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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A short retelling of an enouter between Athena, greek godess of knowledge, and a human who became the inspiration for the common spider.

Submitted: August 08, 2009

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Submitted: August 08, 2009



Mine is a story of jealousy that started the moment I passed a thread through that silver needles eye. I have no need for needles now; it has been such a long time since coloured thread passed through fingertips.
It came so naturally to me in my youth, stitching the cloth, as easy as naivety. Beneath my fingers the needle would become a silver fish darting in and out, over waves of rolling silk, crashing into shores of cotton.
My loom would be my instrument, more silent than the lyre but it spoke more volumes than Homer ever could. And She became jealous, or that is what I told myself.
She came to my door adorned as an old peasant woman, her fingers little more than bones under a loose film of skin. She warned me against my art and ran her beady eyes over my loom. She shuffled over my doorstep and bent to touch my work. I cannot help it if her fingers were too clumsy. One can never have too many needles.
She howled with rage, as did I, when a little ruby sprang from that withered finger and fell onto my threads. I hurried to pick them up, I remember, to try and rub the accursed stain. But by then it was too late.
The old woman became no more, her skin pulled and stretched, it grew transparent then milky-white. Her bones clattered together, rubbing so hard that they became ebony so carefully sculpted it seemed a crime to have them hidden beneath that holy flesh. Her greying hair lengthened and curled, darkened to the colour of rustic earth and was carefully swept away as her bloated hood sharpened and became helmet. Her robes, so tattered before, twisted into the purest cotton, pinned sharply against her noble breast by the armour. Her wooden walking cane became a spear, her battered bag, a shield. Loath was I to have angered Athena.
She stood in my room,  her head held high as if for battle and stared me down. She set me a challenge I could not have refused and her shield transformed into a loom of gold, her spear, a needle of diamond. And I, foolish like a child, drew my loom opposite and set to work.
She told the tale of her battle with Poseidon. The loom leapt and the picture flowed. A castle, a fortress of impenetrable stone with Athena, naturally, at the head. Poseidon’s waves breaking upon the sides, exploding in the silks of aquamarine and royal blue. Sharks danced in the carnage, their grey muslin body’s thrashing up sprays of lace. For their teeth she stitched on opals, sharp and true and for the seaweed she drew wet tresses up from the very depths, a present from Amphitrite, and wove them stoically through. For herself she took the ruby, she readily shed, and placed it in her eye.
I did not look at her piece, I too told of myth and legend. I picked at her bones, or rather, the bones of her father. My threads spoke of Zeus and his mistresses. I stitched Leda shying away from her swan. Nimbly I took the feathers of a white goose and wove them in, pulling into the thread until they were buried like little knives in the folds of damask. I stitched the terrified Europa as she clung to the back of the tossing bull, whose eyes were the colour of the blackest coal. Finally I told of Danae, and with my scissors I cut off my own golden locks so that she may be shown. I twisted my braids and finely threaded beads of gold and amber. It was as if the shower was not of Zeus, as if the shower was of stardust all ensnared in her hair.
We wove for three whole days until the knowledge of the world began to lapse without Athena and my fingers grew bloody. Outside my home the nymphs of the forest came. They did not dare stray too close for fear of Athena, but Pan played a lament to my foolishness.
For it was only a moment that I had told him that I could best the Goddess of Weaving. Spirited by the rushing wind in the forest I had called at the sky, promising that if She could best me at weaving She could punish me any way she wished. And lo, what a punishment befell me.
As I knotted the last stitch, running the fine rope through my fingers, I felt her watching me. She stood and the nymphs, too afraid to be called to assess our work, vanished into the forest.
“It is fine work.” She said, her fingers lingering, fingertips stroking Danae’s hair “But…” She said, rolling her fingers over the marble feathers “…it is not as good as mine.”
And she broke my loom in two.
She shredded my tapestry, and tore at my silks, she breathed on my cotton and it rotted under her breath. She snapped my silver needle into so many pieces that it was dust to the wind and before she left she cursed me.
Never was I to spin a cloth of any colour; never was I to touch a thread without it snapping. Were I ever to take a seat at a loom the moment I used it, the moment I pulled back the bar, all my bones would snap. Athena left me a broken woman.
The nymphs mewed sadly through the door. They brought me the finest their forest would offer in their hope to make me weave. Buttons of acorn, threads of ivy, patches of gold sycamore, but all I touched turned to dust and my loom lay broken on the floor.
In the end, I couldn’t stand it anymore and asked Pan to bring me a stretch of rope. At first he brought me silk but when I touched the cords it twisted into thorns and made my fingers bleed. I tied one end to a beam and took the loop over my head and as I was about to tighten the last knot I would ever tighten Athena appeared to me
“Are you repentant Arachne?” She asked me.
And I watched myself nod in the shiny mirror of her helmet.
“Then will you do my bidding…” I bent my head in service, ready for the humility to wash me to oblivion “…and show the world, for ages long to come, what a talented weaver you are.”
And she changed me. She did not lift the curse and you will find me now on any dewy morning as the sun crests the horizon. On my weave I hang the most beautiful of diamonds, their brilliance glittering in the sun, my thread so fine and transparent you would barely see me there. But no other creature can do as I do, never so intricate a pattern or so gentle a trap.
For I am the spider, and I weave a Gods tale in nature’s lace, there never will be as finer weaver as I, never one to take my place.

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