Happy Halloween, and I hope you aren’t scared of spiders…
Spider was part of an anthology that is now sadly out of print, but which I published alongside the talented Emma Pullar and Rachael Howard. Check them out on Twitter and discover what horrors they have committed to the page!
But, for now, let’s see how Randy is getting on after a hard day squashing bugs…
Randy slammed his apartment door closed behind him and slipped his work jacket from his shoulders, sighing with the relief of someone back from an exhausting day at work. He draped his jacket carefully over the back of a chair tucked beneath a foldaway table standing flush with his living room wall. He smoothed the leather with a delicate touch; he loved his jacket, and it fit him well, just like his job. Embroidered silk letters decorated the back of the jacket with the words, ‘EASTSIDE EXTERMINATORS,’ above a logo of a mean-looking cockroach and angry spider staring each other out. For some reason his boss had though putting boxing gloves on the bugs was a cool idea. Randy wasn’t convinced, the spider had eight gloves while the cockroach only had two. How was that a fair fight? And besides, the cockroaches and spiders weren’t fighting each other, it was them versus him and he didn’t need boxing gloves.
“No-one squashes bugs like Randy,” his supervisor would bellow as he handed out bonuses to his top employees at the Friday team meetings. Each bonus came with a one-handed ‘man-hug’ followed by an over-enthusiastic slap on the back and Randy was always the top bug squasher. Today was only Tuesday but Randy was already dreading the Friday slap. He needed a beer. Despite his boss’ over-enthusiasm and tendency to invade Randy’s personal space, he was happy with his job and how many people could honestly say that? He was good at his job and enjoyed it; took pride in it. It was a shame his mother didn’t feel the same sense of pride for her son doing something he loved.
“Why can’t you be more like your brother? He’s got a good job… in a shop,” she would berate, as if it were everyone’s dream to work in retail. Randy wasn’t designed to sell shoes to strangers, he thought feet were gross. No, Randy was born to kill bugs. He’d spent hours in the garage as a kid stomping roaches and pulling the legs off spiders just to watch them squirm. He’d even shoot rats with the BB gun his dad got him for staying quiet about ‘Aunt’ Cordelia’s visits when mum was out. He was still angry at his mum for stealing the gun from him when Dad finally left for good, and she found it while clearing out the garage.
Randy shuffled through an archway off the living room and entered the kitchen. He yanked the fridge door open, and a murky yellow light spilled out across the floor, illuminating a spider as it scuttled past his foot. He stomped at it, but the spider escaped to the living room and vanished into the thick carpet.
“I’ll get you later” he bragged as he grabbed a six-pack from the bottom shelf and kicked the fridge door shut.
Randy headed back though the archway, out of the kitchen and into the living room. He was knackered and just wanted to sit down and watch some mindless crap on the TV that sat on a trolley against the far wall of his apartment. Between him and the TV lurked his favourite and only armchair; threadbare but comfortable. He grabbed the remote from the cushion, dropped into the well-worn groove of the seat and plonked the beers in his lap. Randy cracked open a can, slipped the reserves to the floor beside the chair, and took a big swig. He aimed the remote and began to flick through countless channels in a hypnotic parade of banality, his eyes heavy from a combination of a hard day’s work and the beer.
He froze as something drew his interest away from the parade of images on the screen. On the top right corner of the screen perched a hairy, black spider. It couldn’t be the spider from the kitchen, could it? He stared at the little beast, sitting there bold as brass. The spider stared back, unmoved.
The damn thing was watching him! Or perhaps it’s dead, he chuckled to himself, as he levered himself up out of the chair and approached the spider, stooping for a closer look. He supposed it could be the kitchen spider; hairy, black, eight… no, only five legs, and a shit-load of eyes. Randy edged closer, reaching out to prod the spider with the remote.
Without warning, the spider leapt onto the controller. Lurching clumsily on its five legs the spider trundled rapidly along Randy’s finger, across the back of his hand and up his sleeve. He yanked his arm back instinctively and flapped it around in a panic, trying to flick the spider off. He may have been ‘squasher of the month,’ but those hairy little bastards could still make you jump! He checked his arm, the back and palm of his hand but couldn’t see the arachnid. Gunshots drew his attention back to the TV and his chair.
Shrugging, he sat down, took a great gulp of beer and the little spider, unseen by Randy, climbed onto his shoulder as if to watch TV with him. Another gunshot rang out from the cowboy show Randy had stopped on when distracted by the intruder. He smiled to himself with another swig of beer and settled in watch the show. As he did, two more wobbly spiders ran out from under the TV and disappeared beneath Randy’s chair. He pulled his feet up off the floor, his knees almost at eye level and leaned forward peering between his legs.
Randy dropped to his hands and knees in front of the chair and peered underneath. Cheek to the carpet, his eyes searched the gloom. It was hard to see anything clearly. Old food wrappers and dust balls had turned the thin space under the chair into a play park for bugs. Randy made a mental note to be a bit cleaner; if he was this dirty it was no wonder there were bugs making his apartment their playground.
He stood, tilted the chair to one side and the spiders broke for sanctuary beneath the fridge. Randy pursued them as they skittered erratically into the kitchen. He opened the door to a little cupboard under the sink and brought out a brightly coloured aerosol can.
“Suck on this,” he spat through clenched teeth as he crouched in front of the fridge and sprayed the underside until he started to cough. Wearing a triumphant grin, he returned to the living room and settled back into this chair. With his free hand he grabbed his drink and treated his throat to a soothing dose of cool beer.
Four more spiders dashed from the cover of the TV unit and headed for his chair, each lurching, limbs missing.
“No you don’t…”
Realising he still held the bug spray, Randy fired it between his feet as the spiders disappeared beneath him. He eyed the TV with suspicion and pulled himself up out of the armchair once more to approach it. Randy placed one hand on the unit, ready to push, while the other hand pointed the aerosol towards the floor. He nodded as he counted; one…two…three. Randy pushed the unit aside spraying as it slid but he hit nothing but carpet. As he prepared to move the TV back to its rightful position, his eyes fell on a small hole in the skirting board just below the power outlet. He knelt at the hole and, as he peered in, he could have sworn he saw something move. Without further thought, Randy aimed the aerosol into the darkness.
Before he could squeeze the button, thousands of spiders exploded from the hole, blooming like a black, dread flower, dark tendrils spreading out in every direction. They raced towards Randy, into his face, over his body and across the living room. He rolled away from the hole with a scream, his arms flailing. As he shook himself free of the spiders, something wet slapped him in the face forcing him backwards and…
…suddenly, strangely, he was back sitting in his armchair, right hand crushing his beer can, froth fizzing over the top and down his fingers. The TV was in its usual place and the bug spray was on its side on the carpet, not a single spider in sight.
“Jeez,” Randy proclaimed to the room, “I need another beer.” He drank deeply to finish the can in his hand before replacing it with another. He settled back into his chair, ignoring the damp patches on his work shirt. Comfortable again, he guffawed along with the canned laughter of a sitcom that had obviously started while he was asleep, and drank deeply from the new beer. Another swig and his eyes drooped, heavier and heavier. He began snoring, and dropped his can to a carpet. It toppled to one side and glugged slowly as the remaining beer seeped into the carpet that had seen its fair share of beer over the years.
Three spiders cautiously tiptoed over to the can to inspect it, before dashing back under Randy’s chair.
Randy stirred, and groaned. It had become late; the awful infomercials onscreen told him that much and he already regretted the cricked neck and bad back from falling asleep in the chair. He often did that, so was used to the aches and pains, but they felt especially bad this time. So bad, in fact, he couldn’t lift his head from where it rested on his right shoulder, stretching his neck painfully. He grumbled over the ache and tried rubbing his neck with his left hand, but he couldn’t move it. He could feel his arm and the chair beneath it, he just couldn’t budge it; it was stuck. Unable to straighten his neck, Randy dropped his eyes down to his right arm, expecting to see his blue work shirt. He could see his hand, and wiggle his fingers, but his arm was stuck fast inside what appeared to be a glistening white sleeve. Randy cried out in surprise, but his voice was muffled, his mouth covered with something strong and sticky. Panicking, Randy tried to stand, but his legs, like the rest of him, were stuck fast. He couldn’t move. He flicked his eyes back towards his right arm trying to figure out what the hell was going on when he saw something familiar.
Thousands upon thousands of tiny silken threads encircled his arm, securing it to the chair. Fear raced through his body like an electric shock. He struggled, twisting and turning against his restraints with little effect. From his position he could see the hole behind the TV trolley which had been pushed to one side; did he do that? He couldn’t remember.
Behind the wall, something scratched against the plaster.
A thin, hairy black limb poked out of the hole, the pointy end exploring the edges, assessing them. It anchored itself onto the outside of the hole and pulled, breaking off chunks of wood and plaster. More black appendages scrabbled around the edges of the now much bigger hole. Randy rocked in his chair, struggling to break free.
The black fingers spread like a grappling hook and pulled back in different directions; one left, one right and one upwards, away from the skirting board, tearing into the wallpaper. Randy watched, wide-eyed as the plaster board gave way and disintegrated into the cavity with a loud crunch.
Four giant legs unfolded from the smashed wall, pulling something large and hairy through the hole. Eight large, glistening black eyes emerged from the darkness, riding atop a heavy, brown carapace, the size of Randy’s chair. The legs clicked, clacked, and thudded against wood and carpet as the creature struggled to be free of the wall, only just managing to pull its massive body through the newly created hole. Once through, the huge beast lurched unnaturally towards Randy, foot-long fangs glistening with venom that dripped onto the carpet, melting the cheap fibres. Mouth tightly covered, the only sign that Randy might have been screaming was the terror burning in his eyes.
The creature placed two legs on the chair, one either side of Randy, shifting its body so its glistening black eyes stared directly into Randy’s, huge fangs just inches from his face. The spider jerked forward and latched onto his right shoulder, its razor-sharp fangs tearing through silk, fabric, and his flesh. Randy had no idea if his arm was still trapped, he couldn’t feel it. The creature turned its attention to his left leg, tearing and pulling, he felt it loosen in the socket. Pain fired through his hip and up his left arm, his fist clenched involuntarily.
From the corner of his eye Randy watched as his leg was dragged off into the corner of the room, carried by thousands of tiny spiders. His stomach lurched and bile burned the back of his throat. As the errant limb reached the wall it climbed up the plaster like the leg of a demented marionette before slowly spinning in mid air as the tiny spiders wrapped it in layer upon layer of preserving silk, a feast for later.
The massive spider’s weight bore down on Randy’s right leg as it reached for his left arm. The pain was blinding but he had to fight back, he was the top squasher, he… his energy was sapped. He could do nothing more than watch as the multitude of tiny spiders finished with his leg and came back for his arm.
He felt a tickling sensation on his body, surprised he could feel anything over the searing pain. His head lolled forward, barely controlled, his chin resting on his chest as thousands of tiny spiders swarmed up over the chair and onto his body. Randy jerked away in disgust, but he could not escape. The silk gag fell away from his mouth as giant fangs sunk deep into his left shoulder. His mouth widened in a silent, choking scream, letting the horde of spiders in. Randy tried to clamp his lips shut, but it was too late. A black wave of hair and legs flooded into his gaping mouth, a stream of black vomit in reverse. As the giant spider flung his arm across the floor to its waiting minions, Randy choked, suffocating on a gag of arachnids. He could feel his throat stretching and splitting from the force of the invasion as his stomach swelled rapidly and painfully. He felt the tearing in his guts at the same time as the tearing in his oesophagus.
As he gasped his last, choking on a thick soup of blood and spiders, Randy’s final thought was of his mother.
I do want to work in a shop like my brother, Mum!