In the House of the Spider


"Come closer boy," Tzinixo rumbled again and this time I moved forward.

I bowed my head slightly, then introduced myself, Derek van Sant, three times--once in English, once in Portuguese, once in the Kalanisi language.

The last caused Tzinixo's eyes to twinkle and he leaned forward to drop a massive hand, easily twice the size of my own, heavily onto my shoulder.

"What brings you hence, my son?" he inquired and I realized that I was absorbing Kalanisi even more quickly than I would normally acquire a language--as if it were something I once knew and was beginning to remember.

"I'm a, um, student of plants and animals, gzitlaan," I replied, echoing the form of address Xochimi had used. "In my country we have heard that the plants and animals of your land have many fine healing properties..."

Tzinixo nodded sagely, but then added:

"Yes, but our country is also one filled with great peril, you see. For every plant or insect that gives life, two more take it away. Sometimes they do both..."

I knit my brow, puzzled, trying to make sure I was understanding his words.

"Consider Kalanis," he murmured, and I realized that his pronunciation was slightly different from Manoel's, the k having ore of a Hebrew ch sound, as well as a "sh" sound for the terminal "s." Moreover, the tone of Tzinixo's voice caused me to realize that he used the term not just as a noun but as a name and an honorific.

"Our Lord Kalanis, King of All Spiders," I murmured to myself.

"Exactly," Tzinixo answered, and I realized I'd been speaking in the Kalanisi tongue and not realizing it.

"In our land, Kalanis gives life to those who can endure his sting. Most 'gaachi' (Tzinixo's words for anyone who wasn't Kalanisi, I later learned) die if they are bitten but we Kalanisi almost always survive and grow strong. Some, moreover, accrue his blessings, as I have done."

With that he stood and turned, beckoning Xochimi and me to follow.

Tzinixo's great height nearly reached the rafters as we walked toward the east wall of the round house, wherein resided a carved replica of the round house--and Lord Kalanis himself.

I gasped when I realized what I was seeing.

Kalanis, lord of these people, was a giant spider, fully two feet across and a good 18 inches in height. Beautifully gaudy, he sported a red skin, with yellow and black markings.

I gasped again when Tzinixo lifted the giant spider from its bedding and cradled it in his arms, as you or I would cradle a housecat. Lord Kalanis waved his legs and batted his pincers, GENTLY gnawing on Tzinixo's forearm.

"Come and caress our lord, young friend," Tzinixo commanded. "So long as I am holding him, nothing can harm you." •

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