Sandy is a Spider is a novelette of eight chapters, posted over eight week days -- by me, your buoyant host, Cheeseburger Brown.
In the event of an emergency Cheeseburger Brown can be used as a floatation device. Do not puncture Cheeseburger Brown. If you are reading with small children, miniature Cheeseburger Browns are available from the overhead bin. While in transit please store any other authors beneath your seat.
And now, today's chapter:
Ryan awoke in the dark.
His head was pounding. His mouth was cottony and his throat filled with a noxious taste. He detected a musky, masculine smell to the air.
He tried to move but found that he could not.
His wrists, ankles, shoulders and waist were bound with what felt like tightly wrapped fabric. He was suspended, face up, at a forty-five degree angle. With experimentation he discovered he could swing faintly side to side by scooching his hips. He could not swing very far, however. He might, with persistence, be able to rock himself to sleep.
As his mind defogged he noticed a feeble light growing from his left. Through the scintillating grain of dark blindness he began to detect the fuzzy vertice where two walls met a ceiling. White stucco walls.
Outside, the sun was rising. The tropical sky turned pink and caused the white stucco walls to faintly glow. He heard the familiar chirping insects and cooing birds of the jungle, and he thought for a moment that he was back in his villa at Arcos Iris...somehow, inexplicably bound.
Then he remembered Sandy. What had happened to Sandy?
Something behind him shifted and made a vaguely animal sound. Ryan gasped. He tried to turn his head but could not. He shuddered and felt a cold sweat rise across his shoulders. His heart raced. He wondered what he was trapped with. Was it free, or also bound?
Whatever it was, the next thing it did was pass gas.
Shaking, Ryan's eyes darted across the white stucco ceiling as the pink glow dissipating into real morning sunlight -- orange and harsh. His eyes watered and he shut them, the afterimages crawling in rhythm with his throbbing headache.
Someone or something urinated loudly into a plastic container, like the sound of a wet zipper.
Ryan opened his eyes again, his skin crawling and his breath shallow. He craned his head back as far as it would go and saw a confusion of strips of white fabric radiating from a hub with dangling pulleys. He pushed his head forward while twisting and saw that on the floor directly beneath his buttocks was a plastic receptacle.
He startled at the muffled sound of a typewriter. It sounded like it was downstairs. It clattered purposefully for a few minutes and then silence returned. Ryan fought to keep his breathing from running away from him as his mind raced, trying to understand what kind of a prisoner he was.
With a lurch he backtracked and realized fully that he was just that: a prisoner. He was not in any way haphazardly tangled, but rather he had been methodically caught and caged.
Footfalls sounded nearby. The door to the room Ryan was in opened, and someone in bare feet padded in, the skin of their soles faintly sticking to the cool tiles. He smelled cigarette smoke.
His torturer, perhaps? Ryan tried desperately not to void his bladder.
After a moment the barefoot person walked around the room, and Ryan heard one of the plastic containers being emptied into another vat and replaced, followed by the shuffling of papers. Then the person walked around to the front of Ryan, eyes cast down into an open cardboard dossier.
"...Sandy?" croaked Ryan feebly, blinking.
She wore a dirty pair of khaki shorts he had not seen before and a careless white T-shirt bearing a faded image of Mickey Mouse. Her hair was pulled up into a loose bun. Her glasses were gone, as was her crucifix. And her birthmark.
She didn't look up. "Sandy, what's happening?" he whispered hoarsely, eyes wide.
Sandy drew on her cigarette absently and looked up from the dossier, her face expressionless. "Angus Craig Llewelyn, born nine April nineteen fifty-seven, Spaulding, Illinois, USA," she said quietly and crisply. She closed the dossier and stuck it under her arm, then looked into his eyes.
"Who's that?" breathed Ryan.
She slapped him. Quick and hard, across the left cheek.
He changed tacts. "What the fuck are you?"
"Angry," said Sandy.
She walked out of his view again and a second later he was roughly rotated in his fabric creche, spun about to face the interior of the villa bedroom. He saw his own cocoon-like reflection in the grey face of the television. And he was not alone: two other men hung suspended in the far corners. Both were oriented to face him, and gagged.
Wendell nodded his head slightly and mumbled something. Ryan didn't recognize the other guy who just stared back at him listlessly.
Sandy pointed toward the floor and Ryan buried his chin in his chest to see down over his body. A series of photographs and folders were artistically arrayed by his feet. The photographs were of women. Ryan recognized all of them. "Fuck," he said.
"Fuck indeed," agreed Sandy, smoking.
"So you know who I am...so what?" grunted Ryan. "I didn't force anybody to do anything. Each of those women --"
"Each of those women," interrupted Sandy sharply, "was plied out of their life savings by you, pretending to be a man. We're not here to debate it. We're here to end it."
Ryan tried to say something but couldn't manage.
"Am I going to kill you?" she asked, looking out the window. "Is that what you're wondering?"
Ryan stared at her.
She put out her cigarette in an ashtray shaped like a Maya calendar on the TV stand. She licked her lips and sighed. "The answer is no. There will be no more death."
Ryan gulped. "No more?"
Sandy turned back toward him, strode close, leaned into his face. "Wasn't my sister's life enough? Ask Wendell. He's been spending some serious time thinking about how she killed herself after he left her holding the bag for a quarter of a million in debt. Or ask Juan, here. He murdered a girl when she threatened to turn him in. He did it with a champagne bottle. Knocked her little head right in. Didn't you, Juan? Just pulped her up and moved on to the next mark."
Juan made no comment.
"I never killed anybody," swore Ryan.
"Who cares?" declared Sandy with a fierce snort. "You ruin lives. You're going to pay." She stepped back into the middle of the room and surveyed the three suspended men and the arrays of evidence at the feet of each. "I'm just doing my little bit for justice," she said with a cold smile.
"What's going to happen to me, Sandy? What the fuck is this?"
She ignored him, gathering up a few items from the bureau including Ryan's wallet and the little green book in which he wrote the access codes to his Caymen Islands accounts.
"You're robbing me?"
"Always keep your eye on your keys," said Sandy.
Next she opened the mini-bar and extracted three plastic sacks of juice -- apple-flavoured Capri Sun. She placed one each of the chests of the bound men and carefully angled the little plastic straws in reach of their lips after moving aside their gags. She paused beside Ryan. "I'll be back in a bit to collect the garbage. I'll bring you your gag then, Mr. Llewelyn. Don't you fret."
Then she turned on heel and left, closing the door behind her.
After a moment Ryan turned toward Wendell, who was busy working on his sack of juice. "Wendell? Wendell! This is so crazy. I feel like I'm going crazy. God. Jesus. This is so fucked up."
Wendell paused and considered the question. "Shut the fuck up, Billing," he spat, and then went back to his juice.
"What are we going to do?"
Wendell ignored him. When he was finished his juice he expertly knocked it aside with his chin, made a face of sublime concentration, and then dropped a long log of faeces into the plastic container beneath him.
Ryan looked away, disgusted. With a start of surprise he saw that Juan was grinning at him. "At lunch we get diet-shakes, guy," Juan cooed in a disconcerting, sing-song voice. He added, "When the shadow from the lamp gets to my toes, it's time for lunch, guy."
"How long have you been here?" asked Ryan, his voice flattened by horror.
"Don't get him talking," muttered Wendell darkly. "Oh Christ, just don't."
"Forever and a day!" cried Juan liltingly. "I was a little boy in this web, playing and laughing and kissing my mother's sweet round tit!"
"Shut up!" hissed Wendell. "If we make noise nobody gets lunch. Billing -- you fucking moron."
"Shit," said Ryan. Juan continued to shout. "He's insane," decided Ryan. "This is all insane. Oh my God. How long is she going to keep us here?"
"Shut the fuck up," repeated Wendell wearily.
"I received my first communion right there by the dresser!" announced Juan enthusiastically. He twisted in his bindings and his sack of juice dropped off his chest. Juan began to sob.
"Oh, God," moaned Ryan.
"Shut up! Shut up!"
The morning wore on. The sunsplash from the window crawled across the floor, dimming as clouds rolled in. Thunder growled in the distance. Ryan closed his eyes and tried not to cry.