‘Heidi’ by Johanna Spyri (Review: Part Three – The End of the Journey)

a1b47-busThe German Literature Month outing to the Swiss Alps has, as usual, been a disaster.  In Part One, our intrepid bloggers arrived in a deserted mountain village, and in Part Two they discovered why everyone had disappeared, finding themselves trapped in the village square between two marauding swarms of small black spiders.  It’s not looking good…

[Trapped between the two streams of spiders, the visitors and their hosts are forced to act.  Some try to clamber up the sides of buildings, hoping to avoid the arachnid invaders; others throw stones, or use sticks they find to squash the spiders; Heidi dances round in circles, gleefully squashing dozens at each step.  While the flow slows a little, the black tide seems unstoppable…]

Stu: [frantically swatting at the spiders with a copy of Buddenbrooks he found in his jacket pocket] If you’ve got any ideas, Malone, now would be a great time to share them…
Tony: [sitting on the roof of a nearby hut, dropping stones onto the spiders below] Believe me, you’ll be the first to know…
Caroline: [swinging a handbag around to keep the spiders at bay] There are just too many of them, we need some help!
Vishy: [using a stick he has found as a makeshift cricket bat, sending spiders flying with an elegant cover drive] Maybe we should try to make a run for it back up the mountain… [He moves his head, as if listening for something] Wait – can you hear that?

[A tingling of bells appears on the breeze, scarcely audible at first, but gradually becoming louder.  As the sound gets closer, the spiders appear to stop advancing, then move back a little.]

Lizzy: What’s happening?  Where are the bells coming from?
Heidi: [dancing round Lizzy’s feet, squealing] Bärli! Schwänli! Türk! Distelfink! Schneehöppli!
Tony: [politely] Bless you.
Peter: No, no, it’s the goats, they’re coming to help us!

[Sure enough, from the direction of the mountain path, a group of a dozen or so goats comes galloping towards the square.  As they get closer, the noise seems to disturb the spiders, and the black tide starts to turn, but not before the goats reach the spiders – and begin munching on them…]

Stu: Is that healthy?
Peter: [cheering the goats on] Not a problem for goats, they can eat anything without upsetting their stomachs!
Vishy: [pointing] Look, the spiders aren’t hanging around to find out!

[The remainder of the spiders scurry away, seemingly melting away into the shadows.  The people in the square cheer, clambering down from wherever they had attempted to find a hiding spot.  Heidi gleefully bounces up to two of the goats, smothering them in cuddles…]

Heidi: Clever Bärli!  Clever Schwänli!
Grandfather: [rubbing the goats’ noses] Well, it looks like we’re safe for now.  The spiders aren’t too keen on my little friends.
Lizzy: [clearing her throat] Ahem, I wouldn’t say we’re out of the woods just yet…

[She points back down towards the road leading to the town.  Where the spiders had huddled after fleeing from the goats, a gap has appeared in the middle, a new pathway as if making space for something.  From below the rise in the road, a sound can be heard, a mixture of grunting and hissing…]

Caroline: That.  Does.  Not.  Sound.  Good.

[The crowd gasps.  A new shape appears over the rise in the road, a gigantic black mass towering over the small spiders which have made way for its progress.  The goats, many of which had chased after the remaining spiders, come to a dead halt, before turning and fleeing back to Heidi and Peter.  As the new creature draws closer, the visitors are able to make out more details: eight massive, furry legs; a vivid red spot on its back; a number of glowing eyes and sharp teeth…]

Stu: I’m guessing that’s the mummy spider…

[As the giant spider gets closer, everyone edges slowly towards the path up the mountain, only to find that with the goats unwilling to leave Heidi and Peter, the other route out of the square has been cut off once more.  Nervously, everyone moves back towards the hotel, looking around for any possible escape route…]

Vishy: [nervously] I don’t think a cover drive is going to cut it against this one – it’s as big as a horse.  [turning to Tony]  This would be a really good time to come up with some sort of idea.
Tony: Believe me, I’m thinking as hard as I can…
Caroline: [stepping in something soft again] Well, this is one pair of shoes I’ll be chucking out.  Those spiders do make quite a mess…
Tony: That’s it! [turning to Stu] Get everyone inside the hotel – I’ll try to distract mummy spider.
Stu: Are you sure about this?  I know they have a fair few spiders in Australia, but nothing like this!
Tony: I should be OK, I just need to stall a little…

[Stu gathers the visitors, and the goats, with everyone heading quickly into the hotel.  Grandfather has Peter on his back, and Heidi, becoming jealous, leaps on Lizzy’s back instead, both Lizzy and Heidi flying through the doorway and landing with a loud thump.  As the giant spider moves slowly after the visitors, Tony picks up a stone and throws it at the oversized arachnid.  The stone bounces off, and the spider turns to face Tony.]

Tony: [backing away slowly] Next time, I should think these things through a bit more carefully…

[Tony races away, but is prevented from leaving the square by the smaller spiders, and while GLM5he’s easily able to avoid the slow, clumsy mother spider at first, the square gradually fills up, leaving him with nowhere to go except back to the hotel entrance.  Panting, he watches as the giant spider advances towards him – as it gets to within five yards or so, it opens its mouth wide, showing a number of teeth with liquid dripping from them.  Tony stays still, and the spider prepares to pounce…]

Tony: [counting under his breath] …three, two, one…

[Suddenly, Tony leaps backwards towards the hotel door.  The spider goes to follow, but there is a familar groaning sound in the air, and the GLM bus reappears – right on top of the spider.  The bus comes to a halt, and the driver gets out.]

Gary: [looking at the floor] What’s all this mess? [He quickly scans the square.]  Is anyone…?

[His eyes come to rest on a figure standing propped up against the hotel entrance.  It appears to be human, but is covered from head to toe in thick reddish-black slime.]

Tony: [waving] So, how was your day?

[With the demise of the mother spider, the smaller ones melt into the shadows, and soon the square is empty, with the exception of the bus and a large amount of spider residue.  Everyone leaves the hotel, and after some hugs, farewells and tears, the visitors make their way back on to the coach.  The locals wave goodbye as it disappears from view – the goats have already started the task of clearing up the square…

On the bus, Tony is sitting at the back of the bus, trying to get the spider residue out of his hair; the rest of the bloggers are either sleeping or reliving the events of the afternoon.  Lizzy gets up to go to the bathroom, closes the door behind her – and screams…]

Stu: Not more spiders!

[He runs towards the toilet, but before he gets there, Lizzy comes out, followed by a familiar face.]

Heidi: That was great fun, Lizzy!  [She bounces around, landing on Lizzy’s feet.] What shall we do tomorrow?

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