A chocolate-brown spider sat with pie-eyes in the center of her web. A silken egg-sac was slung beneath. The web hung like a miniature trampoline under the eaves of the house, the strands of gossamer flickering lilac-to-lavender in the soft breeze and the fading sunlight, a twig snagged like a chicken bone in the web. The evening sky grew coral. Far away to the north, sultry cloud-monsters were dissolving and reforming, dissolving and reforming, constantly over the horizon. An almost blood-like smell spiked the air, an odor of raw meat mixed with something musty and vinous.
David stared at the spider for a long time: lady of the loom, motionless, microcephalic, but with a body as big as a child’s fist.
“Hello, David,” said a sonorous voice behind him.
Before David pivoted, he saw in the relucent windowpane of the front door the foreshortened image of a man rendered small in its pink reflection.
Kenneth Dvorak stood twenty feet away, under a solitary apple tree among swaying grass, the limbs of the tree bent low with its lunar globes of fruit. He was dressed in a charcoal suit and black tie, his white shirt glistering. He had an old-fashioned pocketwatch, affixed to a silver chain, and he consulted it now. Then he wound it up. A murder of crows watched from the topmost limbs of the apple tree. Kenneth Dvorak’s face was calm and handsome. His stature and his presence were very great.
He smiled. His hairless head gave back the crimson light bleeding through the delicate fabric of the evening sky.
“Hello, father,” David said.
“I thought you’d come. I hoped you would.”
The smell of raw meat grew stronger.
“Os ex ossibus meis et caro de carne,” Kenneth Dvorak said. “Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.”
David watched him. For a full minute, neither spoke. In the field beyond, a lone poplar pulsed in the wind. The sky darkened to burgundy. The wind went warmly about David’s hair.
“I have something to ask,” David said.
Kenneth Dvorak advanced toward him. The tall grass swished against his high boots. He came to within four feet and stopped. He towered above his son by over twelve inches, physically dwarfing him, but he did not dwarf the clean immutable healthiness of David’s body. The spider twitched. Kenneth Dvorak’s eyeballs — and only his eyeballs — went briefly to the web and then back to David. “Ask,” he said.
“I want you to do this for Dusty May,” David said. “I’ve never asked you for anything, and this is the only thing I’ll ever ask of you.”
David then stepped forward a pace and leaned closer to the mountainous man who was his father by blood. Speaking softly, he told Kenneth Dvorak what he wanted him to do, and explained why, proposing a kind of wager or a final test of justice, which test would decide everything, and in which Kenneth Dvorak would organize and fund and promote a contest of human motion. If Dusty won, David said, she would be exonerated. Kenneth Dvorak listened with great interest and seriousness, the smell of blood now clangorous between them, while in the boughs above, the murder of crows watched with golden eyes, and then Kenneth Dvorak grinned and nodded and said yes, he would do this thing, and he would win.
One of the crows resituated its wing, as if that wing had been improperly folded.
A quarter mile away, at the foot of the iron mountains, thermal winds swirled up scarves of dust, and the slow deep river that ran below the mountains reflected the bloody evening sky in a perfect replica, so that the river now looked like a vat of blood, and in the spider web behind David, the translucent silk sac split noiselessly, and all the eggs hatched open, and an army of baby spiders poured out and began eating the mother.
David did not see any of this.
But Kenneth Dvorak did. The wind, the water, and the blood, he said to himself.
This is excerpted from chapter 48. Read the rest: