By Steve Hatherley, © 1994
[This has always been one of my favorite Tales of Terror. Just weird and creepy all around. I used this (and a couple other ToT's) for an off-the-cuff scenario a while back and the scene with the Spider-Man worked great. —John Scott Tynes, 1994]
He is their least favorite patient. Everybody, even arachnophiles, find the presence of so many spiders disturbing. They are everywhere in the barren room: on the floor, the walls, the ceiling. They infest his bed, scamper across his clothes, and stalk through his hair.
They are ignored by the patient, known to the staff of the Seaview Home for the Insane as `the spider-man.’ He sits on his chair, head cocked to one side, staring blankly at nothing. He does not speak and needs to be hand-fed, not a popular task among the staff.
The spiders have defeated all attempts to shift them. Steely-nerved cleaners used to periodically clean the room, but each time the spiders were back within a week. Now they just don’t bother. Besides, the spider-man doesn’t seem to mind.
1. Blown off course by a severe storm, the crew of a capsized tramp steamer found themselves cast on a Pacific island inhabited by natives belonging to a spider cult.
In the months that followed, those that weren’t killed lost their sanity. Eventually, the cult elected one of the crew to godhood, sacred for the rest of eternity. They cast him adrift in his lifeboat to take the word to the masses, quite oblivious to the fact that their god’s mind was utterly blank.
The man was picked up by a warship, pronounced insane, and committed to Seaview. There he has attracted the attention of the local spider population. He is their god, and they like being around him.
2. The spider-man is host to the Children of Atlach-Nacha, huge spiders with horrible faces. While exploring the Dreamlands he stumbled across Atlach-Nacha and her web. Atlach-Nacha welcomed the interruption, happily taking the opportunity to inject her young into a suitable host.
The man awoke in screaming terror. If it was only a dream, why did he hurt so? Then he saw the neat puncture marks in his abdomen, and felt their presence. It shattered his mind.
Now the spiders that infest the room are waiting for the joyous day when Atlach-Nacha’s brood will hatch from the man’s rich flesh. For beneath the spider-man’s tender skin they slowly mature, soon to hatch.
3. The spiders in the room are all of one species. The spider-man has been cross-breeding them. His listless, blank periods are interspersed with activity when he is permitted to go into the gardens and catch spiders for his room. There he is breeding a new species.
The spider-man was once a fine entomologist, fascinated by socially organised insects and puzzled over the lack of such order in spiders. The only survivor from an expedition to G’harne that went tragically wrong, he is now conducting his own peculiar experiments and trying to create a new arachnoid order.