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The Spider-Men
By: John “JAM” Arthur Miller

But I couldn’t just stay there. Not with all that screaming going on next door. And it wasn't just a screaming fit, either. Pure terror was etched in that voice. The kind of scream that lets you know someone is about to meet Jesus, and that someone is gonna’ go mighty quick.

“Mom, wait up.” But she was already out the back door. “Oh, geeze.”

She took the shotgun Dad had left us. This wasn’t good. I thought about grabbing my own robe to cover my Snoopy pajamas, but the sound of shouting alarmed me. I sprinted down the stairs and out the door.

Mr. Abernathy stood at the fence line where his property butted up against Mr. Askew’s backyard, which was adjacent to ours. Mom stood with the shotgun ready, a Bible in her left hand. An air of righteous indignation haloed her, or maybe it was a trick from the streetlight. All I know is a halo surrounded her head, a beautiful nimbus. Except for that shotgun in her right hand, it would have made a pretty picture.

“Mom?”

“I told you to stay in your room, Danny,” she whispered through clenched teeth. “You need to go… now.”

“But why--”

Past Mom’s shoulder, across the lawn and one yard over, stood Mr. Abernathy. His jaw dropped, his head turned in the direction of the Askew’s. I looked over and saw Mrs. Askew on her knees. It was difficult to see her because their house blocked the streetlight, and Mrs. Askew knelt in almost complete darkness. Before her was a shadow whose shape I couldn’t make out, but the sound of sobbing floated lightly on the night breeze. I realized the glimmering liquid around Mrs. Askew was blood. The scent of copper pennies filled the air, and my eyes finally adjusted.

The shadow before Mrs. Askew was that of her husband’s mutilated body.

Terror coalesced in the air like congealing blood, thickened like syrup. The night turned darker, although I knew it was just a trick of the light. My heart sped and my stomach clenched tight.

“Mom?” I whispered.

She turned ever so slightly, and beyond her I saw it: an insect-like creature with large pinchers and antennae. Part of it was still in shadow, but where the glow of the streetlight struck I saw yellow glimmering on what looked like black armor. And then its image formed inside my brain, finally, and I saw it for what it truly was. I’d been pushing it from my mind, telling myself that it was a trick of the light, like Mom’s halo. But I couldn’t fight against what my eyes shoved into my brain. Before me stood a giant humanoid spider—insectile body, eight legs ending in pinchers, and a cluster of eight eyes. It wore some sort of clothing around its midsection, surrounding its abdomen.

And then it spoke: Click… click… clickety… click!

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