens.

“Poor beast, you know not what you do.” Mawrwah’s voice skissed from the thousand mouths. “Count yourself lucky, if you have such sense, that I prefer a crunch your limp flesh cannot provide and that I show mercy on creatures who trespass in ignorance or desperation.”

You begin moving not of your volition across a rippling floor. At least that’s the sensation your fear-feebled brain registers.

“Be free but cross not my web again, for I am merciful but broke no disrespect.”

You whimper into the threads swaddling your mewling flesh.

Sensation stops as disorientation sets in.

You sit and swirl in blackness, thrashing in the emptiness until you hear the patter of raindrops and the shushed sizzle of spider silk dissolving.

Your limp body sprawls, free of bondage – physically, though the trauma of the mind lingers.

Voluntary paralysis. The desire to just not move. Wisest inclination you’ve had yet, you who would ignore the warnings of maps.

Around you the forest swells with steam of the rain caressing rich earth. It fills your nostrils as it enwraps your mind.

In stillness seek the whole ripped asunder by your sudden flight and fall and frenetic blunders.

Calm. Quiet. You sit and feel verdant energy course through, mending broken spirit, opening your eyes to all wonder available to any who would but look.

Forest full of glory, motes of light flit from root and branch to mice nibbling mushrooms on decaying logs.

Life renewed by the firefly light. You listen.

Beauteous notes drift through risen fog, tickling at the edge of cognition. There and not, unsure you follow. Cares lifted, caressed away on the lilt of song.

The glade.

In stillness lingers the song. Otherworldly. The tune sung by the fair lass sweetly caressing the ripples of the pond. It’s surface broken by a dipped foot in the steamy heat.

Red of hair and dewdrop cheeks. Serene grace mirrored in the depths of her pale eyes.


Your heart aches, welling with tears at her beauty, caught in your throat.

You watch from a distance, courage swelling to speak yet you do not lest you disrupt the song.

The song a balm to your frayed being, soothing your weary soul.

Weary from your trials and travails. You tread closer. Unwary to her side, to the gentle refuge of another soul caught in this perilous realm.

A realm into which you took a wrong turn.  A realm for which you have somehow come to possess a map, whose warnings you do not heed.

But everything is okay now.

Sweet release at hand. Her fingers knifelike, seize your still beating heart. Her rose petal lips part to razor teeth. She feeds.

Here there be monsters, beautiful and bright.

-j.e. pittman