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Breath & Shadow

Winter 2020 - Vol. 17, Issue 1

"Seeking Shelter"

written by

Amy Heath

Suzie scuttled through the crack in the wall and into the house. Her eight legs were dotted with raindrops and she shivered violently. Anna barged past Suzie. 


Suzie took a final glimpse out into the wilderness and scowled. The rumbling storm made the trees sway wildly.


“Holy cow!” Anna shook her body, spraying water everywhere and sprinkling the wooden floor. “It’s torrential out there. Where are we?”


A lamp stood on a small wooden table, bathing the place in a warm glow. Shadows moved across the floor of the hallway and voices echoed. The sound made Suzie’s legs tingle. Behind her, Anna waited, one eyebrow raised.


There was no way of knowing if the voices were safe or not. “At least it’s warm and dry here,” Suzie whispered. “We’ll explore a little when we’ve rested.”


Anna headed straight for the darkest corner. She plopped down and went to sleep, her legs splayed out like tiny matchsticks.


Suzie struggled to keep her eyes open. Her body was cold and stiff. A human could arrive at any moment. Not many of them liked spiders. Last time Suzie and Anna found a place to stay for the night, they had been chased out by a scary man brandishing a slipper.


As she shuffled up the hallway, she looked from side to side. Walls decorated with large wooden frames loomed over her. In the pictures, all the faces were frowny. Their eyes followed Suzie’s every move.


A long flight of stairs led up into darkness. Every so often, something creaked and Suzie would run, bumping into things.


“Ohhh...” Suzie whimpered, cowering. “I don’t like this...”


Several small wisps glittered in the stream of light. Hairs dotted the floor, short and ginger and smelly. She shivered again.


A loud yowl came from the top of the stairs. Suzie froze. Careful not to make any noise, she scuttled back to where Anna slept and prodded with two legs.


“Wake up!” Her voice trembled, but she kept it to a whisper. “Anna. We need to get out of here.”


Anna groaned. “Lemme’ alone. Sleepy.”


Suzie prodded again. “No. We need to get out. We’re not safe.”


“Don’t be silly. I’ve spent this whole time sleeping and I haven’t been squished yet. Why can’t we stay and rest a while?”


Suzie scanned the hallway. Nothing had moved. But something cast a large shadow from the top of the stairs to the floor. “Come with me. I’ll show you.”


Anna rubbed her eyes and followed Suzie. She weaved in and out of the shadowy path, often veering off-course and into the light. Suzie had to drag her back into the darkness each time.


As they went, Suzie pointed out the strange hairs she had spotted earlier. “Look. These are weird. And they smell fishy.”


Anna laughed. She lay flat on the floor and rolled around in them. “C’mon, Suzie. They’re just hairs! Hey, maybe we could take them back to the corner and make a nest with them.”


Suzie sighed. Anna rarely saw the danger in anything. “Aren’t you bothered about where they came from? They smell weird. Remember last time we smelt something funny? We ended up being chased by a creepy old guy with a slipper.”


The shadow at the top of the stairs moved. Both Anna and Suzie froze, eyes fixed on the darkness above. Voices echoed in the background.


“See?” Suzie whispered. “Do you know what that is? Because I sure don’t.”


Anna nuzzled in Suzie’s side, quivering. Her smile turned to a grimace. “Let’s go back and hide. We’ll figure out what to do next.”


They scuttled back across the floor, stopping and turning back every so often. The shadow still loomed at the top of the stairs, twitching slightly. Suzie couldn’t swear to it, but that shape was beginning to look awfully familiar. 


The dark corner at the other end of the hallway seemed ages away. But after stopping to check for danger a final time, Anna and Suzie made it back to their hiding place. Suzie settled in, her head resting between her legs. If they were going to get out of here in one piece, they needed an escape plan.


Anna, however, had other ideas. She carried a large bundle of hairs under one leg and looked at Suzie, a guilty smile on her face. “I was thinking we could make a nest. In case we had to stay the night.”


Suzie blinked. “Are you serious? You think we’ll be sleeping here?”


Anna laughed nervously. “Well, we might have to. The storm is still crazy outside.”


Rain beat on the roof, accompanied by loud claps of thunder. Water ran down the window in rivulets and every so often lightning illuminated the house.


Suzie shuffled uncomfortably. Until the storm eased off, they wouldn’t make it out. Too many of their friends had tried to brave thunderstorms. They wound up drowning or being blown into the gutter by gale-force winds.


“OK. But we’re not going to sleep here. Anything could squash or eat us in the night.”


“But I’m tired, Sooz! We’ve walked millions. All I need is a quick rest and I’ll be back in action again. You could keep watch.”


Suzie rolled her eyes. It wasn’t a bad idea, but the shadow still lingered in the back of her mind. If Anna did sleep tonight, Suzie would have to be extra-careful to make sure neither of them were eaten. “If I wake you up, we move. No arguments. Promise?”


But Anna had already curled up on the pile of hairs, snoring softly. Suzie settled down and focused on the shape at the other end of the hallway.


Something ticked loudly. Enough time had passed for a whole spider family to weave webs before the distant voices grew louder. Footsteps came from one of the side-rooms and a door opened, exposing a chink of light.


“Come on, dear.” The voice sounded like an old man. It was soft and gentle. “Time for bed, eh?”


A lady responded. “Alright. There’s nothing on the television anyway.”


Holding hands, they walked through the empty hallway, turning off the lamp as they went. The hallway was now completely black.


The ticking continued, but there were no other sounds. Slowly, Suzie allowed herself to relax, releasing the tension from her body and legs. Closing her eyes, she was just about to drift off when a loud noise woke her with a start. A yowl. Suzie had heard that before. She was sure of it.


“Anna!” She spoke in the loudest whisper she could manage, jabbing. “Wake up! Something’s in here!”


Anna opened one eye. “What? What are you talking about?”


“Shh! Listen!”


There was silence, except for padding on the floor. The vibrations grew stronger before stopping again, followed by shuffling and a gentle purr.


“You hear that?” Suzie nudged Anna.


Anna nodded. “Want me to go and check?”


“No! It might not be safe. Wait here a while and see what happens.”


The purring continued, but the ground no longer buzzed. Eyes roving, Anna poked her head out from the corner.


“I don’t see anything. I think it’s safe.”




Anna darted out, looking straight ahead. She didn’t notice the huge paw above her. She didn’t see the sudden flash of green eyes or the bared pearly white teeth. Before Suzie could push Anna out of the way, it was too late.


It sauntered off, tail swishing. Suzie stifled a sob. When the coast was clear, she scurried over to where one of Anna’s tiny legs remained.


“Oh God… Anna… I’m so sorry...” She couldn’t say any more. Her gaze fixed on the beast ahead.


“I’ll get you. Murderer.”


Rain pelted the window outside, accompanied by a crash of thunder. Suzie reared up on her back legs and bared her fangs.


The room flashed by. Suzie darted up the leg of the beast to the neck. The fur was thick and hard to walk through. Before it had a chance to react, she bit down hard.


The beast hissed and yowled. It dropped to the floor, blood trickling from the open wound Suzie had made. She waited, rising up and down as it breathed. Eventually, the body became still. The remains of Anna’s body spilled from its mouth.

As the humans cried over the beast, Suzie held what was left of her friend.

Amy Heath was born and lives in the UK, and is currently studying BSc Psychology at the University of Bolton. An aspiring author, she has written two books for children and young adults along with short stories in a variety of genres including fantasy, horror and suspense. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, gaming and is self-taught in the ukulele.

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