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I turned, but Aeronwy’s attention was directed
upon the cage that held the cathnid silk extractor
which, separate from the rest, was whole and unaffected.
“Let’s go!” I said, attempting to distract her.

“One second,” she replied. “One second, I’ll be done.”
The door was wedged, and she could not unstick its clasp.
“We have to get this open, I can’t leave this one.”
She yanked and pulled but it was frozen fast.

Aeronwy trying to open the silk extractor

Don’t panic. Everything’s under control!

Two aisles over someone screamed and something slammed.
“Well, hurry! If we’re caught we’ll both spend time in prison.”
But she kept up her struggle though it still was jammed.
Said I, “Go through the winding mechanism.”

“Of course!” she said in triumph. “Leave the door that’s stuck
and use again the arach writhe-increasing trick.
This cage is built just like the others, what good luck.”
She gave the spiky spool a corkscrew flick.

The cage collapsed, the cathnid burst from its confines
and scampered up her arm and perched atop her head.
It ruffled up her curls, legs scuffling through vines.
She froze in shock; one bite and she’d be dead.

Too keenly conscious of the terrifying notion
the cathnid might in panic strike her with its fangs,
she held her breath, not daring any bit of motion
that might entrap it, tangled in her bangs.

Aeronwy with cathnid lid

There’s a cathnid on my head (on my head)!

I could not say the length of time that we three froze
and stood there locked together in that tense tableau
when, leaping to a nearby shelf to break the pose,
the cathnid scuttled down the aisle’s row.

She trembled out a laugh. “Forget incarceration!
That could have gone so many ways a whole lot worse.
With one unlucky move I could have left here laid in
an ambulance or even in a hearse.”

Away we ran, still hoping freedom could be found,
except the labyrinthine floorplan’s misdirection
amazed our minds, our feet were muddled, and we wound
and looped our path back to the arach section.