Human stepped out of the shower. Spider darted out from underneath the mat to the skirting board.
'I see you,' Human said, reaching for a towel.
'Shit,' Spider muttered.
'Relax. You're actually incredibly handy.'
Spider looked up at Human. 'Please don't squish me.'
Human dried his chest. 'No squishing today. Not even a trip to the bushes outside.'
'You're leaving me be?'
'Yes,' Human said, applying talcum powder. 'Like I said, you're handy.'
'May I ask what you intend to do with me?'
'I'm going to take you downstairs. To my living room.'
'To do what? Eat a fly?'
'Close. A slug.'
'You want me to eat a slug?'
'But I can't do that. I'm not big enough.'
Human knelt down. 'But you can follow his trail. Digest him bit by bit. Think of him as, I don't know, ten flies squished into one.'
'Slimy, chewy flies.'
'That's exactly my problem. Well, the first part certainly. He's been leaving slime trails all over the living room. Furniture too.'
Spider relaxed her front legs slightly. 'I can track him down.'
Human straightened up to his full height. 'That would be good. And then just do what comes naturally.'
'I'll see what I can do.'
'Great,' Human said, reaching behind him, into the sink. He pulled out a glass tumbler, bringing it down hard around Spider before she could get away. As she cursed and gathered her senses, he found a square piece of cardboard and slotted it underneath her.
He lifted the glass to his level and smiled.
'You'll do just fine,' he said.
Spider had to wait for Human to get fully dressed before he took her down to the living room. He brought her over to an armchair.
'You see this?' he said, holding the glass close to the cushion. 'Slime trails. Lots and lots of them.'
Spider could see them. They sparkled in the artificial light, all curved, some of them only half-finished. It seemed that this slug wasn't terribly sure where it was going.
'Now,' Human announced, 'I'm going to let you out. But first promise me that you won't try to scarper.'
Spider looked up at him. 'All right. I promise.'
Human laid the upturned glass on a clean part of the cushion and removed it. Spider crawled off the cardboard square, all her eyes focused on the nearest slime trail.
'It shouldn't be too hard to find him,' she said, 'but I won't eat him.'
'And you won't kill him either?'
Human smiled again. 'I found a moth not too long ago, back upstairs, in the toilet. Actually in the toilet bowl, half-drowned. Goodness knows how it got in there, perhaps it fell from one of your webs. Anyway, I saw it there just as I was about to do my business. And you know what I did? I did my business. It was dead, it was a moth. I wasn't desecrating anything, not really.
'But then I leant forward for a closer look. In spite of everything, the toilet water, the steady stream of piss, the moth was still alive. It's wing twitched, the left one. I was impressed: this little insect was defying the odds, still beating the air to show that it could. Then I flushed it. One wing beating is not worth a thing. It's a cruel joke.'
Spider's front legs twitched in disgust. She straightened them out.
'So,' Human said, getting closer, 'Was that moth your lunch?'
Spider cast her mind back. 'Probably. Yes. I, um, I can eat moths.'
'So what's a slug in comparison? It doesn't have any wings, any limbs. With all its moisture it'll just slide down.' Human laughed. 'Get to work. Eat the slug and I'll let you hide in whatever corner you choose.'
Spider clicked her mandibles. Human waited until she started following the slime trail down the front of the chair. When she was underneath it, he left.
The trail went all the way to the back of the sofa where it thinned out and lost its sheen. The lacklustre string led to just behind the plant pots in front of the bay window. Spider followed it to a tight crack in the third pot. It wasn't tight for her but it must have been for the Slug: slime was caked all over the harsh edges.
It didn't take long to find him; he was lying beneath a large clod of soil, hunched over. He barely raised his antennae.
'I heard you talking,' he said, 'You and the Human. You really don't want to kill me, do you? That is what you said?'
'No, I don't,' Spider said.
Slug sighed. 'Good. That's good. You can hide here if you like. He won't find you in here. He hasn't found me yet.'
'But he still might.'
Slug shook his head. 'That would mean making a mess of his entire precious living room. He wouldn't do that. He's too lazy, won't even expend energy to follow my trail.'
'It did peter out eventually. Human eyes wouldn't have been able to follow it all the way.'
'But clever Spider eyes did, eh? What else, did you notice?'
Slug turned to Spider fully, antennae straightened and expectant.
'You've cut yourself,' Spider said, 'That's not just slime on the crack you squeezed through. You're bleeding out.'
Slug chuckled. 'What's worse than a fat slug? An overambitious one. Just made that up. Good saying, I think. Apt.'
'What do you want me to do?'
'Just hide with me. Talk.'
Spider sighed. 'You do know that you probably won't recover from this?'
'I know.' Slug groaned. 'I'm drying up. My trail dried up and now I'm losing moisture too. Company is still appreciated though, especially the kind that promises not to eat me.'
'I only eat winged things.'
'Yes. I heard about the moth. That Human's a deviant. But then I suppose you can be at that size.'
Spider lowered herself onto the ground. 'I'll stay with you for a while. This is a comfortable spot.'
'It is.' Slug's voice was getting weaker. 'It's warm and damp here. The nutrients are good too though I've lost my appetite.'
Spider watched him silently. Slug didn't have long left, he'd cut too deeply into himself. If she reached out now to touch him, she would feel warmth but no dampness. He had no sheen left at all.
And as for her appetite, it was piqued. She hadn't eaten in a couple of days now. Even a non-winged thing, a dying mollusc looked delicious. She wondered how she would eat such a large thing, it might be unnatural but that certainly didn't make it impossible. In that way, Human was right.
Nevertheless she resisted the urge, held back the hunger. She indulged Slug's need to talk even as he lost focus and then consciousness. Between those moments she glanced around the living area Slug had made for himself. It really was comfortable.
She stepped out of the plant pot and followed the trail again, getting each of her legs stuck into the slime.
Human came back down in the morning. He opened up the door to the living room and went over to check the armchair immediately.
No new slime trails on the cushion but no sign of Spider either. He laughed. True to his word, he would let her hide.
He glanced at the wall opposite. Perhaps it was the light but it never seemed to glisten like that before.
He hurried over to it. Many tiny pin pricks of slime moving steadily up the wall in an almost perfect line. He followed it all the way to the ceiling where it stopped just above his head. Spider glared down at him.
'Careful where you tread,' she said.
Human looked down at his feet. Slug's body was inches away from his toe. When he looked back up, Spider was gone. Her makeshift slime trail didn't follow.