Arachnia (Part II)

Continued from Part I

Three weeks later

Val had been doing exceptionally well in his therapy. He had only gotten six inches closer to a spider each day, and by this point, he could comfortably be within arm’s reach. Ara assured him that that was quite a reasonable distance. Spiders liked their own personal space as much as he liked his — the goal was just to get him to the point that he could keep his wits about him.

Ara could, of course, speak to spiders, and as Val had been doing better and better, she had asked a few to hide in places close to him while it was safe. They had slowly emerged when she’d asked them to and though Val had been startled and unsettled, he had been able to simply give the spider its space and then relax again.

He was ready. And it was a good thing too. Ara was starving.

She’d been preparing him in other ways, too. A week and a half prior, she’d caught him masturbating. She loved the way that she’d turned his fear, shame, embarrassment into pleasure by offering to finish the job.

And by all the stars in the sky, he’d tasted so good. It had taken the edge off, but she couldn’t feed properly in this form.

Val had been all too happy to indulge Ara’s enthusiastic advances, and they’d quite happily become lovers. Nothing made Val climax harder, give Ara more, than when she sat on his face and sucked his dick with two fingers up his ass. He loved to be trapped by her, helpless under her.

He was going to love her true form so much, she just had to convince him of it.

It was when they finally reached the sacred temple that Ara decided to tell him.

“Val, there’s… something I’ve been keeping from you.”

He grinned wryly. “You’re a rival adventurer and you’re going to stab me in the back and run off with the records now that we’ve reached the sacred temple?”

“What? No! No, not at all. Of course not.”

Val raised an eyebrow at her.

She sensed the tension in his muscles as he considered reaching for his machete. She needed to tell the truth before his imagination ran away with him.

“I’m not human.”

“You’re a spirit?” Val asked. He was an adventurer, he knew the legends.

Ara nodded. “I’m… well…” she shuffled her feet, blushing, not sure why she was finding it so difficult to say something so matter-of-fact. Actually, she knew why. If he ran from her in fear, it would break her heart. “I am… the one who… made that web. That you got caught in.”

Val was no longer considering reaching for his machete, but he did look troubled. “So you’re… a spider spirit?”

Ara bit her lip. “Yes. I am.”

He grimaced. “I wondered how you knew so much about spiders.”

She shrugged apologetically.

“Why didn’t you— well. I guess I know the answer to that. If you’d told me earlier I’d have high-tailed it in the other direction. So I guess it’s not so much why you didn’t tell me, but… why didn’t you want me to run away?”

“Because you tasted delicious!”

Val shrunk away from her.

“N-no, that didn’t come out right… Okay, so you know how spirits feed on energy?”

He nodded, cautiously.

“We can… ‘taste’ what somebody’s energy is like. What their essence, their character is like. Your essence is… really lovely. Generous. It’s the generosity that matters. The more generous the… um… giver of the energy, the less it takes from them to give it.”

“I’m… generous?”

Ara nodded. “You would have made getting me home your priority, you tried to protect me from the bandits, you offered me your clothes instead of theirs, the way you eat me out for hours… generous.”

Val’s cheeks flushed with embarrassment and a little bit of arousal. “So why tell me now?”

Ara was losing her ability to be tactful, eagerness overcoming her. “Because, Val, I’m so hungry. And you smell so good. And I think… if I… if you let me… it wouldn’t take anything from you at all. It might even energize you!”

Val considered this. His blush deepened. “What do you… what would you look like when…”

“Can I show you?”

Val nodded slowly.

Ara considered and backed up a few paces to give him some space. She then relaxed into the magic around her and her true form came back to her so easily. It felt so good, like stretching after a long time cooped up.

She was not fully spider, as she had been when she’d first seen him. Her upper half was more or less the same, with her curly brown hair and her small breasts. Her canines had become longer and more pointed.

Other than that she was like a centaur, her back half that of a spider’s legs and abdomen. Her sides were smooth and shiny, her legs long and elegant, her movements graceful like a troupe of dancers all moving together. She thought she looked quite pretty. But she knew Val might disagree.

She could sense that all his hairs were standing on end, but he didn’t look away. He didn’t run. He took a step closer, then a deep breath. Another, then a deep breath.

Ara kneeled, tucking her legs cozily up under her, which put her head at the height of his hip.

He took a step and then a deep breath until he was close enough to reach out and cup her cheek in his hand. She nuzzled into him.

He took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and kneeled in front of her. She kissed his forehead. He kept his eyes shut.

“C-can you… can you move so I can hear what it sounds like?” he asked.

“Yes.” She reshuffled her back legs, and there was the quiet clicking of chitin on stone.

He shivered violently, but did not run.

“O-okay… what is feeding like?”

She took his cheeks in her hands. She leaned forward and whispered in his ear. “You will be utterly trapped and bound by me. You will have no chance of escape, but you will have never felt safer in your whole life. I will own you, and I will protect you. You will give absolutely everything to me… and you will find that you have more than you started with.”

He shuddered and folded into her, his cheek against her breast, her arms around his head, pressing him into her.

“C-can you blindfold me?” he asked.

“Of course, my pet.”

He shivered. She was glad he liked that name. In her true form, she could no longer pretend to be helpless and uncertain. She could feel the power, the lifeblood of all the beating hearts around her, feeding into her, his brightest of all.

Her nimble back legs reached up to her spinnerets and prepared a length of firm, dry silk. She passed this to her hands and tied it securely over Val’s eyes. He gasped.

She turned him in her hands so that she was behind him and she pressed her lips against his neck. His blood flowed deliciously under her lips, the intermingled fear and arousal that she found so very, very intoxicating. She whispered in his ear, “This is your last chance to change your mind…”

Val gasped and shuddered. “Ara, take whatever you want from me.”

Ara growled with sheer pleasure and nipped at Val’s ear, then reared onto her eight powerful legs. Before he knew it he was in the air, lofted by her legs, rolling as she stripped off his clothes and wrapped him in her silk. The bindings were dry and strong with a comfortable bit of flex, and her legs where she held him were smooth and strong and gentle.

With him sufficiently bound, she quickly spun a web across the entrance of the temple so that she could string him up at her leisure. He would feel almost weightless, the firm hug of the silk replacing all sensation of gravity.

Now that he was wrapped in her bindings, they carried every quiver, every waver, every beat of his energy to her. She felt his pleasure, his fear, his excitement. This was why he was so very, very safe. She knew exactly how he felt, exactly what he wanted. Nothing would ever be too much. It would always be just right.

She turned him and hooked her fingers into the silk by his neck, her fingernails dragging along his skin as she pulled the silk aside. She put her lips to his ear. “You’re a very good boy, so I think you might not struggle, yes? But it feels so good to struggle…”

She traced a fingernail down the side of his neck and he shivered. The ticklish sensation sent him wriggling and writhing unconsciously. Where his growing erection throbbed against the tight hug of the silk, the sensation was incredible. She kept this up until his muscles were sore and he was panting.

“See? You’re very secure… No matter what, you won’t fall… nothing bad can happen to you here…”

He melted into her words, her touch.

“Now, I will tell you another thing about spiders,” she said, licking her lips. “We give something to our prey. And then we let them sit. And we let it do its work. And then when it’s ready, we drink up the results.”

Val whimpered.

“Would you like something like that?” Ara asked. “It will feel very, very good…”

“Yes! Please! Take anything from me…”

That is such a good boy. I’ve got quite the reward for you…” She tilted his head back to expose his neck. She pressed her lips against him again, and his heart beat wildly against her. First, she licked his neck. Like her canines, her tongue was not quite human. It was longer, rougher, and as it passed over his skin, the skin tingled and then went numb.

She lined up her fangs and bit his neck. Her fingertips turned to claws at his head, his chest, as she pulled him into herself and the venom surged forth. It felt so hot, so pleasant, rushing out of her and into him.

Her venom glands now empty, she licked the little trickle of blood from his neck, and her saliva not only stopped the bleeding but completely healed the wounds.

She did not have to ask him to know how he felt, because of the way the silk resonated with energy between them, but she so loved to hear it. “How does it feel, my pet?”

“I-I thought it would hurt but… it didn’t…”

“Nothing will ever hurt here, remember that.” She nibbled playfully at his ear. “Unless you want it to. But please, continue.”

He shivered. “I-it’s so warm and… and soft, like… like a couple of beers… but tinglier, like… oh… oh… OH!” His breathing became quick and heavy.

“Whatever is happening, pet? Don’t hold out on me…”

He wriggled against the silk and moaned as it gave him the sensation he so desperately craved. “Fuck! I’ve n-never felt… so horny in… nnngh… ever… It’s so tight! I’m g-getting so hard, please… please I need room…”

Val’s erection was straining hard against the silk over his member.

“What, room here?” Ara reached down and massaged his erection through the silk.

“Yes!” For a moment, he moaned at the pleasure of her touch. Then, his urgency heightened. “P-please, it’s so tight! It hurts!”

Ara grinned her toothy smile. “But you like it when it hurts this way, don’t you? I can feel it.”

Val whimpered and wiggled. He then moaned suddenly as the aphrodisiac venom soaked in even more, doubling the pressure on his member.

“I suppose I can give you some extra room. But don’t get any ideas. You’re not done soaking yet.”

Val did not have enough capacity for thought to ask what she meant by ‘soaking’, he could only gasp with relief as she trailed her fingertip down his member and the silk melted under it, letting his erection spring free.

She twisted him around with her legs so that his shaft hung towards the floor. With a soft hand, she cupped his pendulous balls. “Oooh, getting nice and plump. You’re going to have so much for me, aren’t you?”

Val just moaned.

Ara settled back to watch the show as her venom took full effect. The swelling of his balls was more metaphorical than literal, more fantasy than anatomy, but this was how she liked to weave her spirit magics. 

His balls became heavier and heavier as he readied himself for her. His arousal became more and more frantic, his mind slipping deeper and deeper into her spell. Bit by bit, he was surrendering to her. Bit by bit, he was readying himself to give her everything.

She touched herself to the sight of it, the moans of her pleasure enhancing the effects of her venom.

Finally, the venom was at peak effect. His shaft throbbed needily, his balls hung full, and drool flowed freely from his panting mouth.

“Did you know,” she said as she approached him again, “That most of your cum doesn’t actually come from your balls? There’s a few glands near your ass that provide most of the volume. Same ones that produce pre-cum.” She pulled the strands of her web to rearrange his posture, bending him at the hip slightly so she had better access to his ass. “They’re right… about…” She pressed at the rear of his perineum. “Here.”

Val moaned from the very depths of his being as Ara’s touch sent those glands spasming and a thick spurt of pre-cum flowed from his tip. Every single part of him was over-sensitive, over-full.

Ara’s eyes dilated at the sight, the smell of the pre-cum. She licked her lips. It was time to feed.

She cinched a strand of silk around the base of his shaft and his balls as a cock ring, then shifted him so that his cock rested comfortably at her mouth height. Without further ado, she took him deep into her throat.

He cried out, rewarding her with another thick spurt of pre-cum.

With his balls plumped towards her like this, she could easily loop her tongue around them, stimulating the sensitive area. But that was just foreplay. Her tongue lengthened, still sweeping over his balls but also reaching towards his perineum, his rim.

Val’s whole body quivered with incomprehensible ecstasy as the tip of her tongue touched his rim.

Had she been any less hungry, she would have made him wait longer, but she herself could not resist. She wanted him, all of him, right now.

She moaned and grabbed his ass, her fingertips digging into the flesh. She pulled him to the very back of her throat, her tongue reaching up, around, and into his entrance. He would have already burst except that the tingling, numbing effect of her saliva slowed him down.

“Ara…” he moaned. “Ara… I’m so full… Fuck, you feel so good in my ass… a-and everywhere…”

Ara moaned greedily and pulled him deeper, fucking him with her tongue and squeezing around him with her throat. She moaned and the vibrations heightened the sensation.

“Ara… I c-can’t take it… I n-need to give you… everything…”

She could feel his pleasure through the silk, feel the heat building slowly and inescapably. She would share in all the pleasure of his climax, all the quivering ecstasy of the edge.

“Ara…” His breathing quickened. He shuddered. Pre-orgasmic sparks of pleasure flickered at his base, his ass. Pre-cum flowed freely from his tip, somehow even hotter than her throat, and the feeling of it flowing through his whole shaft drove him even crazier.

His balls throbbed, desperate to unload. His whole body tingled with the effects of the venom, every place the silk touched his skin alight with sensual pleasure.

“Fuck… oh fuck… Ara… I’m so close… s-so full… Ara, I think I’m… oh, fuck… Ara… ARA!”

Every single muscle of his body tensed together, sending the first hot pulse of cum down her throat. Then another, and another, his ass tensing and pumping into her.

He slowed, but did not stop. For a moment, he could speak again. “A-Ara, am I… I think I’m still c-coming…”

Ara moaned affirmatively.

The sensation tipped him over a new edge. “Oh, fuck!” The intensity renewed, another set of hard spurts that tapered off but did not stop.

She loved everything about this part, but she especially loved these lulls, when he just kept pumping and pumping.

Each climax was more intense than the last, each sent more and more of his essence down her throat. But he had not yet given her everything.

The last lull was as intense as his first climax had been. “Ara… Ara s-something’s happening… I f-feel strange… I-I’m going to let it… I t-think I need to… I’m going to… fuck, take everything!”

Val erupted into the most intense climax yet, and every strand of silk hummed with a pure, radiant energy. He moaned in wave after wave of pleasure, energy flowing freely from him into Ara and back into him. The vibrating of the silk becoming a song of jubilant triumph, Ara’s own scream of pleasure joining the symphony.

Slowly, gently, the intensity of the pleasure melted into relaxation. The song quieted and the silk dissolved into nothingness. Ara pulled Val to her breast and fell asleep against the wall of the temple, her arms around him.

Some time later, Val stirred. He opened his eyes for the first time since he had come to kneel in front of Ara and he looked up at her in adoration. She brushed a strand of hair back from his cheek.

“So let me get this straight,” he said, his voice hoarse from all his screams of pleasure. “If I hadn’t lost my mind back when I stumbled into your web… this is what would have happened.”

Ara smiled down at him. “More or less. But you had a lot more to give me for all our time together.”

He snuggled into her chest. “It’s funny, I thought I’d feel much more tired for having been drained by a succubus.”

“It’s like I said. The more generous you are, the less it takes from you.”

“So we could do that… any time?”

She nodded and kissed his forehead. “However much you like.”

“I think I’d like to do that… quite often…” He pushed himself to sit up. “I feel like I just got the best night’s sleep I ever had.”

Ara tucked her legs more tightly under her. “I-I can turn back, but… you may have to give me a few hours, it’s hard for me to shift back when I’m this full.”

Val stepped around her and carefully reached out to place a hand on the smooth side of her abdomen. “No, it’s okay. It’ll take some getting used to, but… What you just did was so hot, I’m sure it won’t take me long to adjust to however you look when you do that.”

Ara caught his eyes. “I might look a bit frightening. I might look powerful and large and dangerous. I might look hungry. Deadly.”

Val’s cheeks flushed with arousal and his shaft started to harden again. He grinned and came to kneel before her, looking up at her with those hazel eyes. His voice warm with love, he said, “I think that will be quite alright with me.”

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Arachnia (Part I)

Arachnia dozed in the corner of her web, which stretched across the trunks of three old-growth trees. In the shadows of the forest floor, the sticky strands were nearly invisible.

In this form, her spider form, she was about the size of a large dog. She sat with her legs tucked cozily up under her, except for two of her feet, which rested on the signal strands. These were thicker threads, not sticky at all, stretched tight from tree to tree. 

The signal threads passed vibrations to her sensitive feet, so that she always knew when and how the wind was blowing, and who or what had come upon her web.

There was a sharp tug at one of the signal threads, and Arachnia was instantly awake.

A quiet pause. Then, intense and constant vibrations. The struggle of something humanoid, average sized, on the other side of her web.

Arachia crept out of her shadow, her feet keeping to the strong structural threads of the web. Like the signal threads, these were also not sticky. They were so strong, in fact, that she almost never had to re-hang them. Not even the time that an actual dragon had gotten itself caught in her web.

As she neared the trapped creature, another type of information flowed to her through the web. Energy. She was a spirit. And though she had a spider form, she did not feed as a spider did. Just like the demon spirits that the humans called succubi, she fed on life essence.

This life essence was terrified. Utterly and completely. Arachnia paused. Only the energy of pleasure could feed her. And she was a master at turning fear into pleasure, but this case was beyond even her.

She approached just far enough to get a better look, ensuring that she was still hidden.

The human’s legs and arms were entirely tangled up in the trapping threads of her web. The more he struggled to free himself, the more of the loose, sticky threads latched onto him. An individual thread could be broken easily, but the tangle of so many threads was inescapable.

He was not even trying to escape, though. He was caught entirely in the throes of a panic attack. By the looks of his clothes and his pack, he was an adventurer, but the world was a dangerous place indeed for an adventurer that had such a strong fear.

Arachnia’s heart sunk with pity for him. She crept down her web to the shadows of the forest floor, and as she dropped to the ground she landed on two human feet. Her human form was petite, with small breasts and a curvaceous ass that subtly called back to the slender thorax and plump abdomen of her spider form. She had curly brown hair, skin the color of leaf litter, and big, round eyes. Just two of them, of course. For now, anyway.

She made her way over to the panicking human. She figured that it would be the best if the first thing he heard from her was her voice. “Oh my goodness!” she said.

His eyes found her immediately. They were hazel, like the dappled green and brown of the forest canopy. “W-who’s there!”

Arachnia stepped out of the shadows and into full view. “I’m here to get you out of this web!”

Relief washed over his face. He trembled as she came up to him and started pulling the threads away. In her spider form, she would have simply cut them with her feet. In this form, she dissolved them with her magic, but she expected he was too overwhelmed to notice.

“T-thank you,” he said, “I was sure I was a goner!” As she made clear progress on the threads and as he relaxed, he seemed to notice a few things. Chief among them was that she was naked. “Your clothes!” he said.

She looked down at herself. Of course she was naked, she couldn’t just magic clothes out of nowhere. But she’d forgotten how odd humans were about it. She didn’t know what to say except to repeat, “My clothes!”

“Did you have to get out of them to escape?”

Arachnia took a moment to unpack that question. He thought she’d also been trapped in the spider’s web? And she’d wiggled out of her clothes to escape? It was a cute idea, but never would have worked. But it was a good way to smooth over the fact that she’d appeared naked from out of nowhere.

“Yes! Exactly.” She melted away the last few strands of silk at his ankles.

“Okay,” he said, “We can fix that later. Let’s get out of here!”

And then he grabbed her hand and pulled her away at a haphazard jog.

Arachnia surprised herself by following him. Spider spirits did not like to leave their webs unless absolutely necessary.

But something had happened, when he had taken her hand in his, when her palm had touched his palm. She had tasted his energy. And it was delicious.

At a sunny clearing of a gurgling stream, the adventurer finally slowed. He kneeled next to the clear water and drank deeply. He seemed to now be in much better spirits.

As he turned and smiled at her, the love of life in his hazel eyes, warmth flowed over her. He was, simply put, the prettiest boy she’d ever seen. His eyes were framed with long eyelashes, his hair pulled up in a messy bun, his cheeks with a short beard of a week or so since his last shave.

He shrugged out of his shirt, which was still covered in sticky silk, and dipped it into the stream.

He was of medium build, lean but with visible muscles, and something about the curve of his back sent a shiver down her spine.

“Thank you, again,” he said. “I promise I’m not usually so useless. It’s just…” He blushed, putting a hand to the back of his neck. “Spiders really get to me, I guess.”

“I could see that,” Arachnia said.

He winced. “Seeing as you saved my life and all, we should probably introduce ourselves, right? I’m Valdil Duststriker, but everybody calls me Val.”

“I called Arach—” She caught herself, realizing that he name was a dead giveaway. “Ara. Ak. But, uh, everybody calls me Ara.”

“Pleasure to meet you, Ara. Now, where did you come from? Where are you going? I daresay helping you find some fresh clothes and get you home is now my priority quest.”

Ara was generally a very prepared person — all spiders valued preparation — but she was completely out of anything she’d ever even dreamed of anticipating before. Of course he’d want to know where she came from! 

Ara racked her brain. Kitsunes were good at this sort of thing. She’d met a traveling kitsune a few years back, and they’d exchanged some stories. Her advice had been, ‘Say vague truths. They’ll make thier own assumptions. And you’ll have never lied.’

“I-I’ve run away from my home,” Ara said.

“Oh! Had something terrible happened?”

“You could say that.”

“So… do you want to go back to your home?”

“No, not right now. And I… don’t really want to talk about it.”

Val nodded. “I understand. I actually ran away from home too, that’s how I got into this adventuring business in the first place. If you don’t want to go home, where do you want to go?”

“Can you tell me more about this adventuring business?”

“I can, but I’m… not sure you’re cut out for it.”

Ara blinked, unsure of what he meant. Then snorted and laughed. He had no way of knowing that she could utterly overpower him in an instant, but she needed to keep it that way. She got a hold of herself and just smiled. “Try me.”

Two days later

The crunch of leaves, a movement in shadow.

Val drew his machete and threw his arm back as if to protect Ara. “Look out!”

But she was already in the trees. Val had seen two of the bandits in the ambush, but the third, which was perched on the branch above Val, was far more deadly.

Ara got her hands around his neck and pulled him back, and the assassin’s crossbow bolt flew wide. He grunted and spun to try and grab her, but she nimbly swung around him and stayed behind him, her hands on his neck the whole while.

Before he could get his bearing on the narrow tree branch and do anything else, she pulled her mouth up to his neck. Her canines became long, sharp fangs and she sunk them into his neck.

She shuddered with a pleasurable feeling as a pulse of her venom flowed out of her and into his skin.

He struggled for only a moment longer before his muscles started to go slack. Her venom would not kill him, it would merely sedate him heavily for a few hours. She grabbed the top of his shirt as he fell off the branch to ensure that he fell harmlessly onto his legs. She dropped down after him.

Val had subdued the other two bandits, though they had not been lucky enough to keep their lives.

He turned to her, looking worried. “Ara!” And then he saw the man at her feet. “Ara?”

“I think he’s unconscious,” she said.

“What happened?” he said.

“I got up into the tree next to him. He hadn’t been paying any attention to me, he had a crossbow bolt leveled at you.” She paused a moment, trying her best to channel a kitsune’s foxy cleverness. “Do you think he passed out of fright?”

“It’s certainly possible,” Val said.

“Looks like we found some clothes for me.”

“Oh! You take mine.” Val stripped his shirt off. “You shouldn’t have to wear something as course as what they have.”

Ara’s stomach quivered with delight. She loved to see him shirtless, and it was even better when he tossed his shirt to her. She bunched it up at her face, breathing in the scent of him.

He hesitated. “Is it… it’s not already too smelly, is it?”

“No, it’s perfect!” Her mouth was watering.

Val blushed and stammered and turned back to looting the bandits.

Three days later

Ara was now farther than she had ever been from her home and she was loving it. Val’s latest quest was to find a sacred temple in the wilderness and bring back sketches and rubbings of the sacred text within. Nobody knew exactly where the temple was, so they were exploring and charting the dense forest as they went.

As it turned out, Val’s fear of spider was not dependent on their size. One evening as he’d been grabbing another log for the fire, a tiny wolf spider had scurried away.

This had given Val such a fright that he’d stumbled backwards, tripped over a log, and if not for Ara’s supernaturally quick reflexes, he would have fallen totally into the fire.

Ara had been quite right that this fear could be the end of an adventurer. For Val’s safety and for her own satiety, she needed to make some progress with him.

At dawn, she tugged him awake. “Come here,” she whispered, “I want to show you something.”

She could feel his excited heartbeat in his hand, sense the quivering of his energy. She pulled him just a little ways from the camp.

Sparkling in the sun’s earliest beams, stretched between two branches, was a gorgeous orb spider’s web.

Val tensed.

Ara put her arm around his waist and kept his hand in hers, running her thumb over his fingers soothingly.

“Isn’t it beautiful?” she whispered.

“I…” he glanced down at her, uneasy but not wanting to disappoint.

“Look a little closer. See those main strands, the spokes? They’re not sticky at all. It starts with just three. She finds a spot at the top of the branch and creates a single strand and drops down. 

“Then, she lets the wind nudge her over to the side and she makes the second anchor. Then she climbs back up that strand, finds the center of it, attaches a new strand to that, and carries that over to the other side. That makes three spokes. 

“From there, she makes the rest of the spokes. And then, when they’re all nice and tidy and secure, she starts in the center. She makes a stickier thread and works a spiral out from the middle, spoke by spoke, all perfectly spaced, until the whole web is made.”

Val relaxed a bit at the sound of her voice. But he grinned wryly. “It’s beautiful, I suppose, but it’s for trapping and eating things.” He shuddered.

“Yes… but only unsavory things. Are you afraid of mosquitos?”

He scoffed, a bit proud. “No, of course not.”

“Well, you should be. A mosquito is much more likely to kill you than a spider.”


“Yes! Mosquitos carry all sorts of terrible diseases. And spiders eat them, help keep them in control. They also eat biting flies, pest moths. And so on.”

Val considered this silently.

She squeezed him with her arm around his waist. “It’s very natural to feel an aversion to creepy crawlies. Like I said, they sting, bite, carry diseases—”

“You’re not making me feel better,” Val said apologetically.

But,” Ara continued, “If your fear is more dangerous to you than the creepy crawlies…”

“I know I should just get over it…” Val averted his eyes.

“That’s not what I’m saying at all.” Ara squeezed his hand. “You don’t need grit, you need help. Call it… healing. Therapy.”

Val considered that. “What exactly would that entail?”

“Well, very gently, just getting a little bit more comfortable with spiders over time. Just a tiny bit here and here. Push your comfort zone a little every day. Start with a big distance. And let it get a little smaller over time.”

“Okay. I… that makes sense.”

“Oh! Here’s a good chance. Squeeze my hand as hard as you need to. She’s coming out to be proud of her handiwork.”

Val gripped Ara’s hand very tightly. The orb spider came up from a lower corner of the web, moving smoothly over it. Her legs were as slender and elegant as the strands of her web. Her abdomen was a brilliant emerald green, and as she reached the center of the web, she sat like a jewel in a crown of her own making.

Val’s heart beat quickly but he didn’t turn away. Slowly, his grip on Ara’s hand loosened.

She kissed the back of his neck. “Good boy.”

Continued in Part II