“Don’t go down to the woods tonight, little girl,” said the grizzled, old man while sucking on his half-lit pipe, “The Sleepers there will be waking from their dark, ageless slumber to dance in the bloodless moonlight like wild dogs. They will drain you of your virgin blood, little girl, because no one has ever come back alive.”
The younger, less-grizzled man next to him chuckled loudly, “No, no, old man! Are you saying that we are a village with only virgins wandering around in our woods? We won’t last this generation if that is true. It has nothing to do with virgins or blood. No, the Sleepers don’t dance and they couldn’t care less about the moon or your sexual proclivities,” the man leaned forward, looking intensely at the young girl, “Sweety, the Sleepers rise from where they once fell on their ancient battlefield to haunt the old willow trees that grew over their graves. They climb the boughs to scout the battlefield. Our woods are a battlefield just as real to them now as it was to them back all those ages ago in whatever ancient kingdom they were once part of. Today is the anniversary of their great, forgotten battle, and so, Sweety, we all huddle up in this warm, cozy bar with everyone and drink until dawn before going back out. The Sleepers will be sleeping once again and all will be fine in this world of ours then.”
“W-what do the Sleepers look like?” the wide-eyed little girl managed to ask the two men before her mother found her and dragged her away to sit with her family. But, this question sparked a heated debate amongst the two men. Soon enough a number of men from other tables joined the debate.
“Dark, twisted, hairy forms with bloated hands that float in front of them,” one medium-grizzled man piped up, “My Cuz told me he once saw them across the river late one night. They float all ghastly-like out there–”
Another man laughed, slamming his tankard on the worn, wooden table, “And how would your drunken Cuz know such things? He was probably pissed and saw your mother fetching water!”
This was met with an uproar of loud laughter and manly back-slapping. Another round of ale was ordered for everyone. The inside of the inn was warm and packed. Most of the villagers were in there that evening. They were all laughing and joking amongst themselves. There was flirting amongst the young and tale-telling amongst the old, but no one was in the mood for anything more.
Outside the night was cold and the woods were dark.
Outside the Sleepers were waking up. They were crawling from their nests inside the unique willow trees that grew in that wood. Their hairy, eight-legged forms had a pattern on their backs in a soft whitish-pink that made them look almost like a human hand from a distance.
A whole forest of hairy, eight-legged human hands was crawling out from their nests in the boughs of the willows. Like some dark and twisted ritual, they all climbed to the tops of their trees. At the top of the trees, poking out above the woods, there was the cold wind that constantly blew from the mountains. It blew down those rugged peaks through this valley and out to the next forest a kingdom away. Each Sleeper would spin an off-white sail, stand up on its back four legs–four other hairy insectoid legs spread upwards–and flick out its sail to catch the cold wind.
One by one, each spider took off, floating upwards and onwards like a silent, hideous, hairy hand over the dark woods. One by one, they would disappear into the night.
Only, nothing really disappears. The Sleepers would reappear, falling from the sky in the nearby kingdom. They would silently fall from the night sky in another wood outside another village that were also huddled indoors telling stories about the annual flight of the Fallers that dropped from the dark sky once a year to steal away mortals caught in their webs…
And, back in the wood in the boughs of those old willow trees, the spiders’ eggs lay awaiting the day in a year’s time when they too could fly to the mating grounds.