Unreal Serial: Wicked Web’s End

Charred rubble of a city destroyed.

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

Wicked Web: Conclusion

The government’s anti-spider blitz was an unmitigated disaster. The army drenched the nation in untested toxins that inflamed asthmatic reactions, catalyzed aggressive cancers, and induced painful blisters on anyone caught in the lethal downpour.

Millions died that first month, and the months that followed brought even more death and disaster: without spiders to eat them, hordes of mosquitoes spread vile diseases, while crickets, cicadas and grasshoppers devoured crops across the land, leading to widespread hunger. 

The supply chain broke down almost immediately. Banks ran out of money. People starved. People killed themselves. People killed others. The president fled. The government collapsed and society entropized and chaos spread globally as the toxins rode the jet streams, dispersing pandemonium like a net of death. Now, when people took Cob, the Web of Life shivered in pain; the souls in the dew drops cried out in agony.

Astute as always, Dan saw the disaster coming a mile away and drove his new truck from the city back to where the end began: the cabin overlooking the evergreen valley. Isaac was supposed to follow after, but Dan never heard from him again. Dan would never know Isaac got stuck in an elevator during a blackout. He would never know he fell to his death trying to escape.

Dan asked Jennie to come, too. Begged her, actually – gave her that ring and everything, but she headed west. “I need to be with my family,” she said, like Dan was some disposable diversion. 

Now Dan was at home, alone, standing on his cabin porch as fires chewed through the evergreen valley below. “Marauders,” he said to no one. 

Silently Dan wondered if he was safe. He wondered if he deserved to be safe. Wondered if anyone would ever know the role he played in this tragedy. Would he ever be taken to task for what he set in motion? Would justice man-made or supernatural charge him for living large while causing so much carnage. Would history mar him for all eternity?

Dan’s questions remained unanswered. As he stood there brooding on his porch, the president’s plane was flying overhead – straight into a swarm of locusts. Blinded, the pilot pulled the controls upward before overcorrecting and sending the aircraft careening right into Dan. 

Dan was vaporized immediately. No one ever knew he was there. 

As for the spiders — they were never really gone. “Operation: Untie Oppression” killed billions of the creatures, yes, but billions more followed their instincts and burrowed into cracks, crevices, and crannies – huddling and hiding and surviving on grubs to avoid annihilation, just as their ancestors did during the dinosaurs’ extinction. 

Once the dust settled and almost all humans were dead or dying, the spiders crawled from the wreckage and rebuilt their homes atop the rubble of our own. And there, among the eight-legged remainders, was the little spider. He’d been under Dan’s cabin the entire time. 

The little spider now emerged from below the mangle of the log cabin and metallic plane, climbed up the porch’s charred yet still-standing door frame, and spun his web. 

As he worked and weaved that night, the spider thought of all the bugs he’d devour in the hours ahead, of all the bugs he’d been denied since that fateful evening his and Dan’s paths crossed. 

The little spider’s patience paid off: the ash-laden breeze delivered a plethora of insects to him that night. That night, the little spider ate until he was full. He ate more than he imagined possible.

🕷

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.

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Unreal Serial: Wicked Web 3

Blurry orbs of blue and pink light against a night sky.
Image via Carine06

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

Wicked Web: 3/6

Dan woke right where he’d been: on the mountainside cabin’s porch above the evergreen valley. His half-smoked cigarette lay at his feet. In the sky, as if for the first time, stars twinkled. When the crisp breeze blew, Dan felt his cheeks wet with tears. It had only been ten minutes.

Dan was astute enough to know the spider’s web caused his hallucination; and he was experienced enough to appreciate there was no comedown or hangover. He actually felt better than before smoking the web – a lot better. He didn’t even feel those beers. He felt cleansed. Whole. He knew he’d metamorphosed – and now he had to spread the word.

🕷

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Unreal Serial: Wicked Web 2

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

Wicked Web, Part 2/6:

Dan felt a fizz at his temples after smoking the web-glazed cigarette. It was slight at first – an almost imperceptible simmer under the surface of his skin on either side of his head. Then the sensations grew – fizzes became buzzes; buzzes became vibrations.

Those vibrations spread across Dan’s brow, drawing closer and closer to one another, nearer and nearer until they converged right between Dan’s eyes, two coalescing into one. 

FLASH! 

A fist-sized bulb of blue light erupted from Dan’s forehead into the sky – an incandescent sapphire hovering amidst pitch-black. Dan felt his face for an exit wound, but there was none. No gaping hole, no shattered skull or blood. Just his skin and a few zits.

The glowing blue bulb began rotating above the valley, and with each revolution it pulsated bright and brighter, spun faster and faster, gaining so much speed that it’s rounded edges blurred and broke, unfurling prismatic threads from the bulb’s center into the air.

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Unreal Serial: Wicked Web 1

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

Wicked Web, Part 1/6

The little spider didn’t mean to destroy human civilization. Like all creatures, its intentions went only as far as its imagination, and its imagination went only as far as its instincts. Thus, the only thing the spider thought that fateful night was of eating bugs. Humanity’s end was the furthest thing from its mind. That was but an unintended consequence.

Yet maybe it was the spider’s lack of imagination that did us in. It was a breezy, spring night on a mountain cabin porch overlooking an evergreen valley. But the spider didn’t weave its web around the eaves where night wind might blow. Nor did he tuck his snare between the porch’s wooden spindles or under the yellowed security light that attracted delicious gnats. 

Instead, the little spider strung its string across the door frame, side to side, corner to corner, back and forth, creating a crisscross as deadly as it was intricate. And delicate: Dan came out for a cigarette and walked right through the spider’s trap.

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Happy 70th Birthday, ‘Bananafish’

Today marks the 70th anniversary of The New Yorker publishing JD Salinger’s short story “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” the first of the author’s many stories to a) appear in The New Yorker and b) to feature a member of the Glass Family, the intelligent, quirky and wealthy New York brood from which Salinger drew so much inspiration. They were the original Tenenbaums.

Iconic today, the story wasn’t originally called “A Perfect Day for Bananafish.” It was, simply, “The Bananafish.” Unhappy with the initial narrative arc they received in January of 1947, as well as the title, William Maxwell and Gus Lobrano sent it back to Salinger for revisions, which took a year of back-and-forth consultations — until finally, in January of 1948, receiving a final draft entitled “A Fine Day for Bananafish,” Lobrano decided “Perfect” was better than “Fine,” and published the story under the title we all know today. It was a sensation.

If you’re unfamiliar with “Bananafish,” it’s about Seymour Glass, the second oldest child of the family, but while Seymour’s alive and well – for now – he’s suffering. Much like Salinger himself after the war, Seymour’s having trouble returning to civilian life, what with the horrors of global conflict seared into his memory. On a Florida vacation with his wife, Seymour’s stuck in a quagmire of depression, acting as the nexus for broader social alienation, bellicose brutality, mental deterioration and society’s willful ignorance of all. A crushing story, it’s publication cemented Salinger’s reputation as a beguiling and beautiful writer. And it only took him a year of edits! That’s refreshing for anyone struggling with their own words these days.

Anyway, if you’d like to take a look at the story and don’t have a New Yorker subscription, it’s included in Nine Stories, a PDF of which can be found here.