by Kaye Jeffreys -
Enue climbed the sharp rock slope, careful to mimic the motion of the wind so the spider would not sense him coming. He clutched his spear in his hand, careful to keep it from clanking against the rock and alerting the spider to his presence.
The spear was a prize, a gift from his father for this trial. Scavanged from a ruin, it was heavy, made of metal and sharpened to a razor point.
Enue hesitated at the edge. Even over the sound of the wind, the spider scratched and bellowed. This was not the lethal silence of the hunter they had prepared him for. He peered over the edge down into a cave. His stomach depressed with disappointment. The spider wasn't very big, only about the size of Enue himself.
The spider hobbled and swayed, scraping its head and back against jagged rock. It stopped only to bellow or screech, shaking its head and rubbing it against its leg. It must be wounded or ill. Why else would it rock and turn itself in such a strange dance?
There was an egg sac webbed to the wall that would be a prize back home among his people. But he must deal with the spider first.
Enue waited for the beast to turn its back to him while it ground its head into the floor of the cave.
Enue leapt down into the lair upon a boulder. He plunged his spear into the back of the spider, wedging it between two plates. It took all his strength to pin the beast to the floor.
The spider spun around the spear, blindly grasping all around, but it could not reach Enue. The beast slowed until finally it collapsed into a heap ending its dance with death in defeat.
Enue waited. When the death stench burned his nose, he withdrew his spear and dropped to the floor of the cave. The spider's pinchers were no longer than his middle finger, acceptable but not exceptional. Enue sawed them off with his knife and put them into his pouch. He turned to the egg sac on the wall, cut it free, and slipped it into his pouch with the pinchers.
He climbed out of the cave to escape the foul odor and descended the slope to stand amidst gurgling geysers that warmed him and steamed his nostrils clean of the smell. Pulling the pinchers again from his pouch, he examined them with a clearer head away from the stink of the cave. The pinchers looked even smaller out in the open than what they did in the cave. He shook his head and put them back in the pouch. He'd hold onto them in case he did not cross the path of another spider, then at least he wouldn't go back empty handed. But this little spider was too easy, and diseased, not a true test.
Enue pulled out the egg sac. It would not keep until he could get back. It neared the time of expulsion when hundreds of little spiders would stream out. Enue held the sac over a bubbling geyser and dropped it.
Then he turned his face toward the deep wilderness, away from home and safety. He had to find a bigger spider, a true test. Then it would be proven that he was a man.