The girl on the deck in the floppy sun hat was afraid to open her eyes. She’d been awakened by a sound. One that had followed her from her nightmare. The noise was a clicking, skuttling sound, not unlike tap-dancing feet, but far more sinister.
Breathe held, Weechoo Soo opened her eyes slowly while peaking from her splayed fingers…the enormous spiders were still there, only three feet closer than when she’d first seen them. They surrounded her on three sides, at her back was the glass patio door.
‘Oh, fuck me.’ She thought, ‘not dreaming.’ Her breathe wheezed softly through her lips like silent steam escaping a subway vent. She instinctively felt she could make no noise, lest the beastly arachnids had cause to charge her. She had dozed off in the mid-afternoon sun…and awoken to this horror. She normally liked spiders, thought they were cool, some even beautiful works of Mother Nature’s art. Not these.
These spiders were baseball sized, with long, hairy tapered legs, pointy feet, and as black as Halloween cats. Each had numerous eyes, like tiny drops of blood, and they all had her in their sights.
Weechoo was welded to the chaise lounge. Although it was mid-October, the temperature was in the high seventies, Indian Summer, they called it.
She had inherited her mother’s pale, Chinese porcelain complexion and although Weechoo wore only black clothes, she didn’t like the white-face look that most of her friends were into. In slow-mo, she put down the Dean Koontz novel she’d been reading… and all the spiders skittered a foot closer towards the deck. They moved in unison, like little hairy black soldiers. They were three feet from the deck stairs.
Downtown on the mall the day before, her best friend, who went by the name Spoon, said, “Have you been out in the sun again? It’s so bad for you.”
Weechoo had replied, “I look sooo much better with a little color on my skin, especially my face and legs. I feel so greenish without a little color. Besides, vitamin D is super good for you.” Her shiny blue-black, chin length bob framed her delicate features like a frame around a priceless museum piece. Her eyes were smokey cat’s eye styled, the irises nearly black.
Spoon snorted. She was six inches taller than Weechoo, who only stood 5’3”. Her bleach blonde pixie cut wavered like baby chicken feathers as she looked down at her friend. “You’re so weird.”
“Is she weird, is she white, is she promised to the night...?” Sang Weechoo in her high pitched, slightly off-key voice. It was from one of her favorite bands, The Pixies.
“Ugh! Stop!” laughed Spoon. Other shoppers on the street glanced at the pair, amused by their banter, and smiling at their teenage bliss.
Weechoo said, “Just cuz I wear black doesn’t make me goth or anything. Besides, look at Robert Smith, when I see him, I think of mimes.” She play-shuddered.
Spoon said, “Mimes don’t shmear their lipstick.” She held open the door of the Sunglass Hut for Weechoo.
In the small specialty shop, Weechoo peered into the counter mirror and patted her cheeks. “Two more hours ought to do it. Healthy. That’s a good look for me.”
Spoon looked at her own face in the oval mirror and said, “Meh. You’d be hot in a burlap sack and a hairnet.”
After cruising the discounted sunglasses display, they gave up finding just the right pair and left the store.
Weechoo ran straight into Bobby Farthar, the mega-nerd from her biology class. “Aaaa! You following me again Bobby Fartface?” she cried.
“No! I swear! I was just next door at the sock shop!” Bobby’s eyes were like burnt eggs behind his coke bottle glasses, his Adam’s apple bobbed like a chicken pecking corn.
Spoon said, “Yeah, buying more Hello Kitty socks.”
“Or Spongepants.” Added Weechoo.
“That’s Sponge- Bob.” He said defensively. His face reddened with fluster.
“Whatev. You’re more of a Sponge-Pants kind of loser.”
“Just leave me alone.” Bobby said as he spun around to storm up the sidewalk.
“You leave me alone! Stalker!”
“He’s so creepy! How can you stand having him for a neighbor?” asked Spoon.
“He was okay when we were little. We got along fine until he started stalking me.”
“Ew. So gross.”
They walked on and changed the subject to boys they actually did like.
A cloud passed the sun, the sweat on Weechoo’s skin felt like ice chips. She shivered. The spiders skittered two feet closer like grotesque, many legged tap dancers.
The young Asian American woman in the black, retro styled two piece and floppy sun hat had never in her 15 years felt the paralyzing fear of a phobia, let alone arachnophobia. There were over two hundred of them in her back yard, now only a foot from the deck stairs.
Like many California gardens, hers was drought friendly- a quarter acre of pea gravel, with large succulents like yuccas and aloe scattered and clumped about. Around the edge, ivy grew dense around the bases of three redwood trees. Between the trees, she cultured red, orange, yellow, and pink flowering maples. On the other side of the trees was the fence that matched the deck, it enclosed three sides of the yard and provided much valued privacy in a neighborhood of closely spaced neighbors.
The week before, Weechoo Soo had been trimming the abutilons, cutting off dead leaves and harvesting their darkened seed pods. She was in her black overalls, the ones she’d cropped short after she’d worn holes in the knees. She liked many punk-type styles but didn’t get the holey knee look, she thought it looked stupid. Her mother, always on her case about her fashion choices, amongst just about everything else, had said, “Weewee, what have you done? I was going to sew patches on those.”
Weechoo cringed. Her mom was so whiny and uncool, a total pain in the ass dimwit. “Last time you sewed yellow ducky patches on my knees!”
“I’ll sew skulls next time!”
“Cool. But it’s too late now.”
“You made them too short, your bum’s hanging out.”
“No, it’s not.” Weechoo said a little uncertainly.
She went to the bathroom mirror which was the largest in the small house and turned around. There were sluts in her gym class who wore waaay too short shorts and she couldn’t stand how they thought they were ‘all that’. She figured they had extremely low self-esteem. She bent over and stared at her ass, scissoring her smooth legs back and forth. ‘Damn. Maybe Mom’s right. I hate it when she’s right.’
She called down the hallway towards the kitchen, “Alright. I’ll only wear them for gardening and whatev.”
Her mom didn’t respond but Weechoo knew that she wore that maddening I-told-you-so look she was so fond of. She added, “And stop calling me Weewee, its gross.”
She had been nearly done the trimming when she spotted a large snail cruising slimily towards her precious crimson flowering maple. She never killed anything. She liked snails, just not in her garden. She had bent and picked it up by the shell, carried it to the fence, and gently dropped it into the camellia hedge on the other side. She tried to keep the yard snail free. When her mother collected four or five at a time, she boiled them out of their shells and broiled them in the toaster oven with butter and garlic and ponzu sauce. Though not a strict vegetarian, Weechoo found the ritual barbaric.
She turned around quickly, certain she’d find another snail cruising her plants, and caught a tuft of curly sandy blonde disappear under the fence line.
“Bobby Fartface! I saw you! You were spying on me again!” she screamed at the spot he had been peeking from. “You are such a LOSER!”
Now, a week later, she’d give anything to see her peeping Tom neighbor peeking over the fence. She thought, ‘Maybe without those horrid glasses he’d be kinda cute.’ She recalled him as a six-year-old; his large chocolate brown eyes were like those of a gentle horse. ‘If I get out of this alive, I’ll get Spoon to stop bullying him. After all, it’s only a crush. It’s actually quite flattering.’
The horrid spiders were still as garden gnomes, and just as creepy. When they skittered forward, they were amazingly fast- so fast they looked like large black walnuts zipping four inches above the ground, legs invisible to the eye. ‘I’d never make it to the door, if I even put a foot to the deck, they’d be all over me.’
Weechoo’s insides trembled as violently as dry leaves in a windstorm, she only hoped that she did not tremble on the outside.
Movement caught her eye. ‘There! Over by the yellow Japanese maple! One, two…no…at least a hundred more! More than two hundred!’ They skuttered out from the trees then stopped as one. They lifted their frontmost legs above them and crouched just as the first crawly beasts had. Their front legs quivered ever-so-slightly, as if smelling the air…smelling her.
Weechoo in fact, could smell her body odor. The acrid stench of fear, like pungent human ammonia. She imagined it excited the hordes of spiders.
Movement to her left! More scuttling down the tree trunks and into the yard to join forces! She was now cornered on three sides, by at least a thousand creepy, bristly black spiders!
The chorus from “Gigantic”, another Pixies fav, tinnily sounded from under her chaise. Spoon calling! ‘Thank God!’ her hand darted towards the phone instinctively and the spiders skittered to the bottom deck stair. There were four stairs. She dropped her hand to her lap.
Scuttle…up the bottom step.
‘ Hmmm. So, sound and smell don’t make them react. Only movement…and speaking of movement…NOOOOOO!’
Their number was doubling in size before her astonished eyes. Tripling! Every shadow in the yard seemed to coagulate into more spidery forms, like morphing wax in a witch’s lava lamp- the shadows between her potted plants, the shadows in the ivy at the base of the redwoods across the yard, and the shadows under the stairs of the shed to the right of the yard. There had to be over five thousand! They formed a blobby sea of black around her, the spiders on the step and the ones on the deck on the sides of her…
The phone fell silent after six choruses. Weechoo didn’t want to hear that song again- ever.
The breeze picked up a notch, Weechoo’s wide brimmed hat fluttered like a manta ray. The spiders tap-danced forward as one, the closest now poised on the second step, to the left and right, a foot closer.
She wished her smothering mother was home. She’d even let her call her Weewee and volunteer to hunt her some snails. ‘No, that would be bad cuz Mom would be in danger too.’ She suddenly realized, maybe for the first time, how much she loved her mother. A tear trickled from the corner of her eye to the edge of her cheek. The spiders skittered closer six inches.
The breeze that had turned chilly lifted the brim of her hat again. And again, the spiders scurried closer, like a thick chitinous blanket…up to the third step. ‘Damn that wind!’
The doorbell chimed inside the house. ‘It’s my Amazon order! My magnetite!’
The regular mail carrier used to leave parcels by the front door, tucked behind the railing. You couldn’t see them from the street, but Weechoo had grown paranoid after watching Youtube videos of porch pirates in Santa Cruz, and insisted the deliverywoman ring the bell. On a podcast interview with her favorite rock star, Jake Ripper, he’d admitted he was addicted to collecting rocks and crystals, geodes, etc…and she took up the hobby soon afterwards.
The parcels were often fifty to sixty pounds. Once, when the doorbell went unanswered, the deliverywoman (she couldn’t remember her name though she’d been delivering their mail since Weechoo was in diapers) wrote up a ‘pink slip’. This meant that Weechoo had to go all the way downtown to the post office and pick it up herself. She called the post office and complained, saying the carrier was lazy and needed to bring it out the next time.
So here she was, at the door. Weechoo looked down at her phone on the ground, using only her eyeballs. The screen was lit up by her Ring app. She could see the sweating old woman’s face on the screen, red from the exertion of carrying the package, her hair damply sticking to her forehead. She was looking down, her lips pressed together in a grim white line. She forced a smile to her face when she looked up and rang the bell a third time.
Weechoo had an epiphany then. She realized the poor woman who had been so kind all these years had never really smiled at her since she was maybe twelve years old. She’d been faking. Putting up with her shit, and faking being happy. Tears welled in Weechoo’s dark eyes again. She blinked four or five times to hold back a tear. The spiders’ front legs twitched in the air, the thousands of legs behind them raised in unison…but they did not advance. She felt like the rottenest, self-centered brat in the world.
She vowed to herself, ‘If I get out of this, I will be kind to our mail-lady. I’ll give her the best gift cards at Christmas and even learn when her birthday is. She freakin deserves it. Hell, I’ll be kinder to everyone.’
Then she added to herself, ‘Right now my world sucks the big one! I mean really?! Thousands of spiders? Big. Black. Hairy. Spiders.’ When she looked up, they were on the edge of the 1st step. ‘Whoa! Wait a minute, I didn’t move! Oops, I must have not been paying attention. SHIT! Damn, that’s another thing to go, no more cussing. Lol’
She glanced down at her iPhone again. The mail lady was gone, her package too, to be a delivery attempt tomorrow. She hoped to be alive tomorrow. She was looking forward to making amends and looking at the world in a whole new light.
She was bummed that her magnetite order had not been left. But was more bummed that the poor woman had to lug that thing up to her door again.
Her own stupid fault. She thought of her science class and how good her teacher was. She’d been such a smartass to him. Made fun of his outdated, old-man clothes behind his back. The only reason he tolerated her was because she was an A student, and because he had an immense amount of patience. ‘Damn…I mean, Darn! I could never be that patient.’ When she’d told him about her new hobby, he was ecstatic. He said he’d collected rocks since he was a boy her age.
Weechoo had rolled her eyes and said, “You mean way back when that shirt was in style?”
Now she cringed when she realized she’d given that nice man who was only trying to relate, her snarky ‘whatever’ attitude.
Weechoo’s whole body was cramping up. The arches of her feet, the long muscles of her calves, and even the plump fatty muscles of her glutes. Her lungs burned for oxygen; she’d been barely breathing. No movement. The arch of her left foot felt on fire…as she watched in horror, the toes suddenly jerked into a ball like a fist. She clenched her jaws, but tears ran. The spiders were up the stairs now, and six feet from her on all sides. ‘Fuck! I mean Poop! I should have tried to run for it. Calm, just be calm. Go back inside your head where time and everything else stands still.’
A mosquito hovered by her face. Absentmindedly, she swiped a hand to avert the little bugger. ‘NO!’ The spiders advanced to merely four feet away. ‘Stupid stupid stupid’, she silently chastised herself. The blood sucking flying insect came back. ‘Of course.’ She thought, ‘Vampires always come back.’ She watched with icky horror as the mosquito landed on her, just above her knee. She felt the tiny prickle, like a Lilliputian syringe, as it drew her blood.
Her cramped leg spasmed involuntarily, her left leg twitched, her foot had flagged. The spiders were scuttling to merely six inches from the legs of the chaise. She saw every teeny red eye now- six to each malevolent face.
Her eyes scanned the top of the fence. She willed Bobby into view. No one came. Bobby Fartface. ‘No, I’ll NEVER call him that again. All he’d ever been was nice to me. He’s Bobby, my oldest friend.’ She’d have smiled if she thought they weren’t looking.
She recalled one day in biology when they’d been dissecting cow’s eyeballs. Some popular boy…Charlie…had discovered that corneas bounce like rubber balls. She grimaced as she recalled the outcome of that discovery. Every cornea in the room was bounced at poor Bobby. He was the smartest in that class. Weechoo felt a sudden sense of pride in her old childhood pal. Tears threatened again. ‘When he was in front of the class, nervous as fuck- oh! Poop I mean- he looked so sweet and shy’. She’d never thought of those qualities as being good, but they were. A tear slid. Spiders surrounded her lounger, hairy front legs rested on the aluminum legs. Mere inches from where she lay paralyzed.
When reading his reports about insects, or birds, or other wildlife, Bobby’s were always the best. They were interesting. He was super smart. Maybe even genius. He went so far as to illustrate his pages with lifelike depictions and stunningly realistic details. The next Audubon. ‘Hmm’ she thought. Ironically, the last report he read to the class was on crossbreeding spiders. He’d gotten an A triple-plus.