by Mary E. Lowd
A Deep Sky Anchor Original, June 2022
This is not a story about Spider-Man, because Spider-Man is owned by a company. This is a story about a young boy, on his first day of high school, who was bitten by a spider and fell asleep like a princess in a fairytale. He fell asleep for the life of the author — which in this case would be his parents — plus seventy years.
Understandably, his parents were very upset. They placed their son in a glass coffin like Snow White or Sleeping Beauty — but not Princess Aurora, because she’s owned by a corporation too, so really, just the generic, public domain version — and dressed him in his favorite clothes, which happened to be his Spider-Man Halloween costume, which he had purchased lawfully from a department store, let’s call it Mal-Wart, who discouraged their workers from forming a union.
The boy’s parents couldn’t take time off of work to grieve for their sleeping princess boy, because they worked at Mal-Wart, and without the protections of a union, they couldn’t afford any time off. However, the Mal-Wart they worked at agreed to let them set up their son’s glass coffin in the gardening department as a publicity stunt. At least, they could look through the panes of glass and see his sleeping face every day during their fifteen minute breaks.
The other workers at the store came together to start a GoKickMe campaign in support of the grieving parents and their sleeping son. Many of them donated a few dollars here or there, but nothing that could change the fundamental situation.
Of course, the campaign would only be fully funded if an angel donor came forward to buy into the highest tier of support — cure Not Spider-Man of his torporific affliction and in return, be rewarded with seven years of his labor as an unpaid intern, and also, seven additional years of labor from his firstborn child as an unpaid intern, and so on, and so on, ad infinitum. His parents weren’t too concerned about promising away years of the lives of their hypothetical grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Given that Mal-Wart didn’t provide any of them with health insurance, their son probably couldn’t afford to have children, and if he did, they’d likely all die from global warming before they were old enough for internships anyway.
The first potential angel donor to present himself to the bereaved parents during one of their breaks in the garden center beside their son’s glass coffin was another teenager from his high school. The boy had been one of Not Spider-Man’s friends since middle school, and he insisted that he could awake the sleeping boy — who he’d apparently had a crush on since elementary school — with True Love’s Kiss.
Not Spider-Man’s parents were unimpressed with the science (entirely non-existent) behind the boy’s pitch and sent him away unkissed, as they didn’t feel they could offer consent on their sleeping son’s behalf. Especially not for such a half-baked notion.
One by one, other potential angel donors came to the parents with similarly half-baked ideas. One mad scientist proposed transplanting a spider’s heart — which would be more compatible with the venom flowing through the boy’s body — in place of his human heart. The parent’s objected that a spider’s heart would be much too small, and the scientist countered that he could clone a human-sized spider if they would give him some seed money.
Unsurprisingly, the parents declined, and their son went on sleeping.
Eventually, another worker at the Mal-Wart came to the parents with a beautiful, shimmering cloak in her hands. She had aspirations of becoming a famous fashion designer, and she proposed to cure Not Spider-Man’s torpor with this cloak woven entirely from the silk of spiders who had been fed upon only free trade coffee beans and the most highly caffeinated sparkling water on the market. Surely, their silk could wake him up.
The aspiring fashion designer had been up all night, every night for months, feeding the spiders and weaving their silk. Also, chomping on coffee beans and drinking caffeinated sparkling water.
With bated breath and high hopes, the grieving parents opened the coffin, draped the shimmery cloak awkwardly over their son’s shoulders, and then watched in awe as he leapt up for the first time in months, did a perfect pirouette even though he’d never taken a gymnastics or dance class in his life, and then laid back down to sleep. His eyes never opened. Their eyes filled with tears.
The aspiring fashion designer, however, had planned ahead and had the foresight to stream the occurrence on her insta-fame account. Within a matter of minutes, the post of the Not Spider-Man boy doing a pirouette in his sleep had gone viral. By the end of the hour, she received an order request from the Metropolitan Gothopolis Opera to weave a dozen similar cloaks for their upcoming performance of Swan Lake. Similar orders began pouring in from dance studios all over the world. Her career was made!
Although, she would have to get by without seven years of help from an unpaid intern.
The international fame of the fashion designer’s video inadvertently helped Not Spider-Man’s parents: suddenly, they began receiving angel donor pitches from much farther afield, instead of simply from interested parties in their hometown. A notable billionaire even sponsored a pharmaceutical research team to find a cure, using actual reputable science and none of the fairy tale nonsense that Not Spider-Man’s parents had been dealing with up until that point.
However, once the cure was synthesized — using a simple process and cheap ingredients — the pharmaceutical company refused to give it to the parents for less than 3.4 million dollars, and they patented the recipe, promising to savagely sue anyone who threatened the proprietary nature of their invention.
Not Spider-Man and his parents found themselves no better off than they’d been before. Although, Not Spider-Man didn’t seem to care very much. He was still sleeping.
At her wit’s end, Not Spider-Man’s mother — an amateur astronomer who had been running the SETI@home screensaver on her computer since she’d been a high school student herself — set up her radio equipment and sent a desperate, last-ditch cry for help out to the stars. She included her heartfelt plea, accompanied by complete copies of the DNA sequencing for both her son and the spider who had bit him.
Maybe, in all the reaches of the galaxy, there was a more advanced race of beings who could come to her aid. All she could do was hope.
Amazingly, she was right. There were more highly advanced beings in the galaxy, and they heard her plea.
The silver spaceships came to Earth on the anniversary of Not Spider-Man’s fateful spider bite. They surrounded the planet, hovering over every major city, exactly as the movies had always predicted they would, and then they filled the airwaves with their answer.
On every television, phone, and computer screen in the Mal-Wart — and presumably across the world — a spider of unearthly beauty appeared. Its clusters of black eyes gleamed with deep emotion; its long legs shuffled with a quietly suppressed grace and elegance; and its wiggling mouth parts somehow conveyed a smile that made every human who saw it both sad and strangely peaceful.
“Thank you for alerting our species to the unauthorized use of our personal DNA here on this unregistered planet. Be assured, we will seek out and punish those responsible for illegally seeding this planet with unregulated lifeforms nearly four billion years ago. For now, as per galactic guidelines, we have begun releasing a powerful anesthetic agent into your atmosphere before beginning the extraction of every unlawful instance of our proprietary proteins and amino acids, which should return this world to its previously barren, pristine state…”
Very few humans stayed awake long enough to hear the rest of the alien spider’s announcement.