07 – THE SILK CAVERN

The planks beneath him shifted and instinctively Jingle reached out to the banister. His hand swept through open space and for a horrifying moment he thought he was going to topple antlers over hoof in the near darkness.

His arms wind milled and his back collided with the roughly hewn stone wall. Okay, he thought to himself, take a moment to adjust before you move on.

So taking his own good advice that’s exactly what he did.

Around him the dimness began to lift and he started to make out shapes in the gloom. The inside of the tower was about the width of a lighthouse and around its outer shell wound a series of stairs and landings that disappeared down into the distance. Here and there along the stairs length were missing boards and absent banisters.

Jingle was very glad that common sense had convinced him to stop a moment.

Carefully the reindeer made his way down the steps, feeling each move under him, the creaking of the wood signalling the strain under his weight. When he encountered missing steps he would lean against the stone wall before carefully placing a hoof over the hole, each time expecting the wood to disintegrate under him.

Thankfully this never occurred.

He did not know how long the trek to the towers base took him. Narrow slits in the walls showed the outside world, but he could not decide whether the increasing dimness of the light he saw through them was evident of the passing day; or if he was just under the cover of the tall trees.

By the time the complicated latticework of wood was replaced by the dust of the earthen floor as little as an hour may have passed; or it may have been as much as a day.

A slightly lighter shade of grey drew Jingles attention and he found an open doorway which led inside a huge chamber whose corners fell into utter darkness.

Here and there fires burned, lit torches hung in tarnished steel cradles anchored into the man-made caverns broad supports of stone. Jingle approached one of them and slid the torch from its holder.

The flame burned a brilliant orange and for a moment it glinted of his shiny nose in that irritating fashion. He remembered the office from so long ago and wondered whether he would ever see it again.

That was when he heard it.

A scampering sound, high pitched like knives against steel.

Jingle turned and thought he saw movement from the corner of his eye.

Then something caught his attention from his opposite side.

His heart thudded in his chest and he shuddered. The thought that he might actually have a heart shook him. Though what was causing its sudden increase in beats bothered him even more; something was circling him.

Jingle swung the torch and the flame roared. The door through which he entered seemed further away than it should have been and Jingle realised that he was being driven as though he were a sheep.

He knew he should not be afraid, he knew that this world had proven to him again and again that things we not always as they seemed, he also knew (or was it just a belief?) that he was just a cotton wool creature and no harm could come to him; but still he was afraid.

Something in the darkness thought it could hurt him, and this idea scared Jingle more than he would have imagined.

Another sound joined the first, a chattering noise that sounded like knives being rubbed together. To Jingle it sounded like something laughing, happy that dinner had arrived.

Unconsciously his feet had begun to move faster and Jingle was running at this point, blindly chasing the hope of safety without a map or guide. The door through which he had entered was lost now, and he knew that his own panic had betrayed him.

Beneath him something caught his feet and he fell, tumbling into a pale mass of thread that glinted in the torch light. Jingle looked around; the mound of thread was twice as wide as Jingle was tall. Sat on top of this mound was a large cocoon of tightly coiled web; and suddenly Jingle realised what was waiting for him in the darkness.

It was the mother of all spiders.

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