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collection of discarded things

I have to lie flat on the floor and stretch my arms the furthest they go in order to reach my boots. They’ve been in the same sunless spot beneath my bed for a long time. Like two lost and tired children, they slouch against one another. Probing towards them, my fingers reach a heel, and I drag one shoe out before flinging it to a corner of my bedroom. They feel wrong when separated, but the second shoe is a little harder to grasp. I edge my body further under the narrow brim of my bed, and after some blind fiddling, I finally reach a toe. I toss the second shoe into the corner where its companion waits patiently. 


Cobwebs cling to the leathery folds of their ankles, and the braver ones have crept down their open, footless throats. There are a lot more cobwebs than I thought there would be. They consume each shoe like algae consumes sunken ships. But these two wrecks have been salvaged. Holding it by the tips of my cautious fingers, I peer down the dark shaft of one boot. I see a long, taut thread of glistening silk. It looks strong alongside the fragile bodies of dead spiders, whose dry little limbs contract over their dry little tummies. They’re so light that they move with the breeze of my breath. Further down, white eggs settle over the worn insoles. I can’t tell if they’ve hatched already, or are about to. Holding each shoe up to the light, I can’t quite see all the way into the tip of the toe, no matter which way I position them. I’m worried there’s a big mother spider down there. I’m not that scared of spiders, but I don’t want to shove my hand into one. 


I feel like an underprepared army who has chosen the wrong kingdom to invade. I didn’t plan this siege very well. But, I want my boots back, so I start brainstorming a plan of attack. I think of drowning everything out… and then I can’t think of any more options, so I go with that one. A pressured stream of water sounds as I turn the bathtub tap on. I hold one boot beneath the tap; I wash its skin and allow its body to fill up with water. The leather resists the water for a bit, before it gives in and begins to soak it up. I notice how much heavier the shoe feels, and then I turn it upside down and empty its new weight back out. The drain sucks the water - now polluted with eggs and webs and legs - into the shape of a tiny tornado. It makes a loud slurping sound that I’m always unprepared for. I didn’t spot any big mother spider, though a part of me worries that there’s one with a very strong grip still down there. After repeating this process once more to be sure, and then with the other boot, I hang them over the bath. They sag together, differently to the way they did beneath my bed. I notice an orange tinge to the water that trickles from their seams, and it makes me think of the times I wore them; how their pores have soaked up the dust of my experiences. They inhaled it and never exhaled. But now I’ve washed it all out, and I feel like I’ve done something wrong.

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