by Bogdan Mureşanu
Translation from Romanian by Dorothy McCarthy and Diana Maftei [MTTLC student]
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Every time her thoughts drifted towards him, she felt a flight of butterflies fluttering in her stomach, until she started feeling queasy and everything began to spin maddeningly. Nothing was out of the ordinary except for the simple fact that he did not exist, or, to put it in other words, that there was no indication that he existed somewhere. No. No such thing. She would just dream of him. He was the lover from her dream, without a face or name. With no form or obligations. When she awoke, she would only remember that he was made of soft, pearled flesh, like a night butterfly. In fact, that is how he would enter her dreams, flapping his heavy wings, weighed down by stardust from who knows what other nocturnal journey. From who knows what other world.
She was deeply in love. She loved him desperately, though she had never met him and maybe never would. In his absence, the days felt terrible, painful. She lived only at night. She was alive in the dreams she weaved with a spider’s stubbornness. She nurtured the hope of forever trapping him there and feeding on his soft, translucent, butterfly flesh. She decorated her dreams with silky filigrees, thin and silvery like moonbeams. From behind this impossible embroidery she would spy on her nocturnal lover, with fangs dripping venom and love. Love that devoured her from the inside, releasing a flutter of butterflies in her stomach every time she thought of him. Of her faceless lover, without peer in the world of the awake.
For a long time she had wandered the streets, hoping he would cross her path, and that, naturally, she would recognize him at once with her heart’s eye. She would scrutinize every face, every step, paying particular attention to the palms, arms and neck. The tormentingly white flesh made her heart beat loudly. Thump thump, but oh, that could not be him, the one she dreamed about! Every disappointment pushed her further away from wakefulness, casting her into a sickly state of reverie, in which she was dreaming with eyes wide open. The days passed in a haze, and it was only during the nights that she would come to life, weaving dreams upon dreams from filaments in whose glue he would get caught one day. She resembled a woman no more, for her love no longer held anything human in it. She was a starved female spider, ready to plunge her fangs in and drip her deadly venom. Ready to paralyze her prey, to snatch it and swallow it slowly, slowly, slowly, really slowly. She had not a drop of mercy, but she had an ocean of patience, for she knew that, one of those nights, the webbing of her dreams would tremble, letting her know that her prey had been caught.
Meanwhile, she had to hide the monster she was turning into, the one that was devouring her from the inside, which she did not find hard to do since there were almost no outward signs. The metamorphosis could only be spotted from the inside, but who else could get into her soul and mind, through the window of her dreams, if not him, the one for whom she had let eight long legs grow, and for whom she was weaving all those sticky webs? And as for him, had he possessed a thousand eyes, he would still not have been able to see what was happening. Because she would not have given him the time to do it. She would have loved him deadly. A moment of eternal love. Then, full bellied, the spider would have woven a web of white dreams, see-through like the skin of the one she’d devoured. Until then it would lie in wait in a dark recess of her mind. Unmoving and unseen. Waiting, waiting, waiting, then waiting some more. After which she’d wait some more. And some more. Meanwhile, the webs she was weaving held nothing natural in them, there was nothing spider-like about them. They were downright atrocious, ruthless, terribly detailed. Without noticing, she had woven a whole nest with threads criss-crossing endlessly. On the inside, a labyrinth with no way out, on the outside, a blank smile, eyes flitting disinterestedly over all things. On the inside, an arachnid starving for its prey, on the outside, detachment.
She had to feed the spider somehow. She started to self-mutilate. She started with a knife, but it was not enough. She slashed her arms, letting the blood run wildly. She licked the sharp blade and gasped with pleasure. For a while she had appeased it. For a while she had hoped it would ask nothing else of her and she’d be left to go on dreaming of her nocturnal lover. She liked feeling once again the flutter of butterflies in her stomach, dizzily spinning around, together with the room, with the street, with the city, with the enraged god dripping venom and melancholy over the world. Sadness oozed everywhere in nauseating waves.
She had headaches more frequently. Atrocious, long-lasting, sharp aches. Edge, blade, knife, metallic glint. Horror. Vomit. Her smooth belly convulsing. The spider was slowly feeding on her memories. It was ripping tissue charged with meaning, it dug inside her memory with its pincers, and it swallowed whole chunks of her past. It gobbled down one year after another, stripping everything to the bone, in its wake lining her mind with a see-through, rotten web, like a shroud. Suffocating, the pitch black darkness flooded her skull. An endless, abominable night was setting. In the quiet before the storm, you could only hear the rustle of those eight legs and the venom dripping slowly from the fangs. All of a sudden, outside of time, the web began to tremble slowly. Like the ripples on a lake set off by a pebble. Heavy wings, weighed down by stardust, beat the heavy air under the dome of her skull. The web quivered fitfully while the brilliant night butterfly struggled to release its wings from the web of threads that kept tightening around its body. It had butterfly wings, but the body was that of a man with white, juicy, pearled skin, glinting in glassy colours. He was unreal. Splendid. One of a kind. Any woman’s dream lover. Now a sure prey in the sticky web from which, try as he might, he would never have escaped.
Eight legs glided through the labyrinth of silk. A pair of pincers from which venom and love dripped. A belly that moved lustfully. The spider was slowly approaching the butterfly. The air was thick with a sacred terror and a soft, golden powder that was being dispelled by the butterfly’s wings. The spider snapped its metallic jaws a couple of times and bore down on its prey. It paralysed it, snatched it and started drinking its white blood from its silky body. It drained it like a little pouch. Creases of wrinkled skin.
Sated, the spider walked away, leaving behind the butterfly wings hanging from a dried husk that had until then covered the pearled flesh. With its belly full, the female retreated in a corner where she secreted a thick liquid in which she mixed the glue with the white blood of the butterfly. Then she began weaving the most beautiful spider web that had ever fitted inside the mind of a woman who dreams about her astral lover.
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