This story first appeared in the February 2016 issue of Aphelion magazine.

 

Todd bolted upright suddenly wide awake.

“What was that?” he shouted.

“What was what?” Gina mumbled her eyes remaining closed.

“I heard a noise downstairs,” Todd said as he looked at the clock on the nightstand taking note of the 2:15 in red numerals.

“I didn’t hear anything but if you think you did maybe you should go check it out,” said Gina as she turned on her other side intending to go back to sleep.

“Uh…yeah, I guess I should,” replied Todd, uncomfortable with the thought of going down to an unknown fate.

They had only been in the house a few weeks and were just getting used to the place. This was their first home and they were excited when they found it on the market. It was a split level with bedrooms upstairs and living room, dining room, kitchen and family room downstairs. It had a bathroom and a half, a full basement and a garage. The lot was small, but it was on a cul-de-sac with just one other house. The real estate agent told them no other houses would be built there in the foreseeable future because the developer could not convince the owners of the land, which included the rest of the cul-de-sac, to sell. Those owners still lived in the other house there, which was right next door. The developer had bought up the land all around them and built single family homes throughout, forming a nice little neighborhood, much to the displeasure of the remaining land owner.

Todd and Gina had yet to see their immediate neighbors; in fact they saw no movement in or out of that house. While their natural inclination would be to knock on the door and introduce themselves that was not the vibe they got from these neighbors. There was a five foot fence all around that house, and all kinds of signs that indicated visitors were not welcome; “No Trespassing,” “No Soliciting,” “Beware of the Dog,” Clearly these people wanted to be left alone.

Todd got out of bed and stepped into his slippers. He turned on the light by his nightstand as Gina mumbled a weak protest. Todd opened the bedroom door and peeked out reaching for the hall light switch. He glanced into the other two bedrooms and didn’t see anything out of place. He went down the flight of stairs slowly, listening for any sounds out of the ordinary but heard none. When he got to the bottom he flicked on the kitchen light switch and looked around again seeing nothing unusual. He glanced into the adjoining dining room and living room, but all was in order. He then went down the three small steps to the family room checking the patio doors and found them locked and intact. He began to relax a little bit, but was still guarded as he opened the door to the garage and turned on the garage light. All was in order there too. He checked the front door, which was locked with no sign of anything unusual. One last place to check, the basement, which was always a place of fear for Todd no matter the house he was in.

Todd opened the door to the basement and flicked on the light. He cautiously went down the flight of stairs, looking around as he did so, half expecting someone or something to jump out at him ready to slash his throat or suck the blood from his neck. But all was quiet and he saw nothing out of place. He hadn’t realized he was holding his breath as he let out a relieved sigh and felt his whole body relax. He went back upstairs turning out the lights at each level as he did so.

“Must have been my imagination,” he said to a sleeping Gina as he climbed back under the covers turning off the light with the red glow of the time, now reading 2:30, all that remained.

Todd closed his eyes but continued to listen for anything that resembled the sound he thought he heard that woke him up in the first place. When things remained quiet he tried to empty his mind and relax and before long dozed off into a sound sleep. He dreamed he and Gina were on a picnic he lying on his back on a blanket and Gina on her side one hand supporting her head the other running her fingers through his hair and then tapping on his forehead. He woke up smiling in the dark at the pleasant dream still feeling her fingers drumming across his head. He looked at Gina and her back was to him.

Todd touched his head where he could have sworn he felt her fingers and felt a tickling feeling on his fingers and hand. He reached and turned on the night stand light and nearly jumped completely out of the bed when he saw the spider crawling on his hand toward his arm.

“God!” he shouted as he stood up frantically brushing the spider away.

“What’s the matter?” Gina said suddenly wide awake staring at Todd. “What the…” she stammered as she too jumped out of bed brushing spiders off her arms and legs.

“What the hell’s going on here?” Todd said. He grabbed the covers and flung them from the bed revealing a hoard of spiders crawling all over the mattress.

“Todd,” Gina screamed, “Todd do something.”

“What do you want me to do?” he said. “You know I can’t stand those things,” he said as he continued to brush his arms and legs still flicking spiders to the floor with revulsion each time. “Gina, your hair…”

She screamed again near panic as she pulled at her short cropped hair.

“Wait,” Todd said rushing to her. He made a face each time he picked at her head or brushed a spider to the floor. They both started squirming around as though engaged in some kind of new dance. They tore at their nightclothes and rushed toward the bathroom.

“I’ll call an exterminator in the morning,” Todd said, “but right now I think we should jump in the shower; I just feel skuzzy all over.”

“Me too,” agreed Gina.

Todd pulled back the shower curtain and recoiled. The floor of the tub looked alive with movement as more spiders crawled all over each other.

“Ewww,” shouted Gina beginning to cry. “What’s happening?”

“I don’t know,” said Todd. “All I know is I hate spiders, I can’t stand them,” he continued, backing toward the bathroom door.

“Me neither,” said Gina. “Why are there so many?”

“I have no idea. C’mon let’s go downstairs, there’s no way I can sleep tonight,” Todd said grabbing her arm. “I always thought spiders were solitary creatures, not social like ants or bees. How could there be so many congregating in one place like this?”

“And how did they get here?” said Gina, her voice cracking. “I haven’t seen any bugs at all since we moved in.”

“I don’t know, I don’t know,” stammered Todd as he opened the bedroom door. But when he walked through he felt something brush against his head. Thinking it was another spider he ran his hand across his face only to feel something sticky on his fingers. He flicked on the hall light to see the doorway covered by a large spider web. Gina screamed as Todd jumped around tearing at the sticky twines attaching themselves to his body. He could feel the spiders crawling over his back, bigger ones this time, as Gina rushed to him tearing at the web and beating her hands against his back trying to crush the creatures she could see.

Still naked from their foiled shower attempt they rushed down the stairs trying to get away from the ugly web and accompanying spiders. With each step they took they could feel crunching under their feet looking down to see the stairs filled with more of the dreaded creatures. They jumped the last few steps and ran into the kitchen relieved to see no spiders on the kitchen floor.

“Todd,” Gina said trying to catch her breath “am I having a nightmare?”

“If you are I am too,” Todd said. “This is unbelievable; I’ve never seen anything like that.”

“How…how can we continue to live here?” said Gina near tears. “I don’t know if I can ever sleep in that bed again.”

“Let’s not panic,” said Todd trying to keep control of his voice, “like I said before we’ll call an exterminator tomorrow and get rid of these things.”

“How can they get rid of so many?” Gina cried. “And what if they come back?”

“Gina, we’ve worked too hard for this house, we can’t give it up so easily. Professionals will be able to deal with this and probably tell us how this happened too. They’re despicable I know, but they’re just spiders, it’s not like they have a mind or persecution sense or something where they’re out to get us.”

“I…I guess,” Gina said sounding not relived at all.

“I gotta get some water,” Todd said walking toward the kitchen sink. But as he went to turn on the faucet he started to take steps back away from the sink.

“What’s the matter?” said Gina as she joined him near the sink looking down into it and seeing spiders by the hundreds crawling out of the sink drain. “Oh no,” she screamed nearly fainting.

“Gina, Gina, we have to get out of here, these things are all over the place.”

“But our clothes, we can’t go out like this.”

“There must be something in the hall closet we can throw on,” Todd replied.

They found some old sneakers and coats in the closet and rushed to the garage door. When he flung the door open they could see another web covering that door too. Todd grabbed a broom from the hall closet and brushed away the web grunting disgust the whole time. He pressed the garage door button and the outer door began to rise. He and Gina rushed to the car and quickly got in. He turned the key and started backing out. He stopped halfway down the driveway and put it in park

“What’s the matter?” Gina said.

“My wallet, we can’t get too far without cash or credit cards.”

“Where is it?” Gina said.

“On the credenza in the foyer,” Todd said clearly trying to get up the courage to reenter the house.

Gina gave him a sympathetic look as he steeled himself to rush into the house hoping he could avoid as many spiders as possible. He opened the car door and made a mad dash through the garage and into the foyer, brushing away remnants of the web covering the doorway into the house as he went. He grabbed his wallet and ran out retracing his steps. He climbed back in the car slamming the door and putting the car in reverse.

Todd put the car in gear and pressed hard on the accelerator wanting to get as far from the house and those spiders as quickly as possible. Just as the vehicle was gaining speed, spiders dropped down from the ceiling of the car covering their faces. They both screamed as Todd lost control of the vehicle. Just before impact with the tree Todd glanced in the rear view mirror and thought he saw the white curtains in the house next door move. But were those curtains?

The End

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