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Wolf Spider

by Erin N Hand 5 months ago in Short Story

Emma believed it. She just didn’t feel it.

Illustration by Erin Hand

The barn stood about fifteen yards from the back door of the house, and about halfway between the two was the should-be abandoned chicken coop.

It was should-be abandoned because the house and the barn had stood abandoned for almost half a decade, and yet, somehow, the chicken population had persisted. But now, their presence was threatened by a wolf slowly creeping in from where the property leans out to embrace the woods.

Emma watched the wolf inched closer to the coop for the third day in a row as the sun began to peek over the mountains on the horizon. The first time a car had backfired on the road scaring it away. The second day a neighbors dog had been let into its backyard and started barking. But today nothing happened. All was silent as the wolf got closer.

She hesitated a moment before finally deciding to take ownership of the birds that had come unwillingly with the house. She reached for the shotgun her neighbor had talked her into buying and stepped out the kitchen door.

The wolf paused but didn’t take its eyes off the chickens as the door banged shut against the frame, bouncing once. Emma raised the gun. The wolf turned its head to look at her but didn’t move. She pulled the trigger. The shot grazed the corner of the barn several feet off target.

The wolf turned tail and ran back into the woods. “Shit.”

The chickens started clucking and scurrying about before, one by one, they found the entrance to the coop. The ruckus finally roused Beth from her sleep, and she started crying.

“Shit!” Emma rubbed her hand down her face before setting the shotgun next to the door and headed for the wailing baby.

When she got to the room, her daughter’s face was red and blotchy. Jane’s face turned the washed-out green blanket to a crisp mint color. Like the rose atop the Swedish princess cake Emma had received at her baby shower.

There had only been two other people there so they each ate a third of the nearly nine-inch cake. It’s easier not to talk when eating. Emma wondered for a moment how hard it would be to make that cake before the screaming reminded her that babies couldn’t eat cake.

Jane wiggled around in her mama’s arms as she was brought into the kitchen and placed in the high chair. Jane reached for Emma’s hair several times, but she held her daughter away from her chest so she couldn’t grab onto anything.

After Jane had eaten and been placed back in her crib, Emma finally decided to start tackling the nightmare that was the barn. She had been lucky that there seemed to be no structural problems with the house, but the big wooden monstrosity outback was an entirely different matter.

One side was starting to cave in, causing the roof to tilt towards the left. The sliding doors had warped from the near-constant rain and gotten stuck open in the tracks. The thing probably just needed to be torn down and never rebuilt, but Emma figure she should take a closer look inside first.

The thing was truly a mess. Some big hulk of metal was rusting in the corner that looked like it might have been a small tractor. Emma tried to think if she’d ever seen a tractor in person before and sighed in frustration.

She kicked the wooded column nearest her, and something dark scurried down the side of it. She bent closer to take a look and stumbled backward so fast she nearly fell. Spider.

Emma didn’t scream at spiders. She wasn’t a wuss, but that didn’t mean she wanted one two feet from her face. And that certainly didn’t mean she’d let them live. The barn may be a pile of crap, but it was her pile of crap, and no spiders were welcomed here.

A piece of two-by-four lay on the ground near her, and Emma picked it up. It wasn’t much longer than her forearm; she’d have to get pretty close to the spider to kill it. She tried not to squeal, the only thing worse than screaming or crying, and inched closer with the piece of wood raised over her head.

The spider was sitting in the shadow of the column that stretched out from its base to kiss the foot of the wall. Emma hesitated a moment before bringing her stick down on top of the spider.

The thud mixed with a small splat, and for a moment, that was it. Before all of hell escaped into the barn.

Little tiny clones of the big spider exploded outward in a black cloud from the corpse of their mother, and Emma finally screamed.

She fumbled backward and watched helplessly as what should have been one problem multiplied again and again until it spiraled out of control. She ran out of the barn and tried to pull one of the hanging doors shut.

It didn’t move. “Shit.”

She continued to back away from the barn and toward the house.

Once inside Emma grabbed her phone off the counter and tried to search for an exterminated but she hadn’t set up the internet yet and she couldn’t get data this far out of town. She rummaged around in several of the drawers until she found the yellow pages the relator had given her when she moved in.

It took her several minutes of scanning through the pages but eventually, Emma found the number for an exterminator. The phone shook as she held it to her ear and the ringing raddled her jaw.

One minute passed. Then another. The phone kept ringing away and Emma had to fight back tears. Nearly five minutes had gone by before she hung up. She didn’t have the money to pay for someone to take care of it anyway.

But what other choice did she have?

The sight of the old barn as she looked out the kitchen window made her long for her city apartment and the life she had there. A singular existence with no one to pull her in one direction. No responsibilities beyond herself. No wolf. No spiders. No baby.

Emma winced at the thought and balled her hands into fists at her sides. It wasn’t Jane’s fault her father was an ass-hat. Emma repeated it over and over again in her head. It wasn’t Jane’s fault her father was an ass-hat. It wasn’t Jane’s fault her father was an ass-hat.

Emma believed it. She just didn’t feel it.

A loud wail echoed around the empty house and Emma sank to the floor. She gave up and cried too.

That night it rained, hard. The constant pounding on the roof made sleep impossible for Jane who did the same for Emma. Every few hours the Jane would go silent and Emma sent up a silent prayer. But right as she was bout to fall asleep, Jane would start up again. And by two am her cries were accompanied by thunder.

Emma didn’t scream, she wasn’t a wuss. But it was getting harder not to be.

Finally, in the early morning, the rain let up to a light drizzle. And by the time Emma had dragged herself out of bed the house was back to being quiet. It was nice.

The aroma of coffee burst from the bag as she opened it and poured the grounds into the bottom of the french press. Once the water on the stove boiled she add that as well and the steam that billowed up clouded the window. She smiled for the first time in what felt like days and reached her hand up to wipe off the window. It was then she looked outside and nearly knocked over the french press.

The whole barn was flooded.

She forgot the coffee and ran out the back door before remembering her shoes and ran back inside. It took about five for her to find her rain boots and then she was back outside. The chicken coop looked fine and all the chickens were accounted for if a little disheveled. But the barn.

It was a mess. A worse mess than it had been before. The walls were creaking ominously and stuff on the ground had been pushed all over the place. Only the mound of rusted metal had stayed put though she thought some of it was missing.

It was then she noticed the bodies.

Little dark dots floating in the water. Hundreds of them scattered all over the place. Emma bent down and scooped one up with her hand. She could see the little motionless legs, all eight splayed out around its tiny body. Emma looked at the wooden column still standing and wondered if the mother would have been able to survive. “Shit.”

Then another thought accrued to her and she left the barn to look at the edge of the woods. It was still.

A bird circled in the sky and passed through one small, low-hanging cloud. A breeze tickled the tops of the weeds, some of which had already started to bloom. But nothing moved in the bushes. No wolf waited to try for a chicken again. All was silent. “Shit.”

The bird disappeared behind the tops of the trees and Emma was hit with just how alone she was out here. There was nothing. No wolf, no spider, just her and her baby. Alone.

Time passed slowly as she stood watching the forest line. Eventually, she turned and started back for the house when something out of the corner of her eye caught her attention. Movement.

There, on the end of a piece of two-by-four sticking out of the mud was movement. A wiggling black mass covered the tip.

Emma cautiously moved towards it not wanting to scare them. Sure enough, as she got closer she could see a small swarm of baby spiders that had survived the storm.

It was then she remembered a ten-gallon tank with a screen mesh lid in a box somewhere. She’d once had a couple of hermit crabs as a teen and held onto it in case she ever decided to get another pet; not that her previous apartment had allowed pets. That was one good thing about living in a house, no landlord.

The tank was in the very back of her closet and though dusty, was in otherwise good condition. After washing and drying the inside, Emma brought it over to the stick with the baby spiders.

She gingerly pulled it out of the ground and placed it in the tank. The stick was a little too long for the tank and she had to break off the end, causing the spiders to scatter. Emma quickly yanked the lid down before they had a chance to climb up the sides and escape. She wasn’t really sure how to care for baby spiders but figured it couldn’t be any harder than a baby human.

After breakfast, Emma carried Jane over to the tank that now sat on the coffee table in the living room and introduced her to the spiders. From the living room windows, she could see the front yard where a couple of bushes shifted slightly.

At first, she thought it was a breeze but nothing else in the yard moved. Then a black nose peaked around the leaves. Emma watched in amazement as her wolf came out, followed by two pups.

Short Story

Erin N Hand

If I am lost in life right now then please never find me.

Poet, artist, writer, daughter, friend, dreamer, cat-mom, and with any luck, soon-to-be bird-mom!

Follow me on Instagram @e_n_hand

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