The Callous Onslaught of Those Words

Posted on March 29, 2006 by Jenna

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It is Arachne’s curse that she may not innovate. She may only repeat herself and indulge in cliche.

Thus she is performing the same routine that she has performed with every passing day when the starship falls into Ma and Pa Kent’s sty.

She weaves.

She catches bugs.

She drains them of their substance.

“Why do you do this?” asks a Grubbler, from the shadows.

“Hm?” Arachne asks.

“You lecture us on respect,” the Grubbler says. “You lecture us on honor. Yet you are a bone killer, a poisoner, a monster of the web.”

Arachne feels no sting from the Grubbler’s scorn. The Grubblers, for all her attempts to redeem them, respect nothing but that which popular opinion demands.

She cannot expect them to understand.

“Do you tell me,” she asks, “that you can judge good or bad based on whether one sucks the insides out of an insect?”

The Grubbler hulks softly against the wall. It whispers, “Yes.”

“That then is your error,” Arachne says, complacently. “The act itself is inconclusive, capable of possessing either of two natures. To suck the insides from a bug with the killer-mind— that is the essence of flawed virtue. But to suck the insides from a bug in the spirit of universal compassion— that is worthy even of Arachne!”

The Grubbler is unable to penetrate to the substance of these words.

It grunts. It clicks, softly, under its breath. Then it heaves itself up, shifts its weight, and scuttles its body away.

It brushes past the great ram as it moves. The ram does not see it, the ram does not feel it, but still the ram shudders once, all over, in chilling fear.

The Grubbler is gone.

The spaceship is cooling. It lays there in the earth of the farmyard cooling. And then it opens and there comes from it a pig.

The sunlight falls upon him.

Nurtured by it, he grows strong.

Arachne watches. Arachne weaves.

“Hell of a thing,” says Pa Kent.

He’s staring at the spaceship in their field.

“Hell of a thing,” Ma Kent agrees.

“I suppose,” Pa Kent says, “that someone in space wanted to give us a pig.”

“It’s probably in exchange for all that probing,” Ma Kent sighs.

“Now, Ma,” says Pa.


“There wasn’t any probing,” Pa Kent asserts.

They stare at the pig. He is small and flush with sunlight and adorable.

“I won’t eat space bacon, Pa,” Ma says.

“Well, who would?”

They stare at the pig some more.

“Hell of a thing,” Ma Kent says, and shakes her head.

The pig learns with uncanny speed. In less than four weeks, he is an expert at rooting and grubbing. He learns to count to five, tapping it out with his hooves on the mud. When Ma Kent takes him truffling, he finds truffles like no pig ever did.

And he learns to talk.

“Hello,” he says.

He is in the barn. There is no one there but the pig, the ram, and Arachne.

“Hello,” says the pig.

“Hello,” says Arachne.

“I am pig,” the pig says.

“Ridiculous,” murmurs Arachne. “Pigs don’t talk.”

There is an awkward break in the conversation, because even the pig must admit that this is true.

“I am like pig,” the pig says. He squints up at Arachne. His eyes are preternaturally aware. “Why you always do same?”

“It is my curse,” Arachne says.

“That bad curse,” says the pig. “It is necessary to life that it grow.”

She laughs.

She hangs there, still, in the web, and she laughs, and she says, “You are a marvel.”

The pig stretches. He walks around. He oinks.

And the Grubblers come.

They crowd around the barn, and the creatures of that place sense them. There is a riotous noise raised up to Heaven.

But there is no one there who can see them, save Arachne.

One by one, the beasts calm down.

And the Grubblers move in.

How can one describe a Grubbler? They are tall and broad and the tusks on them are thick. They drool as they go, and they go where they please. They live in the shadows. Creatures of ordinary nature cannot see them; and even the pig, that is not a pig, is aware of them only dimly, as troublesome shadows upon his mind.

“What is it?” he says. “What comes?”

And the Grubblers squelch closer, peering at him sideways through their disc-like eyes, to see this pig that dares to speak.

“A darkness,” says Arachne.

The Grubblers reach out. Their hands touch the skin of the pig. The pig’s short fine hairs stand up on end.

“A darkness that was old when the world was made.”

“Gah!” says the pig.

The pig skitters back. He concentrates. He shoots red beams of fire from his eyes, and a Grubbler is singed.

“Don’t anger them!” Arachne says.

But the pig is fighting now. The Grubblers close in on him; their shadowy substance occludes his; and then with a heaving he casts them all back. He is flailing, oinking, terrified and terrible, and then suddenly his feet lift from the ground, all four of them, and he is bobbing, ever so slightly, and he says,

“I think that I can fly.”

“You can’t,” says Arachne. Her voice is ancient and deep with knowing.

“No, look,” says the pig. “I can fly. I can get away. I can—”

“No,” says Arachne. “You will drive the humans mad. They will no longer believe that anything is impossible, if a pig should fly.”

And the pig goes still.

He considers this, as the Grubblers close in.

“It’s so,” he says. “I remember now; that I have heard them say this. When Hell freezes over. When pigs fly. When a Grubbler is kind.”

And we must wonder whether the world ever knew what a gift it had in him— in this strange visitor from another world who paused briefly on his path to transcendence here; who staring at the choice between his ascension and our madness, sighed, and lowered his head, and said, “Well, then, best the Grubblers take me, then.”

And the Grubblers lurch on in.

He had grown so much in just those minutes in the barn: still a mind like a child’s, still a body like a pig’s, but growing; and the Grubblers lurch on in.

And if we may turn to the funny pages for our references, then let it be said that compassion was his Kryptonite; that in the face of it he became helpless, weak, and doomed to pain; and the maws of the Grubblers were wide and toothed and their touch is agony and fear even to such a creature; and the Grubblers lurch on in.

And then they stop.

“It is a cliche,” Arachne sighs.

And so it is.

But it is also a hint at public opinion, at the tide of discourse, at the preaching from on high that alone among all things the Grubblers respect;

For she has woven, “Some pig.”

“You are a torment to us, Arachne,” say the Grubblers, and driven by the callous onslaught of those words,

“Some pig,”

They abandon the nascent savior to his barn.

A legend about Easter.