“Turner Mojica has skills as a writer. His fiction is lucid and engaging, strong on narrative line and sense of place.” – Jack Ketchum
In the Garden of La Villa del Lupo
For Rebekah Zoe
“A mighty pain to love it is, and ’tis a pain that pain to miss; but of all the pains, the greatest pain is to love, but love in vain…” – Abraham Crowley
A big brown spider stretched out on a branch and looked at his work with the utmost satisfaction.
A radiant spring sun rose from behind the hill and bathed the garden in light that was wet with dew. The intense perfume of the sea and the scent of mandarin blossoms floated on the morning breeze. The branches and leaves brushed lightly together spreading soft music down the cliff and down along the waves.
The spider’s perfect web sparkled suspended in nothingness. Its silky threads undulated to the rhythm of the sea below. Closing his eyes, he could hear the song of birds, the drone of bees and the scattered flutter of butterflies.
He absorbed the sweet harmony of his garden which was bustling with life. The brown spider lay on his branch and looked down at his creation, admiring the perfect symmetry of crisscrossing points and lines. For the first time in his life, he wished that his work would be preserved and not be ruined by the prey that would fall eventually into his trap.
At that moment, the big brown spider felt a sudden movement on one of the adjoining branches across where he lay in the sun. He then stepped back instinctively into the shadows and stared carefully to see what it was.
It was a little red caterpillar speckled in yellow and green.
“Hey spider, I love your web!” she shouted crawling towards him smiling. She had seen a shaft of sunlight that had fallen upon his eyes which sparkled like emeralds in the dark.
“Thank you,” he replied uncomfortably and suspiciously. He reluctantly crawled out towards her.
It was strange because no one had ever spoken to him before.
The big brown spider didn’t have any friends. He had only enemies who were afraid of him and his terrible webs. They had never had any appreciation for the time and effort, as well as talent that it took to weave one of his beloved operas. Incredibly, in front of him there was now a delightful, defenseless and delicious little caterpillar who was speaking with him about his recent accomplishment!
“I love the pattern that you’ve chosen,” she said puffing her henna-colored hair away from her big honey-colored eyes. “It’s amazing how the morning light captures the iridescence in the silk you’ve used today.”
The spider couldn’t believe his ears! Today? So she’s familiar with my work? He cleared his throat and responded, “well, it’s actually the effect of the dew on the web at this time of day of course, as well as the…um…the thread that I’ve chosen…the adhesive is more reflective and visible,” he said creeping further out from the shadows.
The little red caterpillar came across the branch she was on, moving with a sultry mesmerizing rhythm onto the spider’s branch for a better view.
Now they were side by side.
She picked a mandarin leaf and began chewing as she spoke. “So, do you usually…mmm…chomp smack chomp begin this orb web design by first…chomp, wow…mmm this leaf is fabulous by the way!”
“Excuse me,” she said gulping and gently wiping her mouth. “Do you usually start by laying the radiating spokes and then the encompassing frame threads?” She swallowed and sat closer to him. Her shiny hair reflected the deep turquoise blue of the sky.
“Very good, as you can see it’s very basic. I guess you could compare it to sketching out geometrical forms which are present in everyday nature, like the sun as it sets on the horizon for example, then extending a little bit of ‘poetic license’. It’s forming patterns that ultimately express emotion.”
The spider could feel her soft red hair on his legs but he didn’t move away. He actually felt comfortable talking to her and he didn’t notice the group of red ants that marched down the closest palm tree. A few of them stopped briefly, looked twice confusedly then continued on.
“Now, I’ve seen that you make a temporary scaffolding spiral that links the radii from the inside out,” she pointed with her delicate hands, her nails were a tipped with mother-of-pearl, “but I just can’t seem to grasp how you complete everything so flawlessly.”
“It’s really quite simple, what I do is finish the design that supersedes the scaffolding spiral with a permanent sticky capture spiral laid from the outside in, then I basically cut the scaffolding down when I’m done.” he said proudly.
“From the outside in?”
“Yes, that’s correct…and finally,” he continued, “I merely adjust the hub that tunes the stays and completes the form which in turn can support my weight on my aerial perch.”
“Thank you. I am glad that you like it,” the big brown spider said staring into honey.
The breeze made everything dance.
“You truly are an artist!” she exclaimed suddenly, startling the spider.
“This is as beautiful as the sun that’s rising this morning. I mean what good is a sunrise or a sunset for that matter without the things that reflect its light, like the sea for example or your wonderful web? I mean, it really catches the light, don’t you think?”
The spider was speechless.
“It’s like just looking at the sky. You really can’t tell just how blue it is without a few white clouds against it can you?”
He nodded his head in agreement.
How could this little red caterpillar read every line of poetry in every thread that I had meticulously spun?
Days and then weeks went by. The smiles and laughter shared between them soon grew from friendship into love.
Spring turned to summer and the mandarin blossoms fell, giving way to giant glowing orbs of fruit, that swelled one by one, coloring the trees with their juicy flesh. Soft sunlight fell and shimmered silently flickering through the branches. It was hard to see the villa behind them but easier to see the sea.
The big brown spider had found a hole higher up in the trunk of the tree. He turned the former bird’s nest into a multiplex of rooms for the both of them, using only simple silk and the deadly sticky thread when needed to keep his designs together. It was the little red caterpillar that suggested mixing the silk with pollens and floral pigments to give his palette a wider selection of vibrant colors.
In the garden, he also found seashells and colored glass pieces that had washed up from the occasional storm, putting them to good use in his designs. With a perfect view of his web from the outside, he was also careful to hunt only at night and repaired the damage before she awoke when the sun rose again. The red caterpillar knew his nature from the beginning but she never said a word. She just accepted him for who he was and appreciated his discretion. She adored the tiny decorative tapestries that he laced for her inside their home, true dedications to their love. There was one in particular of a brilliant sunset, a mixture of crimson and cadmium with a single green ray that sprang out like a blade, like in those final moments before the sun sank into night. Within that single ray he had written:
“Natural law is that love is lawless and infinite.”
Together they spent lazy afternoons counting ships on the horizon, sleeping in the hot sun, and then relaxing embraced by the shade. They watched the other animals from above, hand in hand, completely in love. During the evenings they told stories and listened to the symphony of the garden and of the sea. They often danced and dipped under the stars.
One morning as the spider repaired his trap he noticed that the caterpillar hadn’t come out for her breakfast of leaves and dew which he had gathered for her, as was his morning routine.
“Amore”, he called.
There was no answer.
He wondered what was wrong and left the web to check on her. Inside, he pulled back the silk curtain to the bedroom and saw that she was still in bed.
“My Muse, are you ok?”
Sunlight illuminated the room.
The bed was hot and damp. Her fever burned dark red across every part of her skin. Her red hair was matted down and wet. Her forehead glowed with beads of sweat.
“Oh my God, baby what’s wrong?”
She slowly opened her eyes into tiny slits and shed a tear. “I’m sorry darling but I don’t feel well, the pain is terrible, I feel like I’m dying.” She closed her eyes again.
“Baby, is there anything I can do?”
“No, no thank you, I’m just a little thirsty that’s all.”
“Ok, I’ll be right back.”
When he returned, she had fallen into unconsciousness.
Night after night had passed and he stayed by her side. She wouldn’t awaken. Her breathing was shallow but constant as was her pulse. Occasionally she would dream. Sometimes she would snore, then laugh, then cry in her sleep.
I wonder what she’s dreaming?
He would just lay next to her feeling helpless, caressing her face. The spider was consumed with worry, keeping constant sleepless vigil and fearing the worst. Each day that had passed seemed longer than the one before. He spoke to her as she slept, remembering every beautiful detail of everything that they had said and done since the day they had met. Spiders didn’t show their feelings, but he told her how much he loved her and how his life had changed forever because of her.
The big brown spider soon grew tired and slowly, ever so slowly, each green eye closed one by one as he fell into a deep, deep sleep with her hands in his.
Suddenly, he awoke to the crash of thunder as a violent flash of lightning zigzagged, ripping across the sky.
She was gone.
Another bolt of lightning smeared the colorful room in black and white. The brown spider ran frantically through the house, searching every chamber and every corner, shouting “Amore! Amore!”
The was no answer.
How long have I been asleep? What have I done? Where is she?
Outside the wind whipped the rain against the spider. It came in slashes and blows across his face and body. While the storm roared, he gripped the branches tightly and continued his search. As the black sea pounded the shore below, he saw that branches through the garden were being torn apart from the violent assault. He looked at his web, something was different. The brown spider squinted through the darkness and fought his way down.
At the center of his web he saw, not the body of one of his many prey but a dark-colored cylinder that flashed with silver every time lightning struck. The spider swiftly and carefully ran to it, bouncing and thrashing on the sea of tattered silk. He then quickly cut it away throwing it across his back.
In the shelter of their home, he inspected the container. It was a pod of sorts unlike anything that he had seen before. Inside he could hear the faint beating of a heart. The rhythm and cadence of the music that came from within was unmistakable. He knew that his little red caterpillar was trapped inside. For a moment he was filled with tremendous joy that gave way to uncontrollable desperation.
“Amore!,” he screamed. “Don’t worry, I’ll get you out. It’s all my fault! I never should have fallen asleep!”
The big brown spider scratched, clawed, beat, and banged against the coffin. He tried for hours to open it, but it was no use. Exhausted, bleeding, and bruised he wept in frustration.
It was the first time that he ever cried.
The tempest passed and dawn arrived as if the battle between night and day had ended. The first rays of light cut through the room where the spider lay. The coffin glowed. On the surface the spider could see his reflection.
He didn’t recognize himself.
Feeling tired and defeated, he stepped outside into the doorway and surveyed the destruction. The garden was flooded and littered with debris. Trees had snapped, branches were in splinters, and only the spider’s mandarin tree had remained unscathed. Every mandarin lay scattered on the ground as rivers of mud poured down the hill carrying most of the fruit slowly down the cliff into the sea.
He walked down to see what remained of the web. Nothing was there. Just a view of the polluted beach below and the villa that stood behind him.
Even the sea was brown.
The big brown spider felt empty, knowing full well that it wasn’t a hunger that gnawed inside of him but rather a longing for his love that lay trapped inside that shell.
He accepted that there was nothing that he could do but wait. If there was anything he knew how to do it was just that.
To be patient.
He lay his silk and flew to the closest tree for a different view of the garden, thinking that it would do him some good to get a change of perspective. He flew to another and then another. The sun rose higher and white light poured from the sky cleansing the landscape. By midday, the ants were already back at work rebuilding their communities. The familiar drone of worker bees sounded and every insect had regained purpose in that moment. Birds filled the air running back and forth in flocks while the butterflies flew in their lovely calculated patterns.
The brown spider saw that not every tree had fallen. The older ones had made way for the younger ones sacrificing their bodies to protect the others from harm. Many of them still had their fruit that glistened like goblets raised and cheering. He lay for a moment in the warmth of the sun.
The spider ran home bursting with it. Hope. He launched himself from leaf to branch to blossom rushing home.
As he approached his mandarin tree he saw a group of butterflies scatter in a girandole of colors while another trailed slowly and awkwardly behind them.
He wondered why they had dared to venture so close to his tree. Everyone was afraid of him, except for his little red honey-eyed caterpillar.
When the spider walked through the entrance he collapsed. The chrysalis had broken and she was gone. He searched everywhere for her venturing deep into the garden. The big brown spider went to every anthill, hive and lair. Many of the creatures were terrified to find his presence outside of their doorway. All of them were left perplexed by his inquiries. And some responded in disbelief, “Oh my God, you mean it’s true?…I had heard rumors but I never thought that you could ever love anyone!”
The spider even asked other spiders on the far reaches of other gardens as well as scorpions that tried to engage him as he searched. They were left dumbfounded by his unwillingness to fight.
He found nothing.
All he wanted was to know that she was alive, to know that she was ok, and to know that she still loved him. But she was gone and there were no answers to his questions.
He examined the shattered chrysalis and wept.
The brown spider didn’t venture outside again. The passing days brought sadness and the passing nights brought loneliness. He missed her so.
He replayed the details of her illness and the moments after her first and last disappearance but there were no solutions. What happened? Could someone have taken her? It was definitely possible, he only had enemies. Or maybe she left me? Was it something I said or did? Was it because of who I am? Did she meet someone else? Had she planned this from the beginning?
The sadness soon passed and his suffering turned to anger and then to rage. He exploded and tore their home apart, destroying everything that reminded him of her. The beautiful memories together dissolved into thoughts of betrayal. He fell in the doorway sweating and panting after the incessant destruction. In the corner of an eye there gleamed a shard of polished glass. Holding it at an angle, he peered though it and then held it under the sun. The light intensified and smoke came from the end of the solid beam, falling heavily upon the table that they had shared. Within moments the point burst into flames and his home quickly caught fire.
He watched from a distant branch as smoke coughed from the hole and flames licked from every window which he had carved for her. When the moon rose, thin ribbons of smoke tiredly reached and disappeared into its soft light. His anger grew even stronger.
That night the spider began work on a special web.
Laboring only after the sun had set, he weaved and cut, and tied and spun, and jumped across space daring death to take him.
But it never did.
In the end he had created the largest, strongest, and most beautiful web that he had ever made.
But only he could see it.
Not even the sunrise nor the sunset could reveal the beauty of complex three dimensional patterns which linked together seamlessly.
It was perfect.
Before he could inspect every stay to make sure that they were secure, his first victim was already tangled in the trap. A fly buzzed and screamed for mercy.
He crawled closer.
“Please don’t, please, please!” the fly begged.
“Shhhh,” he gestured, “You’re wasting your time. I show no quarter.”
“I’ll do anything, please…I have a family.”
“Oh, you will do something for me and for your family.”
He was driven by the fly’s helplessness, listening to his pathetic pleas.
It gasped and sobbed.
The big brown spider stared into its large red eyes seeing the million reflections of his own monstrosity. Anger raged though his body. He saw his own suffering now a lifetime ago.
“Anything, please, anything.”
“I want to hear you scream,” he whispered.
The fly wriggled and screamed as the spider tore off his wing.
“I wasn’t even finished inspecting the stays you little shit,” as he tore off the other and flung both of them below.
He laughed as he tore off each leg.
The torture lasted for hours, then he slowly ate its body leaving his head for last. It was alive until the very end.
When the screams and gurgles stopped, the big brown spider’s laughter echoed through the garden. Yet he was not satisfied. He waited outside of the scorched entrance of his home under the cold moonlight awaiting his next prey.
In the first weeks, the victims came in waves, sometimes in swarms, and each time he tormented and tortured them. He cleared the web of every trace. Stacking their cocooned bodies in his charred lair, dismembering and eating them at will. Their suffering alleviated his own. He discarded the carcasses that began to pile at the bottom of the tree. Night and day he was lulled to sleep by the agony of his captives.
One morning a baby swallow was tangled in his trap. The young fledgling, not yet keen in the ways of the world fell victim to the big brown spider. He ate him slowly, like a wolf already full, tearing his feathers, then his flesh, as his mother watched helplessly. Then he picked his teeth with its broken little bones. The spider left the tiny bloodstained feathers on his snare for the whole garden to see what he had become.
Although dreams of the little red caterpillar continued to plague him every night, he often awoke screaming her name, he did not turn back from his purpose. The terrible chorus of his victims did not stop him from his revenge against the love that escaped him. Wherever she was. She may have very well died that horrible night and that coffin may have been the product of his imagination.
But she was inside!, I felt her inside of it!
It was useless to think of the past.
He was a spider after all. How could she have ever loved him.
One rainy afternoon he lay in his darkened chamber when he heard a familiar voice amongst the pitter patter of drops that fell into a downpour like gravel from the swollen sky. He looked out and saw a single butterfly struggling in the net. Ignoring it, he turned back and began breakfast. The brown spider heard a voice and looked another time. Perhaps he was hearing things again?
Was it her out there somewhere?
It wouldn’t have been the first time that he heard her voice.
He stared out again. There was no sign of his little red caterpillar. There was no hope anymore.
When the rain had stopped, he descended onto his infamous creation. He then saw the bright wings of his beautiful victim, shimmering like a fallen rainbow. Butterflies had become his favorite meal.
They reminded him of that dreadful day.
The big brown spider came slowly from behind it and silently injected his venom into the back of its neck. He then turned and stared into its eyes, hoping to catch a glimpse of the terror that lingered within. It was then that he had recognized the honey-colored eyes of his red caterpillar.
His only love.
In that instant his cold heart stopped.
“I’m sorry,” she tried to say, her mouth covered with sticky thread.
The spider tore her wings free and wiped her mouth, holding her close to his body suspended in the clearing sky.
She smiled and caressed his face.
“I wanted to surprise you, that day I saw you sleeping and climbed down to the net,” she was growing drowsy from the poison that pumped through her body, dissolving her insides. “I was changing so but the storm came…silly…you saved me…” she began to whisper.
He listened with tears in his eyes.
“I was changing…then you were gone…and I tried to fly…” she said.
“That was you…clumsy you learning to fly? Oh my God it was!” he said holding her head.
“Yes, it was me.” she laughed. “I was so…happy that I flew over the hill…they helped me…the others…gardens everywhere…so pretty…and the ships remember when we used to count them? And then I fell and hurt myself…”
She was fading slowly and he could do nothing.
“I came back…as soon as I…I could fly…again…I missed you…I love you…your web so…incredible, I wanted to get closer, to come home…” she stared blankly into his eyes and said, “I…blue…sky…”
The spider cried in deep terrible gasps as he held her lifeless body.
As the sky filled with deeper impenetrable blue a single white cloud passed. He gently took her body into their home and lay her on the floor near the entrance.
The big brown spider never forgave himself for what had happened.
Every now and then sobs, screams, and manic laughter echoed though the garden. For years no one dared to venture near that mandarin tree. Those who did never came back.
Until finally one day the screams were heard no more.
And from that day on, there was peace in the Garden of La Villa del Lupo.
Turner Mojica was born in San José, Costa Rica and after his family moved to the USA, he was raised in Washington DC. The son of an Irish-American father and a Costa Rican mother with Basque heritage, he decided to follow his parent’s sense of adventure and moved to the Amalﬁ Coast in Italy in 2000. Mr. Mojica began teaching communications seminars in several private schools and universities throughout Italy, and consulted small businesses, law ﬁrms, and PR ﬁrms, local government agencies as well as philanthropic organizations in Southern Italy.
Realizing that Milan was the business center of Italy, he moved there where he lived for several years, consulting in the
fashion and entertainment industries. In late 2007, he cofounded, The Americani, LLC, a branding, PR and advertising network. About the same time, he co-founded the Milan-based fashion consulting network, “Fashion Affaire”, which serves most of the world in sourcing the goods and services needed to produce fashion garments. In 2008, he began brand consulting for Beatrice Models International relaunching the legendary modeling agency.
Never forgetting his passion for literature, art, culture and ﬁlm, A. Turner Mojica is also the branding force behind Jack Ketchum, who Stephen King describes as “on a par with Clive Barker (Hellraiser), James Ellroy (L.A. Conﬁdential), and Thomas Harris (Silence of the Lambs). The only author creating more important work is Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men)”. These efforts have also included the making of ﬁve Jack Ketchum books and stories into feature ﬁlms, including Red with Brian Cox (Troy, Bourne Supremacy) and Tom Sizemore (Heat, Saving Private Ryan).
He also works with multi-platinum, Oscar, and Grammy nominated producer Ronnie King (Mariah Carey, Tupac Shakur, The Offspring).
A breathtaking story. It’s beautiful in a way that takes your breath away the way thunder does or an unexpected visit of an exotic animal or butterfly leaves one in awe.