Charley never went to the basement after he enlarged the laundry room to accommodate a washer and dryer on the first floor. He was seventy-three years old, and not the man he used to be. His arthritis and hip replacement didn’t like stairs. He also had his second heart attack six months earlier, and his doctor had warned him to take it easy. These were all good reasons not to go down to he basement, but the truth was he hated spiders.
The sun had just disappeared on the horizon when he turned the frying pan on with the frayed cord and blew a fuse. He heard a pop, then the lights in the whole house went out. He didn’t mind changing a fuse; he’d done it many times, but he remembered his wife, Margaret, complaining about the number of spiders in the basement a month or two before she passed away. Things could have only gotten worse in the four years since then. He shuddered just thinking about it.
But, was he a man or a mouse? Feeling around in a cabinet in the laundry room, he found a flashlight. Luckily, it still worked. He opened the basement door and pointed the light at the darkness below. Taking a deep breath, he grabbed hold of the banister and eased down the steps, one at a time.
“Slow, but sure,” he thought, illuminating each step he came to.
When he finally reached the basement floor, he couldn’t believe how tired he’d become negotiating the fourteen steps. He panned his flashlight about the room to familiarize himself with the large space he hadn’t seen since his heart attack eight years ago. Until then, the basement had been neat and organized. Every screw and nail in its place. Now boxes were stacked everywhere except for the area in front of the stairs. Thick dust covered every surface.
From the corner of his eye, he saw something skitter across the floor, and then disappear behind the wall of boxes. It looked like a mouse or a small rat. There had never been rats in the basement before his heart attack. He couldn’t believe he’d let the space deteriorate to this extent.
Suddenly, he stepped on what felt like marbles or ball bearings in his path. His feet shot out from under him, and his head hit the bottom step with a sickening thud. The flashlight rolled away, and he found himself in a daze lying on his back. An excruciating pain traveled up his left arm, gripped his entire body, and then subsided. When he tried to move his arms and legs, he couldn’t feel them. His entire body was numb. His head lay at an odd angle against the riser with a partial view of the floor and the ceiling. Gasping for breath, he took in large gulps of air through his open mouth like a fish out of water until he finally began to breathe normally.
The flashlight on the floor illuminated part of the wall facing him, but the rest of the basement to the left and right was dark and foreboding.
In the kitchen, the phone began to ring. After four times, he heard a recording say he could save fifteen percent on his car insurance.
Spread-eagled on the floor, unable to move anything, but his eyes, he assumed a stroke had left him paralyzed. And if it had, he was sorry the fall hadn’t killed him. His life had already ended for all practical purposes. If he could put a gun to his head, he would gladly pull the trigger. He didn’t want to be a human vegetable on life support. What would be the point?
Pondering who would be the one to find him, he regretted not having a better hiding place for his sex toys and porno stash. After all, he had a reputation to uphold in the community.
Peering blankly upward, his eyes fell upon a giant web in the corner of the ceiling. In the center, a huge black spider sat motionless on its handiwork. His eyes followed the line of the ceiling to the left. There, as far as he could see, was another web with an even larger arachnid. The hideous specimen had a distended belly, which protruded grotesquely from the center of its body. He didn’t know if the thing was pregnant or just digesting something it had caught in its web. Watching the two creatures filled him with unease and loathing.
He remembered one of his friends had sent him a newsletter that included useless knowledge. One of the snippets indicated that during one’s lifetime, an average of eight spiders crawl into your mouth while you’re sleeping. Now he was in a room full of them with his mouth wide open, unable to close it. He might exceed the lifetime average in one evening.
Although helpless to protect himself, he watched the spiders movement above him on their webs like a cornered antelope watching a hungry lion preparing to spring. And just when he thought the fear of what the night still held in store couldn’t get any greater, the flashlight went out, and the basement fell into total darkness.
In the pitch-black silence, he continued his blind vigil for awhile until he dozed off. When he awoke in the morning, he saw the sun breaking through the window in the concrete block wall in front of him. When his eyes adjusted to the light, he looked at the two webs in the ceiling and found them both unoccupied. Then he noticed the thin spindles of web glistening in the sunlight on both sides of his head. He couldn’t feel anything, but as he looked downward across the length of his torso, he saw his shirt moving across an enormous potbelly that bulged significantly higher than where his belt buckle used to be before he came down to the basement.
Grimacing from what he knew must be happening, he lifted his eyes upward and saw a fat wooly thing with eight hideous legs freefalling down from a golden string of web. It paused when it saw his eyes move and then disappeared into his gaping mouth. He continued watching in horror as an army of black, baby spiders skittered across his swollen, bulbous cheeks and disappeared inside him. The corners of his lips expanded outward, and he found he could no longer breathe through his mouth. Then the creepy crawler with the distended belly erupted into view and perched itself on his nose. He saw it ogling him with God knows how many eyes as a sea of vomit mercilessly backed up in his esophagus and blocked his airway.
* * *
The autopsy concluded Charlie had drowned in his own vomit. Not only had he suffered a severe stroke, he’d severed his spinal cord when he fell on the concrete floor. The two combined events had prevented him from feeling any pain during his final hours. The medical examiner said he was lucky not to be alive when the rats came and had their way with him.
When Charley’s son and daughter found his sex toys and the porno magazines under the mattress, they wondered if their father had a darker side they didn’t know about.
This story is found in Shivers and Other Nightmares http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008O9SPEW and In Your Face Horror http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008TC5WHM . If you liked it, buy my book and get 30 more cheap chills in the Kindle store..
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