(As told by Susie):
Skybach surprised me that day.
I was on break, sitting with my back to a tree. The parking lot spread in front of me, almost empty. It was Saturday. I shouldn’t have had to work, either, but somebody’s got to do it. I had my new violin and was holding it up, telling myself it wasn’t gonna snap in half. That parking-lot. Every time I saw it empty like this, all I could think of was how sounds across it rolled. I wanted to make those sounds, and have them be beautiful, long echoes.
Skybach surprised me at the exact moment I was dragging the bow over those strings and knowing in my bones that music would come out. He dropped from the sky, not wearing pants, and stood nonchalantly flexing. I screamed in a girly way, because I’m not used to dudes getting naked, and pushed the bow too hard, and squeezed the violin. The dang thing exploded, of course, and the bow shot across the grass and lodged itself deep in a tree. It twanged going in, and then quietly screamed like a woman dying as the wood part wiggled back and forth.
I hoisted myself up onto my feet, grilling that cocky piece of man-candy with both eyes. “The fuck’s your problem?”
Skybach looked disappointedly at the ground. “I thought we could be friends and have lunch.”
“I’m on a diet!” I snarled. “I don’t do lunch!”
Skybach sighed and flopped down on the grass, like everything was comfortable and fine. I thought about yelling at him, but I didn’t have the heart. Now he wasn’t even flexing.
I sighed just like he had. “It was a good violin!”
The naked guy was looking at me sideways. “You’re pretty strong, huh?”
I laughed. I don’t think it had ever been put that way before. “Dude, I break things. Don’t come too close, or I’ll break you, too. With your scrawny flying ass.”
“I’m sorry,” Skybach said loudly. “Did you just say, ‘scrawny’, or ‘brawny’? Because I –”
Cue one fast and angry motherfucker to come tearing across the parking lot. You could smell the pavement burn. Dude looked like he’d run right into me, but then he squacked like a bird caught in thunder, and I remembered him from the time he crapped his pants on the sidewalk.
“You again?” I laughed. “You want more of me, little fucker?”
The fast man had a girl in a wetsuit sitting on his shoulders. She kept sitting there, holding on while he veered away from me and ran headlong for the naked man who wanted lunch. I expected him to fly away, but the chick in the wetsuit started doing a weird thing – spitting a lot. Her spit was weird too, white and stringy, and the fast guy just ran circles around flying dude so he got all covered with it. It was gross, and he was naked so that probably made it grosser for him. All you could hear aside from pieces of the ground flying up was the naked guy’s horrified screaming. I felt bad. He wanted to be friends. Before I knew what I was doing, I stood right there in the smoking dirt ring that marked the speedy jerk’s footpath. Then there was all of a sudden some teenaged chick in a school uniform standing in front of me, and I thought she must be even faster than the fast guy, or invisible, or able to teleport or something. The fast guy dodged her just in time, but that chick on his shoulders couldn’t stop spitting. Her goo arched too far, and covered the three of them. It got on me too – big white gobs, stickier and stronger than bubblegum. We all fell, slowly, fighting it, onto the flying man.
For a minute, we were just a big weird huddle of shining saliva and tense body mass. I was worried about hurting people. I didn’t move. The others were trying to untangle, but none of them were strong enough to break those strands of spit– not even the chick who hocked them up. The sounds they made by trying were like the ones I unlocked sometimes by violin – long chirps, wavering twangs, no harmony at all. The notes went rolling, alone, through the parking lot.
* * *
(As told by Diana):
We stuck, all five of us. Mr. Dashing stuck to the naked man. Our newly-minted Spider Bitch stuck to him, and I stuck to her. The large woman fell on all of us, so no one could move anymore. Priscilla hissed unpleasant things in my ear, and between the mossy after-rain smell coming out of her webs and all the salty people sweat, there was almost no way to breathe. I’d like to say I thought of my powers then, and escaped by cleverness – and in fact that is what I said later about it to professor W – but I didn’t think. My body needed air, and remembered the burning-copper smell I’d breathed in Dashing’s wake. Suddenly I was in the middle of the parking lot, watching the action unfold a second time. The past iteration of me appeared in Dashing’s way, causing a pileup when he and me and Spider-Bitch and the large woman tipped onto the naked man who was our assignment.
I walked toward the dogpile of people, taking my time. I knew how strong the web was. I hadn’t been able to unstick my eyes or mouth after twenty minutes of scrubbing in the bathroom. I’d asked Professor W. where they kept the giant uncovered vats of hazardous chemicals, and she’d leant me some nail polish remover. It did the trick, so I’d thought ahead and brought the bottle with me.
“Aggh!” Priscilla screamed. My past self had just disappeared, causing the large woman to sink lower in the nest of spider spit. “Where did Diana go?”
“If there is a man here named Skybach, will you please identify yourself by wiggling a limb to and fro?” I requested. “I am going to use dangerous chemical agents to dissolve your restraints.”
“I really can’t move any limbs,” said Skybach. “But I think this is fine. We’re bonding.”
Mr. Dashing giggled, Priscilla groaned. The large woman gave a very hefty sigh.
“Unstick me, Diana!” Spider Bitch was yelling. “If you think you’re getting all the credit for this capture, you’re dead wrong! You can’t possibly kidnap such a hulking human being without our help!”
“Which of us are you trying to kidnap?” The large woman asked.
“Your naked friend, dear. Just mind your business.”
“Over my hulking dead body!”
“Hey,” I said. I’d successfully pried the glistening upper-half of Skybach’s body free. “No need for hostilities, large madam. Mr. Skybach, please forgive the rudeness of my associates. We should have mentioned earlier, there is ice-cream involved. Complimentary.”
“I’ll show you complimentary!” Skybach grinned and winked at me. I continued to efficiently work without blinking. He then abruptly frowned and said he didn’t want the ice-cream.
“Fine,” I said, putting the cap back on the nail-polish remover. “Figure your own way out of this mess.”
I started to walk away. All three of them started yelling, “Wait,” and saying different nice things about my physical appearance. I ignored all of them except for Skybach.
“So, you will take the complimentary ice-cream?” I spoke coldly.
“Yes! I will take it!”
“Good.” I unscrewed the top to the nail-polish remover. Unfortunately, Skybach was a dirty liar, and as soon as I’d stepped within range he grabbed my leg with his free arm and shook me so hard I spilled the bottle over everyone. The flying man, already half-clear of web, was the first to break free. He jumped back-first onto the still-sticky large woman, and flipped onto his stomach in thin air. She stuck to his back and they flew away laughing.
Priscilla jumped up nearly at the same time, frothing at the mouth and ready to spit. I thought she was going to attack me, but instead she ripped off the wetsuit she’d been wearing, shook Mr. Dashing to his feet, and jumped on his shoulders. He still seemed rather giggly and stunned.
“Gale speed, Donny!” Priscilla choked around a mouthful of foam. He started running, and I understood why she’d gotten naked. Her sweat was stringy like her spit, and with that and her hair falling all over the place now she had enough wind resistance to parachute her up the air column Dashing had created. He held onto her legs and they drifted together, Dashing’s feet tearing up the air like chopper blades – but not as fast. It was just fast enough to keep the air dragging through Spider Bitch’s webs. It was a good plan, since we wanted Skybach alive and not torn to shreds by a hurricane.
I sat on the chalky ground and watched as the bodies of my associates and our target grew small as specks in the sky, then bigger, then smaller again. Skybach was leading them in circles, it looked like. I imagined when they were bigger that I could see glistening webs connecting the two parties, or dangling broken between them. Dashing picked up speed, and the purring sound of his feet made its way to me as Skybach changed direction. The distance between the groups was shrinking. Skybach dropped lower in the sky, and rose higher – trying to tangle them up in webs, maybe. Dashing kicked it up a few degrees. It must have been killing him to hold back from top speed. They were almost right above me. I heard Priscilla yelling something, and Dashing went faster. I watched the air crinkle by his feet, and kind of shake. Then it was raining. Dashing stopped kicking, but the air had taken on a life of its own – gray clouds spread like fingers through the sky, around him and Spider Bitch, wrapping them up and going after Skybach. They were all getting wet. Priscilla’s webs no longer glistened in the light. She and Dashing looked at each other for an instant, and then her plumes of spit collapsed and they were falling. Skybach laughed nakedly, flying higher than the clouds, and Dashing’s legs cranked all the way up so you couldn’t see them, or him, or Priscilla – a streak of brightness marked the space they tore away through. A few thick strands of broken spider goo fell, like streamers, on my head.