WEB

Luke reached up a shaking hand and felt for the knot on his forehead. It only took

him a few seconds to find it. He gasped at its size and how tender it was.

A lone figure materialized out of the darkness and handed him something. "I think

you'll need these."

Luke blinked a dozen times to clear his foggy vision. He took the glasses and put them on. Instantly, the figure came into focus.

Louise sat down next to the bed. "You gave me a scare there, Luke." She brushed

aside her long black hair. A few strands refused to stay off her pretty face.

Luke sat up in bed. "You know, when we bought this old place, I had no idea that it would fight back."

"Oh, you're just being silly," Louise said softly. She held Luke's hand, gently caressing his palm with her thumb. "It's just an old house. It has a lot of character. That's one of the things we liked about it, remember?"

"Yeah, I remember. I just didn't know it would be so painful."

"Very funny. What happened down there anyway?"

Luke saw a damp washcloth next to the bed and carefully laid it on the egg-sized bump on his head. "I don't know exactly. One minute I was walking down to the cellar with some boxes of vegetables, and the next minute I was sprawled out on the floor. Maybe I didn't see a board in the ceiling or something."

Louise stood up. "When I found you, you were mumbling something about a web. And I found the boxes, but they were empty."

"A web, really?"

"Really."

"All right, if you say so."

Louise nodded thoughtfully. She wished she could stay with her husband, but she had to go to work. "Well, Honey, I have to get going. Now I want you to get some rest."

Luke smiled and closed his eyes.

"Good. I'll be back by seven, okay? Love you."

"Love you too."

The cellar was dark and smelled musty. The steps wound away from the top floor like frightened children escaping a stranger's grasp. A solitary light bulb, unlit and dust-covered, hung from a single wire at the base of the stairway.

Luke stood in the doorway. He gazed down at the lower level of his new house and shuddered. As a kid, he had a bad experience in a cellar once: the door locked behind him and he was trapped for over an hour.

When he ventured down into the cellar earlier, he was so busy unpacking he didn't give it a second thought. But after he passed out it brought back those old childhood fears again.

What did he hit his head on? Was it really a low rafter like he was trying to convince himself of? Or was it what he vaguely remembered: some type of web? And furthermore, what happened to the vegetables?

"Luke, you're an adult now. You have to behave like one." He began to step down into the cellar. "You just bumped your head on a board." The steps creaked and groaned under his weight. "Just a board."

Luke never saw it coming. The pencil-thin strand was stretched across the foot of the stairs, from one support beam to another. There was no slack in. It was so taut it could've cut through a slab of cheese.

Luke fell to the floor, and hovered between blacking out and a fuzzy awareness of his surroundings. His forehead where the strand hit sported a deep-red furrow. Blood seeped from the wound.

Time slowed, refusing to allow itself to be measured accurately. The room distorted. Light traded places with darkness, and then back again. And a pair of eyes, blood-red and diagonally elliptical, emerged from the dust-coated rafters.

Luke watched helplessly as the gigantic spider lowered its massive bulk to the cellar's floor. It was wedged in between the rafter boards so effectively it was nearly invisible; its deep brown hide meshed in perfectly with its surroundings; its foot-long fangs clicked against one another.

It was hungry; the vegetables it had eaten hardly satisfied its appetite. Now it had overcome its initial fear of the creature that had been carrying them. Now it was ready for a real meal.

The spider scrambled over and crouched above Luke. Its bloated abdomen pinned him to the ground. It reached up and effectively snipped its web strand, rolling it into a tight ball which it tossed out of the way.

Luke looked up at the underside of the beast. If he could've screamed, he would have done so like never before.

He never saw the fangs coming.

Louise pulled the door shut behind her and immediately noticed how quiet the house was. The ticking of a clock on the wall sounded like a jackhammer in church. She set her purse down and slipped off her shoes.

"Luke? I'm home. Luke?"

No answer. Only silence filled the house.

As she walked toward the kitchen, quietly scolding herself for being so paranoid, Louise noticed the cellar door was open.

No, it wasn't just open, it was damaged. The whole framework looked as if something too big to fit forced its way past it, pushing the jam boards out in the process. The door itself hung precariously at a downward angle toward the steps.

"Luke? Are you down there?"

Still no reply.

Louise reached in and flipped the light switch on. Instantly, the light at the foot of the stairs came on. She screamed when she saw the sucked-dry husk of her husband.

All she could think about was getting out of the house. She turned and sprinted down the hallway, bumping into the walls as she went. A framed photograph of her and Luke on their honeymoon crashed to the floor. An antique lamp toppled from its base on a small table.

"I got to get my cell phone! No, get out of the house! I'll need my car keys! No… my purse! I have to get out of the house!"

The front door loomed in front of Louise. She stumbled toward it, all the while trying her best to block out the image of Luke's body.

The strand of web cut so deeply into her stomach it knocked the breath out of her. She wound up flat on the floor of the hallway, not more than four feet from the front door.

Gasping for breath, Louise watched as the giant spider crammed its massive bulk through the archway from the kitchen. It was able to shift its exoskeleton, allowing it to approach its prey with relative ease.

The last thought Louise had was that she hated spiders.

The mail truck rolled down the long dirt driveway. Annie held the day's mail in her hand. She eyed the mailbox on its wooden pole near the entrance to the house, and was about to come to a stop next to it when something caught her attention, something that told her to call the police.

The front door of the house was smashed open. It looked as if something big had forced its way through the opening. Splinters of wood were scattered in all directions.

Annie fumbled for her cell phone, but was knocked forward when the mail truck suddenly hit something. It bobbed up and down a few times, dangling off the ground. The strand of web had cut right through the top of the truck, holding it fast.

Annie rubbed her eyes as she tried to orient herself. Her forehead was bleeding and her wrist hurt. She looked up and noticed the windshield was cracked.

And through the cracked glass she saw the enormous spider lumbering toward her.