Fiction Flashback: The Basement
Spring is just about here again and with it comes a time of renewal and re-birth. It’s also a time when even creepy crawlies give birth to a new generation. In that spirit, I’m sharing a story that originally appeared in the anthology Creature Stew some years back and currently exists as part of my first published collection, Beyond Where the Sky Ends.
So enjoy this nasty little creature feature, designed to give you the willies and have you pulling your feet up off the floor.
Catch you on the flip side.
by D.S. Ullery
“It’s about damned time.”
Crawford scowled at Jenkins as he slid the pack from his back, setting it on the ground between them, targeting the pudgy little man with an annoyed glare. “Couldn’t be helped,” the elderly custodian muttered.
Crawford opened the pack and rummaged through it. Jenkins watched in silence, shivering miserably. It was unseasonably cold that morning and the interior of the machine shop was retaining the chill. It served to exacerbate his anger.
He was only here because a shop employee had been bitten by something the day before while down in the basement to retrieve a case of machine oil. The entire crew had been startled when the man had emerged mere minutes after going down, clenching his arm and screaming something had bitten him.
The injured employee hadn’t seen what had attacked him. Jenkins had no idea what the offending creature might be. Judging by the way that hand had swollen up like a purple grapefruit, he didn’t care to find out. He’d been content to just order the men to stay away from the basement until further notice.
Contrarily, Mr. Molgaard – the site manager – had been unequivocal in his opinion Jenkins should handle the task of cleaning out the basement personally. He was the floor supervisor, after all, and maintaining a safe work environment was really his responsibility. He’d need to attend to his duties outside of operating hours, of course. That was part of being on salary.
“Hell of a way to spend a Saturday, huh?” Crawford asked.
“Just come on,” Jenkins grumbled. Crawford shrugged and grabbed the pack, following across the room to a large, metal plate set into the floor.
“Well,” Jenkins snapped, “don’t just stand there. Open it.”
Crawford knelt down and gripped a small handle at the edge of the plate. He pulled, lifting the metal slab out of its groove and dropping it on the floor, a loud clatter echoing across the cold pavement . Underneath, an exposed opening revealed a flight of narrow, metal stairs.
“Let’s go,” Jenkins said. Crawford nodded. He withdrew two small, plastic flashlights from the pack, handing one to the other man. They turned the lights on and, with Jenkins in the lead, headed down.
As they descended, the shadows took over and the beams from their lights became more distinct in the surrounding darkness. Jenkins paused on the last step. He hadn’t been down here in years, but thought he remembered where the light switch was. He moved the light in that direction, relieved to see the old plastic panel on the other side of the room.
They crossed the space and Jenkins hit the switch. Nothing happened. He tried it again, but knew with a sinking feeling the lights weren’t working. He was grateful, at least, for the combination of their flashlights and the glare of the shop lamps shining down on the exposed stairway through the portal above. They could see well enough to move around safely. More importantly, they could plant the pesticide bombs Crawford had in his pack and get out of there quickly, without stumbling around.
“Look,” Crawford said, pointing towards something large and bulky on the floor. Whatever the object was, it was cloaked by shadow in one of the corners. Both men trained their beams on it as they approached. It was revealed to be a large cardboard storage box. The box had been dropped onto its side. Several rusted cans marked “oil” lay strewn about the mouth, one of them having shattered open and spilled its long degraded contents onto the concrete.
“This must be the box Garcia was handling when he was bitten,” Jenkins said.
“Don’t know why anyone came down here anyway,” Crawford chided. “No one’s been down here in years. Should tent the building and kill everything in here.”
“He came down because we ran out of oil and thought there might be some left down here we could use,” Jenkins said testily. He was about to add something sarcastic when he was interrupted by a loud skittering, coming from behind the mess. Something was moving around back there.
Jenkins kicked the box to one side, shining his light on the newly exposed section of wall. “Crawford, move your light over here!” he ordered. Crawford did as he was told.
Something large and misshapen was fastened to a baseboard. The surface of the thing throbbed and pulsed beneath a translucent substance which appeared to be some type of silky, organic adhesive. The men exchanged looks of burning curiosity and peered closer, bringing their flashlights right up on it. Jenkins reflexively issued a disgusted gasp. Beside him, Crawford’s face transformed into a mask of revulsion .
Dozens of large, hairy spiders were swarming across the surface, scurrying onto the walls and floors. One or two – each easily measuring three to four inches – charged across the concrete directly toward Jenkins. He frantically stomped them to pieces, shuddering as their bodies exploded in a sickly expulsion of fluid beneath his heel.
“Wait a minute”, Crawford spoke. There was an alarmed edge to his voice Jenkins didn’t like at all. “Good god, Mr, Jenkins… those bugs are coming out of that thing.”
Steeling himself despite his flesh actively trying to crawl off of his bones, Jenkins stepped closer and had another look. The custodian was correct.. The spiders were breaking out from beneath the webbed surface. Crawford met Jenkins’ gaze and whispered in a thick voice “It’s an egg sac.”
“But they’re so big!” Jenkins cried, pointing. “That can’t be an egg sac! Look at how huge those spiders are!” When Crawford didn’t answer, Jenkins turned on him. “Did you hear what I-”
Jenkins lapsed into silence the moment he laid eyes on Crawford. The older man had frozen. He was staring past his employer, his eyes locked onto the ceiling. His face had contorted into a visage of terror and disbelief so extreme as to border on caricature. With a sense of mounting dread, Jenkins followed his companion’s gaze. He immediately found himself wishing with every fiber of his being they hadn’t left the pack with the bug bombs upstairs.
Something enormous crawled down the wall, the sheer size of it sending vibrations running through the entire room, causing the metal stairs to rattle. The hairy expanse of the massive body momentarily blocked the light cast from the shop above as it scurried toward them. It dropped onto the stairs, finding purchase for a brief second before lunging at them.
Crawford was right, Jenkins had just enough time to think. It is an egg sac.
And now it was time for Mother to feed.