Chapter two

The Disaster

There was movement, but she was in a place between dreaming and waking, or she'd like to think anyway. She was awake, and she could hear scuffling and scrubbing. It had been going on for the past few hours. Part of her felt that if she simply refused to acknowledge there was anything there, it would just go away. That part of her controlled her body at the moment. It wasn't until whatever was making the racket addressed her, did she finally open her eyes.

"Well, I'm done. You wanna keep this?"

Susan blinked at her window. The little she could see of the sky was brightening with the first light.

"Well?"

She let out a breath and glanced over her shoulder, long black hair tumbling down her back.

It was a hideous creature, small with hair in all the wrong places and tiny black eyes. Its mouth was flat and stretched across half its face. Slender ears poked out of its beady head. As if in apology for its grotesque body, the thing dressed in a fitted pinstriped business suit and wore a tie. It grasped the head of an enormous blood stained sack. The other clawed and worted hand was outstretched towards her and offering the paper Roy had scratched his number on with vampire blood.

She turned over and took the paper, noticing that her apartment was completely clean. Not only was the vampire's body gone, but her leftover dishes were washed, and the clothes she'd left on the floor were folded in a neat pile.

"Bye," the thing said.

She watched it waddle over to the door, dragging the bulging sack behind it. It was a wonder that the creature could manage it at all, it took up a third of her apartment and she didn't see how it could possibly get the sack through the door, but it did, without the slightest trouble either. The creature, however, did not shut the door.

Thinking it might shut itself, Susan eyed it, but as the minutes passed with her lying in bed, the door to her apartment wide open, and the sun's light filling the room, she came to the conclusion that the creature was not going to close it for her and she had to get out of bed and do it herself.

Life could be so hard sometimes.

Just as her feet hit the floor, the door snapped shut.

Susan Stride worked in a cubical. The purpose of her life was to ensure that all the paperwork on broken and defective merchandise of Gred's multimillion dollar multipurpose company, were alphabetically organized, and filed away in the sixth floor basement. The job required little to no communications with her fellow employees, since by the time she received the paperwork, the said object had already been destroyed or recycled back into the system. She thought of herself as a paid third leg. There was no real reason for what she did. All she knew was that she was paid ten dollars an hour to do it, and that was that.

"Oh my, what a mess!" Carl Clark, Gred's human resource manager for the branch gasped. He'd stopped right outside Susan's cubical.

She was in the middle of the 'Q' section and didn't want to leave her pointless work, but when Carl addressed her with a 'hey, you!' she could think of no one else who he would be speaking to.

She looked up through her slick black hair. She was sitting on the floor of her four by four cubical. She did not have a desk, seeing that it would be pointless because her work did not require a computer, she'd gotten rid of it in order to have more space to organize. Three huge boxes took up a tenth of her little cubical, the rest of the floor was covered with unsorted papers.

"What are you doing?" Carl asked.

"My job," Susan answered.

Carl's brows furrowed. "Well, clean up this place a little bit." Without another word, he walked off.

Susan glanced about her space and saw that there was nothing that she could clean up other than the three boxes, which needed to be taken down to the sixth floor basement.

Six minutes later she was riding the elevator, half leaning on a trolley carrying the three boxes. She was alone.

She watched the numbers light up as she descended down, down, down. At last the elevator dinged at the sixth floor basement and the doors opened. She pushed the trolley through the familiar florescent lit hallway. There were no pretty decorations. The thing was a cool and bare cemented strip with nothing to disturb its blankness but a gray heavy door at the end of the hall.

She pushed it open with the trolley. Light from the fluorescents spilt into the room, but that was the only illumination. The master switch to the sixth floor basement sparked at her as she flipped it up and that was all it did. She tried it three times with no success. With a sigh, she grabbed one of the emergency lights conveniently placed right beneath the switch. It was convenient because she had put it there. This wasn't the first time the lights refused to work in this particular basement.

She set the flashlight on top of the boxes and moved deeper into the basement. The place resembled a library, save that the boxes were sorted by year and not by name, thank god. Susan couldn't imagine how long that would take to alphabetize.

The trolley's wheels squeaked and sputtered, the beam of the flashlight disappearing into the dark. On and on it went, the endless rows of boxes, most were so old she could smell the mold growing inside them. No, it was not a pretty place. in fact, Susan often daydreamed of someone emerging from the shadows of the sixth floor basement, axe in hand ready to do her in. Sometimes they'd be carrying a gun, stalking her from behind, ducking behind shelves of boxes every time she glanced back. Imagination and idle wishing was all it was, but even so she could not help but take the flashlight from the top of the pile and look around.

Nothing but boxes.

With a sigh, she continued on, and on, and on, and on much longer than it should have taken. She frowned, flashing the light down to check the dates to see how much farther she had to go.

1634 A.C.

She blinked, and tapped the light against her hand before illuminating the marked stack.

1634 A.C.

"But, what date? Was it January?" she muttered. And it occurred to her that computers didn't exist in 1634 A.C. and neither had cardboard boxes, and if memory served her, she did not think the printing press had been invented then either.

Thinking of it as someone playing a joke on her, she flashed the light further back only to find:

1633 A.C.

She gripped the paper to tear it off, but it fell apart at her touch, and the dated stack of boxes collapsed into a pile of dust. Again, she flashed the light into the endless dark, down the stacks of boxes faded gray with the webs of a thousand spiders. On she went, holding the light before her, staring at the boxes, more heavily shrouded in webs than the ones before, so thick the web became that she scarcely saw the boxes at all, but a fine wall of web to either side, rising still to make an arch, no, tunnel before her. Soon the floor became thick with it, and the wheels of the trolley caught in the mass of web. So caught up in her surroundings was Susan, that she tripped at the sudden jerk of the trolley and the flashlight flew from her hands.

All at once, there was a clicking, a clicking too loud and too unnatural to resemble anything Susan had heard before, though she did not have to think too hard of what could cause such a sound. All this she thought, in a span of seconds, the seconds that it took the enormous spider to leap from its hole, to pounce upon the trolley of neatly packed and alphabetized papers of useless broken things. The hind wheels of the trolley bounced against the cemented portion of the floor, cracking it. The sound made Susan flinch.

A smart person probably would have grabbed the flashlight and fled.

A smart person would not have continued deeper into a thickly webbed tunnel.

A smart person would have reported the lighting problem in the sixth floor basement.

Susan wasn't smart, and wasn't particularly afraid as she watched, from the cemented portion of the floor, as the spider reared again, and struck its fangs into the trolley and back tumbled, trolley caught in its eight legs, into its dark hole.

She did not move for several minutes, just stared into the spider's tunnel, but it did not come out again. Slowly she rose, and reached for the flashlight, caught in the wall of the spider's web. A split second before her hand brushed the flashlight, it occurred to her what would happen when she touched it, and she pictured it beautifully as her hands clasped around the flashlight, irritating the sensitive web. She pulled back, hard, but the flashlight did not come free. And she heard the clicking again, and saw the shadow rear above her, fangs aiming down, legs spread apart.

She closed her eyes, bracing for the blow.

That did not come.

She opened her eyes, wondering if she had imagined the whole thing, but no. The spiders shadow remained poised above her, flashlight still caught in the web, and she still yanked on it. Glancing behind, her mouth opened to a perfect 'O' as she let out a surprised gasp.

Roy was there, wielding a three foot long samurai sword. His rimmed hat was in grave danger of falling off his head, leaning from the spider's fangs as he was. The sword was jammed deep into the thing's brain. Its legs didn't even twitch. He winked at Susan.

"Afternoon," he said and glanced up at the spider. "I might be mistaken, but I'm under the impression that we have met before."

Susan watched him for a moment, letting a silence fall between them, before retracting her hand from the flashlight, and walking away, back towards the mouth of the cave, no, the entrance to the sixth floor basement.

"You're welcome!" Roy called after her.

She did not look back.

What was she feeling now? Indeed she was feeling something. Not love. No, definitely not love for a complete stranger that had now popped up unexpected on two different occasions. It was something powerful, powerful because she usually didn't feel anything.

Frustration.

That was it. She was frustrated. A normal person might now be swooning over the handsome stranger that had just gone out of his way to save them. Then again, a normal person would not find themselves in these kinds of situations, because a normal person would not be alone.

Always alone.

Something sticky and thick looped around her neck. In a reflex, she gripped the thread of web, fingers linking behind it, pulling the mess an inch away from her skin, a millisecond this took to occur, as the thread of web suddenly yanked upward, dragging her into the pitch black, far higher than the sixth floor's basement should allow. But for her fingers, now holding the thin web from her windpipe, she would be suffocating now. Instead, she dangled in the air, and for a moment she wondered why her fingers were not jabbing into her neck, then she realized that was not where most of her weight was supported.

A second web looped around her waist, tight, and now that she realized it, it was cutting off her breathing. More web looped around her, faster and faster, squeezing her, looping and looping around her entire waist, pulling it tighter and tighter, across her chest, the air expelled from her lungs and a second thread of web looped again around her neck, pulling taught, forcing that last little expelled air out of her.

Her fingers relaxed against her neck, body going limp, slowly swinging from side to side. She could not take another breath in. Her heart was pounding, the webs like wire pulling tighter and tighter still, around her entire body, nothing but her eyes and nose were exposed, but it might as well have been wrapped in web, for no air left her, or came in.

Blood pounded inside her. Lungs screamed for air. Her head throbbed, eyes glazing over. And as she lay dying, yes, lay, she realized she no longer dangled from a single web, but was now caught up in a delicately designed snare, her body placed perfectly in the center and above her hung a half-man half-spider like creature. His face had eight eyes, though his skin was pale and human in texture. A spider rump extended from his backside and eight hairy legs flexed from his back. He had arms, legs, and torso of a human, though only an idiot would mistake him for one.

He watched her, watched the haze settle over her eyes. Just before the mechanism in her brain that would trigger a reaction that would cause her to pass out, he dropped down, landing just above her head. Lovingly bending over, a set of hairy fangs emerged from his mouth, and sunk through the layers of web, their acid tips melting the mass away, and pierced deep into her bicep.

I shouldn't be able to see this. There is no light.

He went ridged.

And she passed out.


The spider was dead. The thing collapsed to the side as he extracted the samurai sword from its brain, well bundle of nerves. It wasn't as if the spider thought too far beyond its next meal. Roy pulled a silky black cloth from his trench coat, and used it to wipe the sword. The spider's venom would ruin the thing if not immediately attended.

He polished the blade until he spotted his glamorous reflection, by which time the silky black cloth was reduced to tatters and threads. He dropped, letting the mess settle on the floor beside the spider's body.

He pulled out a round blinking device and stuffed it into the spider's mouth, taking care to not let the spider's fangs pierce him. That would indeed be a sorry way to go. He'd be the laughing stalk for who knows how many years to come.

A Hunter killed by a slain arachnid?

He chuckled at the thought. Only once his work was done, did he take after the girl. Almost. He caught a whiff of the spider, which sent his glands salivating. In the blink of an eye, he'd popped out one of the spiders many eyes, and was now chewing it as he walked down the now distorted sixth floor basement.

He spun the samurai sword as he sung in his head: 'Where, oh, where can that pretty thing be? Oh, where, oh, where did she go?'

He added in a little skip. 'I lost her now, I lost her how?'

The basement was still hazed with distortion, so she had not left. Or whatever was now perusing her still lingered. In either case, she was not far. He swallowed the spider's eye, and stopped. He took a deep breath, flaring his nostrils. Thousands of tiny bats rippled out of his skin, taking flight into the dark. Their screeches were far too high for any ear but his to hear, and they were small and dexterous enough to avoid the many dangling webs that now covered the majority of the sixth floor basement.

Her sent drafted down to him, and that was all he needed. Bats congregated beneath his feet, lifting him into the air. He spread his arms to either side as he looked up, the pupil's of his eyes stretched into thin lines. Instantaneously, tapetum lucidum developed behind the retina of his eyes, reflecting what little light there was within the distorted basement.

He did not try to avoid the webs as he ascended. At his approach, they simply crinkled, turned black, and fell, as if he were a flame. Shavings and shavings of burnt web sprinkled the floor of the basement like snow, and still no spider came to great him.

Twenty feet above, he spotted a web, unusual compared to the others. There was a kind of art to it, more than a mindless trap set for unsuspecting pray. There were designs and words, indicating that the thing that had created those webs bore a streak of intelligence. It was there he spotted Susan Stride, oddly she was alone. The spider that had caught her was no where to be seen. Odder still, she was not wrapped as an insect would be, but lay flat against the floor of the web with her arms spread to either side of her.

The bats carried him to her, and a hole opened in the floor of the spider's web, allowing him to rise above it. Sword in hand, he glanced about, even going so far as to tap the blade against the web, but nothing came to challenge him.

"Odd," Roy said, and returned his attention to the dying girl.

She was breathing, and there was a bandage made of web covering her bicep. Now, that was strange. He hovered just above her and crouched down to one knee, resting still on the cloud of bats. She was pale, and unconscious. He touched two fingers to her neck and found her pulse to beat far too slow for comfort.

The thing had bit her, but for some reason felt guilty about it and tried to bandage her up. It wanted her to live. And that… was simply impossible.

He dropped the samurai sword and it dissipated into smoke before coming into contact with the web. He pulled her off the web. The parts of it caught to her body crinkled and fell away. She was light, and thin, fitting easily in his arms as he carried her like the unconscious damsel that she was. Her black hair fell over his arm, and waved slightly as he descended.

He stared at her face, really getting a look at it for the first time. She really was a pretty thing: lips red as blood, hair black as night, and skin white as snow (mostly because she was dying, and her heart was too weak in this moment to fully supply her body with enough oxygen.)

He stepped off the cloud of bats, and they disappeared as he butted open the door to the sixth floor basement with his foot. He carried her down that bare florescent lit hallway. His footsteps did not echo, nor made any sound at all. Still carrying her, he nudged the button to call the elevator.

The distortion started to fade. He glanced of his shoulder, back towards the basement door, but nothing came hurling out of it.

Damn.

The elevator dinged, and he carried her inside when the door opened. He set her to the floor, with her back propped up against the wall. Her neck fell limply to the side. Only once he was sure that she was not going to slide over, did he remove the webbing on her bicep. He inspected the bite briefly before drawing out a syringe from his coat and jabbed it carefully into her arm. He pressed its substance into her, making sure every drop went in before pulling it out of her. In a flash, he took a second syringe, empty but for a slight residue of morphine, and dropped it on the floor next to her.

All this he did in a matter of seconds. It took long enough that when he had finished, the elevator doors were beginning to close. He tapped the button for the top floor, and slipped out of the elevator before the doors could shut him in. He did not look back, but rushed towards the fading distortion, a samurai sword forming from black smoke. He caught it, and rushed into the basement, door snapping shut behind him.