Unreal Serial: Wicked Web 4 and 5

A hippy-looking group dancing in a circle.

Unreal Serial: a new series of short stories in serial form.

Wicked Web: Part 4

Dan and Isaac spent the rest of the day harvesting spiderweb, and the rest of the afternoon testing it. They learned in the process the web’s origin didn’t matter. Whether from a leaky factory or an arid workshop, the results were the same. “Always a great trip,” Isaac said as they smeared web on cigarettes Isaac got cheap from a dubious source. By sunrise they were ready for business.

The cousins marketed their product to Isaac’s mid-market clientele, i.e., editors and heiresses, models and b-list movie stars. Most were unsure at first but bought gobs after Isaac claimed such-and-such celebrity swore by the stuff. And as for holdouts who scoffed at a “dirty drug” – You want me to put what in my body? they asked, sans irony, as they stocked up on cocaine. —, Isaac told them Brazilian wellness mystics had used this rare arachnid extract for centuries – a well-crafted lie that worked like a charm. Plus, the lie dissuaded people from ingesting any old spider-web they had lying about, thereby securing Isaac and Dan’s hold on the market.

Isaac and Dan’s initial supply sold out in days. The next batch moved even faster. Word spread and demand spiked, and the cousins were making money hand over fist. Within a week, Dan had enough money to rent an apartment in Isaac’s building, to buy the guitar and pinball machine he’d always wanted, and now was saving for the engagement ring Jennie seemed to want. For the first time ever, Dan was debt-free and free of worry. To him, the spider’s web seemed like salvation. He’d never been more wrong about anything in his entire life. 

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Dan and Isaac’s monopoly was short-lived. Their clients told their friends, who told their drug dealers, and within a month dozens of other outfits were slinging “Cob,” as it came to be called. And as with Dan and Isaac, those dealers’ supply sold like hot cakes – as did the dealers’ supply in the next city, and the next county, and the next state, and so on. 

And no matter where the cob came from, no matter how it was taken – alone or in a group, on a Marlboro or a menthol – the results were exactly the same: all-encompassing awe and splendor within the Web of Life.

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At first the government and law enforcement ignored cob’s growing popularity. Usage was restricted to the usual suspects: burnouts, addicts, artists, and the idle, liberal rich – no one with any real power. Then Cob spread to the suburbs and townhomes, to the financiers and lobbyists and businesspeople who pulled the strings of modern existence. 

Then the groups were cavorting – hippies and housewives, artists and aristocrats and bankers and bohemians all sharing experiences and empathizing one another, mixing and merging and melding, demolishing a tapestry of socioeconomic separation it took generations to weave, dismantling the status quo. 

This was going to be a problem. 

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A spider lit white in its derelict-looking web.

Wicked Web: Part 5

Desperate to tamp down the “upheaval,” the president and his reactionary allies declared war on Cob. Derelict buildings were to be torn down. Mandatory tests would be developed and sent around to every school, office, and home to root out any users. Spiders were prohibited as pets, mascots, and cartoon characters. The president vowed that anything and everything would be deployed to eliminate Cob, what he called “an incendiary, pernicious scourge that will indubitably tear our society apart!”

The president had no evidence to support his fear mongering. No one did. Cob was so new that no doctor, scientist, clinician, analyst, or technician could connect Cob to any deleterious physical, psychic, or social side effects, no matter how hard they tried to scare one up. There wasn’t any notable crime associated with Cob. Users were docile, and the “drug” plentiful for people’s own cultivation. 

Of course, many people wondered why cobwebs were suddenly hallucinogenic. Pesticide-born mutations was the top guess. Some posited climate change; a few elders thought the gods must be crazy; and others of various ages blamed invaders from another planet or dimension. 

The president and his reactionary allies didn’t consider any such possibilities. Or any possibilities. They were too intoxicated by self-righteous hysteria – too laser-focused on “saving” the nation, no matter what the cost. But it mattered not: more people were trying Cob each day.

Therefore, with zero deliberation, the panicked, outraged president launched what he called “Operation: Untie Oppression:” a very expensive, very toxic, and very, very short-sighted crusade to exterminate spiders from sea to shining sea. It didn’t go as planned.

To Be Concluded…

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