Jordan Tisdale switched off the TV with his remote. There wasn’t anything on that was worth watching. He looked at the clock on the wall; it was nearly six in the evening. He reached for his car keys that were lying on the table next to him. The only thing that was going to make him feel better was going for a long drive.
As he drove down a back road in Indiana, something caught his eye. Through the darkness, he could barely see a brown cardboard sign that was tacked to a stick. It was stuck into the ground just before a gravel road. He pulled over to see what the sign said. In boldfaced black letters the sign read:
He stared at the sign. Insects fascinated him, especially spiders. One summer, when he was ten, a large yellow and black spider had taken residence behind a downspout on his house. Every day he would gather up various insects in a jar from the woods directly behind his house. One by one, he would drop the wriggling insects onto the web.
With lightning speed, the spider would spring from her hiding place and race toward her prey. Sinking her fangs into her dinner, she would retreat, waiting for the poison to take effect.
He continued and took the right onto the gravel road. The insect museum was a place he wanted to see. He drove down the road for nearly twenty minutes until he came upon a freshly painted sign by a mailbox along the side of the road. This sign read:
Open Year Round
This must be the place. He turned right on another gravel road past the mailbox. He wondered what great insects he would see inside the museum. He hoped they had a special room with all sorts of spiders lurking about.
When he reached the end of the grassy road, the museum came into view. It looked more like an old farmhouse than it did a museum. It looked decrepit. Paint was blistering from the wooden shingles, and there was an obvious sag in the middle of the roof.
The farmhouse appeared to be abandoned. Where is everybody? Suddenly, an old overweight woman dressed in a yellow skirt stepped out from a side door. She was gnarled and withered like the lone apple tree that stood in the front yard. Jordan guessed she must have been at least seventy, maybe closer to eighty.
“What do you want?”
He stared at the old woman for a moment and wondered if he was actually in the right place. “Is this the insect zoo?”
“That’s what the sign says.”
“Are you open?”
“I’ll get Jake. He’s out back chopping down a dead tree.”
The old woman reappeared, followed by an old graying man wearing faded blue overalls. “He wants to see the zoo.”
The old man approached Jordan. “You want to see the zoo?”
“How much does it cost?”
“That will cost you fifty bucks.”
“Fifty bucks? That’s ridiculous!”
The old man stared at Jordan, then shrugged his shoulders and said, “Take it or leave it. It doesn’t matter to me.”
“All right, all right. Fifty bucks it is…but it better be worth it.”
“Thanks,” said the old man, sarcastically. “Follow me.”
The old man led Jordan down an overgrown path to a shed out in the back of the farmhouse. Inside, the dim glow of florescent tubes highlighted the dozen plywood shelves that ran along the walls. In contrast to the rest of the farm, the shed was neat in appearance. Sitting on each shelf was a glass terrarium filled with twigs and rocks. In the case closest to Jordan, a small garden spider was spinning a web in the corner.
“That’s an orb spider,” said the old man.
“You know spiders?”
“I use to study them when I was a kid.”
“I bet you’re the type that liked to feed them, eh? Catch bugs and drop them in the web. Wait and see what would happen. Fun, wasn’t it? All kids do it. It’s a natural thing to do. Feed the spiders that is.”
Trying to change the subject, Jordan asked, “Have you been collecting spiders long?”
“I’ve been collecting spiders for a long time. Most folks are afraid of spiders. Not me. I get along with the spiders just fine. Let’s just say that I have a kinship with them.”
Jordan stared at a large black spider in another case sucking up the half-digested slurry of its latest victim.
Trying to be polite, he asked, “Do you get many visitors here? Also, the sign says that this is an insect zoo. All I see are spiders. Spiders are not considered insects.”
“That’s just a technicality,” said the old man.
“I breed spiders for the college. They use them in research. I think they’re doing experiments on them.”
“What kind of experiments?”
“Now, how in the heck would I know that? I just breed the spiders for them. I don’t tend to ask many questions when the pay is right.”
There was something in the old man’s tone that bothered him. It made him feel very uneasy.
“Do you want to see my prize winner?” asked the old man, sounding proud.
Jordan began to look around.
“Oh, she isn’t here. I keep her in the barn. She kind of makes these critters nervous. I can’t say I blame them. She’s the cream of the crop. Do you want to see her?”
He followed the old man down a lesser used path toward a small red barn behind a row of tall trees that made it invisible from the farmhouse. A shiny new lock on a rusted hasp yielded to the old man’s key. The ancient wooden door swung open. Inside it was pitch black.
“Go on in,” said the old man as he shoved Jordan through the door. “There’s a light switch ahead of you.”
“Where is the spider?”
“She’s in the back. You can’t miss her.”
“Where’s the light? I can’t find it.”
“It’s right in front of you. Can’t you see it?”
He stretched out his hand. At first, he could not feel anything. Then he finally caught hold of the string the old man was talking about. There was something strange about the string. It didn’t feel like string. It was sticky. Something rustled in the rafters above him. Bits of straw floated down to the ground.
“Did you find her?” laughed the old man as he slammed the door shut and locked it.
“Let me out! Let me out!”
He pounded on the door, pleading to the old man to let him out. He looked around. Slowly his eyes were becoming accustomed to the dark. In the gloom, he could only see a boarded up window.
“Great! All I have to do is cross over to the window, pull off one or two of the boards, and then climb out. I’ll show that old man. Fifty bucks! I’ll make him wish I had never stopped here!”
He heard another rustle overhead and more straw floated down to the ground.
“Who is it? Who’s there?’”
There was no answer.
He made his way across the wooden barn floor, being careful not to trip over anything. There was a peculiar smell in the air.
In less than a minute, he had made it across the barn and over to the boarded up window. He stood in front of it and noticed that there were three boards nailed haphazardly into its frame. He knew if he could pull the boards from the frame he would have a chance to escape from the barn. The first board he tried was half-rotted and fell apart in his hands. He then shifted his attention to the middle board. He knew if he could get that one off he could easily climb out of the window. He gripped the board with both hands and began to pull. The board was stuck in place.
He found a metal bar on the floor and picked it up. He placed it under the middle board and then began pulling on it again.
In his frustration, Jordan didn’t hear the soft tap…tap…tap on the floor behind him. Tap…tap…tap like a blind man with a cane. Tap…tap…tap and then it was too late. It struck from out of nowhere.
The force of the attack rammed him face first up against the wall, knocking the wind out of him. Warm blood trickled from his nose and ran down his cheek.
He slowly turned around, wincing in pain. From the light coming in from the window, he could see his attacker. It was crouched inside an empty stall along the opposite wall. It was a giant spider. This was no ordinary spider. It was huge, roughly about the size of a Saint Bernard. Its legs extended out at least three or four feet on each side. Its eyes stared coldly at him as if it was waiting for something to happen.
The spider began to move forward. Its body was covered with grey hair that had the look of velvet.
As the spider drew nearer to him, it carefully extended one foreleg toward him. The eight eyes looked like black fists. Then the leg came forward once again. At the tip, Jordan could see the spike-like claw used for catching prey. It touched his left shoulder. He could feel the sharp point digging into his skin. He winced and stepped backward into the wall. Suddenly, the other foreleg came forward. He recoiled, trying to ward off the attack with his free arm. Unfortunately, the spider was too strong. It brushed his arm aside as if it was a piece of laundry lint and then planted the second claw into his other shoulder.
The spider reared up on its hind legs, forcing Jordan to his knees. He then saw the creature’s 6-inch fangs that extended from its mouth. Drops of venom gleamed in the half-light. He screamed in horror as the daggers arched high above him, and then he screamed as they plunged deeply into his chest. Instantly, white hot pain ripped through his body like a tidal wave and then it was gone. The spider had retreated back to the stall. Jordan knew that he only had a minute or two before the poison paralyzed him. His hands were numb and his arms felt like they were made from lead. He slumped to the floor and stared at the spider.. He was a sitting duck.
He noticed that there was something all over the spider’s back. It moved like a small wave flowing back and forth. Then all of a sudden, a piece of the wave pulled away and then dropped to the floor. It was another spider, a juvenile spider. It was a lot smaller than its mother — about the size of a rat. He recalled that some spiders carry their young on their backs. Horrified, he realized that he was in a nursery, and it was feeding time. Another spider dropped to the floor and then another. Soon there was a long line of spiders slowly crawling toward him. He watched as the first one reached his foot. He tried to scream but no sounds came out. The last thing he saw before he lost consciousness was a spider tearing a piece of flesh from the back of his hand.
Back at the farmhouse, the old man picked up a whisky bottle from the kitchen table, poured himself a drink, and plopped down on his favorite reclining chair.
“Did it take long?” asked the old woman.
“Not long. They haven’t eaten in about a week.”
“We need to get a better sign. It would attract more people.”
“The sign is good enough. Anyway, we don’t want a crowd,” said the old man, taking a drink of his whisky.