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Pocahontas walked through the cool, dark woods, singing softly to himself and carrying a pack filled with sandwiches that his mother had made for the journey. Each step carried him further away from home, and closer to danger.

In about four hours, he had left the familiar lands he knew so well, and was deeper into the forest than he had ever been. Everywhere were rocks and trees he did not recognize, and more than once he nearly tripped over a gnarled root or a hidden gopher hole.

Soon, he had worked up quite an appetite, and since the sun was well into the sky by that point, he decided to rest for a bit, and eat one of his mother's delicious sandwiches. He found an enormous old oak tree, whose trunk had been hollowed out by lightning, which made an ideal bit of shelter. He sat down on a rotting log inside, and unwrapped a ham and turkey sandwich on rye bread with some mayonnaise.

The food was delicious, and as soon as he started eating Pocahontas realized that he was far hungrier than he had thought; he finished his first sandwich and started in on a second almost immediately. So engrossed was he in his meal that he didn't even notice the shadow of the dark and gangly creature that was now standing between him and the exit.

"Hello there," whispered a strange, hissing voice.

Pocahontas looked up in alarm, and for the first time he noticed that he was not alone inside the hollow tree. Standing before him was an enormous fat spider, easily twice again the size of Chip, his beloved great dane. It was dark and hairy, with a huge round belly, and long, thin legs spread out in every direction. A faint light glimmered behind the dark orbs of its eyes, suggesting a sort of cunning intelligence. Startled, but not afraid, as Pocahontas had never left his cabin and was thus unaware of the dangers of the outside world, he cleared his throat and spoke.

"Who are you?" he asked. The spider seemed almost to smile faintly, if such a thing was possible.

"My name is Joozgapthe," replied the spider in its hissing voice, "Joozgapthe, the enchanted tree spider, nine hundred years old if I be a day."

Joozgapthe the spider looked him over appraisingly, its dark eyes betraying nothing of its thoughts. "You don't seem to be from around here, I daresay. It's not very often that I find local folks taking their luncheon uninvited inside my tree, I mean. With whom do I have the pleasure of speaking?"

"My name is Pocahontas," replied Pocahontas, "I come from the woods to the north."

"Ah, well then," said the spider, "It's a pleasure to meet you then, Pocahontas. And what brings you to my humble abode this fine afternoon, if you don't mind me asking?"

"I am on a journey to the far-off land of Hana," said Pocahontas. "But I'm afraid I don't know the way. You seem to be a,"

He paused. "You seem to be a well-travelled gentleman. I don't suppose you could tell me how to get there?"

The spider chortled deeply.

"Yes," it said, "I have indeed travelled far and wide. However, I am sad to say that I have never heard of the land of Hana."

Pocahontas was a little disappointed, but not at all surprised.

"I see." he said.

The spider moved a bit closer, and Pocahontas could smell something rotten on its breath.

"Say," intoned Joozgapthe, its voice a breathy hiss, "I don't suppose you've had any tea this afternoon, have you?"

"Why, no." said Pocahontas, suddenly realizing that it was well past tea-time, back at home.

The spider once again flashed its wan, unsettling smile.

"Well, I happen to be in possession of a very fine tea, made from the herbs that grow in this very forest. It is my own special blend, you see. Very rare, and very delicious. Alas, though, so rarely do I get visitors to my humble abode that I never get to share it. I don't suppose you'd care for a cup?"

Pocahontas, far from suspecting danger, was delighted.

"Why, certainly!" he said, and with a smooth, swift motion, Joozgapthe the spider bowed politely, and disappeared into the upper reaches of the tree, which Pocahontas now saw was slung in every direction with thick, sticky strands of spider's web.

The creature returned a moment later, carrying a steaming pot of tea, two cups, and two saucers. Pocahontas noted with mild surprise that the spider's legs were surprisingly prehensile.

It poured him a cup of a very sweet, almost noxious smelling tea, and gestured for him to sit back down on the log.

"This recipe has been in my family for generations," said Joozgapthe, watching intently as Pocahontas sipped his tea.

"You're a very fortunate young boy. You're the first human to have tasted this tea in over a century."

Pocahontas was beginning to feel dizzy. All of a sudden, the tree seemed huge, almost cavernous. The spider towered over him, thousands of feet tall, it seemed.

Somehow, he had fallen off the log, and was now lying on his back, staring up into the bulbous eyes of the tree spider as it gazed menacingly down at him.


"You are a fortunate boy indeed. And it seems that I am fortunate too."


from The Road to Hana: Act I: Life is Cheap, released February 11, 2010



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