Short Story – ‘The Web’

The Web - By Jon Maas

Pete Sunderson looked at the address once more: 355 S. Arana Street. This is it, he thought, and it’s a dump. He took a deep breath and entered without knocking. It wasn’t so bad once he got inside; the place was empty, old and abandoned, but it was clean. It was spotless, in fact. He’d been in worse places; most hookups from Craigslist involved bad places.

Pete had learned to tune out the smell of mold, a barking Pit Bull in the front yard, and even the unmentioned kid or two. This is the price you pay, he thought. He’d also learned to run; internet hookups could go sour quite quickly. He’d run if he heard a husband coming up the driveway. He’d run if the woman had a visible STD. He’d run if he felt the woman was really a man.

He’d always give it a shot though, even when the circumstances were a bit depraved. Pete once ended up at a Meth lab; the woman inside was missing some teeth and smelled like cheese, but he stayed and she made it worthwhile. She needed money, and would literally do anything for twenty dollars. Anything.

Odd places have upsides, thought Pete, just keep your wits about you, and if there’s any trouble, run.

He was a little suspicious of this woman already; she couldn’t spell. This wasn’t uncommon in the Craigslist hookup culture, but they had been communicating for two days now and she failed to make a single sentence without some egregious error. He looked down at the printout of her note:

Meate me at mie hom, 355 S. Aranya St
Apt 203. Wee have fun.
– S. Weever

To her credit, he could tell from their email exchange that she wasn’t a Bot or some man trying to kidnap him. She said her poor spelling was due to the fact that she was an immigrant who didn’t know English too well.

Girls who want Visas can be friendly, thought Pete, let’s give this a shot.

Pete went up the stairs and felt uneasy; no one lived in the building. It could be a Crackhouse. It could be a setup.He took another look at the girl’s photo to keep his nerve. She was gorgeous, most likely from Eastern Europe. If there was a chance she looked like even remotely like this, he had to take it. He sidled up to the door and knocked; she answered after twenty seconds. Her voice unnerved him a bit.

“Come in,” she said in flawless English, “It’s open.”

/***/

Pete sat in the chair; it was uncomfortable but there was no place else to sit. The room was almost completely bare and immaculately clean. There was one mirror lying against the far wall. Pete took a look; his overweight frame was sweating profusely. He steeled himself against a possible trap. A girl like that would not hook up with a guy like me, he thought, and how come her English is perfect all of a sudden?

“You ok in there?” he asked.

“Please wait,” she responded, “please wait.”

She’s definitely a girl, thought Pete, she might show up with an extra hundred pounds on her, but she’s a girl at least. But something still seems odd.

“Maybe we can hang out in the living room?” he asked, “Get to know each other?”

“Please wait,” she responded, “please wait.”

Pete lost his nerve. Why would she invite him in, and then have him stay in the living room? And her voice sounded strange, like it was pre-recorded.  Something didn’t seem right. He got up and headed out the door, but just as he was about to leave, he heard her call from the back room again.

“I’m ready,” she said, “I’ve made your bed. Please come.”

/***/

The bed in the back room looked like nothing he had ever seen. It was made of fronds of pure white silk and when he lied down, it molded around him perfectly. He stared at the ceiling and closed his eyes. I hope she takes her time, he thought, this is pretty nice. The bed was cool and absorbed the sweat from his skin. And it smells so clean, he thought. Some of the silk fronds puffed into the air and fell down on his forehead. He didn’t move them; he just took a nap.

He woke up ten minutes later and had sunk into the bed. Fronds of silk were completely covering his face. When he tried to move them, he noticed that part of the bed was now sticking to his arm. He managed to pull the silk from his face, but his shirt was going to be ruined. Whatever the bedding was, it stuck to him and would not let go.

He looked up and saw a spot on the ceiling. It was moving, slowly. It stopped in the middle, right above his head and then came down towards him.

It was a small spider, about a centimeter across, and it landed directly on his nose. He tried to brush it off, but couldn’t quite break his arms free of the silk to do it.

“Hey!” he screamed, “get away!”

He had to leave now. He got up to run to the door, but the bedding sank down further. He tried to take hold of the bedstand, but it too was made of silk and melted away. Pete had no leverage and sank further and further down into the silk fronds.

“Help me!” he screamed.

Some of the silk fronds entered his mouth. He could breathe through them, but they muffled his yells. He looked around and the pure white bedding was now mottled with crawling black spiders, running through the fronds of silk and onto his skin. He screamed again and thrashed about, but it only made the tangles worse. He felt little pinches all over his body.  They hurt at first, but then his skin became numb. He began to feel light-headed, and then extremely sleepy. He wanted another nap; he tried to move out of the bed once more, but he could no longer move his arm. It had no sensation. He could barely feel the hundreds of little creatures crawling over him, scuttling through the web, under his shirt and over his skin.

Before he passed out one more thing went through his mind. This is the price you pay, he thought, this is the price you pay.

/***/

The young male spider’s eight eyes beamed with delight. The plan had worked! It had taken two years of preparation. It took five months to find the right abandoned building. It took all winter to clean it up. It took four months to learn the human’s strange language and another forty days to find an audio recording and splice simple messages in. It took another three months to figure out how to put a message on Craigslist.

Then three seasons later, after several near misses and one frightfully close call with a sexually frustrated Exterminator, they had trapped their first victim, perhaps the only one they would ever need. During these two years, seven generations of spiders had come and gone.

Stay strong, the Matriarch had told him, do not flee to the forest to catch your own flies. Our plan will work.

So day after day he had laid fresh silk down into the bed. Day after day he had watched the shadows of humans come and go past their apartment. Day after day he and the Nest became hungrier and hungrier.

But this was a human, and he was all theirs! The man was fleshy too; the male spider crawled to the Nest Matriarch and asked how long this creature would sustain them. She moved her legs and sent vibrations through the silk to communicate her thoughts.

Two years, easily,” she said, “I’m going down to manage him a bit, would you come with me?”

He crawled out of the wall with the Matriarch to descend on the human. Their prey was waking up and needed to be tranquilized before he started screaming again. The spider and the Matriarch dropped their lines and landed on the bedding. They crawled through the webbing until they reached the man’s leg. Twenty-five other spiders were perched there, eating his outer layer of skin. One young female had laid eggs in his inner thigh. The male spider took a small bite out of the man’s flesh; it was delicious.

Their prey started to yell and thrash about. Three spiders became dislodged from their spot on his leg, but the Matriarch was holding tight. She injected the man with some more tranquilizer and a few moments later, his body relaxed again.

He’ll give us food for two years, easily, said the Matriarch.

I think he’ll give us three years, the young male spider responded, perhaps FOUR if we manage to keep him alive the whole time!

 


Jon Maas is a writer living in Los Angeles. He has two novels out on Amazon, the Epic Fantasy City of Gods: Hellenica, and the Dark Fantasy Spanners: The Fountain of Youth. Both are available for free under the Kindle Unlimited program. He has a third novel, Flare, that he hopes to release shortly. He writes on his bus commute to and from work.

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