BY ELLIOTT CAPON
Copyright is held by the author.
I ALMOST have to laugh at the experts who said that after the next nuclear war it would be the cockroaches who would inherit the earth. Well, maybe they did, for a while, but by the time I came out of the shelter, maybe seven, eight months after the last bombs fell, it wasn’t the roaches. It was the spiders.
The way I reasoned it out was that maybe at the beginning of our brave new post-apocalyptic age, the world was overrun by the roaches. But roaches are mostly scavengers, not predators. So maybe there were only two spiders left, and they laid eggs, and their hatchlings laid eggs, and each of those eggs produced a million eggs, and so on and so forth. With a world full of roaches to feast on, maybe it only took eight months — how many spider generations is that? — for the spiders to take over. And they got big. Big as cats, as dogs; Christ, I’d never seen a real live pony in person but maybe some of them were as big as ponies.
So when I came out of the shelter, having lost track of time, it was maybe seven, maybe eight months, maybe more, the city — what was left of the city — belonged to the spiders. But I wasn’t stupid to start with, and I learned fast. There was enough canned food and paper goods left intact that I could do what I called “shopping” every so often, but I really quickly learned about the spiders. They’re all carnivores, but they divide themselves into two groups: what I called the webbers and the lurker-leapers. The webs were generally easy to avoid, ‘cause you could see them, especially when they stretched out across what used to be the street from building to building, and I never went into anyplace dark where I could stumble into one. Not after the first time, but that was more of a fright than a frightening story. I’d actually found a couple of cars that I got started, and till they died on me I’d had fun driving through the building-to-building webs, pissing off the owners. A lot of the webs were full of big roaches and the occasional bird or dog or cat, but after that one time none of them ever had a ME.
The lurker-leapers were more trouble. Some spiders hunt by lying in wait and then springing on their meals. I learned awful fast not to walk too close to walls and to never go into an alley of any kind and to always avoid the dark, either natural or artificial. I never walked into the remains of a store or building unless the sun was directly overhead and I’d swept the place with one of the powerful flashlights I’d stockpiled in the shelter with me. They were camouflaged, these lurker-leapers, and you could walk right past a brick wall when all of a sudden the bricks grew eight legs and a hairy body and big jaws and fell on you. Also, that happened to me just once, but I learned real fast.
It’s getting colder now, so I figure I’ve been out of the shelter four or five months. Day by day by day, but I’m doing pretty OK for myself.
OWWW. Dammit, I shifted my weight and the pain from my broken leg shot up right into my brain. God, that hurts. Guess I wasn’t so smart after all. I survived the war, I survived the webbers, I survived the lurker-leapers. But I’d forgotten the trap spiders. The kind that dig holes and then cover them up and wait for insects or whatever to fall in. This was an awful deep hole.
I’d dropped my flashlight, but with a little screaming I was able to reach over and pick it up. It still works — them things were built to survive, after all. Like I said, it’s an awful deep hole, and pretty big around. Let me see what I can see . . .
Here comes the homeowner.
Elliott is the author of the comic whodunit novels The Corps Vanishes and Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch, the blackly-comic murder cozy Authors’ Rep, and the collection of shaggy dogs, Damn the Torn Speedos! Full Speed Ahead! Pending a lottery or PCH win, he lives in New Jersey with his first wife.