Monday, January 8th, 2018

Arachne Contest Winner! “The Spider Queen”

Arachne 08


Congratulations to Michael Ceffalo for winning The Arachne Contest! I loved the creativity of Michael’s story. He stuck to the original myth, giving it a modern, dark, electric feel—turning a club into a mythic landscape where drag queens and DJs play roles in a great dark drama, one that the Spider Queen reigns over . . . until her web comes undone. Thanks for writing Michael!


The Spider Queen


Michael Ceffalo


It glittered on her arm, a circlet of amber gems, gold embraces like sandstone embedded, but it was a spell she had not cast.

Long velvet gloves up her arms, the Spider Queen cast haughty looks through the neon cave of the stage, her stage, where the players played and the dancers danced.

Weaving through the crowd she surveyed the challenges of her night. Although she was taught the steps, she never really planted herself in the same graveyard dirt she considered the mindless to have sprung from.

The Spider Queen was a drag performer, a world class celebrity waiting to be discovered- in actuality, her world operated primarily in her own mind, secret tunnels led from gay bar to gay bar, her domain was the night and she swung delicately from sources of attention and love like an acrobat.

She was taught many things, except the consequences of failure- the reality of a prideful nature, and the ability to separate reality from fantasy.

“Why would anyone pick reality?” she pondered, inwardly, while her gloved hand clutched a cool glass of a mixed drink, and the condensation oozed through the fabric, reminding her on some level that under the fabric was her human skin.

Stirring the cauldron of her rum and coke with a neon straw, a gaggle of the Unfortunate staggered through the entrance of the cave.

“GUUUUUUUUUUUUURL!” Their screams echoed through the cave and many turned to look, conceptualizing their ability to either leave and avoid the ear splitting calls of the sirens, or their own feelings of possible attraction to the beasts.

The Spider Queen pushed her large wig away from her face, straightened her back, cocked her hips and methodically sauntered over with precision- keeping an aloof eye contact and allowing a warm, but false, grin to spread over her face to dissuade the panicked energy of the beasts.

“What so-ong are you doing tonight, Spider Queen?” A melodic, humming, and sarcastic squeal emanated from the Pig Bird. Their wig was matted and unnatural, an autumn red over a pale skeletal body, their body language contorted in pleasure at the forbidden fruit of their own narcissistic indulgence.

Looking them up and down, the Spider Queen saw that just as she wove her Stories through the night, this queen was ensnared in her own chains of love.

“Toxic, by Britney Spears” The Spider Queen replied.

“OHH GURL, You are Serving the Looks TONIGHT!” The Poodle squeaked and bounced their words, nervously pawing at their purse, wagging their tail and grinning at the chance to be told that they were a Good Girl.

The Spider Queen knew she was Toxic, but she also knew that love potions and cheap mixed drinks were just about the same price these days.

A third figure bounded through, a Boulder Troll, her face screwed up as if a bright light was shone in their face.

“Pay the toll! Pay the toll!” As the night crowd shuffled in, the Boulder Troll made frantic efforts to throw her weight around.

Avoiding her words like thrown rocks, the night crowd sheepishly drew out money from their wallets, paying the toll so that they might drink from the well of the bar.

The Spider Queen knew that the night crowd could not satiate her hunger. She didn’t want to take their ugly little pieces of paper.

She wanted to weave. She wanted to lie, shout havoc, cause drama, plant suspicion, and dance, dance, dance, around the reality of the night.

“The reality of the situation is that I’m absolutely not real,” She thought to herself. She didn’t really exist. Her words appeared above her head in thought bubbles that no one could see, but her words were like the stamps the Boulder Troll eagerly branded on the inner right wrists of the night crowd.


Her drag mother always thought she didn’t realize what love was. The Spider Queen fed off of the love of her audience, and could contort her face into the most pure angelic mask without feeling literally anything for anyone, not even herself.

Other queens circled, the drama of the night was building. Her rum and coke almost drained, she surveyed the bar tables to sum up the challenges of her night.

The Pig Bird and the Poodle were sitting neatly, awaiting flattery and deception , nervously pointing at each other as if the shiny pieces of garbage they were wearing could reflect beauty beyond the warbled truth of their own self deception.

Older members were gravely conversing, contemplating their Real Lives with trusted compatriots.

The Spider Queen graciously greeted and paid respect to the Old Ones with a smile, a tongue pop, and a wink and they cooed, unashamed at their own adoration of the silly young thing in front of them.

The DJ in the booth saw All. He didn’t believe in the queens. He didn’t believe in the bar management. Above all, he believed that the best way to keep himself safe was by keeping himself behind the booth, away from the trouble and the muck of the rest of the night.

Perhaps he was safe there, but the Spider Queen knew that no one was entirely safe from her.

She plucked a single strand of hair from her wig.

“Listen DJ” She commanded. He perked up, eyes widening to survey her beautiful visage from her spiked heels to her large beautiful wig.

His eyes stayed wide as she played with the strand of plastic hair.

“I’m doing Toxic, tonight, you know, that Britney song?” The question, the high pitch, the head tilt, were all rhetorical. He knew the song Toxic by Britney Spears. He was a DJ. He was The DJ.

“I’m going to really, reea-ahhlly need to get this song PERFECT.” She enunciated, though she knew he was already under her spell.

“I’m going to emerge from BEHIND the DJ booth, so when I come out on stage, people won’t be expecting it.” The Spider Queen had laid her trap.

The DJ mumbled his reply and she leaned over the barricades of his castle, and placed her gloved hand on his shoulder and quickly mumbled back something, too low, too garbled to hear it, and left the strand of plastic hair on his shoulder.

He didn’t respond, because he didn’t know what she said.

She didn’t really say what she meant, but she also didn’t lie. There’s a difference.

The night went on. The Pig Bird and the Poodle drank their potions and began leaning farther and farther off their bar stools.

The Spider Queen played with her golden and amber cuff bracelet, spinning it around, pondering the night, pondering if she was ever going to be challenged. Pondering if being the Spider Queen was going to be enough, one day, if her hunger was ever going to be satiated.

Taste of your lips
I’m on a ride
You’re toxic I’m slippin’ under
With the taste of a poison paradise

I’m addicted to you
Don’t you know that you’re toxic?
And I love what you do
Don’t you know that you’re toxic?
Don’t you know that you’re toxic?”

The Spider Queen lip-synched, her mouth moving with no sound coming out, her eyes darting seductively over the audience, feeding off of their energy.

She moved her hips like Britney Spears, harnessing the raw female energy of a pop diva as she wove her way through the crowd, plucking dollars from people’s hands, moving her gloved fingertips close to people’s faces, clutching and manipulating their energy. As she left the stage the audience cheered, clapped, screamed, a primal echo of the deep feelings of wonder and amazement they felt.

Her favorite part was seeing the few people in the audience who were literally aching with swollen hearts- their love stricken faces, those few who not only believed in the Spider Queen, but would do anything to feel just her breath on their electrified skin.

Those few would give a dollar, and again, the Spider Queen didn’t dare believe in the value of such common items. The Spider Queen would take those moments and play them over and over again in her mind. She feasted on their hearts alone.


“OH miiii GOAWD SPIIIDER QWEEEEEEN” The Pig Bird and the Poodle cried, absolutely wracked with jealously.

“You could take on anyone, you know, and come out on top. But it’s lonely there, you know.” A voice from the sidelines called out.

A slim figure in dark clothes, with greyed hair and a dusty face sat in the eaves.

The Spider Queen with her flashing eyes turned to face the stranger.

The stranger had pale watery eyes and the Spider Queen saw no strength in them.

The stranger had the air of a tired queen out of face. Their stubble wasn’t very noticeable but the Spider Queen was more judgmental of their flaky skin. Exfoliation was a large part of their schedule. A soldier sharpens their knife, and a Spider Queen sinks into a fabulous bubbly bath and lightly scrubs away her sins.

“It’s lonely there, you know.” The stranger repeated. The Spider Queen didn’t flinch or react.

The Spider Queen was handed a drink by a foolish one in the audience. She twirled the glass and heard the ice clink like diamonds.

“I could take on anyone, if there were any real competitors in this town,” She leaned in, her mouth open, her eyes cold.

The stranger did not allow themselves to be intimidated, and the Spider Queen immediately dismissed them as the worst type of audience member. Bored.

The stranger continued, “You won’t like it if you really try to be better than everyone. You’ll learn, with or without my help.”

The Spider Queen loved help. She loved rides in cars, people to hold her purse, free wigs, and the gentle help of those who mistakenly believed there was an inner circle.

But this stranger was in no way going to “help” her. This was a bored old weirdo sucking up her time, not willing to play along, not willing to really submit.

The stranger could see through the Spider Queen. He saw the strands of hair around the bar. He saw the strand of hair on the DJ. The Pig Bird and the Poodle were clearly suffocated by yards and yards of it. He even saw from the corner of his eye, audience members discreetly plucking out strands of it from her wig when her back was turned.

“What help could you possibly offer me?” The Spider Queen pondered out loud. Her eyes saddened for a moment, but her mouth was still a hungry grin.

The stranger didn’t say anything, he just reached over and plucked a strand of hair from her wig and placed it inside her drink.

As he walked away the Pig Bird and the Poodle scampered up and tried to feed off of her energy, snuggling into her wig and whispering fun secrets into her ears.

Mentally cataloging the secrets, the Spider Queen shushed the children and batted away their whining comments from around her face.

She often felt like she couldn’t breathe.

She went outside of the cave and lit a cigarette, and played with the amber and gold circlet, wishing there was more to do, wishing there was less to think about.

Several days later, information traveled through the grapevine that the next show was a competition, with 6 queens competing for the crown.

The Spider Queen saw that she had been entered in the competition. This was a natural feeling for her. She was used to being put on a pedestal.

Retreating to her own cave, the Spider Queen pondered the stranger. The way they plucked out a strand of her hair and put it in her drink. Did they…. Know?

The Spider Queen was at a loss. She hadn’t lost, as it wasn’t a competition, because the game with her hair was a secret game.

People didn’t notice! That was her point. To just herself. People didn’t notice.

They just didn’t notice. She thought, and went to her jewelry box, playing with the long beaded necklaces and pins and touching the amber and golden cuff.

The Spider Queen did not cry, even in her own cave. The hair that was here was not placed to trap her. She wasn’t trapped in the cave, and people would come in and out, unaffected by the hair and the mess.

She reflected into the box.

She lost track of solid days.

The day of the competition was here and she knew nothing more than she had the moment that hair was placed in her drink.

When she got to the event the stranger was there, chatting with the DJ with a large drink in her hand. The Spider Queen scoffed at the stranger, and tried to shake off a feeling of unease.

One of the night crowd stumbled up and paid homage to her look.

“Oh my gosh well look at you miss thing you are cleeeearly serving it up tonight yass queen yass!” The member of the night crowd snapped their fingers and twirled around in admiration.

The Spider Queen placed a hair on their shoulder and sent it away.

The Pig Bird and the Poodle bounded up and brought sacrificial offerings. Along with those queens came their groupies, who hid like children behind their large wigs.

Those groupies straying a little, gaining confidence, stepped into the warm glow of the Spider Queen’s presence and shyly told her they liked her many ruby rings, her deep cut red velvet dress, and the black lace choker tied around her neck.

The Spider Queen pulled out a large black fan lined with ostrich feathers and batted their affection away like flies. “Oh, stop it, you all look amazing, I look like a dumpster fire tonight.”

They giggled and the Pig Bird squealed and squawked at the horror of the phrase dumpster fire because of her intense fear of both fire and trash. The Poodle chortled, feeling incredibly secure in her ability to bring her whole crew over to the Spider Queen, not appreciating that as soon as her groupies stopped hiding in her wig, the Spider Queen placed wig hairs upon them and they were no longer her groupies, but more hearts for the Spider Queen’s appetite.

The 6 queens competing tonight were the Spider Queen, the Pig Bird, the Poodle, the Stranger, and two shy girls, both wearing fairy wings.

The Spider Queen immediately forgot the fairies and focused on the DJ.

He had a strange energy. The DJ booth seemed a bit more foreboding and as she sauntered up he immediately grabbed one of the competition charts and pushed it into her outstretched hand. She dropped a piece of hair onto the stage while grabbing the paper from him.

The Pig Bird and the Poodle were up first, then the Stranger and a fairy, then the Spider Queen and a fairy, and then the three winners from those battles would each perform, then one would be eliminated, and there would be a duet for the crown.

The DJ called forth the night crowd, and the groupies and queens all situated themselves around the stage.

The DJ explained the competition and called forth the Pig Bird and the Poodle with great gusto.

They smiled to each other and immediately put on false scowls, each knowing the competition was fun and not real and that they loved each other in a beautiful and pure way that could never be threatened.

The Spider Queen thought their outfits looked just awful.

They picked How to be a Heartbreaker by Marina and the Diamonds and cooed to each other,

“This is how to be a heartbreaker
Boys they like a little danger
We’ll get him falling for a stranger
A player, singing I lo-lo-love you
How to be a heartbreaker
Boys they like the look of danger
We’ll get him falling for a stranger
A player, singing I lo-lo-love you
At least I think I do

‘Cause I lo-lo-lo-love you”

And then they had a fake cat fight, tearing each other’s wigs off and wrestling while the audience cheered and clapped. The DJ picked the Poodle to advance.

Next was the stranger and one of the fairies. The song was Alejandro by Lady Gaga.

“She’s not broken
She’s just a baby
But her boyfriend’s like a dad, just like a dad
And all those flames that burned before him
Now he’s gonna fire fight, gotta cool the bad
You know that I love you boy
Hot like Mexico, rejoice
At this point I’ve gotta choose
Nothing to lose”

The stranger entranced the audience with their beautiful and graceful movements, and the fairy glided around them. As the song reached a point of intensity, the stranger took their eyes off the fairy, and started making eye contact.

“Don’t call my name,
Don’t call my name, Alejandro
I’m not your babe,
I’m not your babe, Fernando
Don’t wanna kiss, don’t wanna touch
Just smoke my cigarette and hush
Don’t call my name,
Don’t call my name, Roberto

The stranger lip synched, but made 100% eye contact with the Spider Queen. She knew often, queens would sing at people, but she wasn’t a member of the night crowd, and she knew that the stranger was going to win that round, which meant it was a warning for how seriously they wanted to win.

And she thought for a single second, does this stranger seem familiar?

The DJ awarded the stranger the win.

It was time for the Spider Queen and the other fairy to duel.

“Think I got myself in trouble
So I fill the bath with bubbles
Then I’ll put the towels all away
Should’ve never said the word “love”
Threw a toaster in the bathtub
I’m sick of all the games I have to play”

The Spider Queen held herself with such poise and drama, her face contorted in sincere pain, her body bumping and grinding along the stage to the point that the audience could not break contact with the beauty and mystery of her body.

The fairy was immediately discouraged and tried to flap their arms and jump to get the audience to look at them, but the Spider Queen was mid feast, and couldn’t be stopped. Her hair was tangled up around every single person in the cave except for the stranger.

The stranger looked at them, through the strange artifice of the moment, and mouthed at them “I know who you really are.”

The Spider Queen was awarded the win.

The DJ said there would be a short break.

Outside the cave the Spider Queen sank into the dark with a cigarette. Shivering and sweating and pulling air through the burning ember she tried desperately to understand, what did the stranger mean by that comment?

She had always been the Spider Queen. She had always worn a large wig and dropped hairs on people to ensnare them. She had always had the amber and gold cuff in her possession.

She shuddered and blinked rapidly, trying to understand, and wondering again, did she know that stranger?

The Spider Queen, the Stranger, and the Poodle marched back up to the stage and started performing all at once, the DJ would eliminate one of them and then there would be the final duet for the crown.

The song was Swish Swish by Katy Perry.

The Poodle took the lead, as she loved to do and took up a huge part of the stage by swinging her arms back, which made the audience laugh because it looked like she was trying to keep her balance.

The Stranger and the Spider Queen held back as the Poodle lip synched,

“A tiger
Don’t lose no sleep
Don’t need opinions
From a shellfish or a sheep
Don’t you come for me
No, not today
You’re calculated
I got your number
‘Cause you’re a joker
And I’m a courtside killer queen
And you will kiss the ring
You best believe”

The Spider Queen saw it out the corner of her eye a second before it happened- the wig hair she dropped when the DJ handed her the competition chart happened to be right under the Poodle’s shoe.

As the Poodle belted she stomped and slid on the hair and fell. She didn’t injure herself but the audience hissed and murmured because she totally broke character as her face screwed up in humiliated tears and even as she got up and started performing again the audience couldn’t look at her. It was time for the Spider Queen and the Stranger to actually start performing.

They each took up precisely one half of the stage and mirrored each other in attitude and fierce denial of each other.

The stranger took the lead, their movements grave and solemn.

“So keep calm, honey, I’ma stick around
For more than a minute, get used to it
Funny my name keeps comin’ outcho mouth
‘Cause I stay winning
Lay ’em up like
Swish, swish, bish
Another one in the basket
Can’t touch this
Another one in the casket”

And as they performed alongside the bruised ego of the Poodle, the anxiety in the crowd rose.

Who would win? It was actually becoming a question- the first performances seemed fun and interesting, but now people were incredibly interested to know how the show was going to turn out.

The Spider Queen summoned up all of the energy she could and drew up the hair that was wrapping itself around everyone in the building, tightening each strand to call forth the full attention of the night crowd, to get each eye on her.

“Your game is tired
You should retire
You’re ’bout as cute as
An old coupon expired
And karma’s not a liar
She keeps receipts”

And self satisfied, she cocked her hip and stared while the audience erupted in full bloom of total surrender.

The DJ eliminated the Poodle and she scampered away to cuddle with the Pig Bird.

There was another break, and it was time for the Spider Queen to face the stranger.

The stage was set and the tension was palpable. There was a horrible, nauseating anxiety through the crowd.

The stranger lifted a hand up and removed her wig.

The crowd was silent. The room was suddenly bathed in pure white light.

It was the Spider Queen’s drag mother.

The DJ said nothing.

Taylor Swift’s Look What You Made Me Do started playing.

“I don’t like your little games
Don’t like your tilted stage
The role you made me play
Of the fool, no, I don’t like you
I don’t like your perfect crime
How you laugh when you lie
You said the gun was mine
Isn’t cool, no, I don’t like you (oh!)”

The stranger, the Spider Queen’s drag mother started lip synching.

The Spider Queen stood silently.

There was no apology she could make.

She started performing.

“But I got smarter, I got harder in the nick of time
Honey, I rose up from the dead, I do it all the time
I’ve got a list of names and yours is in red, underlined
I check it once, then I check it twice, oh!”

And the audience stared, silently.

The stranger, the one who had given the Spider Queen the amber and gold bracelet, walked over to her and started stripping off her jewelry.

“Ooh, look what you made me do
Look what you made me do
Look what you just made me do
Look what you just made me
Ooh, look what you made me do
Look what you made me do
Look what you just made me do
Look what you just made me do”

She lip synced.

Gone was the black choker. She threw it behind her. She clasped the Spider Queen’s hands and removed her ruby rings one by one.

She started removing her red velvet dress and all the Spider Queen could do was stand there.

The dress dropped off her body.

She removed the Spider Queen’s bra and the padding fell off.

“I don’t trust nobody and nobody trusts me
I’ll be the actress starring in your bad dreams”

She unzipped the Spider Queen’s corset.

She started stripping her of her tights and her padding fell on the floor.

Her shoes were next.

The Spider Queen made no effort to cover herself, but lip-synched,

“”I’m sorry, the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now”
“Oh, ’cause she’s dead!” (oh!)”

And her drag mother did nothing. The audience did nothing.

Her drag mother took out scissors and started cutting apart her wig. Pieces fell around her uncovered feet.

The spells she had cast on the audience weren’t broken. The pieces of hair were still there.

Under the clothes she was a sickly thing. Her ribs stuck out.

Her drag mother was still cutting away the hair. The only parts left were the odd tufts.

She pulled out a towel and started scrubbing off the makeup on her face.

“Ooh, look what you made me do
Look what you made me do
Look what you just made me do
Look what you just made me
Ooh, look what you made me do
Look what you made me do
Look what you just made me do
Look what you just made me do”

The song ended.

The audience stood by silently.

The DJ put a crown on the person with the hair around their feet.


© 2018 Michael Ceffalo. The content of this article, except for quoted or linked source materials, is protected by copyright. Please contact me to request usage.



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