‘Heidi’ by Johanna Spyri (Review: Part Two – Heidi and the Black Spiders)

a1b47-busHaving made the trip to late-nineteenth-century Switzerland to have lunch with Heidi and her grandfather, our intrepid group of bloggers and their friends have discovered that the village is almost deserted.  At the end of Part One, Heidi’s friend, Peter, arrived, screaming about spiders, making the visitors realise that their holiday plans have been ruined for the fifth year in a row…

*****
Stu: It’s the same every year. [sighs] At least we didn’t get attacked in Prague, even if we never got to see the castle…
Tony: How much safer can you get than Heidi?  I’m going to have a word with that travel agent…

[The visitors start to crowd around Peter and Grandfather, while Heidi bounces around the square singing to herself, a strange song which consists mainly of the words ‘spiders’ and ‘jolly’.]

Grandfather: Peter, what do you mean ‘spiders’?  What’s been going on down here?
Peter: [after a deep breath] Well, sir, it all started when those newcomers arrived in the village, from somewhere further west.  They brought their own house with them, they rebuilt it just across the square… [He turns and points at  a dark, old hut opposite the hotel.]  Then, [he takes a deep breath] one day some kids were playing, and they accidentally broke a bit of the door frame outside the house.  The people, they… they…
Grandfather: What?
Peter: They screamed, grabbed a few things and left straight away…

[The group begins to get restless, and loud muttering can be heard from some of the visitors.  Suddenly, Peter faints, exhausted, in Grandfather’s arms.  The visitors move back to give them some room.  Everyone turns to look, inevitably, at the house.]

Tony: Let’s go and have a look at this house…

[Tony, Stu, Caroline and Vishy walk slowly across the square to the house.  Lizzy starts to follow them, but is unable to shake Heidi off the leg which the girl is hugging with her whole body, deciding instead to stumble over to the girl’s grandfather in the hope he can remove her.

The four visitors reach the house.  There is a frame surrounding the door, from which a piece has been broken – the wood, black and centuries old, is lying on the floor.]

Caroline: Are you thinking what I’m thinking?
Tony: I hope not.
Stu: That wasn’t here, though, was it?  Anyway, I thought that happened earlier than this.
Vishy: It looks like we’ve got an unexpected sequel…
Caroline: …and a crossover.
Tony: [grinning] Not for the first time, eh?

[There’s a stony silence.  A tumbleweed drifts across the square.]

Tony: [sheepishly] Ah, OK.  Too soon?

[The others turn and walk back to the main group in silence.  Tony sighs and, after spending a few moments in thought, follows them.

When they get back, Peter has recovered a little and is continuing his story about what has been happening in the village.]

Peter: It all happened a couple of days ago.  Not long after the accident, some spiders started to appear in the village, then more, then even more, until they were everywhere.  The people started squashing them, but there were too many, so everyone just ran for it down to the town…
Lizzy: [under her breath to Caroline] At least we know what’s on your shoe, now…
Peter: I ran back up to mother and Grandmother, but the spiders didn’t come up that far.  I’ve been back a couple of times, but I haven’t seen any sign of them… [hopefully] Perhaps, they’ve gone away?
Stu: Judging by our past experiences, I seriously doubt it…

[Heidi, bored with the grown-ups’ chatter, and giving Lizzy a wide berth for once after receiving GLM5a few sharp glares, hops down to the far end of the street, examining the broken wood as she bounces by.  The crowd outside the hotel continues talking – several people enter the hotel, others go to check the houses in the village.  Vishy, Peter and Heidi’s grandfather are walking towards the mountain path when Heidi comes running back with red cheeks and a mischievous look in her eye.]

Grandfather: Not now, Heidi, we need to check on Peter’s family.  Who knows where these spiders might be by now?
Heidi: [excitedly] Oh, oh, I do, I do!
Grandfather: What?  What are you talking about child?
Heidi: [jumping up and down] They’re here, I just saw them, they’re coming up the road!

[Heidi points in the direction she has just come from.  Sure enough, a black shape can be seen moving up the road, indistinct at first.  Soon, though, everyone can see that the shape is alive, one long mass made up of countless small objects…]

Caroline: Spiders!  Let’s get out of here!
Grandfather: Get everyone together, quickly, let’s move back up the mountain!

[In confusion, the group runs towards the start of the mountain path.  The spiders, while moving slowly, have already reached the square, and the end of the road from the town is now black, with red specks dotted everywhere.  Tony, Lizzy and Peter head the group and are just about to turn onto the path when suddenly the earth begins to stir in front of them.  Within seconds, the ground is black as small spiders climb out of a crack in the ground and start to move down towards the village.]

Tony: [shouting] Fall back!  There are more here! [The people at the top of the path turn around and head back to the square]  We need to find another way out of the square.
Grandfather: There isn’t one.  There’s just the road up and the path down…
Stu: So, you’re telling me that in miles and miles of untamed wilderness, we’re trapped in the only built-up area around?
Caroline: [bitterly] Well, it wouldn’t be a German Literature Month excursion if we weren’t…

*****
Are they really trapped?
Can the spiders be stopped?
Will the bloggers get a refund for their tickets?

Find out in the third and concluding part of the story – coming very soon 😉

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