By Paul Lee
“Alright!” he roared, taking to his feet. “You arrogant weasels don’t want to believe me. Well, look for yourselves!” His lips quivered. “Go on!” He gesticulated. “If you come back without seeing it, fancy me a liar until the day I die.”
“It’s not the day you die,” Christopher wisecracked. “It’s the day you lie.”
Abraham—shoulders stiffening—stomped his foot and said, “I’ve said it, and I will repeat, look for yourselves if you doubt me.”
“We don’t doubt you,” Theodore said. “We know you’re as full of hogwash as my pockets are of cash from my Royal Flush.”
“You won’t be as lucky next time,” Christopher said with a wink.
“None of us will be if we stay here much longer,” Abraham added. “Go outside and see for yourselves. Then mock me.” He held his hands over his chest.
Theodore clapped tauntingly. “You are more Shakespearean by the moment.”
Christopher said, “Well, what do I have to lose?” He started for the door. “Truthfully, I’m curious what surprise you do have waiting for us. You may very well be up to a shenanigan, but it’s not a giant space spider.” Opening the door, he stepped outside and disappeared.
Twenty minutes passed. Christopher Watson had not returned.
“Where exactly is your spider?” Benjamin asked, smirking. Adding after a pause, “I’m curious where Christopher is hiding. You’re both in on this scheme.”
“Two bullshitters are better than one,” Theodore joked.
Abraham grimaced. “He was as surprised as you two when I told what I saw. God, I hope not, but I think there is a much more dire reason he hasn’t come back.”
“You are persistent,” Theodore said.
“The most persistent people live in psych wards,” Benjamin said. Momentarily, he glanced to the side, where Theodore and Abraham noticed a curiosity seeping onto his face. “Where is your spider? Are you creative enough to imagine a location?” He snickered.
Abraham grunted at the laughter invading his ears, and perhaps at the thought of the extraordinary sight he had supposedly seen. Cocking his elbows, Benjamin squinted at the host of the poker party, whose eyes were peeled back in either terror or theatrics. Benjamin started for the kitchen. Abraham followed behind before coming to a sudden stop. Benjamin’s hand cocooned the doorknob as the host finally answered the question: “In the backyard, over the embankment sloping to the prairie.”
Benjamin turned, powerwalked to the backdoor, and twisted the knob. The loose latch plate caused the door to shake. Halfway outside, he cast Abraham a quizzical look. “When I return, we are writing ‘Schizo’ on your forehead.”
Nobody was certain if he reached the backyard. But after the passage of forty minutes without Benjamin Robbins reappearing, Theodore was sure something was amiss. Clearing his throat, he approached Abraham.
“Alright,” he said, wearing a crooked smile. “What precisely is going on, lad? Perhaps everyone but me is aware of whatever devilish scheme you’re pulling.”
Suddenly, Abraham’s shell-shocked anguish transmuted into cheerfulness. He patted Theodore’s shoulder. “Guilty as charged,” he confessed, extending his arms in an I’m-under-arrest gesture.
Theodore shook his head disappointedly, defeatedly. “You sly sonofabitch.” He frowned, contemplated, and then, deciding to not let his friends get the best of him, flipped the frown. “Well played, Abraham. But when I count my poker money, I’ll be reminded who the real winner is today. Now, if you will excuse me, I must see where everyone went.”
With that said, Theodore opened the backdoor and shuffled to the outside world. The sun was sinking, and for a split second, Abraham saw fear written in his old friend’s face.
“Curiosity kills the cat,” Abraham said to the empty house. “Works like a charm.” Cruel laughter escaped his lips.
Alone he sat, he and his eyes that moved like loose buttons. Six minutes ticked by. He dialled a phone number. After one ring, a sinister and dry voice on the other end answered: “Done.”
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Abraham Crawford grinned and ended the call. The poker pals had been neutralized by a giant man in a green ghillie suit. No more condescending guests who always rubbed in their victories. Abraham was the real victor. The whole pot was his for the taking. The giant had found the cash in Theodore Elrod’s pocket and transferred it to an envelope for Abraham. Retrieving the whole pot was part of the arrangement.
He lifted the lifeless body as blood dripped onto the plastic sheeting under his boots. Theodore was lined up with the rest of the dead on a wide table. Their corpses were beginning their final journey, a journey through amputation and immersion in hydrofluoric acid.
Abraham stretched across the couch. The money would not arrive until the next hour. But he did not have them killed for money. He had them murdered for the sake of victory. Eureka flowed through him. He clapped his hands, smirked, and laughed. A glass of whiskey was poured. His head nodded in self-congratulation. He sat looking at the crack in the wall. Somehow, it had expanded during the last half hour, nearly widening enough to fit an index finger inside. The sound of scurrying travelled out of the wall. He leaned forward, peering into the enlarged crack.
A leg no wider than a hair appeared, glowing bright green. The crack opened more; the rest of the body surfaced. The creature was a baby version of the spider Abraham had fabricated to hoodwink the annual poker players. But it was real.
He held a hand over his throbbing heart. His knees buckled. The sweating—earlier caused by an unhealthy, overweight Abraham walking across the yard to converse with the hitman—returned. The huffing and puffing also came back. His earlier acts manifested as involuntary responses in this irony of horror.
The scurrying intensified. More spiders appeared from behind the crack. Handfuls spilled across the wall, some reaching the ground. He dashed through the hallway adjacent to the kitchen. Turning right, he saw an army of the little creatures charging for him. He turned left and climbed the stairs, pursued by a noise resembling crunching on wood. There was no reason to look. He knew they were behind him. Heart beating a drumroll, he reached the top and opened the door to the spare bedroom. His body shivered as he shut it behind him.
He rubbed his red face, then his wet hair. The spiders would reach the threshold in a few seconds. He opened the window beside the bed and jumped.
But after falling two feet, he became entangled. Abraham looked around. The silk glowing blueish-green cut into the deepening twilight, providing substantial lighting for viewing the surroundings. He was in a web covering the entire exterior of the house. Abraham, stirring maddeningly, heard movement. The footfalls grew louder. He tried wiggling free, but the silk’s elasticity and high tensile strength prevailed. The more he moved, the more entangled he became.
“Help me!” he screamed. “Please, God! Somebody, help me!”
A large mass rose onto the roof of his house: a thirty-foot spider made of a pile of eyes polka-dotted purple and green, eight spiked legs of bioluminescence, a blueish green triangular body, antenna ears with hammer-shaped tips, a tail curved like a hook, and fangs of shining crimson.
Abraham shrieked, squirmed, pulled, and pleaded to no avail. The colossal arachnid wrapped him in silk until his screams deteriorated to murmurs. He lay petrified, immobilized, a prisoner on death row awaiting his injection. The fangs struck with brute force, painting Abraham’s silky coffin bloodred. His body remained alive, but its functionality was dead. Not even a finger could be moved. And when the venom took effect, his guts liquified like those of his victims during their acid baths.
Stars woke up to view the scene. The howl of a wolf pierced the night. The hills seemed to rise.
The universe wore the judge’s robe.
Paul Lee has written fiction for years and served as a columnist for a newspaper. This work, however, is his first published piece of fiction. Growing up, he watched innumerable horror films and shows, including The Twilight Zone and countless slasher films of the 1970s and 1980s. The frequent viewing and reading of such stories bloomed an interest in sci-horror and dark fantasy storytelling. Elements of all three are blended into Something’s Out There.