Spiderfingers: an earthbound demigod charged with the thankless task of surviving wave after wave of warriors, hell-bent upon his demise. These minions belong to his jealous off-world brethren, a race of divinities who relentlessly seek their access to Earth in order to rule us with fists of iron. For that enslavement to occur, Spiderfingers must die. Who will he use to save the human race? What must he believe in?
She hoped – an anxious, feverish hope – for
the journey of her protectorate deity not to end in death. She wished
the bad thoughts away, freeing her mind to mutate for new purpose.
The world had left him behind again, the
proof flapping in his hands: a free newspaper, the date six days
wrong. So that’s how long it takes to travel to the centre of the
earth and back. That’s one thing Jules Verne messed up. His
hand let go of the paper, as he wheezed, out of breath, eyes stinging from the
extremity of his tunnelling. He took a little over an hour to acclimatise
to the air, lines of a new performance running through his brain before he
pulled himself to his feet.
It had been
many weeks since meeting Vicky in Rowberry Park, so much time devoted to
practicing his role in saving the world via a complex enterprise, a plot that
showcased his acting chops. He tried to run through his lines, such deft
sentences that he’d committed to memory, his folder of Russian Doll Stories no
longer whipped out for consultation. The part he’d written so long ago
benefited from intense revision that the resultant acting restored a certain
piece of mind to the vagabond player. Each mannerism, tick and nuance
felt like restorative gulps of air.
However, the frustration that followed him from his failure inside the
Earth dragged him out of character, like a fish snatched from water. He
kicked an empty coke can along the road, hoping to rid himself of the
fury. With every clanging punt, he grew increasingly malevolent, incensed
over his second failure to obtain an up to date understanding of cosmic
factions. He would never hear of the latest Godheads to sacrifice willing
concubines in honour of fragile pacts. He missed the gossip column nature
of these doomed agreements, the laughable alliances that fell apart with comic
regularity. Kicking the can didn’t help. Neither did the winter
sun. The omniscient orb shone its rays through the cloudy sky, day enough
then for Spiderfingers to feel the heavy weight of shame. The bursts
of red and hacked meat and all those distraught relatives unable to escape the
media coverage, all these factors wore him down. He kicked the can chiding himself for the
self-pity. He puffed out his chest with the knowledge: I won’t
have to do this job much longer. Soon Operation Genie Bottle will set me
Mr Spider?” the voice startled him, his palms balled into fists as he became
aware of his current location. He’d wondered from the mouth of the long
tunnel in St Martin’s Gardens. He’d returned to the hub-bub, the blaring,
relentless, cacophony of Camden’s main High Road, now churning all about him.
He looked down at the man who’d snapped him out of his daydream. It
was the guitar-boy, the twenty something black kid: Samson.
man shifted the acoustic instrument in his lap as he straightened his back
against the supermarket window, cautiously leaning away, pointing at the large bloodshot
coat worn by the man stood over him. The pocket of that big long cape of
a jacket, it had something alive inside.
mean this? Wanna know what this is?” Spiderfingers tapped the fast-moving bulge
of his pocket before plucking the Grapple-Worm into the dying December
light. He held it out: “This here is a creature that lives far under the
earth – ready – to help people defend her. Sweet old Mother Nature,
Sammy, our beloved Lady of the Flowers. This worms’ merely one of the
many wonders beneath her folds.”
your worm defend Earth? Does it scare off minions?” Samson’s one eye bulged
wide whilst his arms folded over his three string
guitar. Spiderfingers studied the eagerness in the boy’s face.
He detected the multitude of questions that riddled his features; the hope for
answers to deliver him from the loneliness of inner city destitution.
you can’t use a slug like this to scare a minion. Not directly. You
see that over there?” Spiderfingers directed Samson’s one good eye towards the golden
arches of a McDonald’s, “See, now that over there Sammy, that’s a powerful
symbol. It means something to you and me. Before we really
understood what that house of malnutrition was, we bathed in its impression.
Ronald McDonald was the Christ of the children’s restaurant party.
Lotta power under that clown make-up. See this?” and Spiderfingers
pointed to a Coca-Cola sign above a newsagent, a shop way down the high-road, “That
can of sugar is more than a drink, you get me? I can see it, and you can see
it, all red and white familiarity, almighty in its sweep across the west and
the east. The known world, undeniably penitent, worshipping at the altar
of a tooth-eating-black syrup. These creatures –” he held the Grapple-Worm
further out towards Samson, “– are attracted to symbols we take so seriously.
We’ve trained ourselves to love them and all they promise us so much,
that these creatures that Gaia has deep within her, waiting to bond with us,
they hunt out the properties of what a great icon bleeds. They glug up
the power we’ve given them, then, they vomit it into our brains. Useless
waste-matter to those who’ve never spoken to Gaia. The energy that these
worms collect can be focussed, harnessed by a simple system of prayer.
Such power manifests as paranormal properties. Superpowers, Sammy.
Tao.” Samson strangled the neck of his wooden acoustic in frustration, leaning
a little more forward to inspect the creature Spiderfingers displayed.
“I’ll find a
Waterstones that stocks your book, Sammy.” replied Spiderfingers, scratching
the S on his chest. Sammy’s Tao of Pooh had disappeared from his rucksack
days ago. To help him over the loss, Spiderfingers had been filling the
boy’s brain with even more mythos than usual, anything to distract the boy from
the hole in his life; so many nights of misdirection; the telling of tales from
the old country; how the Oma and all its many queen and kingdoms came to be.
your sign Sammy, wave it high.” Samson pushed his guitar aside. He thrust
his sign above his head smiling, sharing his rotten dentures without a care:
A smile is FREE
So grin with ME
genuinely at peace with destitution, a state of calm that Spiderfingers
couldn’t quite rationalise as he mentally ticked off all the places he’d
sought refuge. A mental home: couldn’t stay for fear of madness.
A dumpster: couldn't stay inside. Why? Too
evil to miss out on my pet’s barbarism. And though the heart of
the earth housed no minions, he couldn’t live there. That evil beast he
commanded at night, the fiend he himself became – they could not be trusted to
live contentedly at the earth core. He couldn’t bear to think what
horrible things he could do to people – let alone to exotic wildlife – and all
for the sake of dark battle-pride. So, out of that magma coated crucible
he’d journeyed, ascending into the Coliseum that was his
planet. People in comic books are not created to stay out of the
way. Spiderfingers clutched the Grapple Worm, the snaking thing
squirming in his hands, I got the idea for holing up in Bellevue from a
comic, so what other stupid ideas have I got? What other foolish thoughts are
endangering my sanity and in doing so – the world? He shuddered
at the idiocy of his inspiration. There was no way that
troublemakers like him – fictional or otherwise – could avoid situations that
weren’t perpetually, relentlessly story-worthy. The problem with
life imitating art is that it’s no life at all. He felt a small pang
as he bobbed between herds of twenty something’s running along with bulging bags
of alcohol. Real people – with real lives, all of these civilians about
to see in the New Year. Samson was a real person.
“Going for a
walk Sammy, see you later.”
“Eh, but, Mr
Spider? You’re coming back, yeah? For the clock strikes?”
late. His god had walked away.
Up the High
Road, a turn at Camden Loch, along the canal, no particular destination in mind
as he patrolled, ever vigilant, unable to shirk the depression of feeling like
some cut-out-of-a-story-non-person, a character being watched. His
thoughts became interwoven, twirling him in circles, each circumference
drawn with the excited unsteady hand of a child. As he passed a Big Issue
seller trying to flog his last two copies, he couldn’t help but remember how
he’d sold Hara the idea, that taking refuge in Bellevue, far from London, made
sense. Anyone that could concoct a plan as cold and ruthless as
Operation Genie Bottle ought to be locked away, for good. That was his
thinking, for he had grown. The abandoned building he now called
home had to be in Camden Town: this place would be the setting
for phase one of his strategy to save the world. His time of playacting
far from over, his method of defending the globe evolved, he considered
his day to day a trial. A period when champions would test their mettle;
when characters sought their crucibles. He would survive Miss World
and her labours based on how he’d allowed the perceptions of others to fuel his
self-worth. His true super-power would always be his ego, the
actions of friends and enemies offered him eternal refinery. He gave
a moment’s thought for the old lady that accompanied him into the hospital, all
those years ago, her recent words charged his mind: “If you felt for
every flower in mother’s garden, you’d be no good at cutting her weeds.”
He felt entrenched in his opinion.
Success is all about who you know, how
they see you.
out to feel the bark of a tree, Thank you, for all your guardianship,
thank you, thought Spiderfingers. Now I see things the
“Had a nice
walk man? Want some beer?” asked Samson, as Spiderfingers took his forefinger
and thumb to the crown of his nose, his other hand waiving Samson’s donation.
It wasn’t just his thoughts that were going in circles.
walking in them.
“You got any
resolutions?” Spiderfingers shook his head. He squinted, as if that would
dispel the fatigue he so obviously suffered. Then, he noticed it.
going, Mr Spider?” Spiderfingers left him, crossing the road, shambling in a
near stupor, traffic from both sides honking and braking. A car swerved
him as he jogged in a trance.
dead,” said Spiderfingers as he reached the opposite side of the high street,
“You, you can’t be alive.” High above, shining illuminate from an ever-changing
billboard swayed a man in a black suit. His crumpled white shirt, torn,
several buttons missing. The large cavity in his chest gushed blood and
more blood as he glared downwards, mouth opening and closing out of time with
“Be a better
friend than you are a god.” said the man as the billboard began to segment and
flip, “Stay away from my sister, please, my god? I beg you?”
Spiderfingers, grabbing out at the man, but his hands reached for a different
image, for the mechanics of the revolving billboard dictated constant
change. He scraped around at thin air. He waited. Through
pictorials of the latest handheld gadgets, then the obscure photo-shopped
advert for a band he hadn’t heard of … Spiderfingers blinked in anticipation.
His billboard apparition had vanished. So, this is what it’s
like to be Hara, he thought, this is the price she pays for
conversing with Miss World.
He span at
the use of the name. “Are you alright, John?”
Kwame had sprung from, Spiderfingers couldn’t be so sure, he just needed to get
away from all that forced concern.
really have to interact with your former patients?” he said, turning his back
on the psychiatrist, almost immediately locating Doctor
Silberman. The medical man skulked, jotting in his notepad from his
hiding place: an open manhole cover on the side of the road. His
correctional shades made a well-kept secret of his expression. “Can’t you watch my Hyper-Psychosis without breaking
the fourth fucking wall?”
Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Hyper-psychosis? There’s no such term,
John. You should come back with us. We can celebrate the strikes to
twelve. You’ve still got two hours.”
yelled, moving away from the medical man, “must be all that subscription to
childhood trauma, huh? Making me all confused, right? You’re not real either.”
Doctor Kwame befuddled, shrugging a ‘What now?’ across the street to Doctor
on a production,” announced Spiderfingers, patting the Grapple-Worm in his
pocket. “and the lead actress needs a prop delivered,” He bellowed the news as
he skipped through a pack of revellers on his street cross to Samson, “Might
need that guitar actually, mate. Yeah ... How’d you feel about a part in saving
the world, eh, Sammy?” He had the script (in a black folder), he had the venue
(London, soon the world) and he had the star. He would travel to her home
to make preparations, and he would act. No unorthodox psych evaluations
were going to endanger his major work, not if he could help it. He hadn’t
memorised his lines, practiced his part, shaved the bad edges off for the last two
months for nothing.
“I got a New
Year’s resolution, Sammy. I’m gonna put on a play. It’s called, ‘I’m
Not Taking Any More Shit. Not From Anybody.’ Like it?”
is too long, no?”
or ‘I’m Spiderfingers the Immortal, So Don’t Fuck With Me, Motherfuckers.’
Still not decided, but just you wait, Sammy, it’s gonna be bigger than Book of
opening night!” said Samson, practically forcing the bottle into the hands of
Opening night’s just around the corner.
surveyed the world he’d been created to protect. A bouncer asking a woman
for her number, his arm bracing for another of her falls to the pavement; a
gaggle of bike taxi’s arguing over the right of way: An old woman singing Jesus loves you at two
lovers holding hands, both men in practiced denial.
have time.” She shouts as both parties travel in opposite directions, “Jesus
“And look at
that shit over there, Sammy.” Spiderfingers pointed his beer in the direction
of five or more policemen searching through the pockets of a black couple – no
older than fourteen.
are young enough to be Vicky’s age. How will the shit the authorities put
them through change their soul? How will this officialised gang make them
better products for society? Sometimes,” he handed back the beer to
Samson, “Sometimes I don’t know why I do this.”
A man with a
scar on his face walked up to the two of them:
some weed Superman?”
replied the man, as Spiderfingers looked closer at the ravaged face, finding a
woman with no teeth smiling at him, “suck your dick? Gotta feed my baby and –”
behind her eyes faded as she scurried, mumbling something about black men and
the state of the country.
“You do know
why you’re doing this, Mr Spider.” Samson slurped on his bottle, “You’re the good
“No, I saved you because of how it
looked. Fuck, I don’t know … That smile
on your face, how the fuck do you keep it?”
thought long and hard for a moment. Then, upon the approach of a group of
girls, “Ladies, I’ve not had the pleasure of playing to an audience as well
dressed as you, not in a long, looooong time. Permit me the pleasure?”
one of the girls to her two friends. They giggled in agreement and
somehow, through sheer passion not to mention dexterity long accustomed to the
London cold, Samson Owusu managed to play a heart-pounding, soul wrenching
Little Richard number.
knocking but you can’t come in! Come back tomorrow night and try it again,
danced, the fingers of his free hand rubbing together behind his back
gesticulating over his open hood. As the song came to a close, no fewer
than six gold coins dropped behind his neck. Questions followed the
passionate applause whilst Spiderfingers emptied the coinage into Samson’s bag:
“Where did you get your coat from
“You’ve got such a lovely voice.
I mean that, honest to god. What part of Africa are you from?”
“Where do you sleep?”
collected the change from the rucksack in which they were thrown. He
handed them back up to his fans,
“No ladies, I
insist. Just do me a favour?” They stood waiting, as Samson held up his
A smile is FREE
So grin with ME
left, after posing for a picture, insisting they leave him with a beer and a
bag of chips, Spiderfingers said: “So you smile because you like bringing out
the happiness in others?”
people will die with doubt in their hearts. Even the most die-hard of my
country’s reverends, he will die not knowing where his soul is going to go.
I know for sure that there is more to life on Earth,” he pointed
his guitar at Spiderfingers, ‘and that knowledge makes me … smile.”
what’s cool about transport being free on New Year’s Eve?”
“We get to go
on an underground adventure.”
with a stroll to Camden Tube.
Year!” The man at the ticket barriers returned the saying, grinning contentedly
as two obvious vagrants made use of the twenty four hour no charge
policy. Hours of tube surfing (a fantastic moment of introducing the
carriage sport to a sprightly senior citizen, an eccentric gentlemen dressed in
clowns gear, his rendition of Auld Lang Syne oddly moving), station busking and
random conversations ensued. Sometimes Spiderfingers would break into
some rehearsal. Two months of tweaking and honing his lines:
You mean, you’ve never heard of Babushka Doll Lit? That’s like saying
you’ve never heard of Nirvana! We’d better do something about that then.”
that he tried out on Samson.
“… More of a
game than a series of stories. You ask me the right question at the end
of this tale … you … you – shit – what’s the line? Ah, yes! Ask me the right
question at the end of this tale and you unsheathe another story.”
clapped “Wonderful, Mr Spider.” He said, “Well spoken.” Spiderfingers doubted
Samson’s complete comprehension of the play, which was fair enough since he’d
refrained from outlaying a detailed plot synopsis. He figured Samson applauded the snappiness of
the delivery, the varying tones of his speech.
what’s the real name of your play, Mr Spider?” Spiderfingers smiled at this pal
of his, hiccupping throughout his answer as he bent down, drunkenly mishandling
the release of the eye-patch strung to his kneecap.
Doll Stories, Sammy. Here you go.” And
Spiderfingers wrapped Samson’s patch around the head of its rightful
owner. The smile his friend afforded him elicited a feeling he thought
his twenty four hour job had surgically removed. He dug his pockets for
his notepad and squiggled down words his character denied:
about your book …”
“Aw, no more
writing tonight, Mr Spider, unless you want to write about me? Oh, did I just
say that? I’ve been hanging about with you too much. C’mon, put the pen away? Live a
little. Smile a lot.”
mood was too jolly, so when he didn’t quite catch him over the din of an
approaching tube, Spiderfingers pretended not to have said anything.
tried just talking the bad guys down?”
“Oh, you had
to spoil the evening.”
seriously, you can’t solve all your problems with your fists.”
“There are only monsters round these parts, smiley.”
ended their adventure outside the entrance for Morden station, singing Come As
You Are. Every time one threatened to pass out, the other would begin a
new song, regardless if Samson new the chords.
you should just sit there like a buffoon. Trick them. Tell your
doesn’t have to be my way?”
The best weapons you have are in your mouth.”
Most of the
time, the correct playing didn’t matter, the unintentional comedy to die for.
“If I had
your smile Sammy, maaaaan.”
be kissing any girls soon.”
“No, no I
wouldn’t. I wouldn’t be selling any chocolate bars either, but I’d
win votes for a smile like that. In the right election, I’d win big time
“Do you miss
girls, Mr Spider?”
“Do you miss
heartily as Spiderfingers returned a wink, shoving playfully into Samson’s
Mr Spider? With your charm, you could have anybody.”
that’s not how Gaia sees it.” He paused, unsure about the merit of discussing
the way his body worked, “Hey, we didn’t sing Auld Lang Syne, did we?”
the strikes, Mr Spider! It’s twenty twelve and we’re still alive.”
a Mayan Sammy boy.” Samson’s laughter became song as Spiderfingers crooned
through lyrics his friend bluffed through:
acquaintance be forgot, and never thought upon;
of love extinguished, and fully past and gone:
Is thy sweet
heart now grown so cold, that loving breast of thine;
canst never once reflect on old long syne.”
evening became morning, as the final chords to badly sung lyrics died upon the
new dawn, he left Samson to his napping. He had to meet ‘Object Girl’ for
‘opening night’. She better have that
Play-Doh, he thought taking a glimpse at his snoring friend. “Success
is all about who you know, Sammy, how the poor bastards see you.”
N E X T T I M E I N
S P I D E R F I N G E R S
role demanded the poise and self-assuredness of a Master of Ceremony, much like
a young deity, overly comprehensive in his conversation, so as to render the
replies of others redundant.