Ninel retired to bed like any day, except today was the third Sunday of the month; the difference was that today she did not put on a nightgown. She dressed herself, picking the most conspicuous clothes she could find, ignoring the American clothes a pack of smokes and three of her mother's emerald and gold earrings had bought for her, and put her hair blonde hair up, hiding it beneath her brother's military cap. Lestak had thought he'd lost it months ago, but it had been inside Ninel's closet the entire time, just like his wallet, his old identification still valid and good for her. They were twins: if she dressed herself right, she could pass as Lestak.

She was lucky, she guessed, sneaking down through the window. Her family lived in a refurbished palace of old, full of dark corners and passages; her father was high on the seats of the Party, and allowed them a better life than the others. More rations. Less work. A chance or another to travel.

Ninel dressed herself down, looking like a small boy in the mirror, grabbed the pack of smokes Lestak had bought and she had swiped, and then slowly escalated down the window of her room, fingers cold, nails blue. Ninel always forgot the gloves, and the marble of the palace walls always seemed so, so cold against her skin.

Ninel jumped on the snowbank that always piled underneath her window, up to her calves in the dirty snow. She trudged through it, sticking her hands in her pockets for warmth as she sneaked through the grounds, avoiding the usual guard routes, and then making her way outside. Her breath made shiny white clouds in the night air, and Ninel amused herself for a moment.

She walked all the way to the Kremlin, a good twenty-minute trip that made her slightly warmer. Ninel grabbed a coffee for warmth and threw herself on a bench, gulping down the coffee in one go.

When she finished, Anzhelina would be by her side, smiling too kindly. Anzhelina, in many ways, was Ninel's distorted reflection. Anzhelina came from a family of many siblings, while Ninel just had Lestak. Anzhelina, blue eyes like a clear sky and her black hair like a starless night, always up with a piece of fine white silk-like material, against Ninel's brown eyes and blonde hair in two braids. Anzhelina, skin tanned from working in a farm before her family came to try their luck in Moscow, while Ninel was pale, white as snow. Anzhelina, who risked her life for the bone music Ninel was paying for in cigarettes and stolen trinkets.

"Here you go." She said, giving Anzhelina her pack of smokes. Anzhelina smiled, coming closer. "Tell me a story, please?"

Anzhelina nodded. Ninel liked Anzhelina's stories, fantastical tales of the countryside and people's life Ninel rarely glimpsed, too sheltered by her parents to know. Anzhelina did not have these issues; she was free.

"This is a favorite of my mother. Once upon a time..."


Roza smiled, taking the hands of her lover in hers. The palace was warm, filled with the scent of roses, thickened because of the late spring.

"Will you love me?" She asked, hands spindly little things, and her smile was sweet enough to catch flies.

"Of course." Her lover, a man named Mikhail, replied. His blue eyes shone in the afternoon's light.

"Even if I am monstrous?" She asked. Her eyes, two black jewels, were filled with caution. The soft sound of buzzing bees nearby would scare any lady of high society such as her, but Roza stayed unfazed by it. Mikhail loved her, yes, but for how long, she wondered.

"Even if you are monstrous." He confirmed, and she smiled, her teeth pointier than normal.

"Even if I take others to bed?"

A pause from Mikhail. Roza sighed.

"Allow me to tell you a story, then. Back when my mother was young..."


Solya looked through the window of her room, touching her face. Her hand, dipped in red, stained her pale face. Behind her, in the bed, her husband laid still. It would be hard for him to move, but he surely could still grunt.

"Oh, be quiet, Ivan, for once in your desperate, miserable brief life." She told him, turning to face her husband. She wanted to pass a hand through her hair, but it would make the web decoration she had made that morning dirty. "I told you to not take Konstantin from me. Did I not?"

"Was I supposed to smile pleasantly when I found my wife laying with another man?" He replied, scoffing. Solya rolled her eyes, sauntering from her spot in the bed, stepping over the corpse of Konstantin, shot tragically to dead while he'd been laying with Solya. She wasn't even sure how they'd escaped the guards' notice, but Solya wouldn't be surprised if her husband had bribed them just for this theater he was doing. "Don't be ridiculous. Now, monster, untangle me."

She looked over her husband, looking blue in his new clothes, a spin of her finest web shining gold in the sunset's light. A meal, ready and done. All she had to do was eat it.

"No. I had a meal, you dolt, and now it's cold and full of lead. Do you like your deer with the bullets inside, Ivan?" She sat on the bed, touching his face as if she cared. Solya had, once upon a time: namely, five minutes ago, before he'd killed her food. "Since the one I had is gone, I must eat something else, lest I eat the daughters of the dearest Czar. I've heard royal meat is good, however."

Ivan struggled against his bonds. Solya smiled, sticky hand still on his face.

"Now, smile for me."

She opened her mouth, revealing too sharp teeth, her six closed eyes opening on her forehead, all shining like jewels.

Ivan's mouth opened in a grimace, screaming for a mere second before she closed his mouth with a web, shiny and silky. Solya figured a grimace was good enough, before she started tearing into him.


"So, I'll repeat the question." Roza started, weaving her words carefully. Her spindly hands were now in her lap, and her eight eyes looked into Mikhail's pale face, covered with a sheen of sweat. "Do you love me?"

A pause. Roza braced for the worst; it wouldn't be the first man she would have to kill to keep her secrets.

"Yes."

She blinked her eyes, surprised.

"Yes?" She repeated, aghast. "Mikhail, my love, I am a monster. A terrible, man-eating, spider creature. My mother has a body count to her name, and so will I. So do I."

Mikhail smiled, his hands on hers. His blue eyes did not look any different.

"And as long as you do not eat me, I will love you. Take as many to bed as you please, and kill all of them but me." He smiled to her, wide, impossibly wide, to the point Roza doubted of his humanity. "As long as you only love me, I can take anything, even a terrible reputation."

Roza smiled, her fangs pushing through her teeth. Mikhail did not seem to mind.


Ninel cocked her head when Anzhelina was quiet. The vinyl was in her hands, now, the exchange complete.

"That's it?"

"I mean, what else is there to it? Roza and Mikhail lived happily ever after until the revolution, when they fled to the countryside." Anzhelina shrugged, rising to her feet, winking. "Nothing more, nothing less."

"Spiders are interesting, though." Ninel rose, too, feeling cold. The light glinted on the silk Anzhelina wore. "Don't you think?"

Anzhelina smiled. Her teeth were pointy, Ninel noticed.

"Yes. Very. So, when shall we next meet?"

Ninel nodded, thought about it for a second and said a date. Anzhelina agreed, and as Ninel turned to go back home, she couldn't help but feel that she saw, for a brief moment, Anzhelina open three new pairs of eyes in her forehead.