The Web
Russell Butek

One person's lifestyle is another one's crime. It's all a matter of perspective.

My meals often talk with me, though rarely with such clarity as your conversation possesses. Typically, if they talk at all, it's with whining entreaties. They lack intelligence, and I do them a favor by consuming them quickly. But even these I shouldn't fault. They weren't designed for depth, and they do often impart some bits of information.

I'll devour anything that comes my way, but your kind are rare gems, so full of thought. My great desire in life is to pass my time in endless idle discourse such as this, but, alas, as no doubt even you feel at this moment, my livelihood incessantly intrudes. You'll pardon me while I go and tie down my next meal before it shreds that quadrant of my web.

It is one of the nearly silent ones; an occasional whimper is all that it passes on to me. But it may serve to extend my time with you; a bit of lucky sustenance will prolong our idle discourse. I only hope the breezes stay as quiet as they've been, else I will be called off to mending. When the winds arise, I have no time for idleness, and since the work takes a furious amount of my energy, I must consume whatever is about without consideration of my finer desires.

One of your kind once asked me why I don't build my web lower, out of the wind. The suggestion seemed a wonderful idea at the time, so I tried it. The anticipation of a more leisurely life was quite exciting. I built an elaborate lattice in a corner near the floor far from any draft. It had as much beauty as function. I almost starved. Very few meals wandered into my new corner. It was a terribly naive experiment, but it taught me many things. One of which is a distrust of your kind. I still hunger for your ideas, but I treat them with more caution.

Oh, dear, I feel a storm approaching. Can you not feel the sway as the wind nibbles at the anchor points? I'm afraid I'll have to desert you for a few moments. The web needs reinforcing... perhaps a snack...

The clover is now blossoming. My snack had partaken of its nectar.

Yes, I've strengthened the web in the past. Don't think me a fool for living in such a precarious condition. I've strengthened the web: I've doubled the thickness of the lines, doubled again and tripled the primary threads and increased the number of anchor points. It took a much stronger draft to shake the web then, and the usual fare took longer to fray it, but then more than the usual fare came my way. Meals I couldn't handle began to threaten me before they escaped, and they would completely shred the web in the process. Today's web wouldn't even slow one of them down. They would destroy a couple of threads in passing, but I would still have a home.

I was slowly dying in those days, trying to keep my Great Web intact. I talked not at all. I still don't have time for the conversations I desire, but at least now a greeting passes between my meals and myself.

You ask why, if I enjoy your conversation so, why I catch you and poison you and consume you. First I must say that I take offense at you calling it poison -- stop twitching so, all you'll do is tear the web and I'll have no time to chat; hold still, I'll tie your errant wing down -- poison implies pain, but what I do takes away all pain. In time I will simply fade away. That is all.

But there is the catching and consuming. The catching is pure serendipity. If I could control it, I would catch more of your kind and less of the others. And the consuming? Well, that is my nature. Just as it is your nature not to be neighborly to my kind. Would you greet me cheerfully if I would wander from my web and discover your nest? You see? You wouldn't tolerate my presence, so I must take what conversation I can, however I can, whenever my tangled web permits. I would much prefer that my nature were other than it is, perhaps that I were one of your kind. My time would be much freer of toil and fuller in thought. But my nature merely allows me to chat momentarily before feeding.

I see that you are fading. I will tire you no longer. Your kind is full of wisdom, but it is also full of the most delectable of juices.

Russell Butek ( is a nomadic software type who can't decide where he really wants to live. He grew up in the Cold White North of Wisconsin and got his education there, and has lived on the east coast, west coast, and places in between, along with a brief stint in Germany. Hes currently checking out Texas.

InterText stories written by Russell Butek: "The Web" (v6n6), "Grendel" (v8n5).

InterText Copyright © 1991-1999 Jason Snell. This story may only be distributed as part of the collected whole of Volume 6, Number 6 of InterText. This story Copyright © 1996 Russell Butek.