“Tracy, are you awake?” said a quiet voice.
Tracy awoke to the gentle wrapping on her bedroom door. She groaned as each light knock upon the wood sent surges of pain through her hung-over head. She opened her eyes to a dimly lit room. Confused, Tracy glanced towards her window and noted the curtains and shades were open. In the place of bright morning rays, a sickly amber light spilled into the room. The gloom created an abnormal mood leaving the girl feeling even more disorientated. She dismissed the odd spectacle as simply an early morning storm, but in the back of her mind, something didn’t feel right. Tracy closed her eyes once again as a gentle rumble of thunder filled the air.
“What time is it?” Tracy mumbled to her little brother.
“Umm, nine-thirty in the morning,” Timothy said.
Tracy yawned and opened her eyes. “That didn’t make sense,” she thought to herself, “It’s too dark to be so early in the morning.” Another rumble of thunder vibrated the foundation of the house ever so lightly. The dim, yellowish light was hazy and the abnormally, long shadows only added to the girl’s disorientation.
“Where’s mom and dad?” she asked through the closed door.
Timmy paused and answered. “I dunno. They said they were going for a walk, but that was a while ago.”
Tracy sat up in bed and tried the rub the sleep out of her eyes. She yawned again and glanced at her phone. She begrudgingly mouthed the words displayed on its display screen, “No Service”.
Trying to keep the annoyance out of her voice, she answered, “What is it, shrimp?”
“It’s Twinkles. He’s not moving,” Timmy cried.
“Twinkles?” Tracy asked.
“Yeah, Twinkle-Toes. He’s on his back and isn’t moving,” Timmy answered.
With a shudder, recollection hit the girl hard upon remembering the owner of that childish and innocent name – the damn spider. Twinkles was an Ecuadoran Purple Pink-Toed Tarantula and the most hideous looking thing to have ever crawled on eight legs, or so thought Tracy. She took a moment to collect her thoughts and carefully chose her words before answering her brother. She’d promised her parents while home from college she would try and get along with her younger sibling. “You’re his big sister. You need to be a role model to him,” she could hear parent’s words ringing in her head with their all too familiar chastising tone.
Tracy suppressed a cringe and said, “Maybe he’s asleep.”
“No!” Timmy whined, “He not sleeping. Something’s wrong! Go look at him!”
Tracy slowly swung her legs over the side of her bed and rubbed the back of her neck. She swallowed, noting the bad taste in her mouth and dry throat that came from a late night of drinking and partying with her dearly missed friends. Again, ensuring her tone was not one of irritation, she said, “Alright, kiddo. Gimme a second and I’ll go look at him.”
As she slowly crawled out of bed, the low rumble of thunder gently vibrated the house once again. The unnatural, milky-yellow morning light only added to the fog hovering over Tracy’s head. In the darkness, she sighed after hearing the rapid tip-tap of Timmy’s footsteps head away in the direction of the home’s living room. Soon, the familiar jingle of the game console’s welcome screen rang out through the house as it powered up.
Tracy stumbled out of her room and parked herself in front of the coffee maker and clumsily started brewing herself a morning cup. After a big yawn and a giant stretch, she looked out the darkened window and shouted over her shoulder, “Did mom and dad say where they were going for their walk?”
“Nope,” a voice called back.
Tracy was unable to tear her gaze away from the window. The daylight seemed to be fading and the sickly yellow colored light deepened. There was no wind and nothing moved outside. Except for the faint thunder rumbling from afar, it was deathly quiet. Confused and a little concerned, Tracy asked, “Did they say how long they’d be gone?”
Over the electronic sounds of explosions and laser blasts, Timmy answered, “Nope.”
Tracy grudgingly turned her attention towards the direction of Timmy’s bedroom and sighed, remembering why she’d drug her hungover a*s out of bed: “That damn spider.”
Sipping on her hot and perfectly sweetened cup of extra strong coffee, Tracy rummaged through the drawer for an old pair of plastic tongs she knew once had been there. Finally, in the very back, her fingers found the utensil and clicked the two prongs together with a smile. It would do the job if it became necessary to pick up the carcass of a deceased, arachnid monstrosity. Tracy’s stomach slightly turned at that thought of being near that disgusting bug. “He’s not a bug! He’s an arachnid!” she heard her brother’s voice in her head correcting her. Regardless of what they were called, Tracy still hated their bulbous bodies, hairy legs, and black eyes; all those pitched, black eyes.
Tracy slowly poked her head into Timmy’s room. She peered through the darkness and slowly scanned the messy room. An involuntary shiver ran up her spine once her eyes fell upon the illuminated ten-gallon aquarium sitting in the far corner. Its incandescent light bulb housed in the hood emitted a low hum with a bright, artificial light. The girl cautiously stepped over books, papers, and toys scattered over the floor. Each step brought her closer and closer to the aquarium and its dreaded occupant.
As Tracy grew near, it was the smell that stopped her in her tracks. It was pungent and immediately aggravated her already queasy stomach. Tracy stood over the spider’s habitat but stopped at the sound of rustling from under the bed in the opposite corner of Timmy’s room. Tracy froze and held her breath at the sound of something large stirring within the shadows under the bed. Tracy knelt slowly and craned her neck to get a peek under the messy bed. A streak of black fur shot out from under the bed, between her legs, and out the door. The frightened girl fell hard on her a*s and cursed, “James! Goddamn you, James!” She half laughed as she could hear the slender cat fly out the small pet door in the kitchen and out into the backyard.
Tracy picked herself up and the humor of the situation quickly faded as she returned her attention to the aquarium. She pressed her nose up against the glass and inspected the contents. Timmy had decorated the spider’s home in a desert motif with brown gravel mixed with chipped wood for bedding, a small yellow sponge for hydration, and a fake cactus planted in the ground. In the center was the carcass of a dead tarantula spider.
Tracy didn’t know much about spider anatomy, but she knew enough to realize something was not right. Looking into the aquarium, she expected to see the dried-out husk of a dead spider. The carcass was on its back with each long, hairy leg curled in on itself. Instead of any hint of purple or pink hair, it was devoid of all color. The body was not dry but moist with a clear, sap-like liquid trickling from every joint and crevice. The spider was sickening to look at. The color of its dead body was milky-white, speckled with chalky bits of grey matter. As Tracy looked at the creature, its dead eyes stared back at her, unblinking and unmoving. Shaking her head, she wondered how long it must have been sitting in its cage, dead and rotting. How long did it take for Timmy to notice his pet was dead and slowly decaying only a few feet from where he slept?
Slowly lifting the hood to the aquarium, the stench of rot quickly filled her nostrils, causing Tracy to gag. Once the sickness passed, she angrily thought to herself, half-joking but mostly serious, “I will never forgive that little s**t for making me do this!” Taking out her tongs, she reached in and poked and probed the decrepit carcass. Sticky fluid stuck to the surface of the plastic and Tracy made a face in disgust and squealed, “Gross!”
She gave the tongs a couple of shakes to dislodge the gooey mass belonging to the deceased spider. She had little success. Below the dead spider, something stirred beneath the soil and gravel. Without warning, two large, spiked legs shot out from under the bedding and took hold of the tongs. It painfully wrenched the tongs from Tracy’s hand and caressed them in extremities tipped with a sharp, translucent nail. In an instant, it sharply buried two large, ebony fangs into the plastic; shattering the object. Tracy screamed in a mixture of horror, surprise, and pain. She backed away from the monster emerging from the soft bedding and tripped over a single shoe, causing her to lose her footing. She gazed up in paralyzing terror as the beast arose from its resurrection hole.
Large bulbous orbs appeared from the soil and glared at the girl through eyes covered in an opaque film. Two short spindly legs slowly caressed and palpitated its shiny black fangs. Eight long legs lifted a bluish-white body from beneath the bedding. The spider appeared to have flattened itself while it hid beneath the gravel and now seemed to triple in size as opaque spines rose from its body and legs. As it moved, its limbs cracked like breaking or snapping tree branches. It gave off a piercing chittering, unlike any animal Tracy had ever heard. She screamed in horror as its voice became a shrilled shriek and the dead spider scurried up the glass wall towards the tank’s opening. Its white, chitinous legs were a blur as it scrambled its way toward freedom.
Tracy scrambled on her knees and slammed the hood back into place just as the beast reached the cage’s edge. The spider crashed into the barrier and to Tracy’s surprise, it displayed enough strength to slightly raise the top cover out of place. The impact caused the spider to fall to the ground, landing on its backside. Its long, spiked legs trembled and rattled as it violently struggled to upright itself. Trying to stand, Tracy frantically scanned her surroundings and gave an exasperated cry of relief and said, “Oh thank God!” at noticing a stack of books spread over the nearby desk. With one hand still pushed down on the hood, she reached out her hand and took hold of the largest book within her grasp. In the corner of her eyes, Tracy could see the spider flip over and rear its two front legs high in the air and quiver. The girl heaved the book and placed it firmly on the lid to block the spider’s escape.
Tracy yelped as the harsh chittering and shrieking cut through the air and the spider crashed against the glass surface. Long, thin cracks branched out in all directions of the aquarium at the center of impact. Still on her knees and wide-eyed, Tracy gazed upon the underside of the spider and watched in horror as its long white legs explored the smooth interior and its black fangs scraped and cut into the thick glass. Standing on uncertain legs, Tracy retreated out of the room as the spider hurled its body again and again against the glass barrier. The beast was in a murderous, blood rage, intent on reaching the frightened girl. As Tracy fumblingly opened the door and pushed her body out her brother’s room, the not so distant thunder sounded and rocked the house once more. Just as she shut the door, Tracy heard the sharp splintering of glass and saw the long legs, encased in a hard exoskeleton tearing away large pieces of glass shards. The monster was free.
Tracy sat in the hallway, hugging her knees tightly, trying with no success to make sense at what just happened. Suddenly, the hallway darkened, as if a black storm cloud was passing over from above. Once more, a roll of thunder rumbled through the house and the ambient light deepened to a blood-red and orange shade. The air tasted heavy and nothing seemed real to Tracy. She closed her eyes trying to will herself to awaken and escape this nightmare. The splintering of wood returned her to reality. Tracy opened her eyes and saw the jagged legs emerge from beneath the door. They violently scratched and scraped the floor leaving deep gouges. Soon the spider resumed it barrage against the door. The massive impacts were quickly joined by crunching and splintering of wood. This quickly prompted Tracy to get to her feet and run. Only one word occupied her mind, “Timothy!”
Tracy stumbled into the living room and gasped in terror. The room was empty. She nervously called out, “Timmy? Timothy? Answer me!” The only light illuminating the room was from the TV; the words, “Game over. You’re Dead”, flashing on the screen and an abandoned game controller on the carpeted floor was all she found. Over the crash of thunder, she frantically shouted, “Timmy!” She hesitated, hoping to hear the sound of her brother’s voice; only silence greeted Tracy. The quiet became oppressive and seized her heart in fear as the electricity and power went out and the orange-tinted darkness fell over the girl.
In the glow of the diminishing light, Tracy could just make out the silhouette of a small figure standing motionlessly in the center of the kitchen. Tracy floundered clumsily towards Timmy. His eyes were wide and his gaze fixed on the back door. Tracy ran to her brother and embraced him in her arms. She cried, “Timmy, are you all right?” The boy said nothing, his face paralyzed in fear and still looking at the rear door.
“Timmy? What’s that matter? Why won’t you answer me?”
Barely above a whisper, the boy said, “It’s looking at us.”
Tracy held her breath. Hollow clicking and scraping emerged from over her shoulder from the direction of Timmy’s stare. Tracy slowly turned to see the jet-black face and dead eyes from the demon-like head poking through the pet door. It must have been the size of a large rat. Antennas twitched from an elongated head and blood-red stripes marked the side of its face, like war paint. Large and sharp mandibles chittered and clicked from the face of the mutated, ebony grasshopper.
Hissing and flexing its jaws, the large creature’s cloudy eyes fixated on the girl and boy and the monster continued to push its engorged body through the pet door flap. The giant creature let out a high-pitched scream and reared back to pounce. Tracy grabbed Timmy and shielded him from the coming attack. As suddenly as it appeared, the nightmarish face vanished. The only trace of its presence was the flap of the pet door slowly swinging back and forth. From the other side of the door, the chittering and squeals intensified and ended in a loud shriek that was unexpectedly cut short. Tracy and Timmy held each other in terror as the pet door slowly started to move and another face peered through the opening.
“James!” Tracy gasped as the familiar emerald eyes fell on the scared siblings. In the feline’s mouth, he held the quivering body of the ebony insect, its back-legs feebly kicking and twitching.
The sight of the cat seemed to snap Timmy out of his state of shock and he cried out, “James!” Dropping the dead creature, James let go of his prize and with a regal presence, he pranced over to the boy and affectionately rubbed against both Timmy’s and Tracy’s legs. Each praised the cat’s bravery and hunting skills and rewarded him with strokes to his coat and scratches behind his ears.
Tracy looked up into the darkness of the fading light and listened to the crash of thunder. The walls and glassware vibrated from the approaching storm. She picked up the cat and handed it to Timmy and said, “Stay here!” Flipping over the kitchen table, she pushed it against the back door, barricading the entrance and preventing any more “unexpected visitors” from dropping in. Still hearing the impacts of Twinkles (The undead spider) upon Timmy’s bedroom door, Tracy closed the door to the hallway cutting them off from any would-be attackers. Tracy leaned against the door and slid to the ground. Timmy ran up to his sister, hugging her tightly.
Hope filled Tracy’s face at seeing the large ladybug emblem dangling from the silver ring hanging over the kitchen counter, “The car keys!” she said. Tracy grabbed Timmy’s shirt collar and snatched up the ring of keys. Tracy pressed the unlock button on the remote and the loud, “Chirp! Chirp!” sounded off from the parked car. She shuffled her brother and his feline cargo toward the door leading to the garage. James gave an irritated, “meow”, from being jostled by the child he claimed as his own. Tracy turned the doorknob and pushed on the door. Instead of swinging open, it snapped back and slammed shut. It felt as if the door was anchored to its frame by elastic bands from top to bottom. Tracy tried once more and shoved her shoulder hard into the door and managed to wedge it open. The girl poked her head through the open and peered into the dark garage.
The garage door was open and the SUV was parked in the middle. It was dark and consumed in shadows, but through the low amber light, the shapes of two human bodies entangled in thick fibers could be seen. One was laying across the rear of the vehicle over the trunk and the other was suspended from the ceiling in the far corner. Both bodies were violently twitching and softly moaning. Holding in whimpers, Tracy slowly closed the door as dozens of pairs of crimson eyes illuminated and glowed in the darkness.
“Tracy, what’s the matter?” asked Timmy.
Tracy regained her composure and turned to face her brother. Looking down and him and the cat she forced half a smile said, “We can’t go that way.”
Close to tears and voice trembling, Timmy asked, “Why not?”
Looking around in all directions, Tracy tried desperately to conceive their next move. She fought back the tears and said to herself, “There’ll be time to mourn later!” Tracy stood quickly, remembering her purse she’d absently thrown on the end table last night. She grabbed her brother’s hand and led him towards the front of the house and said with determination and authority, “Because I said so.”
They swiftly passed the home’s long hallway. The intermittent, “Bang! Bang! Crunch!” from the house’s “other occupant” filled their ears. In the darkness, Tracy found her purse and smiled once her fingers touched the cold metal of the keys to her car parked out front. She looked down at her frightened brother and said, “Timmy, listen to me. Close your eyes. Whatever happens, don’t let go of my hand and don’t open your eyes. Do you understand me?”
The boy nodded vigorously. Tracy closed her eyes, took in a deep breath and said a quick prayer. She reached for the knob of the front door but paused as the continuous thunder echoed on and on without a stop. Under the rumbling, she could make out another sound. It was ominous and foreign to her ears, yet she knew exactly what it was. She understood now. In the fading blood-red light, she could now see. She let go of the doorknob and instead locked the deadbolt. Tracy drew Timmy closer to her as the sounds of large spined legs clicked against the side of the house and a swarm of dead, chitinous wings fluttered above. Tracy understood: the dead had risen. The word “zombie” came to rest on her lips, but Humankind had gotten it wrong. It wouldn’t be them who returned from the grave. No, it was something far worse.
As the final smashing of splinter wood filled the sibling’s ears, revelation opened Tracy’s eyes and filled her heart with despair. The truth hit her like a stone. In his vanity, mankind could only envision the horror of seeing himself resurrected. However, Death comes for everything that breathes and walks upon this Earth; not only for the tribes of Man. The Age of humanity was over and the Dead have returned to claim their throne. The new rulers served only one master; one of rot and decay and the only creatures to be spared the coming tribulation would be the worms and maggots. It was the pestilence and the creatures that crept and crawled who would be reborn on this morning of resurrection. Judgment Day had arrived!
And for its arrogance, Humanity would be the ones to suffer the most in all of creation.
“Tracy, I’m scared,” Timmy said.
“Me too, kiddo,” whispered the girl.