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  • Writer's pictureT. A. Hernandez

LUCINDA'S SPIDER - A Free Short Story

Lucinda lay still in her nursing home bed, knobby hands folded across her chest. Through half-closed eyelids, she watched the spider in the corner crawl across its web on spindly legs. It was a delicate thing, much smaller than the moth that now quivered in the sticky threads, beating its wings in a feeble attempt at escape. The spider crept closer.

Lucinda felt a comforting affinity with the tiny creature. It had lived in the corner of the room since before she'd moved in six months ago. She wasn't sure what the average lifespan was for a common indoor spider, but six months was impressive, given that the housekeeping staff came in and destroyed its web once every week or two. Yet the spider continued to thrive here, much like Lucinda.

Watching the spider and its prey made her thirsty. It had been a long time since she last fed. Gentle snores came from the bed on the other side of the dividing curtain, where her roommate, Karen, slept. Lucinda licked her lips in anticipation.

The clock above the sink read 2:30 A.M. Footsteps pattered on the polished floors outside her room as a pair of nursing assistants came down the hall to do their routine rounds. They knocked gently and entered without waiting for a response. Once they were satisfied both women were clean and safe, they left. They'd be back in two hours, but that was plenty of time for Lucinda.

She sat up and pulled her nightstand drawer open. In the back, underneath a stack of tattered magazines, she found the needle and syringe she'd filched from an unattended nurse's station when no one was looking. She crept toward Karen's bed and turned on the overhead light with long, spindly fingers. Karen's mouth gaped open, sucking in air in deep, even breaths. She was in the late stages of Alzheimer's, which made her the perfect roommate for Lucinda—weak, compliant, and incapable of telling the staff what sometimes happened in the darkest hours of the night. And even if she did tell, no one would believe her.

Lucinda found a vein in Karen's arm and, with practiced precision, inserted the needle. It wasn't the most ideal way to feed. Drinking the blood straight from the source was much more satisfying, but this was efficient and clean. Most importantly, it wouldn't turn Karen into a creature like Lucinda, which would eliminate her usefulness as a food source.

The blood flowed from the syringe and into a small coffee cup. It took several minutes for Lucinda to get what she needed, but Karen never stirred. Lucinda put pressure on the injection site until it stopped bleeding, then cleaned the needle and syringe in the sink and returned them to the drawer. They'd be good for a few more uses before she had to find replacements. She turned the light off and slunk back to bed with her cup of fresh, warm blood.

Pulling her knobby knees up to her chest, she held the cup to her nose and took a moment to savor the sharp metallic scent, as she did every time she fed. She never wanted to take the blood for granted. She still hadn't forgotten how harsh her first few months after the change had been.

She'd been bitten at the ripe old age of seventy-nine, left for dead by some young thing too intoxicated by blood-lust to finish her off properly. The change had left her frozen in time and imbued with an insatiable quench for human blood, but the world was a harsh place for a toothless, arthritic vampire. When the police took her into custody, she was half-crazed and starving. Too weak to fight back, a judge deemed her unstable, a danger to herself and others. She was put in the nursing home, which had infuriated her at first. After a few days, she realized what a unique opportunity this place presented. Feeding was so much easier when the victims didn't fight back.

Lucinda put the cup to her lips and drank, relishing the warmth that slid down her throat. Her eyes closed in delight as she swirled the blood around in her mouth. The sweet, metallic tang was far superior to any dish she'd tasted before the change. Within seconds, she felt invigorated. She ran her finger along the inside of the cup to make sure she was getting it all. When she'd licked away the last drop, she took the cup to the sink, washed it, then refilled it with water and placed it back on her nightstand.

Lucinda got back in bed, pulled the blankets up to her waist, and folded her hands across her chest once more. Her eyes went back to the spider, now wrapping the moth in sticky, silvery thread. She would have been content to watch it all night, but something else demanded her attention.

It was too quiet. Karen no longer snored, and Karen always snored.

Footsteps pattered in the hall once more—the nursing staff, returning for their final rounds. They turned on the light, and when they saw that Lucinda was awake, one cheerfully said, "Good morning, Lucy."

Lucinda smiled back sweetly. They went to check on Karen, who was still silent. There was a flurry of whispers as they conferred with each other, then one of them went to get the nurse on duty. He confirmed what Lucinda already knew. Karen was dead.

Lucinda wanted to scream, but she kept her anger locked up deep inside where no one else could see it. She'd always been careful, had done everything she could to ensure that Karen remained healthy and strong. She never took more blood than she needed to survive. Karen's death couldn't possibly have had anything to do with her.

But it didn't matter. Karen was gone, and Lucinda would have to find another source of sustenance.

She began to formulate a new plan. There was doddering woman named Mabel across the hall who might be a suitable replacement. All Lucinda had to do was find a way to make Mabel her roommate, and that wouldn't be too difficult. The nursing home administrator had a soft spot for sad, lonely old women and was easily manipulated.

Lucinda smiled, and her gaze drifted back to the web in the corner, where the spider began to devour the moth.

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