I dreamt of a village in a desert out west. The people had gathered around a campfire to listen to an old man tell stories. He traveled from town to town to recount the tales of their people. He told cautionary tales to teach the young ones how to behave. He told the stories of how the people came to populate this land. He sang songs to honor the ones who had gone before him. He also carried important news from one village to the next.
On this night, after the storyteller spoke for a long time, a young girl stood up. “Storyteller,” she said, “what news of my sister, Desert Flower, who went north with her husband last summer?”
Storyteller replied, “I have not seen your sister, young one, but I have heard…”
Suddenly, instead of words, hundreds of tiny spiders issued forth from his mouth. The young girl cried and ran to her mother’s arms.
The people had no words for this. The spiders ran in all directions and rapidly disappeared. The old storyteller acted as though nothing had happened.
The next morning the old man was gone, but the little spiders remained. They would show up in unexpected places, and would often pour out of the mouths of the people themselves. They went with the men on the hunt. They crawled among the corn being gathered by the women. They scampered with the children at play.
The people tried to kill the spiders, but for each one that died, it seemed as though three more tiny spiders would show up and scurry away, sounding like whispers as they went.
Finally in desperation the people went to their leader. “What should we do, Wise One?” they asked.
She told them to remain silent until the new moon became the full moon. Only then would the spiders disappear. This was hard on the people. They loved to commune with one another.
As the days passed, they began to focus more on the hunt and on the harvest, forgetting the spiders entirely. Thriving on attention but no longer receiving it, one by one the spiders disappeared.
Finally, the full moon rose, and the people came together to celebrate their freedom from the spiders. They spoke of how much they missed each other and valued one another.
There were no spiders to be seen. Oh, they would come back to visit from time to time, as spiders do, but now the people knew them for what they were, and could stop their spread through silence and neglect.
The spiders, you see, were gossip.
[Image credit: globalneighbourhoods.net]