Spinthro & Aquila

Spinthro spotted a good hole in the snow. Pickings were slim in winter so he was glad for the find. He could have stayed in the trees for longer but that was getting boring; a hunter can’t stay cooped up forever. A spiderling’s got to travel – see the world – to become a spider. The dark bulk of Mt. Negra had called him forever, and it was time for him to go.

He spun an orb-web immediately. One of his proteins was a little off, and not mixing well with others. He tested it with a front leg – yes, it would intercept prey; yes, it would absorb their momentum; yes, it would entangle and hold them, ready for dinner. The web was fit for purpose. Within the hour, a cedar moth flew into the web. It struggled for a while but soon gave up, exhausted. Spinthro watched its terror increase through all eight of his eyes; he zapped it with venom, and flooded its corpse with digestive enzymes. Then he ground it down further with pedipalps. Dinner was thus served.

Spinthro’s brethren hunted various prey – he’d heard of spiders eating lizards, even birds – but he stuck with insects and smaller spiders. Of course the most popular, proven method was using a sticky web; but spiders also lassoed prey with home-made bolas; to avoid detection they camouflaged themselves, or mimicked prey; ferocious spiders even ran prey down!

He thought back to web class. They learnt how to use their spinnarets efficiently to produce all six kinds of silk together; how to draw out their proteins smoothly and transform their structure; and how to harden them into the world’s strongest, most flexible, versatile material. It could be used for many things besides webs. Sperm and egg wrappers, and safety ropes. Girls focussed on nest-building; boys used silk to make parachutes!

Survival class taught them about peripheral vision; putting your eight eyes to best use. With dragonflies and birds around, this saves your life. They learnt about hydraulic repairs. Spiders’ limbs operate by fluid pressure; one leak and you’re done for. The most vital class was sex education. How to deal with females. You needed to create the right web vibrations, or mighty females may gobble you up. The Spider Code was instilled into all spiderlings: Be Patient, Be Scary, Be Cruel, Be Creative.

Spinthro knew he was a holy being of mysterious power. Spiders had spun webs to protect Muhammad, King David, and Robert the Bruce. He was Anansi the trickster god, and Spider Grandfather. In modern times, he was Spiderman. He weaved his web as humans weaved their lives. The Shaman he spoke to said that clever humans behaved like spiders, manipulating their thoughts and actions skilfully, like strands of a web. He had eight legs and eight eyes. Eight was the symbol of infinity. He was the spinner of the fabric of existence.

High above Spinthro sat Aquila. Though the spider only knew her as the moving top of a tree, the eagle had seen the spider clearly, crawling way below. Her huge pupils allowed in much light, and ensured minimum diffraction, leading to a clean, deep gaze. She sat in this perfect nesting site, a giant old-growth cedar with 360o vantage.

Both her eggs had hatched successfully, but the older sister had killed her younger brother soon after he appeared. This is a cruel world and females must get ahead whenever they can. Aquila had been sad to lose her son, but knew that this was the way of life. She had done the same to her younger brother. It was a wonder that there were any guys left at all.

Her mother had told her about her name. Aquila means dark, on account of her dark feathers. The similar aquilo referred to the north wind, whose thermals she rode. But their moniker bald eagle was misunderstood. Its derivation was from a word meaning white-headed, rather than bare-headed. The shamans she spoke to had told her that.

Many gods had adopted eagle form. Zeus became an eagle to attack and seduce others. Garuda’s eagle body was so massive that it could block out the sun. Muhammad’s black standard was known as the Banner of the Eagle. An eagle was symbol of St. John the Evangelist. A knight bearing an eagle crest would be courageous, a man of action and justice. Spread eagle’s wings indicated protection, as embodied by Holy Roman, Russian, and French Emperors. It was the emblem of the old lands of Egypt, Iraq and Palestine, and newer lands of Poland, Spain and America.

Aquila was proud of her noble lineage. It made her welcome everywhere in the world. If Lucerne’s lakes froze over this winter, she would migrate somewhere south. She could swoop and snatch fish from Mexican or Bolivian lakes. Her broad even wings created direct, fast flight; her heavy head and large hooked beak, strong muscular legs, and powerful talons ensured that fish had no chance of escape. How could they against a spiritual messenger of the gods? They had given her the gift of clear vision, and the ability to fly above life’s worldly levels.

Aquila’s keen eyes looked around. There was the little spider in the snow hole, in which it had built an orb-web; created its own little world. She could swoop down easily and have a little snack. It would be good exercise and worth the effort nutritionally. But she didn’t feel like doing it. He was working so hard down there. Let him continue to work the land, she thought. She would uphold her dominance of the air. The spider was the Actor; she was the Observer. Their worlds were different yet the same.

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3 Responses to “Spinthro & Aquila”

  1. The style experts agree that too many intensifiers and extraneous detail get in the way of smooth flow. If it is necessary to mention that he spun the web immediately, it would be better to use something like “He got down right away to spinning a web”; there being only two siblings; if one is older the other must be younger, so the “younger” is a pleonasm.

  2. But school is just preparation for education. My wife warned me not to pontificate so much, but it is hard to break the habit.

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