Her web was spun so that it caught the first blush of sunrise. Dew drops gathered on the silky strands and glittered like pink diamonds against the darkness of almost dawn. The trees sighed with the caress of spring. Still chilled, the breeze swelled in an icy burst then stilled again. And while all of the world was still sleeping, the dreamcatcher was hard at work.
The giant had laid down to sleep over a century ago. Back when the great conflict had occurred and the people who belonged to the mountains had been driven out. The sorrow had stained the land and the giants, in all their sensitivity, had burrowed into the hillsides to sleep away their depression.
The dreamcatcher hadn’t bothered with them for a good long time, waiting for the worst of their sadness to wash away. She’d tendered this giant for more than a year, encouraging it to dream once again. Encouraging it to smile and sigh with good thoughts and missing memories of days long gone but certainly not dead. She held her breath as the first of a dream began to take shape. She scuttled over her web, tightening a joint here, loosening a thread there. Fussing. She was fussing over the web, knowing full well it was perfect as it was. She couldn’t help it. She’d worked for so long and so hard in preparation for this dream.
Rainbows flashed across a meadow. The giant placed a rocky foot carefully into the gentle blades of grass next to the oak. The oak was just a bit shorter than he was. Wildflowers sprayed the fields of Cataloochee and walking amidst the glory of spring were elk, sporting short antlers cloaked in velvet. They skirted the giant while the giant tensed in their midst. Excitement flooded the living rock and he stilled so much he shivered from the effort.
The dreamcatcher’s web vibrated. At last! She positioned her body to face the head of the giant, from which sprang forth the energy of the giant’s dream. The dreamcatcher pushed aside her anticipation at a possible meal. She’d waited for longer than she should have. But, one dream from a giant was enough sustenance to last her for years. Just one good giant dream.
A young buck paused near the giant, stooping to nibble at the early grass. He cast his dark eyes up, neck straining, to contemplate the walking boulder. The giant looked back at him, afraid to even move for fear he’d scare the elk away. But, no. The elk inhaled the scent of the giant, shook his head and pounced away.
The giant exhaled in relief and the leaves and limbs of the oak bent away from him in the gust. He turned his massive body one way and then the other, surveying the terrain before he took another step.
The dreamcatcher soaked in the dream, her web shimmering with color. Her long antennae waved hypnotically. She paused from time to time, clearing the antennae of the shadows it gathered. Little slivers of darkness she loosed dissipated up into the air, evaporating like smoke. As time went by, a small ruby red blob materialized on the web.
The mother of the forest was awake and the giant would soon meet her. He hastened his steps as the spring sun rose to its highest point in the sky. She’d hidden herself away when the new people had pushed her children out. Sadness tugged at the giant’s heart. All the children had been driven away and he missed the children dearly. But before he could cry about those times, something on the horizon glinted, shining like a star on the hillside. Caught in the outstretched arms of the forest, the light flickered and shone. It had to be a sign. A sign of the forest mother. The giant took a step and then another, always careful to watch where his stone feet landed. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the giant could choose his size? And with just that one thought, the giant shimmered, shook and shrank.
The ruby red blob on the web grew. Slowly it began to take shape, like a gem caught on the threads of her web.
The giant reveled in his perfect size. Larger than other animals, but small enough he wouldn’t accidentally step on any of them – which he’d done before. But he wouldn’t think about that now. Not when the Mother was calling her children to her. He wanted to see the mother with everything he had in him. To gaze upon the beauty of Adohi was a promise of peace he yearned for.
The edge of the heart of the forest was in his sights. He only had twenty steps left before he saw Adohi. He’d only seen her once every several hundred years. He wondered why they were being summoned now.
When the dream ruby weighed down the threads enough it threatened to break them, the dreamcatcher plucked it up with the two pedipalps situated next to her mouth. Her deeply sapphire eyes sparkled. She gently took the essence of the giant’s dream between her mouthparts, pulling a bite of it into her small mouth.
The dream was succulent and sweet, scented of wildflowers and sweet grass and morning dew. It was soft. Soft enough for her delicate system to digest. Unlike her smaller cousins, she lacked the ability to digest food before ingesting it. No, her survival relied on the sweetness of the dreams she captured. If she did not effectively ward away the shadows of dreams with her antennae, and the dreams turned sour, she’d have nothing to eat. So, her life depended on her ability to help the giant produce positive dreams.
She’d been living a long time. She was good at her job and her ability to sustain herself. She waved her antennae, perched like beautiful eyelashes above her big blue eyes, and captured another shot of darkness. She chewed her meal, reveling in the thick sweetness that rolled down her throat while she swiped at the passing shadows before they could make it to her meal-catching web.
She swiped faster as an onslaught of darkness rolled from the sleeping giant. She placed the ruby morsel back onto her web. The dreamcatcher scuttled in a circle on her eight legs, peering around her forest home. A tickling sensation prickled her hair. She rotated, looking out at the other side of the forest. The giant stirred. Shadows rolled over the dreamcatcher, clogging her antennae and smattering the glistening white threads of her web with smudges of gray. The ruby red bit of dream lost its glittering transparency and darkened.
The dreamcatcher rushed to the dream in her web. The essence hardened, weighing down the web with a groan. She reached out with her pedipalps to pluck it up, hoping to take one more bite before it was soured. A shadow passed over her, leaving a chill in its wake. She jerked her gaze to the source.
Light flashed, the reflection of the early morning sun against metal. A searing hot pain sliced through her fourth eye. Squealing in pain, the dreamcatcher backed away from her attacker. The man loomed tall and dark, his swirling aura of muddy reds and browns made the dreamcatcher back away further. The man threatened with his knife again, even as he reached for the stone in the web.
The dreamcatcher darted forward, desperate for the meal she’d tendered for so long and with so much care. The man growled at her and with another swipe of his weapon, sliced her web in half. She fell from the sticky strands onto her back on the forest floor. She rocked herself back to her feet, abandoned her web and ran from the man with the knife.
She was so hungry. And now one of her eyes was ruined. And it hurt, blazing with a white hot pain that made her stomach roll against the morsel of dream she’d eaten. She scuttled to a nearby fallen log, tucking herself deeply under it for cover. But, the man with the knife was gone. Just like her meal. And her web. And her eye.