…And now for the thrilling conclusion!
Chanté anchored the rope around the trunk of a nearby Black spruce. She triple checked the rig latched around her waist; finally, with her backpack tightly secured she began to carefully descend through the hole in the ground.
Kale opened his eyes to find a dizzying haze of bone-dust swirling before him. His whole body ached badly but no one spot hurt worse than any other so he figured he had once again avoided serious injury.
Slowly getting to his feet, Kale saw that he was coated head to toe in the same stuff which he had discovered layered across the surface of the bridge. Whereas on the bridge there had been a thin layer of the stuff, down here it was thick enough for Kale to identify it almost immediate: spider webs, lots and lots of spider webs.
Something skittered across the surface of the bridge above.
Kale looked around for the flashlight, it had fallen a dozen or so meters away. He began moving towards it when the skittering noise above abruptly stopped.
It landed with a fleshy thump between Kale and the flashlight, a cloud of dust whooshed up around it, the flashlight created an eerie backlight to the scene. Kale coughed as he breathed in the thick cloud of death but he never let his eyes leave the sight before him. He had seen many things during his lifetime; things most would not believe; but he had never seen anything like what was standing in front of him. It was a spider the size of a Saint Bernard.
Instantly—his body running on instinct—Kale reached for the only weapon he had: a hunting knife. The blade was secured in a sheath latched to his belt. The beast jerked slightly as Kale unsnapped the clasp holding the blade in place; as he pulled the knife free, the spider seemed to shudder in anticipation. The spider began to emit a bizarre chattering noise which caused the hair on the back of Kale’s neck to stand straight up.
The monstrosity slowly raised its front leg and moved a half step closer. Kale moved a step back and found himself bumping against something. The Hawaiian glanced over his shoulder to find the totem pole with the golden antlers behind him. Kale turned back in time to see the giant spider launch itself at him.
The space between them was short and with the creature moving at a blistering pace, Kale knew that he would only get one chance with the knife, he clutched the blade tight and tried to crouch into the best defensive position possible.
The flare exploded near the ceiling with a pop, instantly the entirety of the massive room was bathed in an eerie red light. Kale’s eyes snapped up towards the origin point of the flare, there, standing on the edge of the bridge was Chanté; the expression on her face was one in which Kale was, unfortunately, far too used to seeing, it said, ‘Kale, what the hell have you done now?’
The sudden illumination had a severe effect on the spider. The monster reared up and let out an ungodly screech. Kale watched as the giant spider angled away from him at tremendous speed. Kale had it in his mind to chase the beast and stab his knife into the back of its head; obviously this thought was not just his alone because no sooner had the spider turned its back on Kale, then it shot a thick blast of web from its abdomen. The sticky spray ensnared Kale, his legs tangled over themselves which caused him to tumbled backwards and land against the totem pole. The webbing kept coming and soon everything but Kale’s head and left arm were completely trapped in the sticky substance. Having secured Kale for later, the giant spider continued towards Chanté, it raced to the top of a mound of bone fragments which jutted up from the floor. From there it leapt through the dusty air and attached itself firmly to the rough-hewn wall, it ascended rapidly.
“Run Chanté! It’s coming!” Kale shouted as he wrestled with the webbing.
Already realizing the trouble she was in, Chanté replied in a panicked voice, “Get your ass up here and help me then!”
No matter how much muscle he put into it, Kale could not free himself from the spider’s web. “I, uh…I think you’re on your own.”
“What a surprise,” Chanté muttered under her breath as she ran.
Looking over her shoulder in fear—the overwhelming sensation of the spider nipping at her heels was becoming too strong—Chanté began calculating the odds of surviving this encounter: they weren’t good. The flare she had fired earlier had already fallen to the floor, the flickering red flame caused the rock bridge to appear as a large black line stretching out under her feet. She had truly hated firing the flare gun while inside such a valuable find like this but she hated the thought of Kale—or herself!—becoming spider food even more, so with a shaking hand she reloaded the gun. Taking a deep breath, Chanté cocked the flare gun, spun around, extended her arm directly in front of her and fired.
Kale’s view of Chanté became obscured from his angle. One minute the woman was running towards the entrance with the spider right behind her, the next they were gone. Kale held his breath as he willed Chanté to reappear. A flash of brilliant red light blossomed over the sides of the bridge above him, moments later Chanté and the massive spider came tumbling over the edge.
The flare fired from the gun had embedded itself directly into the massive arachnid’s abdomen. The beast let out a hellish shriek as a spike of bright red flame jutted from its body. Had the distance between Chanté and the spider been a bit further, she would have been able to dodge the nightmare-creature but the monster was moving too fast and was too close so even with the flare burning brightly at the centre of its body, the thing’s momentum kept it barreling down on Chanté.
Kale watched in horror as Chanté thudded to the floor in a heap. Nearby, the spider slammed through a pile of what appeared to be deer skulls; a wild fury of bright red flames swarmed around the creature’s abdomen. If not for the concern dominating Kale’s thoughts, he would have actually smiled at the sight before him; of course Chanté would manage to shoot the damn thing with a flare, she was not an easy woman to beat.
Chanté groaned as she climbed back to her feet; before her, in a mess of aged bones, lying on its back was the massive spider. Chanté kept her eyes on the creature as the red flare sticking out of its body began to sputter out of existence. Having been in too many similar situations in her short life, Chanté knew that it was probably too much to hope that the monster had been killed during their altercation. As if reading her mind the huge arachnid began to stir.
The beast rose back to its legs, a yellow viscous dribbled out past the dead flare in its body. Chanté looked around wildly but there was nowhere to go.
Kale knew that Chanté was in big trouble; he had to get free of the binding web. He could see his knife glinting from underneath a beaver skeleton; if he could reach out with his foot he might be able to drag the blade closer to him; of course from there he wasn’t sure what he would do then as only one arm was free and it was sticking up and away from the floor.
Stretching as much as he could, Kale managed to nudge the handle of the knife with the toe of his hiking boots. He felt that if he could just extend his foot out a couple more inches he could pull the knife back towards himself. As he continued to stretch, Kale could feel the totem pole which he was secured to begin to pull free from the ground. Just as he began to slide the knife closer to his body the totem pole toppled over; the golden antlers tumbled into Kale’s lap.
Instantly the spider twisted its grotesque body around so that several sets of eyes were pointed directly at the Hawaiian.
Sudden realization shot through his head, “Oh, you don’t like it when somebody touches your toy, eh?” Clearly the massive spider did not like it and immediately charged Kale.
Chanté watched as the monster scrambled towards her partner; the spider’s immense bulk quickly blocking her view of Kale. The last she could see of the Hawaiian was the vague outline of his body before he and the spider disappeared into a stack of bones.
Scrambling to her feet, Chanté ran towards the centre of the room; she couldn’t hear anything over the sound of her own heart thundering in her chest. As she approached, she could see the massive shape of the spider lying on the bone covered floor. As much as she was happy to see the beast lying prone, Chanté’s eyes searched frantically for any sign of Kale. Her gaze returned to the spider though when the creature began to move.
With a slow—almost lazy—move, the giant spider toppled over onto a stack of brittle deer bones. Kale had used every ounce of strength he possessed to push the massive corpse off of himself. His first action was to take a huge gulp of air; he was pretty sure that he would have suffocated under the thing if he had stayed there any longer.
“Kale!” Chanté yelled as she rushed to his side,
In the dark, Chanté could see the barest glint from the golden antlers which were buried up to the hilt in the spider’s body.
“Oh, gross…” Kale said as he tried to wipe the excessive amount of spider blood which coated nearly his entire body—an act made almost impossible given the fact that he was still almost completely trapped in web.
Chanté—with the help of Kale’s knife—freed the Hawaiian.
“So…spider-god, eh?” Kale said.
Chanté thought for a moment before replying. When she did finally speak it was to say, “Maybe. Whatever it was, it was living here for a long time. I bet those holes,” she stopped to point at the circular spots of blackness decorating the walls, “were how it got around. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are tunnels running underneath this entire area. It must have been catching wildlife through openings and then bringing them back here to feed.”
“And to be close to those,” Kale said as he pointed to the golden antlers.
Hesitantly, Kale said, “Should I dig them out?”
Chanté could hear the shudder in her partner’s voice as he spoke, she could hardly blame him; the whole experience was nightmarish at best. “No, I think it is best to leave them here. Clearly the spider was attached to them-”
Unable to help himself, Kale piped in with, “Oh, they’re attached all right.”
Despite herself Chanté couldn’t help but chuckle.
*Characters Co-Created by Justin Cantelo*