Hosted and Edited by that well-loved star from the cult 80s vampire film, ‘The Munchies’ – Jools Vicker, the Spider from Saturn.
The Spider from Saturn shuffled onto the park bench, and lit a cigarette, holding it between his pedipalps. He squatted on all thirteen of his legs, and began. ‘“Life without pain has no meaning”. Thus said Schopenhauer. Schopenhauer also said art is a way out of pain. On the other foot, I say it is not – I should know: when I went under my former name, Jools Vicker, performance artiste extraordinaire, I caused quite a stir by chopping off some of my legs for art. The quest for immortality through art led me to explore the utmost extremes of pain. The conquest of such extremes and the quest for the beyond is one of the most fundamental drives of the True Artist. What follows is a parable, detailing the dangers along the way to what one seeks so desperately. It is the parable of – Canoodle K-neadle… Or, as I prefer to call it, The Im-moral of Esurience.
‘But before that – a cautionary foreword to the tale: Saturnine Spiders start off with 24 legs, on account of being 3 times the size of Earthly Spiders – not everyone is so lucky. By all means go out on a limb – but don’t hazard what you haven’t got. One artist I knew thought that was exactly what you should do – he tried to go even further than I myself ever did. What happened to him? I killed him.’
Tease. Finger. Tickle. Nibble. Squeeze. Gasp. Moan. Bite. Hug. Pinch. Scratch. Hump. Arch. Slide. Heave. Queef.
She gasped. He stroked her hair as he drifted gently into sleep; but she lay still for some more time in the darkness, filling the space with her breathing. Tick-tock – parcelled out her breathing, into little rhythmic sections in the night. Dick-cock – her mind kept time with the clock.
Every night it was a different man; but every night it was the same. The same monotonous rhythm, driving her crazy.
Her appetite was voracious. She wanted it more and more, every minute of the day – nothing could satisfy her growing need. She took to wandering the streets at night, flirting with danger in lonely alleyways. She’d visited the most notorious strip-joints, whorehouses, pick-up spots. She had even ventured into the seediest of back-rooms, and caused one dominatrix to drop dead from exhaustion. No one seemed able to keep up with her demands. She’d begun to despair. No stimulation was too much, and she took all she could get. One affair that had seemed like love at the time had come to a sudden end, when Prince Centaurus the Twenty-first was acquired by a prize-winning stud-farm miles away.
Her desperation drove her to seek out other pleasures – those forbidden fruit growing in pastures beyond the limits of the mortal. She would have sold her soul, or even her unique collection of knitting needles from all around the world – some autographed by their maker, some limited editions, some unique specimens – even the very instrument used by the infamous Killer K-nitter to stab her victims in the throat – daubed with blood. Re-thinking that with renewed affection, she felt rather loathe to give up her needle collection.
She would do (almost) anything to sample limitless pleasures.
A huge shop-window regaled all her senses on her way back from work. An endless stream of people bustled in and out. Despite passing down that same street earlier that day, she couldn’t remember its being there – yet it was hardly unnoticeable. The mysterious appearance of a small shop, nestled in a small alleyway, would have been acceptable. This – this – on the other hand – was almost offensively obscene, in its immediate assault on the senses, and indecent failure to announce its uninvited presence in advance. The aroma drifting out through the doors was an intricate concoction of inextricable scents, mostly unidentifiable, yet not unpleasant. The shop-window displayed a bewildering array of items – from watering cans, to antique chests of drawers. The garish neon sign flashing over the shop said ‘Just for You – Take your Pick at Perfect Prices’. Curiosity guided her steps, and before she knew it she was peeking in open-mouthed at the blaze of colour through the pane.
‘Can I interest – you in – anything?’ asked the gaunt old man leaning against the door jamb, in between puffs on his pipe. ‘You will not go away disappointed, I assure you,’ he chuckled amiably, as she stepped through the doorway. The stream of people had dissipated suddenly, and she found herself standing there alone, as the last few customers trickled out of the shop.
‘Am I keeping you?’ she asked, squirming awkwardly beneath the Proprietor’s half-amused knowing gaze. ‘Are you closing? I could come back tomorrow…’
‘Wouldn’t hear of it.’
‘If it’s any trouble…’
‘No trouble at all, dear. No trouble at all. Anything that catches your fancy? May I interest you in this coat, with buttons of silver? Or this robe of deepest blue satin? All the way from far Korea. Only the finest. And as with all the things in my shop, affordable. Oh, I see that’s not really your cup of tea. Step this way, dear – I’ve got some things in the backroom that may interest you.’
She let herself be led, squeezing through between an old Jacobean cabinet and a Victorian hat-stand to the tiny door at the back of the large (yet wonderfully cluttered) shop. The proprietor beckoned reassuringly with his pipe. She ducked as a finger-bone wind-chime swung towards her, and entered into the darkness beyond.
She stared, unable to utter a word. The room was full of further miscellanea, including a rusty iron maiden, and a mummified cat. ‘Part of my Peter Cushing collection,’ he said, patting an armchair lovingly – ‘This armchair here, is the genuine article – straight from Shepperton Studios.’ He sat down, with a half-moan of delirious satisfaction, stroking its cushions sensuously. ‘So amica – what is your greatest desire? I don’t extend this offer to everyone, I’d like you to know – but I like you. Amica.’ He pointed his pipe at her, before refilling the pipe bowl, and taking a couple of expressive punctuating puffs.
‘I would like to experience intense pleasure, the most intense it is possible to experience.’ The words just tumbled out, she found she had no will to suppress them. There was a pause, in which she wondered at herself. Then, ‘Wait, how did you know my name?’
‘Is it?’ He chuckled to himself, evidently greatly amused by the coincidence. ‘Amica. It’s also Italian for “friend”. But I forget myself. My Cushing-collection, of course, is not for sale. And the other things in this room – they are only to be sold at a very special price.’
‘I thought you said your prices were affordable.’ Again, she could not refrain from giving immediate utterance to her thoughts.
‘They are; oh, they are. It’s the pleasures of the flesh you are after – is that correct?’
‘So you’ll scarcely miss your soul… It is in fact of little worth to you at the moment.’
‘Does it play any part in intensity of experience?’ she asked.
‘An inquiring mind, I like that my Amica. It does indeed; but what I am proposing will make you all sensation, all flesh – the place left by the soul will not be left vacant. It will be replaced by a pulsing core of sensation, open to stimulation.’
Amica’s mouth was beginning to water; her tongue daubed the moisture over her slightly opened lips.
The Proprietor serenely stood up. ‘What I suggest is… this,’ he rummaged around in a miscellaneous heap in the corner. ‘Bear with me a second; this heap is bottomless, or so it always seems to me. Now – where is it? Ah.’ He triumphantly drew out something that barely seemed to justify the flourish. ‘Here it is,’ he handed her a musical triangle – ‘It’s Tinkle the Triangle; take it.’
‘What am I supposed to do with this?’ she asked, completely disarmed now. ‘Is this a joke?’
‘Oh, no. Strike it at various points – each time, the sensation will be different. It will increase your sensitivity, till you’re rawer than you can imagine. You said you wanted to experience the greatest intensity possible – why stop at the “merely possible”? Go on, try it.’
She took the triangle, with some trepidation and hesitant scepticism. As she lifted the beater, she laughed at the silliness of it all, a tinkley carefree laugh that chimed in with the bony fingers next door – an eruption of little brittle edges of nervousness. She struck the beater more forcefully than she had intended, and shuddered as it fell through her fingers. Amica closed her eyes, and bit her lip, drawing blood.
‘I’ll take it.’ She rushed out, longing to get back.
‘My dear, haste gets us nowhere; do wait a few moments – I’m not as young as I was,’ the Proprietor was already ahead of her, holding out a slip of paper – ‘Merely a formality of course, but one can never be too careful these days. Will you sign this IOU please? It would give me some trifling pleasure.’ She took it, and signed – when her eyes fell on a strange instrument topped with what looked like thick blunted knitting needles, retracting and protruding in a calming sequential wave.
‘Oh, that! It’s the K-neadle. You can have it, think of it as my little complimentary gift to a valued customer, that little something extra with your purchase.’
‘K-neadle.’ The proprietor lingered over the ‘k’, very much pronounced. ‘It’s simply a massaging device, somewhat stronger and a little painful, for those who desire a little more pressure than the… ordinary devices can afford. Very unusual. However, I doubt there’s much demand for it.’
‘They look like knitting needles,’ she observed, ‘the kind designed by Madame Guignolle.’
‘I see you are a connoisseur. Madame Guignolle was known for her bravely experimental, but almost completely frivolous, designs. The K-neadle is indeed fitted with the only existing batch of needles based on a particularly useless but exceptionally ambitious design of hers. I could hope for no better home for the K-neadle. Here, take it.’
That night, Amica had her bed to herself. She arranged the duvet and pillows for maximum comfort, and eyed the triangle by the bed with some excitement. Tinkle the Triangle nestled in the velvet lining of a heart-shaped box, an aged silver delicacy for the senses, twinkling in the darkness. She touched it with her fingertip, which tingled.
She lay on her back, lifted it out of its box, and struck a note. Back impossibly arched. Sharp intake of breath. Burst of colours beneath her closed eyelids. Gentle pinpricks against her bare flesh. The tinkle reverberated in her, shattering into tiny liquid shards in her blood.
At work the next day, she could think of nothing else. Her clients left determined to find another architect, not convinced by her passionate assertions that a pyramid would be a vast improvement on the bungalow they’d set their hearts on. She spent all day working on the plans regardless. When her designs finally came to fruition, hundreds of years earlier, constructed by an alien race that had cracked the key to time-travel, the clients were proven correct. Uninhabitable, the buildings were retained as a home for the dead, with enough winding corridors, dead ends, false rooms, and vicious spiders to increase their number of indifferently content, terminally relaxed residents. With a lease that was eternal, there seemed little to complain about.
In bed later that night, she opened her new book on the mathematical properties of triangles, with a little shiver of suspense.
Sadly, suspense wasn’t one of the book’s most notable strengths, and halfway through Chapter 2 – ‘The Equal Sides of the Equilateral Triangle: Debunking a Myth’ – she fell into a deep deep sleep free from incident or stimulation.
Which left her refreshed for the next night’s adventures. The sensations were more engulfing, the pricks of the tinkling jangling sound more urgent. Searing marks into her flesh. Piercing.
The next few nights saw an escalation of the sensations, so varied, so overwhelming, all over the body.
Slash. Pulsating rawness exposed. Like so many lips gaping.
It tried to get inside her; she put up a token resistance only to prolong the deliciousness of the struggle. The ripping continued – it sought a way in. Every morning, she spent longer hours before the mirror, trying to cover the scars, and hiding the open wounds beneath scarves and polo-necks even on warmer days. Every day was a haze of apathetic waiting, with intervals of frenzied designs for triangular buildings – tapering into points that got progressively sharper. One, particularly tall and thin, would one day glorify ‘The World Society for the Exoneration of Needle Addicts (Suffering from Unfair Discrimination by Association with their Less Savoury Counterparts)’. A Society currently spearheaded by Amica in fact, as the spokeswoman for needle-collectors everywhere.
One morning, she simply couldn’t get out of bed. She called in sick, and cancelled her appointments with her few remaining clients over the next couple of days. One client, who rather fancied the idea of an air-borne delivery of freshly-skewered birds on the doorstep each day, spent the rest of his life restlessly searching for a likeminded architect. He finally found rest and peace in a sepulchral monument topped by a spire, which had to be sharpened regularly by his heirs, as stipulated in his will. It is said that whenever an unfortunate pigeon lands on the point and falls to its death, a rotting hand reaches out from the tomb to grasp its prize. [A word from our luminary editor, the Spider from Saturn: I have personally left dead fowl on the grave to test this – unsurprisingly, nothing happened; whence one may derive the conclusion that the spire must play its part.]
Amica couldn’t lift herself off the bed. She gasped, turned over in the sheets, gasped again. Any touching overwhelmed her senses. She didn’t want to get out of bed. She reached out for Tinkle, and played… such sweet music. She could feel the tune, even if it did sound like the same note played over and over. It played over her, in her – all at once. It was a magnificent symphony – her nerves twanged, her veins and arteries drummed a steady beat, her head sang tunes of delirium. It was all around her, enveloping her, and she engulfed it within herself. Her barely-parted lips reverberated, she swallowed, and her oesophagus and windpipe made up the sweetest wind section.
Days passed; she felt no need for food – her body was receiving stimulation from so many other quarters, her desire was – almost – satiated. Her entire surface seemed to absorb that which fed her appetite. Even if she did want to eat, it would have been the cause of more discomfort than pleasure; she found she could no longer close her lips. Her tongue seemed to have expanded to fill her whole mouth, and was now protruding from between her lips, its tip tasting the air, seeking more. Starvation or over-satiation had made her belly grow into a bulbous protuberance, that seemed to want to burst out into the world, straining against the skin. There was an excitement in the newness of this body that Amica found so unfamiliar. Yet when she tried to explore it through touch, she found the pressure applied even by a gentle fingertip too much to bear.
She dragged herself over to the mirror, belly hanging down; tongue wriggling to taste the passing dust motes. And looked. And looked again. Anyone would have had difficulty recognising Amica. Amica was no longer Amica. Yet… there was still something there that could answer to the name.
She pulled herself across the floor, back into bed, and tried to cry. She struck a note on Tinkle, and that drew it out of her – the tears forced open her eyes, breaking through, tearing through the last barriers – till they were nothing but holes, holes that left nothing to see through, that concealed nothing.
The triangle wouldn’t stop. It hadn’t stopped for days. It was still being struck, incessantly ringing in the flapping shreds of skin and cartilage that were once ears. She could no longer hear anything, but she didn’t have to – the sound was always there, everywhere. There was no distinction between inside and outside. Things seeped out, the skin was too weak to contain it. She no longer had anything resembling a thought, but she had sensations – she was nothing but her senses, a pure unadulterated ball of rawness that felt everything in its environment, so intensely.
It was unbearable to begin with. Even her bed was too hard, more contact than she could bear. She sought water, for the temporary relief it gave, and spent several days floating in the pool. Her body was vaguely spherical, and despite its considerable bloatedness, nearly weightless.
But then The Craving returned. Water-clogged, the sound of Tinkle had receded. Stimulation was what kept her alive – she instinctively knew that, though she could only dimly apprehend it. She rolled sluggishly back inside, towards the triangle.
She held it in the stumps that had vague fleshy memories of being hands, and struck it – again and again. She could no longer hear it, but she felt its vibrations – and rolled around in frantic, crazed happiness. More More – the strain of the call was irresistible. She rolled around the house, over carpets, rugs, cold tiles – feeling a patchwork of sensations; till she hit a cabinet and dropped the K-neadle. She rolled over it happily, in complete bliss; hit the cabinet again, dropping some more needles, that pierced the exposed pulsing flesh, and stuck. Rolling around drove them deeper. There was nothing that could stop her now – she hit the cabinet again, and again, and again, bringing down a glorious shower of knitting needles – golden-tipped ones, arrow-shaped ones, her pink-heart selection… all descended, like a magnificent rain from Heaven. Bodily fluids – a palette of pink, white, yellow, red – squirted out of her. She let out an enormous queef, and came to rest like a colossal pin cushion.
The Spider from Saturn shuffled back onto the park bench. ‘The moral to be drawn from this tale is – always head down the path of moderation; but are the morals ever heeded? Amica would have spat in the eyes of fools – had any attempted to warn her.
‘The im-moral to be drawn is, rather than waiting for mediated sensory pathways to deliver sound and vision, why not meet them head on, crash into them, melt into the screen, tapdance with spiders on Saturn, absorb the venom… (If you’d like to take me up on that, you’ll always find me at the drive-in on Saturdays.)
‘In short, would you rather stick to moderation and live a respectably boring life, or would you rather expire in bliss, in search of the ultimate experience? A respectably boring life, I am contractually obliged to say, is the better course.’ Here, Jools Vicker spat, venomously.
A toxic thick green liquid dripping from his cheliceral fangs, Jools Vicker continued – ‘Yet glittering distractions relentlessly draw us toward what is sensed to be the more essential, and these distractions, by their very nature, are inescapables. There is always danger in closing a distance, seeking to come too close to something only imperfectly understood.’
[A slightly awkward silence intervened here, as Jools Vicker didn’t look too happy with the end provided by the scriptwriters; but, as chance would have it, he was provided with an ending more to his satisfaction by providential circumstance]
A kindly old woman came up to have a closer look, and pet the hairy Spider, with that instantaneous trust and affection little old ladies seem to have for anything with more than two legs. She disappeared in a haze of green toxicity.
Jools Vicker shrugged and lit another cigarette. ‘As an artist, I always feel imperfectly understood.
This piece is indebted to The Monochrome Set’s ‘The Mating Game’ (song), a host or web of Bowie-allusions (including ‘The Hunger’ TV series: 2nd season), Amicus ‘portmanteau’ films, Clive Barker, Jacques Derrida, and lack of wholesome sleep.
Krista lives under the dusty carpet in an old creaking house; nibbling on cheese and furniture legs, and feverishly writing – sometimes, something apart from endless complaints of toothache stems from her black-tipped pen, and words form between the sneezes.