It had been one of those days. A Monday sort of day (though it was a Thursday). An “I can’t wait to get home and forget it even happened” kind of day.
The last time I’d looked around, it was sunny. Beautiful, if you like that sort of thing. Blue skies, sparkling water in the distance past the low apartment blocks that line the streets on my usual route home. Green grass, flowers blooming, all that nonsense.
So it’s not like I was expecting any trouble. No early morning mist, no winter fog rolling off the sea, no low lying cloud cover, and the shoreline was a good few blocks away. No, I was busy deciding if I’d rather unwind with a book or a show when it attacked.
The tremors knocked me off my feet before I’d even registered the shape in the distance. One minute I was hurrying home, stuck in my head like usual, the next I was picking gravel out of my palm and wondering what had happened.
Pain is wonderfully focusing. I caught up to events, or rather, it felt like everything slowed right down, so I had time to soak up every horrific inch of the creature before it took another step.
It was a spider, of course.
The nightmares get inside your head, somehow. It’s always the one thing you can’t stand. The one thing you’d do anything to avoid. But worse than you’d ever feared.
They say you die of horror before the creature has a chance to actually, you know, crush or rend or munch, or whatever it is that your personal nightmare specializes in.
I could tell you that my heart was pounding like it was about to explode or that my breath rasped in my ears, almost but not quite drowning out the embarrassing mewling noises that were arising from my general vicinity, but honestly, I was too caught up in the horror to pay much attention to mere biological functions. I mean, all those legs…!
Oh, and it was the size of a house.
Yeah, the small ones give me panic attacks too, but they don’t generally crack the concrete with each scurrying step. And it was growing. Cracks spread as the concrete sidewalk buckled under its weight and spilled me into the cratered street.
The spider loomed overhead, blocking out all the light, although I think I might’ve stopped breathing a while before, which could have had something to do with the growing darkness. From this close, I could make out tiny, shifting movements all over the massive arachnid. It was overhead now, all eight legs trampling around me, carving a deeper crater and trapping me underneath, not that I’d have been able to make a run for it if I’d wanted to by then.
Then things got even worse. The shifting black dots resolved into a covering of smaller spiders swarming on the massive one - increasingly visible as they started to drop down all around - and on - me.
I bucked and squirmed, rolling against the gravel, dirt, and shards of pipe at the bottom of the crater, trying to crush the smaller spiders off while wishing the gargantuan one would just impale me on one of its horrible legs and end the nightmare. Anything would be better than being slowly crushed by a skittering blanket of the little monsters.
It was getting harder and harder to move as the weight increased moment by moment. I couldn’t do much more than twitch and stare up at the swarming multitude endlessly descending on glittering threads, hoping that death or insanity would hurry up and end the horror.
When the light broke through, it was blinding. He was blinding. He sliced through the nightmare in a single blow, sweeping it away like a cobweb. The spider forms dissipated, blown away in an instant, and
I was left bleeding and stunned, staring up at him from the bottom of a muddy hole.
My rescuer looked worried.
“Are you ok?” He said.
I opened and shut my mouth like a dying fish and kept staring. It may have been his knight-in-shining-armour rescue, but I didn’t think I’d ever seen any one who looked more heroic in my life. The blonde, boyishly handsome kind of hero, not the dark smartass kind.
Also, the kind with a sword. And no cape. Definitely no cape. In fact, just some pretty ragged looking jeans and a faded t-shirt. Plus a great big shiny sword, that I could have sworn had been glowing only a moment before. Huh.
Hero still looked worried. Maybe more worried. What with my gaping and staring and bleeding and distinct lack of actual words, I didn’t blame him.
“Hang on,” he said. “I’ll get you out of there.”
He pivoted, looking all around as if a fire brigade was about to show up with a ladder or something, which it wasn’t, because it’s not like anyone actually survives a nightmare attack. Then he shrugged and sort of hurled himself down into the hole. With me.
Up close, his outfit looked even shabbier, which was good news, since the broken pipes had made a muddy mess of the hole. Plus, blood. Plus, it helped balance out his looks. Which were pretty wow. Although, that could have been the shock talking.
I couldn’t stop shaking, and his hands felt like they were on fire when he fished me out of the mud. Humiliatingly, I couldn’t actually stand on my own, never mind claw my way out of the hole. Maybe if I’d been less traumatized and hurting, I could have enjoyed the storybook fantasy moment of being carried out of there.
As it was, I couldn’t decide if I was more embarrassed or in pain. It did help me stop reliving the feeling of thousands of tiny feet skittering over my skin, though.
When my rescuer finally deposited me on the clean grass several feet down the street, the fear came back, and I started shaking again. The blades of grass, that tickling sensation, and they could be hiding there… I grabbed at the boy’s arm before he could straighten up, startling him and further embarrassing myself, but I couldn’t bring myself to let go.
He held very still, studying my face from only a few inches away, and something in it must’ve convinced him.
“Ok.” He said. “It’s ok. Whatever you need. I’m not going anywhere.”
The shaking didn’t stop, but it slowed down a little. My jaw was clenched, teeth chattering, but I did manage a nod and the ghost of a smile. I didn’t let go of his arm.
The boy sat down on the grass beside me.
“You’re going to be ok,” he said. “But sitting out here isn’t going to help. Do you live nearby?”
I managed to nod, yes.
“Is there anyone at home right now?”
I shook my head, no.
“Can you walk there?”
I paused, unsure, shrugged. Maybe. Probably not. Eventually.
The boy studied me. I’d relaxed my grip on his arm, but I was still shivering. The cold inside me was keeping the pain at bay, but I could see blood soaking through rips in my clothes in several places. Once the shock wore off, I was going to be hurting. I couldn’t tell if it was emergency room stitches level hurt, or just band-aid-level surface scratches, but since the nearest facility was ten times the distance of my apartment and presumably neither one of us had a phone handy, it wouldn’t be the first stop. “Probably not,” the boy said out loud, answering his own question as he bounced to his feet and pulled me upright. I swayed for a moment, locking my knees and fighting a wave of nausea, before he made a surprised noise and swept me up again. I must’ve looked as sick as I felt.
“We’ll have a better chance of getting you home if you’re conscious,” he explained, heading off down the street. He stopped at each corner and had me nod in the right direction to navigate.
It was surreal being carried, half conscious and bleeding, into my own apartment by boy hero. I probably should have been worried about the state of the housekeeping or whether I’d left underwear lying around or something, but by the time we made it through the door, I was more focused on not puking on my gallant rescuer. Pain was starting to break through the cold of shock, and my head was spinning and throbbing at the same time, inspiring waves of nausea. Thankfully, the boy had enough sense to take me directly to the bathroom and deposit me on the floor, propped up against the tub. When he turned to rummage through the cabinet, presumably in search of some kind of first aid supplies, I lunged for the toilet. And promptly blacked out.