Footprints – Part IV

by Gaston Prereth

“No. The point is that you just don’t understand.” The old man shouted, his neck reddening as if it had just been slapped. Ruben stood before the three head technicians, nervously fidgeting from one foot to the other. The old man, named Cristden, had erupted into anger as quickly as a door sliding open and Ruben took a step back in surprise. He had come to the council to report his finding of the dead spider as soon as he had been able to call a fellow technician to cover his post, but none of them seemed interested in his discovery. He still held the spider in the palm of his hand, proffering it before the council like a beggar waiting to receive a coin. The little crumple of metal legs looked pitiful against his pale skin.

When rushing to make a repair, spiders had been known to move faster than a man could run, and their delicate legs could move with such precision and strength as to manipulate any material found in their village into whatever shape the spider required. They could knit metal together to cover a crack, they could unscrew nuts and bolts. They had even been known to work in groups, carrying bundles of wires across the floor with one spider sat atop the bundle, directing proceedings. In everything they did, they oozed God’s majesty.

In death, however, this little ball of metal looked pitiful. Every crooked angle of its splayed legs sent shivers down Ruben’s spine. It gave him the same heavy feeling in his stomach that he got when he saw the crack in the Northside of the dome. It was like the rock beneath his feet was starting to give way and there was nothing for him of which to grab a hold.  It was a deep sinking inevitability. A darkness that welled inside him and tried to suck him within itself.

The council, on the other hand, seemed unmoved. They’d barely glanced at the shrivelled spider. When he had first unclasped his fingers from their loose hold, they had looked at his hand as if he were offering them a day old nutrition capsule. Their disinterest had thrummed in the air like lacklustre electricity and Ruben had begun to feel as small as the spider he held.

It had been then, with a last charge before his confidence waned and fled, that Ruben had tried to explain why he thought this was such an important discovery. He had tried to be calm yet firm, but his voice had trembled like a grieving widow’s and his words had fallen from his mouth in inelegant lumps. Even then, the Council had been patient, listening wordlessly from behind their table, but as Ruben flailed around for his point he had uttered the fateful words ‘I don’t think the council understands’ and all the anger in the universe descended into the small room.

“You come in here, Technician Ruben, like a proud schoolboy showing us his first drawing of his mummy and expect us to huddle around you like doting parents.  You’re a full technician now, you’re no longer a young ‘wirecut’. You should have more sense than to waste our time with trivial little things like one dead spider.”

“But sir, this spider, all spiders, are part of God’s creation. They are meant to be eternal, they are part of his world.” Ruben’s voiced wined and he cursed himself as soon as he heard the boyish tones. The look that Cristden gave him was bordering on disgust. The other two men sat passively either side of the head technician, staring at the middle of Ruben’s chest with blank, indignant eyes.

“Good grief, you sound like you’re at your first prayer.” said Cristden, looking over Ruben’s shoulder, as if the young technician was not worthy of eye contact.  Ruben could feel the walls of the room pressing in on him and the gentle vibrations of the universe started to pulsate around him like water thundering through a sluice.  Through the turmoil, Ruben could hear the soft voice of Alistair, the youngest of the three member’s of the council.

“If everything in God’s world were as eternal as you say, then what would be the point of the spiders in the first place?  If diodes didn’t wink out, if doors didn’t stop opening, if the air conditioning didn’t stop refreshing the wind, then why would we need the spiders? What would they fix? What would be their point?” Alistair stared at Ruben with cold eyes.  Not unkind, but not reassuring.  He was the youngest technician to ever sit on the council.  He’d been a star pupil from the day he had got sworn into the technician’s order and he always conducted himself with the underlying arrogance of a true genius.  He treated all the other technicians, apart from the council, as dimwitted students and had always saved his keenest patronising tones for Ruben.

Cristden waved his hand dismissively and opened his mouth as if to laugh, but no sound came out.  Ruben looked down at the small metal heap in his hand.  It was so light it barely felt like he was holding anything, but the effort of keeping his hand outstretched was starting to tell in his arm.

“You may leave us now.” Said Cristden, making it clear he had no time for philosophical debate on the subject of spiders. “Don’t trouble us with this again, and keep this little incident to yourself.  We don’t need you spreading rumours and putting ideas into your colleagues’ heads.  If we hear that you have told any of the other technician’s about this, we will dismiss you from our order without trial or ceremony.”

Ruben turned, feeling like a young schoolboy being dismissed from the headmasters office.  His head felt like it was padded with insulating foam and his body moved as if it were not really part of him. Yet, some part deep down inside him knew that he was right.  Some part of him was burning with resentment towards the council and he knew he couldn’t just leave it like this. He couldn’t tell any of his fellow technicians, but someone would listen, maybe the church would understand.

As the door slid shut behind him he heard the voice of  Dinar, the third member of the council, muttering to Cristden.

“I told you we should never have appointed that burnt filament to a full technician. He’s got about as much sense as the bloody monks. It took him two years to name all the constellations, he’s about as…” The rest of Dinar’s comments were trapped inside the council chamber by the closed door and Ruben felt the burning catch further inside his chest.  He was going to prove them wrong.  Show these small minded men that he was twice the technician any of them could hope to be.

Continued in Part V

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3 Responses to “Footprints – Part IV”

  1. Can’t leave me hanging there Garston where can I find out about what happened to the spider? – Elzabeth

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