A Cobweb of Sins
Cobwebs of sin—both figuratively and literally—hang from the studio apartment’s splintered ceiling. Intersecting in a swooping, shimmering network of organically weaved fiber, a spider sits nestled amongst the silk strands, observing a trivial quarrel between two humans: a male and female.
A modest table separates them by a few feet, their trigger fingers twitching akin to a standoff in an old western. The room is bare, drafty, dusty—a disheveled foundation permeated by opioid nightmares dreamt by the anesthetized, dependent occupants of apartment 242. Only this narcotic hardened duo would choose to live (or even be capable of living) in this depressing hovel.
“Perhaps we could, you know, cut it in half… or somethin’,” Rita suggests.
Rita is 34 years old. She did not graduate high school and has never held a profession. She came into the world dirt poor and remains dirt poor. In early adulthood she waded into the unfathomable and rather murky waters of life alone, and, by an unfortunate succession of events, ended up here on this day with the man opposite her.
“Don’t be stu-stu… stupid, woman,” Neil stutters. “If we d-do that, it won’t give either of us that powerful high we n-n-n-need.”
At 43, Neil’s path has been quite different when compared to Rita’s. He had graduated, not just from high school mind you, but from college, top of his class in fact. He had founded his own tech company—a flourishing business manufacturing computer chips that now thrived in the harsh corporate world without its creator. Neil had not just been rich, he had don’t fuck with me money—money he could wipe his ass with—but not anymore, now he only owns this studio apartment and one red, horse-sized pill situated on the tabletop ahead of him.
“…So, what do we do?”
The pair eye the ruby-sized, ruby-colored capsule with lust oozing from their pores and a phantom taste bubbling on their tongues.
“Well it’s m-m-mine, so I should ha-hav-have it.”
Rita thrusts herself from the table, its wooden legs scraping the floor, pill rolling wildly in a clockwise motion.
“I scored our last shit and you bummed most of my half, so if anybody should have this buzz, it’s me.” Her eyes sparkle with rage in the dim light.
Neil evades eye contact—in his business life he had been an expert at matching an adversary’s gaze, considering this process akin to a game: whomever breaks eye contact first loses, yet that was before the company had discovered his illegal side deals. He traces the woman’s threadbare dress until those threads culminate just above the knee, where the track marks become visible.
“That shit’s nothing like this and you know it. B-b-besides, those look pretty fresh, you’re prob-probably high right now,” Neil remarks coldly.
“Fuck you! My wounds are scarred over and you know it.”
A frosty chill undulates throughout the room, whistling from the yawning fissures and sending the cobwebs aflutter and producing fizzing horror in Rita and Neil’s throats, for this gem of a pill could well be the last high either of them will ever have.
“O-okay. Let’s decide this ra-ra… rationally.”
Rita’s brow furrows, eyes broaden. “What do you—”
But Rita does not have time to finish her sentence. Neil is diving across the table, scrabbling for the pill with furious hands, drug deprived lips gaping in imagined pleasure.
“NO!” Rita joins the fray, leaping atop the table, prying and scratching and biting at her roommate’s frantic fingers. The object of their madness passes back and forth until it slips from their grasp and rolls and drops to the ground and rolls and rolls, disappearing into the cavernous maw of a crack in the floor. With arms interlocked—frozen in the heat of a desperate battle—the two addicts gawk in disbelief at the apartment that had just swallowed their final high. And then it happens, the walls shudder, the floor quakes. Rita and Neil peer over each other’s shoulders, analyzing the seemingly inebriated building. Ignoring the trembling around her, Rita drops from the table and crawls hand after hand, chipped nail after chipped nail toward the crevice that devoured that little red pellet filled with unmitigated delight.
“Let it g-g”—deep breath—“Go, woman!”
She fingers the gap in the wood, hectically feeling for the slightest touch of the capsule. The hole consists of miniscule splinters, yet the pain does nothing to deter her. Neil focuses on his fellow junkie and prepares for the horror to follow. A dense perspiration on Rita’s forehead has turned to a luster as her fingernails rummage through the smut for that blissful medicine. Nothing… Still nothing… Wait, she feels something…
“Come on, come on. Where is—”
A searing, blistering pain eclipses her hand and surges through her fingertips like an electric shock. She wails a harrowing scream—one Neil had heard many times before but still would never forget. She springs back, falling on her ass, holding up a deformed hand amidst dancing dust and bloody flakes. Three reedy bones jut from stubby, fleshy mounds where fingers once wiggled, where at one time—many years ago—they reached for a father’s hand, a mother’s breast. Blood flows. Rita shrieks. Neil observes, sensing the shadow drape his back and the gooseflesh tingle on his skin even before the voice gushes from the crack, similar to a burst pipe.
“It’s been a long time since you last fed me, Neil, my boy.” The voice is shrill, squeaky like a rusted-wheel spoke. “Couldn’t stay clean, my boy, could ya? Nope I’m the monkey on ya back and ya gotta feed me. HAHAHAHA.”
Neil, still atop the table, looks upon the writhing, screeching woman in dread. Did he do this? Did he send this poor bitch to the grave subconsciously? Even if it was subconscious, he is still accountable.
“C’mon, my boy. Roll her this way and gimme a snack. You know I got plenty of those red pills for ya down here if ya do. You know ya need a fix.”
Neil had just lost his last fix after all, but that bitch’s cries are so damn loud—aching in his brain. If he gives her to that, that… thing, he will never hear the end of those cries. The sounds of pain and terror will wake him, producing cold sweats on his back forever. Fuck, he could really go for a fix though.
“Help me,” Rita begs through a cacophony of howls.
Neil drops to his feet, and with each step he considers his options, which concludes with a thought spoken aloud: “You w-w-would do the same.”
Clutching her now bloody stub, he hauls the bitch toward the split in the floor, thirst gleaming in his eyes.
“Stop! You’re hurting me.”
He drags her a few feet and it emerges, the hairy, clawed hand creeps from the crack in the floor through a mist of plaster and cinder chips, grating the wood—leaving a jagged trail in its wake—and seizing Rita by the wrist. Her screams double in intonation and length. The apartment quakes—as if in terror—and the crack in the ground splits further apart, creating a large enough rift into which the hand—the claws—can wrench Rita’s entire frame, and that’s exactly what happens. She reaches out to Neil with her good hand and pleads for aid before being slurped beneath in one gulp. The screams have ceased, however, the sound of teeth gnawing at flesh and bone begins. Neil paces, wondering if he had done the right thing. Of course he hadn’t, but that does not matter. What matters is the result.
Those monstrous talons remerge—claws stained red, fur soaked in blood—and this time, instead of taking, it gives, leaving five of those red horse-sized pills on the floor before slithering back into its hole.
“Thanks for the meal, my boy. Don’t be a stranger now. We both need our fix.”
Neil rushes to the plunder and pops the nearest tablet between his lips, then bites. Flavor sends his senses exploding in a jet of streaming rockets, and the grey, disheveled apartment transforms into a kaleidoscope of colors. It doesn’t matter that he was fired from his company, it doesn’t matter that he can’t afford to eat, it doesn’t even matter he had just helped kill a woman—like so many times before. He falls back and gently wades into blissful waters. While he fades he is watched by a spider far above clinging to its web. Helpless flies struggle in its net, yet even this minute insect comprehends death’s gravity, unlike the unconscious human below.
It’s a quiet Sunday. There are no children playing beside the street or any vehicles chugging along the road. The only people in sight are the elderly taking their morning stroll. This is probably for the best.
The staples discharge in short, rapid bursts, plastering the paper to the tree’s bark in seconds. A cool breeze causes the branches to rustle and the edges of the paper to flap wildly. Neil steps back and observes the notice: ROOMATE WANTED. STUDIO APARTMEANT. CHEAP RENT. CALL NUMBER BELOW. SERIOUS INQUIRIES ONLY. YOU WON’T BE SORRY.
Thumbing the pills in his pocket, a smile creeps over his face. It’s a quiet Sunday; it will be a busy week.
Dean Moses is an author, freelance writer, and photographer. He authored A Stalled Ox from 1888 and contributed a short story to The Cost of Paper Volume IV. He also contributed three stories to BONED Every Which Way 2016: A Collection of Skeletal Literature from Spaceboy Books. His writing and photography have appeared in numerous newspapers, including the New York Amsterdam News, Spring Creek Sun, Queens Courier, Ridgewood Times, Lefrak City Courier, and the Long Island City Courier. Dean was born in England in 1991 and currently resides in Manhattan with his wife and four cats.