My writing exercise for this week was to take a completed story and rewrite it, intensifying the conflict, exaggerating the tension—even to the point of absurdity. Well, I chose a short story I had written about a tortured spider—it was already pretty exaggerated, but I managed to exaggerate it even more. I cleaned up the prose a little in the process and made a slightly different setup (by adding specific sections to the story).
NOTE FOR THE READER (STILL APPLIES TO THIS REVISED VERSION): James Joyce ends his novel Finnegan’s Wake with a sentence that concludes only by going back to the very first page and re-reading the first line. When I first learned about this oddity, I found it to be an ingenious literary device and immediately tried to think of a story that could end/begin in this way. With “Oblivion Cycle: A Spider’s Nightmare,” I think I’ve captured, in miniature, the basic “never-ending” structure that Joyce used. I really like this story, overall. I like the cyclical nature of the story itself, as well as the disorientation and short memory span of the spider, living in its own mini hell—hence the word “oblivion” in the title. Following are my suggestions for reading this flash fiction, cyclical horror story. Start with whichever paragraph you like, even if it’s not the first one, and read the story from there; then read it again, starting at the next paragraph and reading from there; and then read it one final time, starting from the last remaining paragraph and reading from there. It may be necessary to wait a few minutes in between rereadings. I think it’s interesting to see how well the story holds up in each “version.” I like to read it from beginning to end, then from middle to beginning, so to speak, and finally from end to middle. Without further ado, the story, which I will now call
Oblivion Cycle: A Spider’s Nightmare Re-imagined
Part 1 then part 3 then part 2
So, with her ghastly device engaged, she tortured him, maimed him, brutalized him. The tiny, black, defenseless spider twisted and writhed on the tabletop, screaming in agony until he had used up all the air at his disposal. The drinking glass with which the girl had covered him made both breathing and escape impossible. His high-strung screams echoed off the walls of the glass, and his ears rang, and then bled. He stopped screaming and tried to draw in a breath but couldn’t.
Part 2 then part 1 then part 3
The spider was suffocating, mouth cracked and dry. How long had she been at this? He couldn’t remember; he couldn’t tell. How long before she just killed him? Would she? Or would he have to live in complete agony for the rest of time, constantly pushed to the very brink of death only to be cruelly revived a moment later? While he pondered this, a distinct feeling of déjà vu overwhelmed his mind; it was as though he had had these thoughts a thousand times before, never arriving at a coherent conclusion. Suddenly, the drinking glass that was his prison rose high into the air, and he gasped, his lungs ablaze with a fire that grew more intense with each new breath.
Part 3 then part 2 then part 1
As soon as the spider had reclaimed his breath and his bearings, he charged off, away from the drinking glass and the girl, trying to escape certain death; but he was no match for her, in all her gargantuan, human glory. As quickly and easily as if she had done it a thousand times, she put the glass over him. His millions of legs darted toward the glass, again and again, as he tried desperately to run right through it, to no avail—and the air quickly evaporated into oblivion.