Here There Be Spyders
Alex went to bed at eight like his parents told him to.
He pet his cat, Nigel, and told him good night. Nigel purred and closed his eyes in a feline expression of comfort and respect towards Alex. The cat slept in a comfortable pillow bed right near the kitchen door.
Alex brushed his teeth and got himself a drink of water and set it carefully on the wobbly nightstand next to his bed, the one with the gimpy leg that Alex’s father was always meaning to fix. He tucked himself in and fell asleep without any trouble.
He awoke at one am to see the spider crawling out from under his bed.
His eyelids fluttered open, crusty with sleep, and for a moment he thought he was hallucinating the movement out the corner of his right eye. Then he turned his head, looked at the floor and froze.
The spider was huge, bigger than a dinner plate, and it was glowing a neon white in the otherwise pitch-dark room.
Alex stared at it. It was crawling across his floor, its enormous legs making clicking noises as all the joints worked. It looked and moved like a machine, all moving parts and hard, glossy exoskeleton and a cluster of glittering black eyes on the front of its face over the fearsome vulva of its folded fangs.
The spider was looking for him. Alex knew it. It was covered in tiny, itchy-looking hairs. It’s front legs tasted the air before it, smelling. It made no sound. It’s little claws sank into the carpet.
The terror Alex felt was both as total as the darkness of outer space and as piercing as the light through a keyhole. He tried not to breathe.
The spider turned and Alex could see in its eight black eyes that it had found him. He couldn’t hide under the covers now. Those huge fangs would puncture right through them, even his heavy quilt. He had to keep his eyes on it.
The spider walked over and began trying to mounting the bed leg, navigating its way up to the warm flesh above.
Alex couldn’t get up and run for the door. It was all the way across his room, an easy five or six steps even if he ran. He wasn’t wearing any shoes. The spider would be on him instantly and would latch itself to his legs and sink its fangs into the thin skin and hard bone of his foot and he would fall down, down, down to the carpet where the spider would move as quick as a cat and bite into the flesh of his supple child’s throat and suck all his internal organs and fluids out and leave Alex a seized, withered husk on his bedroom floor.
Alex lay there, throat closed with fear, watching the spider with its mechanical movements and folded fangs, contemplating his fate. He was cornered prey, soft and waiting.
Then, he heard a hiss, and he whipped his head to the door, which had been nudged open so softly it had made no sound.
There was Nigel in the doorway, bathed in the quiet light from the bathroom in the hall. His fur was all puffed up and his tail arced over his back like a scorpion’s stinger. He moved like he was made of mercury, one foot in front of the other, equal precision.
He hissed again — a harsh, startling noise — and the spider turned. It held up both its front legs and the two smaller arms on either side of its mouth. Alex could tell that if the spider had been able to hiss, it would’ve right then.
Alex lay in bed with his feet drawn under him and the blankets bunched up in a defensive cringe. He was scared for Nigel. The spider was big and covered in a suit of veritable armor.
Before he could think any more, the spider and Nigel charged each other. They both moved almost too fast to be seen. The spider reared up and Alex saw its huge fangs, the size of nails.
Nigel scratched and swiped and jabbed with his lightning paws, hanging back and making hits like a man fighting with a spear, and the spider clenched and stabbed with its vile legs. It bared its fangs and Nigel bared his. The spider’s legs clutched at the air, searching for purchase. Nigel’s paws were quicksilver. He would attack, then retreat. Attack, retreat.
Finally, he scored a hit — his claws slashed downward across the spider’s eight eyes and its legs waved wildly, trying to see. Nigel held back, crouched, his eyes glowing green.
The spider was injured, but alive. It spun around like a Roomba gone haywire, stabbing and searching with its feelers and front legs. Alex could see its fangs bared and dripping venom. It came towards his bed again, blind and tasting the air with its legs.
Nigel surged forward and struck another series of blows, caught one of the spider’s outstretched legs with his claw, held on, flipped the creature onto its back where all eight of its legs scrambled furiously at the empty air. It tried to right itself but Nigel slashed at its vulnerable, softer underbelly and it bled glowing white goo.
Alex saw his chance.
He reached out with both hands, grabbed hold of his heavy, wobbly nightstand, and tipped it over. He heard the gimpy leg snap. There was a second that seemed much longer than a second as the night stand traveled downward and then thudded to the floor on top of the spider. Alex heard a crunch. The glass of water flew off and spilled everywhere.
He could see a couple of the spider’s legs sticking out from underneath the fallen nightstand. They kicked feebly then went still. Nigel was crouched victoriously in the middle of the room, that stoic cat-expression on his face. He looked at Alex and Alex looked back at him.
The hallway light came on, sending a flood of light.