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"But you're a man of science, are you not? Let us do an experiment..." Malcolm read Poole's words aloud.

Owen cut him off. "Hold up, hold up, pause..."

Malcolm looked up from the page, surprised at his brother's outburst. The brothers were sitting on Owen's bed, completely absorbed in Poole's words. Malcolm was so absorbed in fact, that he had nearly forgotten Owen was there.

The letters had taken a sudden turn that totally captured the brothers' attentions. They knew from previous letters that Poole wasn't entirely sane, but this was a side of him they hadn't seen before. He was angry and betrayed, but not in his usual brooding, poetic, metaphorical manner. His mind was clear, and he had something to prove. This was something he believed in with absolute certainty.

"You didn't see a box in there, did you?" Owen asked, his eyes alight.

"Uh, I don't know . . ." Malcolm began.

"Did you check?"

Malcolm shook his head. "Uncle Jack just said it was a box full of our ancestor's papers."

Owen hopped off the bed and started rummaging through the cardboard box that held the old letters.

"Oh shit—" Owen lifted a small wooden box from beneath stacks of letters. "This has to be it, right?"

Malcolm stood. He really hadn't expected to find anything.

"Let me see that," he said, snatching the box from his brother's hand.

It was a simple little box, about the size you might keep an engagement ring. It was secured closed by a simple metal clasp in the front. Malcolm flicked the clasp with his thumb nail to open it.

"Wait wait wait!" Owen stopped him. "Let's read the instructions first."

"You don't think there's really a spider in there, do you?"

Owen shrugged his shoulders. He was excited, Malcolm could tell. His brother's face open — wide smile, eyes full of laughter. His playful spirit was enough to get Malcolm to play along. He sat down on the bed and picked up the letter.

"Enclosed in this parcel you will find a box, William. I instruct you now to open it. Do not be afraid, the creature within will not hurt you if you do not hurt it. This is one of my spiders. I gift you this spider to remind you that there is more to this life than your own flimsy reality." 

"OK, I'm gonna open it," Owen said.

Malcolm stood to peer over his brother's shoulder.

"Prepare to lose your grasp on your flimsy reality," Owen said, smirking. He undid the clasp.

They both gasped. Inside the box, a thick black spider sat, its many legs curled up. It was still, surely long dead, but there was no sign of decomposition. Malcolm stared at the creature in awe, wondering how it was preserved so perfectly over two hundred years. Just as he was about to share his wonder with Owen, he spied movement within the box.

Owen seemed to notice it too, but it was so subtle it could've been the gentle wind of their breath. They stared at the spider a moment longer, until it happened: one leg was unmistakably twitching to life, then another, like it was stretching its muscles after a long, long sleep.

Malcolm jumped back, Owen screamed. He shut the little box with shaking hands and it clattered to the floor.

"What the fuck," Owen said, folding his arms, scratching his shoulders as if he thought the spider might be crawling on his skin.

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