I wrote this story in 2002, and its publication in The School Magazine in 2003 remains one of the watershed moments in my writing career. It was four years after I started pursuing writing earnestly, with the ultimate goal of becoming a full time writer.
Being paid for my work was a thrill. Still is. A Place of Refuge has since been re published three times in The School Magazine (2007 & 2015) and in Complex Fairy Tales (2015).
A Place of Refuge by D.A.Cairns
‘I’m so tired of this weather,’ said Spider.
‘Me too,’ agreed Beetle. ‘I want to be out running around in the sweet, long grass feeling the sun on my back.’ She extended and beat her wings suddenly out of frustration.
‘Calm down,’ said Spider. ‘It can’t rain forever.’
‘It feels like forever already,’ said Fly, coming in to land softly beside Spider.
Watching Fly land and settle himself, Beetle tried to control a shiver of disgust. Flies are so ugly, she thought, so unpleasant, I feel like flying away. Politeness restrained her.Perhaps, she wondered, spiders find flies equally disgusting to look at and that’s why they eat them. They couldn’t possibly taste good.
‘Aren’t you going to say hell to me, Beetle?’
‘Hello,’ said Beetle in the coldest, most unfriendly voice she could muster.
‘I was just knocked down by a raindrop,’ said Fly.
‘Silly to be out trying to fly in the rain, don’t you think?’ sneered Beetle.
Spider looked at Beetle and then back at Fly, wondering how long it would be before Beetle’s rudeness caused Fly to lose his cool. They might even kill each other, thought Spider happily.
‘I had to try to get home between showers because my wife was expecting me,’ said Fly.
‘It’s been pouring rain continuously for days,’ said Beetle. ‘How could you have possibly flown in between showers?’
‘I’ve been waiting in here for days,’ said Spider. ‘Putting up with the cold and the smell and the occasional human. It could have stopped raining briefly.’
‘Nonsense,’ said Beetle to them both. Then she said directly to Fly. ‘You’ve been buzzing around inside liquor bottles again. You’re drunk!’
‘Now listen here!’ said Fly raising his voice and twitching.
‘Come on, my friends,’ said Spider. ‘As we are stuck in here until the rain stops, why don’t we try to get on. It’ll make it so much easier. I mean it’s bad enough being stuck in here without having to listen to you two argue.’
‘I just don’t like flies,’ said Beetle to Spider loud enough for Fly to hear. ‘No wonder humans are always trying to squash them or poison them.’
Spider reared up on his back four legs. ‘Who cares what humans think or what they do?’
‘That’s right, Spider,’ said Fly. ‘Who cares? We were around long before they came along and we’ll probably be here for a long time after they’ve gone.’
Beetle eyed Fly, then shuffled around to face Spider who was stretching his long hairy legs in all directions. Spiders aren’t exactly the most attractive species either, thought Beetle, but at least they have decent manners, and my, what wonderful engineers they are. Those beautiful webs!
‘It’s not true,’ Beetle said, ‘that we have been here longer than humans. Everyone knows humans came first and then we came along with all the other creatures and humans gave us our names.’
‘You are so stupid to believe that, Beetle,’ said Fly. ‘You think like a baby – I suppose you still believe in Santa Bug.’
‘I’ve had enough. I’m sorry Spider, but I am going to have to leave. It was nice chatting with you until Fly came along,’ Beetle said, staring at Fly for as long as she could stand the sight of him.
Fly buzzed right up to Beetle’s face but backed off when Spider reared up again to threaten him.
‘I’m sorry too,’ said Spider as he watched Beetle zoom up towards the gap in the toilet block between the roof and the wall. ‘Really sorry.’
Fly watched Beetle as she flew straight into a web and was helplessly entangled before she knew what had happened.
‘Excuse me,’ said Spider to Fly. ‘It’s lunchtime.’
‘Sure,’ said Fly suddenly worried about spending too much more time in this place of refuge. ‘I have to get going, anyway.’
‘What about the rain?’ called out Spider as he scurried up the wall towards Beetle who was lying still, trapped in his beautiful web.
Fly ignored the question as he buzzed upwards and headed for another gap in the toilet block wall. He could faintly hear Spider speaking over the sound of his own wings beating but he didn’t care to listen. He just wanted to get out of there alive and home to his wife and children.
Spider has spun intricate traps across all but one of the exits from the toilet block. Unfortunately, Fly chose incorrectly.
Now ensnared and still, Fly cold hear Spider talking to Beetle.
‘It’s nothing personal, Beetle.’