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The spiders had been acting odd.
As far as I was concerned, everything about the damned pests was strange. This was different, though. On the first morning, day one, they started emerging from their hiding spots and abandoned their webs.
Black Widows, Orb Weavers, they all exposed themselves to any number of would-be predators.
You could barely walk through your yard without entangling yourself in the near-invisible threads they'd cast out into the breeze. It was as if a thousand tiny, inverted fishermen had dropped their hooks into the sky.
The web (of course) lit up with chatter. It was happening anywhere you'd expect to find arachnids. Within minutes, all the "Ask" sites and insect expert message boards filled up with annoyed queries.
"What are they doing?"
"Is this happening to anyone else?"
"Is this happening everywhere?!"
The true shock was still to come, as the creatures simultaneously reeled themselves UP those threads. It was an Indian Rope Trick to stupefy entomologists the world over.
The consensus at that point? Well, at least they're gone.
Then the sky began to cloud over.
Some caught on quicker than others. A few folks in my neighborhood, not necessarily ignorant folks, looked upward and determined a storm had set in. Myself, I immediately recognized the wrongness of it all.
The sunlight was being blotted out, ever so slightly, by one tremendous dome of webbing.
A plane came down over the hills near my house, its engines clogged with soft gauze and mashed spiders.
Five days in, birds started disappearing. Their songs all but ceased, and the only sign of their existence was the stray tiny, hollow bone that would drop from high above.
Dark spots could be observed with the naked eye. Using powerful binoculars or a telescope showed the viewer a myriad of small, cocooned bodies floating motionless in a lofty, darkening haze. Sparrows, Crows, Hawks, and even Bats became entangled in the grim construction.
Flights were cancelled soon after the original rash of crashes. Pilots thought they could simply break through the paltry web-work of such insignificant beings. Nearly ten thousand dead passengers and crew said otherwise.
The last plane to be cleared for take-off was the rare exception. There was a roar, a violent shrieking of engine blades, and then it just stopped.
It hung there, diagonally, until the entire thing was cocooned above our heads.
The bones that fell to the ground after that did not belong to birds.
It was after a week that "Arachnocalypse", as a term, had been officially coined. Newspapers and television networks spat the phrase out at every opportunity, and it took its rightful place alongside "Snowmageddon", and the rest.
For what it's worth, I think we could've made do, as a species, without use of the sky. Even though the haze grew thicker and our world grew darker every day, there were rain storms and natural collapses to give us small breaks in construction.
The rain, by the way, would come through cloudy and slick. I didn't want to know why.
The real problem, the one we couldn't work around as easily, was the spiders that remained on land. The jumping spiders, the hunting spiders, the tarantulas, all of those who seemed to have evolved past web-weaving.
They could produce some silk, but beyond that they were at a loss. You could almost feel sorry for them, standing tall on leaves and branches, preparing for an ascent that was never coming.
I heard stories about scorpions doing the same thing, but I never saw any proof for myself.
It was almost as if they knew. It seemed to drive them mad. When they weren't stoically waiting for their strands to take root above, they attacked and bit without any sense of reason.
I lost my pet, a loyal and loving Bulldog. She came in one night covered in clinging spiders, bites all over her body. Within moments, before I could even think of who to call (Vet? Poison hotline?) she collapsed and stopped breathing.
Daddy Longlegs... I don't even know if they were in on the plan, whatever it was. They seemed to cluster in homes, crawling over people as they slept, creating vast hordes of staring, though seemingly eyeless little horrors positioned on faces and chests.
When the things weren't engaged in frightening us to death, they would simply gather on ceilings and randomly "squat" upward as if it were some elaborate spectacle the human brain couldn't comprehend.
On the thirty-second day, when the Governments finally began working on possible solutions, everything changed yet again.
The Widowers crawled out from places unseen.
A Widower, about the size and shape of a man, seemed to have no interest in joining the growing, breeding masses in the skies. The black, armor-plated arachnid creatures only displayed one common goal.
Daytime, as dark as it had become, was the only time it was relatively safe to go out. At night, Widowers could be all around you... in the trees, in crevices... and you'd never suspect. The last thing you'd see was the red hourglass on their abdomens.
That, and not-quite-human hands scrambling for your hair, your loose clothing, anything within reach.
Abandoned buildings were just as bad as the outdoors. I was with a group... I want to say this was about two months along... and we all took shelter in an old doll factory when it grew dark and we couldn't walk any longer.
The dismembered baby dolls, with their dark streaks of venom and plastic flesh wounds should've turned us away. Still, the webs they levitated in seemed old and abandoned. We figured the Widowers had their run of the place and long since moved on.
I didn't wake up to screaming.
It's weird to say that.
I wish I had woken up to screaming.
Instead, I lazily opened my eyes around what I assume to be Midnight. I reached out for a bottle of water, only to draw back a hand covered in burning, dark yellow venom.
I don't know if you've ever seen a bug trapped in a spider's cocoon. All they can do is silently rock. Back and forth, back and forth, bending at the middle. Sometimes there'll be a single free limb or antenna that waves around, trying to feel out any sign of help.
It's the same with people.
I'll have to live out the rest of my days remembering that sight. I'll have to live with the fact I ran away and left them there. People who had pulled me out of a burning truck. People who fed and clothed me when I had nothing.
There was nothing I could do. Logically, I know that.
The red hourglasses were already descending around me, and no matter what form it takes, an hourglass means time is running out.
Welcome to Spider Earth.