Remember last April when the news was filled with stories of murder hornets? These two-inch insects were annihilating bee colonies, tearing heads off drones and collecting thoraxes to feed to their young. Beekeepers treated violated hives like crime scenes and agricultural biologists were on the hunt for the culprits.
After all the hardships 2020 had thrown at us we thought killer hornets was as bad as things could get. How wrong we were. The hornets were but harbingers for that which lay deeper within the earth.
Six Months Later
Winter is coming. Ducks are flying south only to be ensnared. Building frames are teeming with drooping white sacs and skylines are filling with webbing. A curtain of silk stretches from the Eiffel Tower to the hotels below. The roman Colosseum has been fashioned into a nest and the Leaning Tower of Pisa is hanging by a thread.
“It’s like a goddamn Roland Emmerich movie out there.” Said General Duke Granger, head of the Arachnid Warfare branch of the U.S. Military. “There’s netting stretching from the Washington monument to the national mall. And the whole thing is dotted with the kibbles and bits of tourists.”
170 ton spiders, as long blue whales, tower over cities. With redwood length legs, concrete piercing claws, and truck sized fangs. The spiders are proving disruptive.
The first appearance was in the financial district of San Francisco. A giant spider stomped down California Street, stepped into a sinkhole and caused a gas main explosion. The shockwave rippled through the 555 California St Tower. Senior members of Goldman Sachs halted their meeting to check on the commotion.
Marshall Kirkland, an investment banker, was on the other side of the building. He said it was hard to hear what was happening. “First came the car alarms, then the sirens, then the emergency tone, and just underneath there was this terrible slurping sound.”
It turns out the slurping was the spider sucking a victim’s brain from his cranium.
No End in Sight
In a frank press conference General Granger expressed pessimism about our chances. “The spiders don’t bleed. It’s like their pelts are made out of cast iron wool. We’re pumping them full of rounds faster than Northrop Grumman can make them. We have RPGs cross firing all over the city, and our heavy artillery cannons aren’t making a dent. We’ve crashed drones into their eyes. We’ve tried everything from napalm to citrus. They keep right on webbing soldiers up.”
President Trump has ordered General Granger to stay the course. “We’re winning bigly against the spiders. I think we’d win faster if we someone found a way to make spray bottles bigger. Spiders hate those things.”
There are still no concrete answers where the spiders came from. General Granger has heard all of the theories. “Those Berkley climatologists think we did this. Like the spiders were lying in wait until it got too hot. The eggheads at Mount Weather think it’s a spontaneous mutation. Like the spiders took a dip in a nuclear waste repository. Me? I think someone boasted she could weave better than the gods and they punished her by turning her into a spider. I think these things we’re facing are her children.”
The Threat is Getting Worse
The spiders have venom so acidic it burns through tanks in seconds. One spider destroyed a troop of British Challengers with a single burst. The medical personal who approached the ruins were exposed to neurotoxins. They died before they could administer the antivenom.
Spiders have discarded hollow husks in every city, draping kills over powerlines, bus stops, and playgrounds. They’ve turned bridges into hanging traps, shattered skyscrapers, and rendered entire residential districts uninhabitable.
Worse still is how widespread the spiders have gotten. They’ve trounced through suburban streets, leaving tornado-like destruction in their wake. They’ve worked their way to the heartland, picking fights with irrigation equipment. And satellites have just spotted a blanket of webs covering the Appalachian Mountains.
At the time of this writing America lacks the infostructure to calculate the damage much less tally the dead, but there are estimates that put it in the billions.
People Are Still Going About their Business
The National Guard has ordered everyone to remain inside, but in our travels for this article we spotted large groups of young people. They were tending gardens, stacking woodpiles, and hanging out in garages. All places spiders like to go.
We asked why these twenty-somethings weren’t that concerned and this is what they told us.
“The spiders are big, but they’re slow. They’re mainly webbing up old people. I’m young and spry. Why shouldn’t I be able to play volley ball?”
“Yeah yeah yeah. I know. Their silk slices through flesh like razor wire, but I have twenty-twenty vision. I should be able to go for a run.”
“So there’s a few egg sacs in my evergreens. That’s not going to prevent me from barbequing. Look those things are barely moving.”
“I didn’t have arachnophobia before. Why should I start now?”
“The news makes it sound like there’s a Stephen King story on every street, but I don’t know anyone who’s been cocooned. Do you?”
“Quite a few people, yes.”
“See, I have no idea who that is.”
“We all have to die sometime whether it’s from a meteor or a giant spider. There’s nothing we can really do about it.”
General Granger disagreed with this line of reasoning. “If you see a huge ass invertebrate on the horizon you can drive in the other direction.” He ran a hand down his forehead. “Unless you’re so bereft you’ve resolved yourself to a slow painful death.”
This was General Granger’s final interview before he was stung and killed by a murder hornet. We thank him for his service.
Meet Noelle, a Hollywood transplant that’s been subsisting on instant ramen and false hope. She’s on the verge of moving back into her mother’s trailer when her agent convinces her to take a meeting at the Oralia Hotel. Enchanted by the art deco atmosphere Noelle signs a contract without reading the fine print.
Now she has one month to pen a novel sequestered in a fantasy suite where a hack writer claims he had an unholy encounter. With whom you ask? Well, he has many names: Louis Cypher, Bill Z. Bub, Kel Diablo. The Devil.
Noelle is skeptical, until she’s awoken by a shadow figure with a taste for souls.
Desperate to make it Noelle stays on, shifting the focus of her story to these encounters. Her investigations take her through the forth wall and back again until she’s blurred the line between reality and what’s written. Is there a Satanic conspiracy, is it a desperate author’s insanity, or something else entirely?