The gonzo horror novel John Dies at the End, by Cracked.com's David Wong, was a huge internet sensation a few years ago, and has spawned a feature film starring Paul Giamatti. Now at last, the sequel is coming out early next month — and we've got an exclusive excerpt from This Book Is Full of Spiders... Seriously, Dude, Don't Touch It. Check it out!
You can read the first 15 pages of This Book is Full of Spiders here. And here's our exclusive excerpt from slightly later in the novel:
There exists in this world a spider the size of a dinner plate, a foot wide if you include the legs. It's called the Goliath Bird- Eating Spider, or the "Goliath Fucking Bird- Eating Spider" by those who have actually seen one.
It doesn't eat only birds — it mostly eats rats and insects — but they still call it the "Bird- Eating Spider" because the fact that it can eat a bird is the most important thing you need to know about it. If you run across one of these things, like in your closet or crawling out of your bowl of soup, the first thing somebody will say is, "Watch it, man, that thing can eat a goddamned bird."
I don't know how they catch the birds. I know the Goliath Fucking Bird- Eating Spider can't fly because if it could, it would have a different name entirely. We would call it "sir" because it would be the dominant species on the planet. None of us would leave the house unless a Goliath
Fucking Flying Bird- Eating Spider said it was okay.
I've seen one of those things in person, at a zoo when I was in high school. I was fifteen, my face breaking out in acne and getting fatter by the day, staring open- mouthed at this monster pawing at the glass wall of its cage. Big as both of my hands. The guys around me were giggling and punching each other in the arm and some girl was squealing behind me. But I didn't make a sound. I couldn't. There was nothing but a pane of glass between me and that thing. For months after, I'd watch the dark corners of my bedroom at night, for hairy legs as thick as a finger poking out from behind a stack of comic books and video game magazines. I imagined — no, expected — to find strands of spiderweb as thick as fishing line in my closet, bulging with clumps of half-eaten sparrows. Or spider droppings in my shoes, the little turds laced with bits of feather. Or piles of pink eggs, yolked with baby spiders already the size of golf balls. And even now, ten years later and at the age of twenty- five, I still glance between the sheets at night before pushing my legs in, some part of my subconscious still looking for the huge spider crouching in the shadows.
I bring this up because the Goliath was the first thing that popped into my mind when I woke up with something in my bed, biting my leg.
I felt a pinch on my ankle, like digging needles. The Goliath Fucking Bird- Eating Spider leapt out of the fog of my sleepy imagination as I flung the blankets aside.
It was dark.
Lights were off. Clock off. Everything off.
I sat up and squinted down at my leg. Movement, down by the sheets. I swung my leg off the bed and I could feel the weight of something clinging to the ankle, heavy as a can of beer.
A spasm of panic ripped through me. I kicked out with the leg, grunting in the chill air of my dark bedroom, trying to shake off the little biting whatever- it- was. The thing went flying across the room, passing through a shaft of moonlight spilling in around my blinds. In that brief second I saw a flash of jointed legs — lots of legs — and a tail. Armored plates like a lobster. The whole thing was as long as a shoe. Black.
What in the name of —
The creature that my panicked mind was calling a "spider" — even though it clearly wasn't an arachnid or any other species native to planet Earth — flew across the bedroom and hit the wall, landing behind a basket of laundry. I bolted up out of the bed, squinting, edging around the room, feeling the wall with my hands. I blinked, trying to get my night vision, scanning for something to use as a weapon. I pawed around at the jumble of objects on my nightstand, saw something jutting out from under a copy of Entertainment Weekly. Round and slim, I thought it maybe was the hilt of a knife. I grabbed it and threw it, realizing only after it was airborne that it was my asthma inhaler. I reached again, grabbed for what looked like the heaviest object on the table — a jar of cheese sauce.
I spotted movement across the baseboard. I chucked the jar, grunting with the effort. A thud, a tinkle of broken glass. Silence. I grabbed the table lamp, a novelty item that consisted of a naked bulb jutting out of a stained- glass sculpture of a turkey. A birthday present from John. I yanked the cord from the wall and raised the turkey by the neck, holding it over my shoulder like a quarterback photographed in midthrow.
The spider(?) skittered across the floor, out the doorway, and into the living room. It had legs all over it, walking on half a dozen legs with another half dozen sticking up in the air like dreadlocks, like the thing was made to keep running even on its back. The sight of the thing froze me. That awful, primal, paralyzing terror that only accompanies an encounter with something completely alien. I lowered the lamp and forced myself to take a step forward. I tried to control my breathing. I risked a glance down at my leg and saw a crimson stripe leaking down from the bite.
That little bastard.
I felt a heat, and then a numbness, creeping its way up my leg. I didn't know if the little monster was poisonous, or if it was just the shock of getting bitten. I took three steps toward the doorway and had developed a serious limp by the fourth.
I slooooowly peered into the living room. Not quite as dark in here, the streetlamps outside spilling halfhearted ribbons of light on the floor, writhing among shadows of windblown tree branches. No sign of the spider. I heard a scratchy rustle from the kitchen tiles to my left and spun on it —
It was the dog.
Molly stepped sleepily toward me, a knee- high reddish shape topped by two eyes reflecting bluish moonlight. I caught the faint blur of a wagging tail behind her. She was looking right at me, wondering why I was up, wondering why I smelled like terror sweat, wondering if I had any snacks on me. I glanced toward the front door. Ten feet of carpet between me and it. I had half made up my mind to pack Molly into the car and flee to John's place, then regroup so that the two of us could come back here tomorrow with a shotgun and holy water.
My feet had never been so bare. Those little naked toes. That spider thing probably looks at those like the ears on a chocolate bunny. Where had I left my shoes? I brandished the turkey lamp and took a shaky step, my bitten left leg having fallen asleep. I willed it to hold up from here to the driveway.
A scream, from behind me.
I flinched and spun, then realized it was my phone. John had set my phone's text message ringtone to a sound clip of him screaming, "TEEEXXTT!! SSSSHHHIIIIITTTTT!" I never figured out how to change it back. I snatched the phone from the coffee table and saw it was a blank message with an attached photo. I opened the image . . .
A man's penis.
I quickly closed it. What the hell?
The phone sounded again in my hand. A call this time. I answered.
"Dave! Don't talk. Listen. You have a picture in your inbox. DO NOT OPEN IT. I sent it to the wrong number."
"Jesus Christ, John. Listen to me — "
"Man, you sound out of breath — "
"John, I — "
The phone slipped from my fingers, which were suddenly unable to grip it. I took a step toward the fallen phone, then another, and the room started wobbling in front of my eyes. Losing my balance —
NO NO YOU CANNOT FALL YOU CANNOT GO DOWN THERE
WITH THAT THING!
I fell face-first on the carpet. My left leg was fifty pounds of dead weight dragging behind me. My right leg was tingling now, terror pumping the poison through my veins with horrible efficiency. I swung an arm around, finding the coffee table. I clawed at it, tried to raise myself. No grip with that hand.
Flat on the floor again. I didn't even feel the impact on the shoulder I landed on.
"HELP! SOMEBODY!" I squealed. I wished I knew the names of my neighbors. "HEEELLLLPP!"
The last cry ended in a croak.
The cell phone screamed again.
Mustering every last calorie of energy from my right arm, I reached out for a phone that seemed to be ten miles away. I got my dead fingers on top of it, then dragged it across the carpet toward my face. It was as heavy as a bag of concrete. Manipulating the hand was like trying to fish a stuffed animal out of one of those claw games at the carnival. I saw that the incoming message was from John.
"JOHN!" I screamed at the phone, stupidly. I slapped at the buttons with my clumsy carnival claw hand. I fought to lift my head from the floor.
The screen changed. An image appeared.
My arm went dead. My head bounced off the floor. Spinal cord totally unplugged now. I was staring across an expanse of carpet, seeing tumbleweeds of dog hair that had gathered under the TV cabinet across the room. Couldn't look away — didn't even have that much muscle control. Couldn't close my eyes.
I could hear, though, and I detected the ever- so- faint rustling of carpet, many little feet stepping through the fibers. Hard, black, jointed legs shuffled into view. The spider completely filled my field of vision, no more than six inches from my eyes. Legs everywhere. A half dozen of them were coated in nacho cheese sauce.
The creature's mouth was as big as mine, surrounded by needle-thin mandibles. Two lips parted and I saw with revulsion that it had a pink tongue, exactly like a human's. It inched toward my face.
The spider was my world, its many glistening black legs extending past both ends of the horizon. I could count the taste buds on its lolling pink tongue, could see the wet ridges of the roof of its mouth. Its carapace glistened with some kind of slime. Two of its legs were touching my mouth. It tickled.
A huge, furry nose descended into my field of vision, like the fuzzy snout of God Himself. Molly had finally grown curious enough about the situation to wander in from the kitchen.
Her nose twitched as she detected the smell of nacho cheese. She licked the spider, discovered that her most ambitious doggy dream had finally come true: naturally cheese-coated prey. With a snap of her jaws and a quick twist of her head, she ripped off four of the monster's legs and buckled down to the hard work of chewing them.
The spider shrieked with a piercing noise that made my bones vibrate. It sped from view so fast I had no idea what direction it went.
Was this permanent? I pictured the venom turning my spinal column into mush. Molly glanced at me, quietly judging me for my laziness. She worked over her severed spider legs, realizing there wasn't much meat inside the crunchy outer shell. She settled in and pinned the legs under her front paws, then started carefully licking the cheese off of them.
I lay there for an interminable amount of time that in reality was about one hour. I eventually felt a tingling across my torso as I sleepily imagined I had landed on an anthill. It was, however, the feeling returning to my body. Twenty minutes or so later I found I could twitch my fingers, a half hour after that I was sitting upright on the sofa, cradling my throbbing head in my hands. I devoted all of my mental energy to blocking out any thoughts of what the spider had intended to do to my immobilized body.
Well, the first step would be to lay eggs . . .
Oh, wait. The spider. It could still be here. Shit.
Three seconds later I was on the porch, peering back through the front door into my own living room. No sign of the spider, but then again it was pitch dark inside and I had a streetlight behind me, so all I could see in the little window was a reflection of my own stupid face. My hair looked like I had combed it with an angry cat. I reached for my cell phone, then realized it was still on the floor in the living room.
I flung open the door, sprinted in, rolled, grabbed the phone, and sprinted back out, slamming the door behind me. I dialed John. Voicemail:
"This is John. If you're calling because you found the rest of my guitar, just bring it by the apartment. Sorry about the rug. Leave a message."
I didn't. Even on a Thursday night, the man was probably marinated and comatose by now. I glanced around the neighborhood, my nervous breaths barely visible in the November air. Why was mine the only house that didn't have power? I raised the phone, but didn't dial. The English language needs a word for that feeling you get when you badly need help, but there is no one who you can call because you're not popular enough to have friends, not rich enough to have employees, and not powerful enough to have lackeys. It's a very distinct cocktail of impotence, loneliness and a sudden stark assessment of your nonworth to society.
There was a broom leaning by the front door, from when I had used it to knock a dead bird off the porch a few days ago. I clutched it in front of me like a spear and pushed through the door. Molly brushed past me in the opposite direction, presumably to find the perfect spot outside my car door to take a dump so that I'd be sure to step in it the next time I was in a hurry to get to work. I took one step inside, focusing on the floor to —
The spider thumped onto my head, twitchy legs tangling in my hair. I dropped the broom and threw my hands up as the monster climbed over my ear and onto my shoulder. Itchy little legs, all over my face and neck. I grabbed the spider around the body, rigid legs bending under my hands. I tried to pull it off. I couldn't, the feet were latched on somehow. My shirt — and my skin — stretched away from my shoulder as I pulled. I heard a screeching like steam from a teapot, and realized it was me.
Sharp mandibles filled the view in my right eye. A stab of pain seared through my skull. I lost vision in that eye and thought the bastard had plucked out my eyeball. I let out a scream of rage and grabbed bundles of legs with both hands, ripping them away from the skin. I felt wetness and realized the monster had left one leg behind, the foot still attached to my shoulder. But I was free of the creature now, the unholy thing thrashing around in my hands, twisting its mouth toward me, trying to bite.
That freaking tongue! Goddamn it!
I frantically looked around with my one good eye, trying to find a container I could cram the creature into.
Laundry basket! Bedroom floor!
Into the bedroom. I kicked over the plastic basket, dumping the clothes. I dunked the beast inside and turned the basket over, imprisoning it. I knocked the shit off my nightstand and laid it sideways on top of the basket. Good and heavy. There were vertical slots in the basket and the spider stuck a leg through. It couldn't crawl out but I suspected it could bite through the plastic eventually. Have to watch it.
I sat heavily on the bed, chest heaving. Face wet and sticky. Cringing, I lifted a tentative hand to the right side of my face, expecting to find a squishy eyeball laying on my cheek. I didn't. I winced as I felt around the eyelid, raw skin stinging at my touch. Everything felt torn and ragged up there. I blinked and tried looking through the eye, found I could a little bit. I looked down, intending to dig my cell phone from my pocket, and let out a disgusted hiss.
The spider's black leg, the one that broke off when I was pulling it off me, was still stuck to my shirt. I grabbed it and pulled it and it would not come free. It wasn't stuck to the shirt, it was stuck to me, pulling up the skin like a circus tent. The foot was hooked in somehow, dug in like a tick. I pulled apart the hole in the shirt and pinched the skin between two fingers and tried to get a close look at it. I couldn't tell the exact point where the severed leg ended and the patch of skin on my shoulder began. It was like the leg had fused to it somehow. I pulled and twisted. It was like trying to pull off one of my own fingers.
I was getting seriously pissed off at this point. I stomped out of the bedroom and into the kitchen. I yanked open several drawers until I found a utility knife, what some people call a box cutter. Molly came trotting in behind me, figuring maybe I was making a snack and she could get some scraps.
I pulled off my shirt, then grabbed a long wooden spoon and stuck it sideways in my mouth. I stabbed the tip of the utility knife's short blade in at the point where the monster's foot was fused with my skin, and started prying. I growled and cursed around the spoon, teeth denting into the wood. A thick drop of blood ran down my chest like candle wax.
It took twenty minutes. In the end I had the six-inch-long jointed leg in my hand, with a little dot of bloody skin and fat on the end that used to be part of me. I held a bundle of wet paper towels to the wound, smears of blood making my abdomen look like a finger painting. I put the monster's leg in a plastic container from my cabinet. I leaned against the counter, eyes closed, taking slow breaths.
I had taken one step back toward the bedroom when a knock came at the door. I froze, decided not to answer it, then realized it may be John. I went into the bedroom to check on the caged beast. It had two legs through a slot in the plastic basket but had made no progress toward biting its way out. I made my way back across the living room, smacking my foot on the coffee table on the way. I yanked open the door —
It was a cop.
A young guy. I knew him, name was Franky something. Went to high school with me. I straightened up and said, "What can I do for you, officer?"
I saw his eyes go right to my torso, where I was holding a red wad of paper towels over a freely bleeding wound, and then back to my face, where one eye was swollen shut under a ragged eyelid caked with dried blood. He had a hand resting on the butt of his gun, alert in that way that cops are.
He began with, "Who else is in the house, sir?"
"It's fine. I mean, nobody. I live here alone. I mean, my girlfriend lives here with me, but she's away at school right now. So it's just me. Everything's fine. I just had a problem with, uh, something that, uh, came into the house. Some kind of . . . animal."
"You mind if I come in, sir?"
There was no right answer to that, since he clearly thought I had a butchered prostitute in here somewhere. I stepped aside without a word. That "sir" shit was irritating me. He was my age. I went to parties with this guy in school, watched him play teabag twister with underwear on his head.
Burgess, I thought. That's his name. Franky Burgess.
He walked past me and I said, "I'd turn on a light, but the power's out. Must have, you know, blown a fuse or something."
He gave me a look that suggested what I just said gave him a whole new perspective on my mental state. I could read his face perfectly because the living room light was on.
"Oh. Right," I stumbled. "Guess it's back on now."
I blinked. Had it been on this whole time?
The place was a mess. I mean, it had been a mess before (the blood I dripped on the carpet actually blended with a nearby coffee stain) but where we were standing gave us a clear view into the kitchen, where drawers were flung open, a roll of paper towels had fallen onto the floor and a pile of plastic lids had spilled out of a cabinet. A couple of steps after that and he would have a view of the main bedroom, where it looked like a bomb had gone off. Oh, and there was an alien spider monster trapped under an overturned laundry basket with a piece of furniture piled on top of it.
The cop moved into the kitchen and I followed him. I heard a skittering noise from the bedroom and saw the spider trying desperately to escape between the plastic bars of his laundry basket prison. The cop gave no notice. He looked at the bloody box cutter on the counter, then glanced back at me and my several bloody wounds. I stepped casually backward, stopping in front of the bedroom door, leaning against the door frame as if I wasn't somehow trying to block the view of the room with my body.
"Yeah, that," I said, nodding toward the little knife, "I cut myself a few times, no big deal, I was . . . trying to get this thing off me. I think it was a possum or something, I couldn't get a look at it. It was clawing me up pretty bad."
He was looking past me, into the bedroom, and said, "Can you step aside, sir?"
Screw it. Let this thing bite his eyes out, what do I care? Go right in, Franky.
I stepped aside and Franky the Cop entered the bedroom. He surveyed the carnage, then finally looked down on the overturned basket. Five little armored legs writhed around between the plastic slats. The cop casually looked away, glancing into my closet with disinterest. Finally he looked back at me.
"So, did you kill it or what?"
The beast was right there in the basket. In full view. Jaws clicking against the plastic, a sound like a dog gnawing on a bone. It had gotten a few legs entirely through the basket and was now pulling its body through. All of this went entirely unnoticed by Officer Burgess.
He doesn't see it.
"Uh, no. I tried to trap it."
The thing had its head out of the basket now. Franky looked down. Nothing to see. He looked back at me.
"Have you had anything to drink to night, sir?"
"Couple of beers, earlier."
"Have you taken anything else?"
"Can you tell me what day it is?"
The spider had a third of its body out of the basket. There was a thick piece of armor around its abdomen that was wedged in between the plastic strips. It had four legs working on the problem.
"Thursday ni — uh, I mean, I guess it's Friday morning now. November fourth, I think. My name is David Wong, I'm currently standing in my home. I'm not high."
"The neighbors are worried about you. They heard a lot of noise in here . . ."
"You try waking up with some animal biting you in your sleep."
"This isn't the first time we've been out here, is it?"
I sighed. "No."
"You put some weight on top of that basket there."
"I told you, I was trying to trap it — "
"No, the basket was you trying to trap it. I'm thinking the weight is on there because you thought you had trapped it."
"What? No. It was dark. I — "
The monster pulled the widest piece of shell through the bars. Halfway out. The difficult half.
"Is it possible you made all those cuts yourself? With that knife in there?"
"What? No. I — "
I don't think so . . .
"Why do you keep looking down there?"
I took a step back out of the room.
"Do you see something down there, Mr. Wong?"
I turned my eyes up to the cop. I was sweating again.
"Have we been seeing things tonight?"
I didn't answer.
"Because this wouldn't be the first time, would it?"
"That was . . . no. I'm fine, I'm fine."
I focused on not looking down at the basket. The chewing sounds had stopped.
I couldn't hold out anymore. I looked down.
It was gone.
I felt my bowels loosen. I glanced around the room, checked the ceiling. Nowhere.
The cop turned and left the room.
"Why don't you come with me, Mr. Wong, and I'll take you to the emergency room."
"What? No, no. I'm fine. The cuts are no big deal."
"Don't look minor to me."
"No, no. It's fine. Put it in your report that I refused treatment. I'm fine."
"You got any family that live here in town?"
"Nobody? Parents, aunts, uncles?"
"There a friend we can call?"
"John, I guess."
I was glancing everywhere, trying to spot the spider, no idea what I'd do if I did.
"Well, tell you what, give him a call and I'll hang out here until he shows up. Keep you company. In case the animal comes back."
I couldn't think of anything that would make this guy leave, short of punching him and forcing him to haul me to jail. That hardly seemed like a solution, though.
The cop can stay as long as he wants, I thought. As long as he doesn't go to the toolshed.
Franky the Cop turned to me at that moment and said, "I'm going to have a look around outside."
I let the cop go out the back door, but didn't offer to follow him. I guess he wanted to do a walk around of the yard to make sure there wasn't a corpse out there. Let him. As soon as he was out of sight, I moved back through the kitchen, into the living room and then through to the bedroom. I flipped on the light, checked the ceiling, checked everywhere. No spider. I heard the muffled sound of steps on crackling leaves and saw the cop outside, passing the window with a flashlight. I headed for the bathroom, soaked a washcloth and cleaned the dried blood off me. I got a Band-Aid on my shoulder and cleaned up the eyelid, flinching with every stinging touch. I went into the bedroom, searching for the monster, even looking in the laundry basket in case the thing had decided to return for some reason. I put on a shirt and tried to push down my hair, thinking I could present a picture of a stable citizen for the cop and make him feel better about leaving.
Before he asks to see the toolshed.
I grabbed my phone from the bed and dialed John one last time. Three rings and then —
"John? It's me."
"We got a situation."
"Can it wait until after work tomorrow?"
"No. There's something in my house. A — "
I glanced around for the cop.
"A creature. It took a chunk out of my leg and then it went for my eye."
"Really? You kill it?"
"No, it's hiding somewhere. It's small."
"Size of a squirrel. Built like an insect. A lot of legs, maybe twelve. It had a mouth like — "
I turned and saw the cop standing in the bedroom doorway.
I nodded sideways toward the phone and said, "This is John. He's on his way."
"Good." He nodded toward the back door. "Do you have a key to that toolshed outside?"
I pocketed the phone without saying good-bye to John.
"Oh, no. I've lost the key. I mean, I haven't been out there in months."
"I've got a pair of bolt cutters out in my trunk. Tell you what, let me open that up for you."
"No, no, that won't be necessary."
"I insist. You don't want to be stuck without your lawn implements. You can finally rake all these leaves out here."
We stared each other down. Man, this just kept getting better and better. I found myself wishing the spider would jump down and eat this guy.
"Actually, I think I have a key."
"Good. Get it."
I went into the kitchen and plucked the toolshed key off the nail next to the back door, where it had been in plain view the entire time. Franky the Cop let me lead the way outside to the shed, staying a few steps back so that he could have time to shoot me in case I decided to wheel on him with fists of fury. I held out the key and took a deep breath. I slipped it into the padlock and snapped it open. I pulled the toolshed door slightly ajar and turned to Franky.
"What's in here . . . I, uh, collect things. It's a hobby, that's all. And as far as I know, there's nothing illegal here."
Though you could say some of it is, uh, imported.
"Could you go ahead and step back, sir?"
He opened the little shed and stabbed the darkness with a flashlight beam. I held my breath. He went right to the floor with the light, where a body would be, I guess. There wasn't one there, not right now, and instead he illuminated the crust of grass on the wheel of my lawnmower. Then he flicked the flashlight beam to the set of metal shelves along the back and side walls. The beam hit a glass jar the size of a can of paint and illuminated the murky liquid inside. Officer Franky Burgess stared at it, waiting for his eyes to register what he was seeing. Eventually he would figure out it was a late- term fetus, a head the size of a fist, its eyes closed. It had no arms or legs. Its torso had been replaced by a jointed mechanical apparatus that hooked around to a point like the tail of a sea horse.
I manufactured a chuckle and said, "Heh, uh, I got that off eBay. It's a, uh, prop from a movie."
The cop glanced at me. I glanced away.
He shined his light back onto the shelf. Next to the jar was an ant farm. The tunnels between the panes of glass had been dug neatly to spell out the word HELP.
Next to that was my old Xbox, the cables wrapped around it.
He moved the light down a foot, to the shelf below. He passed over a stack of old magazines, not noticing that the top one was an old, faded issue of Time depicting a swarm of Secret Service agents around a dead Bill Clinton, the words WHO DID IT? blasting across the picture in red. Next to the magazines was a stuffed red Tickle Me Elmo doll, the fur faded with dust. At the moment the light hit it, its sound box crack led to life and in a cartoony voice it said, "Ha ha ha! Five and three quarter inches erect!"
I said, "It's, uh, broken."
Franky the Cop inched the beam to the next object, a mason jar containing a twisted, purple tongue suspended in clear liquid. Next to it was a duplicate jar, only with two human eyes floating side by side, trailing a tangled tail of nerves and blood vessels. The cop didn't notice that when the beam swept past the jar, the eyes turned to follow it. Next to the jars was an old battery from my truck, matted with smears of black grime. The light made it to the bottom, where it found a red plastic gasoline can sitting on the floor next to an old CRT computer monitor with a screen that had been shattered by a gunshot. Next to it was the one thing I didn't want the cop to see. The Box.
We heard crunching leaves behind us.
"Yo, what's up?" The cop and I turned to see a dark figure with one hand swinging the orange coal of a burning cigarette. John. "Hi, Franky. Dave, sorry I sent you all those pictures of my dick. I hope that's not what caused you to injure your eye."
The cop put the flashlight on John, maybe to make sure he wasn't armed. John wore a flannel shirt and a black baseball cap with the word HAT on it in all caps.
Franky the Cop thanked John for coming over. I was hoping he would back out of the toolshed because each minute he stood there made me more and more nervous. My eye and shoulder were throbbing. The wind shifted and I picked up the scent of alcohol from John.
The cop swung the flashlight beam around and spotlighted the floor of the toolshed again. Light fell on the box, and I mean the box, the olive green box we'd found in the back of that unmarked black truck. It looked like a serious box. It looked like something you'd want to look inside of, if your job was to keep people safe. Franky nodded toward it.
"What's in the green box there?"
That was sort of true, I guess.
John said, "We found it. You can't get it open."
That was also true. Franky couldn't get it open.
I said, "You can take it back with you, if you want. Put it in the lost and found at the police station."
The cop clicked off the flashlight, then asked John if they could go inside and talk. He then gestured toward the toolshed with the flashlight and said to me, "You want to close that up while I have a word here with John?"
I said that seemed like a fine idea and their shoes crunched through the leaves until they reached the light of my back door. I closed the toolshed and clicked the padlock shut, then let out a sigh of relief. The relief lasted approximately four seconds, the time it took me to realize John and Franky the Cop were now back inside the house with the murderous alien spider. I hurried back inside and saw John and the cop in my living room having a low conversation out of my hearing, the cop I guess was asking John to babysit me and to call if I showed more signs of craziness. I moved closer and barely heard John say, ". . . Been real depressed lately . . ." and wondered what kind of portrait he was painting in there.
I scanned the kitchen for the spider, being sure to check the high ground. No sign of it. I closed some of the open drawers and cabinets, tried to straighten the place up. I made it all the way out of the room before I turned and realized that cabinets would be an ideal hiding place for the little bastard. I'd be getting out my cereal tomorrow morning and the fucker would launch itself at me. Could I search through them without drawing Franky's attention? Better wait. Instead I checked the bedroom, again under the guise of straightening up. I looked under my blankets and then under the bed. I pushed around the clothes in my closet, I checked behind the door. No spider.
When I came out, I saw John and the cop were on the front porch. Progress. John was thanking the man for coming out, saying he hoped Franky would remember me in his prayers because I could really use it right now because my life was really a mess and I was just a complete pathetic loser struggling with my weight and financial problems and alcohol and erectile dysfunction. I decided to join them before John could defame me further.
The cop was already walking back toward his patrol car as John said, ". . . And his girlfriend is away and she's only got one hand. She lost it in an accident. You can imagine the problems that causes."
Franky was desperately trying to escape the conversation, talking into the little radio mounted on the shoulder of his uniform, letting headquarters know that everything was under control here. John and I watched him go. Then we heard a skittering by our feet and saw the goddamned spider run past our shoes. It vanished into the darkness, heading right toward the cop.
I jumped off the porch, waving my hands. "Wait! Franky! Officer Burgess! Wait!"
The cop stopped just short of the squad car and turned to me. I opened my mouth, but the words retreated back into my throat. A bundle of thin black legs appeared over Franky's left shoulder, touching his bare neck. And he couldn't feel a thing.
From behind me John said, "Franky! Franky! Don't move, man! You got something on you!"
Franky put his hand on the butt of his gun again, looking alertly between me and John as if his crazy person troubles had just multiplied. The monster crawled over Franky's shoulder and put legs on his cheek.
John screamed, "Franky! Do this!" John made a brushing motion on his own cheek, as if waving away a fly. "Seriously! You got something on your face!"
Franky, oblivious to his situation, did not follow these instructions. He started to say something about us not moving any closer. I lunged, throwing my hands toward the little monster. I never made it. Franky did something to me that dropped me to my knees, gasping for air. It was some kind of chop to the throat and man, it worked.
I looked up and for the second time tried to warn Franky and for the second time I was unable to. The spider crawled around to Franky's chest and then, in a blur, burrowed into his mouth.
Franky flailed backward and flung himself to the ground, his head thunking against the squad car's door on the way down. Franky clawed at his mouth with his hands, gasping, choking, spasming. I backed away, crawling backward on my ass through the leaves. As I retreated, John advanced, saying, "Franky! Franky! Hey!"
Franky wasn't responsive. His arms were locked in front of him, fingers curled, like he was being electrocuted.
John spun on me and said, "We gotta get him to the hospital!"
I sat there in the grass, frozen, wishing I could just go back inside and crawl under the covers again. John threw open both back doors of the cop car. He dug his hands under Franky's shoulders.
"Dave! Help me!"
I got to my feet and took Franky's ankles. We wrestled him into the backseat of the squad car, John backing out through the opposite door. We closed it up and John took the wheel. I slid beside John as he hunted around the console for a switch. He found it, flipped it. A siren pierced the night. He shifted into gear and tore down the street, red and blue flashing off every window in the neighborhood as we raced past. We blew through an intersection. I pulled on my seat belt and braced my hands against the dash.
"That thing came into my house, John! It came into my house!"
"I know, I know."
"I woke up and that thing was biting me. In my bed, John!"
We turned the corner, rounding a closed restaurant with FOR SALE painted on the windows in white shoe polish. We passed the blackened shell of a hardware store that had burned down last year, we passed a trailer park and a used- car dealership and a 24- hour adult bookstore and a skanky motel that never had any vacancies because lots of poor people lived there full- time.
"It was in my house, John! Do you get what I'm saying here? Franky couldn't even see it. It was on his face and he couldn't see it. It was in my house."
I felt my body push against the armrest on the door. Tires squealed. John was taking a corner car chase-style. Two blocks up was the concrete parking garage for the hospital, the lit windows of the hospital itself looming up behind it. I peered back through the wire screen separating us from Franky, who was laying motionless across the backseat, eyes open. His chest was heaving, so at least he wasn't dead.
"Almost there, man! Hold on, okay?"
I turned to John.
"It crawled in his mouth! Did you see it?"
"I saw it."
"Are they gonna be able to help him? You really think the doctors can do somethin'?"
We squealed into the parking lot and followed a sign that said EMERGENCY. We skidded to a stop in a covered drive- up to the emergency room. We threw open the back door and dragged out Franky, then clumsily lugged him toward a set of glass doors that slid open for us automatically. Before we got five feet inside, a couple of orderlies came and started barking questions at us that we had no answers to. Somebody rolled up a gurney.
John started talking, telling the guys that the cop had had some kind of a seizure, that he had something in his throat, definitely to check his throat.
There was a flicker of red and blue lights out of the corner of my eye — a second cop car turning in fast across the parking lot. They probably saw John and me tearing ass through town and followed us here. The orderlies were rolling away Franky and a third guy showed up, a doctor I guess, taking his vitals. I turned to John to tell him about the second cop car but he had already spotted it. I followed him back out to the sidewalk.
"Think we should hang around?" he asked.
"I don't think so. I'm already on probation."
"Dave, they're gonna come get us. They'll wanna know what happened."
"Nah, I don't think this thing's gonna be a big deal. Probably send us a nice card for getting Franky to the hospital. Come on."
We took off walking, since it didn't seem wise to go back home in the stolen cop car. We went around the edge of the lot as the approaching police car whooshed past us. It skidded to a stop next to Franky's vehicle and two cops spilled out and went inside. We silently cut across the lawn and crossed a street with a traffic light blinking yellow. We cut through the darkened parking lot of a Chinese restaurant called Panda Buffet, which did not in fact serve panda meat as far as we knew. Behind it was one of the city's many abandoned properties, the depressing twin buildings of an old tuberculosis asylum that had been closed since the sixties, the gray bricks tinged moss-green.
John lit a cigarette and asked, "So what do you think that thing was?"
I didn't answer. I found myself scanning the dark plane of each parking lot we passed, studying the shadows, looking for movement. I noticed my steps were hurrying me unconsciously toward the pool of light under the next streetlamp. We passed into the parking lot of a tire place with a ten-foot-tall tire mascot standing by the street. The mascot was made of real tires, with mufflers for arms and a chrome wheel for a head. Some joker had used white spray paint to draw a penis on the front of it in the anatomically appropriate spot.
John said, "So that thing crawled into his mouth, what do you think it was doing?"
"How should I know?"
A blur of red and blue zipped by. Another cop car, lights flashing. Thirty seconds later, another one. John said, "Man, these guys really gather around one of their own, don't they?"
We walked on, hesitant, a sick feeling in my gut. Two more cop cars flew by. One had different markings, state cop I guess.
"They're just going there to check up on him, right? John?"
"I don't know, man."
"Let's get home, we'll see if they got anything about it on TV."
But he had stopped, saying, "No point, all you'll get is the news after it gets filtered for the reporters. We'll get better information if we go back down there."
"We'd just be in the — "
I stopped at the sound of a distant scream.
John said, "You hear that?"
Another cop car zipped past. How many of those did we have in this town?
"Come on, Dave."
John took off walking back the way we came. I stood my ground. I didn't want to go back there, but — and I'm not ashamed to admit this — I also didn't want to walk back to my place alone, in the dark. I raised a hand to touch the spot on my eye where I had been bitten, raw flesh under a Band- Aid. I winced as the pain in my shoulder stopped me before I could get my hand up there. The chunk taken out of my skin there was getting sorer by the minute. I was about to tell John to have fun without me when —
*POP! POP- POP!*
The sound of distant gunshots, like firecrackers. John started jogging back across the tire store parking lot, toward the hospital. I let out a breath, then followed.
From This Book Is Full of Spiders by David Wong. Copyright (c) 2012 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin's Press, LLC.