Crouched, packed tight as maggots we waited, the air alive with expectation, all legs optimally positioned to feel the vibes, all eyes fixed on the time-spinner. Every click-tock thrilled the silk as the second arm crawled its way upward, edging towards midnight and the stroke of eight.
I look up from the webzine, my eyes on stalks. I knew they’d never put the whole truth out there, but this mother-sucking hyperbole’s making my leg-hairs prickle. It’s bad news, badly written, but it means something far worse for me, the last male hanging. A flash of silver, like a thousand moons, and the Spoke-sister appeared silhouetted at the apex, her bulbous body bristling matte-black and enormous. The fly-wing Amulets of State, glistened iridescent as she hung suspended in time and space, then hurled herself down, stopping dead at the exact centre of the magnificent Uberweb. Truly, this structure is the only creation in the world-wide web, fit to facilitate such a species-defining moment as the first Bi-gender Parliament. A pale, post-glow half-light illuminated the proceedings as the music started – magnificent fluid-music – like the death-throws of a million flies. How we clicked! The entire Senette! A storm-force frenzy of click-response so tumultuous, it was later reported by city sisters that they could feel the tremor octometers away.
Mother-sucking spin – always sticks in my spiracles. I skip through the Spoke-sister’s address, no dramas there, just the same-old-same-old – how the new ‘Gender Agenda’s going to save the species, how we’re all equal now males have got the vote, how we’ve all come so far: criminalising mate-consumption, introducing segregated workspaces, re-interpreting The Book of Sisterhood to big up so-called ‘male traits.’ They’re quite the zeitgeist these days – smallness and self-sacrifice – fashionable enough to get four he-senettors elected for the first time. It’s not till I get to the paragraph about the so-called ‘empowerment’ pod that my blood runs cold.
As the empowerment-pod was lowered, the newly elected he-sennetors came into view, small but safe behind the transparent super-silk cobwebbing. All four were spun into their smart-devices, ready to engage in parliamentary debate for the first time, enabled by purpose-spun two-way fibre-optic threads that ran from them, to all areas of the Uberweb and every sense-receiving leg-hair. A hungry thrum ran through the orbitorium as the sisters gasped at the genius of these two, much-hyped fibres: one invisible yet impregnable to the sharpest fangs and deadliest venom, the other, able to send and receive multisensory data, allowing the two-way exchange of scent and sight as well as sensation. What greater testament could there be to the sennette’s commitment to equality than this revolutionary empowerment-pod?
I look up, through the patched-up walls of that very pod, hoisted high above the Uberweb, now. The fibre-optic broad-strands catch the moonlight as they trail into the horizon. It must be them that’s pumping in this tick-shit propaganda. They run as far as the eye can see, over the woollen grey of the funnels, and the darker grey of the factory flues to the distant citadel – a web-shaped sparkle of tiny lights, and for a picosecond, I let myself feel the faraway throb, let myself wonder if I’ll ever weave free to spread my genes into tomorrow, but not for long. I suck it up – there must be a reason for me being here like this. There must be a reason for them feeding me this fake news. I switch focus, tap the zine-mesh with my unbound fore-palps and read on.
We welcomed the he-sennetors with a muted click-response, out of respect for the weaker sex. It rippled through the Uberweb, soft as gossamer. The debate was erudite and lively, the vote seamless and unanimous. Gender parity was ratified into the Arachnid Constitution and, as the proceedings wound to an end, the honourable he-senettors, out of respect for the Sisterhood, made a heart-warming and unexpected gesture of respect to the olden-times, and donated their nutrients to the sorority of their own free will.
I drink in the lies, but they don’t stop the truth re-weaving itself in my mind. The air was thick with pheromones, the click-response more earthquake than gossamer. Beyond the see-through super-silk, waves of she-lobs, hung, writhed, convulsed in an orgy of exoskeletal applause, before the surge. The super-silk did not withstand the deadliest venom, it did not repel the most determined fangs, my brothers did not choose to make the olden-times sacrifice. I blot it out, trying to remember how I survived, but it’s a blur followed by blackness then a sea of questions. Why are they holding me here? Why spin me this fake news? Does the Senette need a false witness in case the truth leaks out? Has a sympathetic sister saved me for some other purpose? I know they’re out there. We’d never have been elected if it wasn’t for the support of enlightened sisters able to see beyond eons of privilege, willing to listen to our version of the truth. Then it comes to me.
I tap the zine-screen, my fangs filling with hope, my spinnerets pulsing like I’m about to twine a fly. It’s still active – the two-way data flow. I raise my fore-palps, thinking it through. I’ll only have minutes once they realise what’s happening, and I want to get it right. If this is the last story I ever spin, I’m sure as hell going to go out spinning it like it was – the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the brother-sucking truth.
Jan Kaneen is a self-identifying weirdo from Cambridgeshire in the UK. She’s been published round and about, and won comps in strange places like Molotov Cocktail and Zero Flash. She’s studying for an MA in Creative Writing at the Open University where she’s trying to get them to weird up a bit. She tweets @jankaneen1