Wednesday, October 4, 2017

VT32 - Close Encounters

It could be described as nothing short of a behemoth. The creature’s body held the overall size of a pickup truck. Complete with leg span, the creature was perhaps quite a bit larger than one of the vehicles from before the collapse. Eight legs stretched out 10 feet on either side of the creature. The giant was bronze colored and covered in hairs, and it’s rear had the shape of an egg. The rear end of the giant was the abdomen of the creature. Two rows composed of four eyes occupied the face of the monstrosity, where also two fangs jutted out from either side of it. This fearsome creature was a titanic wolf spider, and it was moving directly toward the cabin. The monster moved at a slower pace toward the structure, it’s eyes having not spotted food or threats.

This gargantuan spider had finished hunting for the night, and was not on the warpath toward Wayne. It had just fed on a deer, the cocooned corpse of which could be found some fifteen miles back. As it moved through the wilderness, the brush rustled and branches on the road snapped. The road which had once allowed access to the area by vehicles gave the mammoth creature a wide enough zone to move through, whereas the paths in-between the trees would have otherwise been too narrow. Although they would’ve been a blockade for vehicles before the collapse, the brush was by no means an obstacle for this giant.

Wayne had initially slept peacefully, undisturbed by the spider’s movements. However, as it had reached the one hundred yard mark it passed through a trip wire. This set off an improvised alarm system. Zach and Michael had rigged up an early warning system in order to prevent anything from getting the drop on them at night. It consisted of dead-falls that would slam into trees and a metal trash can. As it passed through the first tripwire one hundred yards from the cabin, two separate dead-falls were set off, one slamming directly into the metal trash can and the other smacking into trees. The resulting noise described as a ‘crashing’ sound awakened Wayne, the spider sent scurrying down the road towards the cabin by the vibrations of the resulting impact.

The colossal spider stopped forty feet from the cabin, excited and on high alert. It began to scan the structure and everything surrounding it with its four eyes. Directly behind the cabin roughly a mile away, past a vast sea of evergreens, there was a large open field. The field was a location where the spider could move about much more freely, and it was the place where it kept the vast majority of it’s young. This had been the spider’s primary destination, but it was now on the look out for threats. The alarm system left by Zach and Michael had caught the spider completely off guard, and sent it scurrying right into a series of cans hung on a string across several trees. These cans had rocks in them, and were designed to make noise on impact. This created a loud rattling noise, which continued as the creature attempted to determine the source of vibration and scan the surrounding area for threats.

The sound of crashing and rattling caused his eyelids to fly open, resulting in heighted alertness. This triggered him to dive directly out of bed. Throwing on his shoes and rapidly tightening up the laces, he reached for his Mosin-Nagant and his short-sword, which he had leaned against the bed. Wayne attached the sheath of the blade to his belt and then deactivated the safety of the rifle, gripping the weapon tightly as he exited the bedroom of the cabin and stepped into the main room.

At this point, the behemoth had reached the front door. Moonlight shined underneath the door, pouring in through the crevice found under the entrance to the cabin. As the spider came within close proximity to the door, Wayne could see the movement of it’s shadow in the moonlight. The hairs on the back of Wayne’s neck reached for the sky and his breathing became heavy as he gulped in fear. His grip on the rifle increased as he pressed the butt-stock against his shoulder, angling the barrel toward the floor while moving his finger toward the trigger. Wayne was battle-ready, and just one scare away from firing into the door. He knew that the wood would not be a sufficient enough obstacle to stop a round from his Mosin-Nagant, the front door was not thick enough.

As the spider began it’s ascent onto the roof of the cabin, the wood of the structure creaked in protest. The spider’s legs thumped against the hard wood as the behemoth climbed onto the roof. Wayne’s eyes locked on to the source of the wood’s complaints, his ears and eyes both guiding his gaze to the ceiling. He pointed the barrel of the rifle upward, remaining at the ready to fire into the ceiling if need be. He would take no chances, whatever this was he knew it was large and threatening. Dust fell from the rafters as the spider’s legs beat against the roof, the wood groaning in complaint.

For a moment there was silence. Wayne listened intently, awaiting some sign of movement or noise. The wood still creaked in complaint from the spider’s weight, although it was evenly distributed among the eight legs. It stood on top of the roof for a full ten minutes, unsure of exactly what the cabin was. It could at least deduce that it was not a living creature itself, and therefore not worth attacking or attempting to cocoon. It was a known scientific fact that every spider had chemical receptors that were an equivalent of a sense of smell. Although the wolf spider specifically relied more on it’s eyes for hunting, this particular spider had been able to detect Wayne through those receptors; which had detected his scent through the wood of the cabin.

This was not a ‘smell’ that it was familiar with, and therefore not something that it automatically equated with food or threat. It took a few more moments trying to deduce exactly what it was ‘detecting’ inside the cabin, before climbing off of it out into the woods behind the structure. As it moved through the brush behind the cabin, it set off more of Zach and Michael’s ‘alarms’, which in this case were more rattling cans. While Wayne listened to the spider’s exodus, and the distant crashing of it setting off another dead-fall alarm, he reactivated the safety of the rifle.

Wayne slung the strap of the weapon over his shoulder, and rapidly retrieved the bedding and lantern from the bedroom of the cabin. Setting them to the side of the basement door, he opened up the entrance to the basement and picked up the lantern, lighting the wick once again before making his descent into the basement. After he had placed the lantern where it would provide light for the entire room, he retrieved his bedding and brought it down into the basement, then hauled the mattress of the lower bunk bed into it. On his final trip into the lower rooms, he shut the basement door behind him. He would investigate these things further in the morning, but for now it felt as though the basement was the safest location for him to sleep. Although the floor was concrete, the mattress would take care of any discomfort he might experience while down there.

He had come down here to sleep with the idea that this basement was like a ‘panic room’, which was something some one from the Nason Trybe had made more than a few remarks about. He had reasoned that if this was indeed a giant arachnid, it would not be able to gain access to him while he was in the basement of the cabin. In this case, fear had drained some of his reasoning powers; the hard wood of the cabin made a sufficient obstacle between him and the spider. This fact thereby made using the basement as a ‘panic room’ completely unnecessary.

After he had finished setting up his bedding, Wayne removed the weapon from his shoulder and set it beside his bed. He then laid down and went to sleep after extinguishing the lantern, the dark void behind his eyelids blocking out his vision. In spite of the excitement, he passed out of consciousness rather rapidly, and soon began to dream. Although he was unconscious, his eyes moved underneath the lids which covered them.

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Wayne stood barefoot, cold water rushing past his ankles. The legs of his pants made of animal skins had been pulled up to the knees, so that they might act as shorts and not become soaked in the river. His feet were positioned on a large rock underneath the water, that he might not be swept away by the current. The water sparkled as light from the sun blazed across it, and danced all along the shoreline on either side of the river. The shore was directly behind him, Wayne having remained close to it to avoid venturing out into the deeper parts of the river. In spite of his girlfriend’s consistent attempts to teach him, he had not learned how to swim. Wayne could hear the roar of accelerating water from the nearby rapids, which were little more than a few hundred yards down the river.

A woman stood directly beside Wayne. She was positioned on top of a large rock which stuck directly out of the river. As with Wayne’s, her pant legs had been pulled up to the knee-caps so that her animal-skin pants might act as shorts. Wayne’s right arm had been extended toward her, his hand wrapping around her’s as he and the woman had begun to hold hands. She smiled as this took place, swiveling her head to face Wayne. A necklace made of paracord with a quarter in the center hung from around her neck. Her long blonde hair flowed past her shoulders.

The eyes of the pair met as Wayne began to speak. Her eyes were green, his blue eyes locking on to them. This woman was quite clearly his girlfriend. “Melissa” he said, addressing her by her first name. He had almost spoken these words in his sleep. None of this was real, yet Wayne held almost no awareness of it. This was a dream, and a very vivid one at that. The images and sensations he was experiencing in his sleep were so real that he almost felt the cold of the water on his ankles, and the sunlight beating down upon him with it’s heat.

Wayne let go of her hand, pushing his glasses up his face. This seemed to be an event which he had no actual control of outside the dream, given his unconscious state. Were he awake, this might have been a mistake on his part. The second he had done this, the woman immediately transformed into a hideous monstrosity. Eight legs jutted directly out of her body, forming the leg span of a giant spider. Fangs grew out of her mouth, eight eyes suddenly appearing on her face, as hairs suddenly appeared all over her body and she began to transform into a giant wolf spider. The creature that had replaced his girlfriend was the size of a German Shepherd. It stood on several of it’s back legs and began to leap towards Wayne.

The events of his dream jolted him awake, and he let out a loud curse as he leaped out of bed. He rapidly grabbed his rifle and flicked the safety off, just about firing upon the concrete walls of the basement as he awakened. As he began to calm down, he reactivated the safety of his rifle; recognizing the indisputable fact that what had just occurred was only a dream. Wayne slung the rifle over his shoulder before he began to crawl and feel around on the floor in the area surrounding his bed, acquiring the lantern and relighting the wick. The glow of the lantern was a welcoming sight.

He made his way up the stairs, opening the door that lead into the main room of the cabin. Once on the upper level, he set the lantern down beside the stairs and walked over to the main door. As he opened it, light from the outside world flooded into the cabin, his ears picking up on the audible chirping of small birds. It was morning, and now time for food and an investigation. He closed the door before walking into the bedroom.  

During his frantic relocation the previous night, he had left his ALICE pack in the bedroom. He reacquired it and moved into the kitchen. Awaiting him was a series of wooden chairs surrounding a wooden dining table. Wayne seated himself, resting the pack against the legs of the table, and removing his rifle from his shoulder to his lap. He opened the ALICE pack and retrieved the last of his foraged fruit and wild greens, very soon he would need to resupply. As he began to eat, his mind mulled over the events of the previous night.

Wayne had a very good idea as to exactly what the crashing sound was. The previous day when he had made his initial approach towards the cabin, he had spotted trip wires. He had even detected the dead-falls that had been rigged up, the cans strung across wire that were meant to rattle when something impacted with them, and the metal trash can. Having seen these things, he had been able to avoid them without setting them off. Everything he had seen had clued him in on the fact that his family had fortified the position. Yet one question remained in his mind, why had they set up an alarm system rather than booby traps?

It’s possible that there wasn’t much time to erect such fortifications, what with German-Shepherd sized spiders moving around in the wilderness. Perhaps Wayne wouldn’t be able to find time for such things either. As for whatever had been moving around on the roof the previous night, Wayne had made an educated guess as to what exactly had disturbed his sleep. Given the information his family had given him in the letter, this was more than likely a giant arachnid. Of course his educated guess was spot on in it’s accuracy, but he did not yet know this.

As Wayne finished up breakfast, he placed the containers which had held his food into his ALICE pack. He then rose from his chair with rifle in hand and slung the weapon over his shoulder once more, grabbing his pack by the straps and hauling it back into the bedroom. Wayne took the time to rearrange his bedding, utilizing the light of the still-lit lamp to provide the needed light while he transferred the mattress and his bedroll back into the bedroom of the cabin.

Once he had cleared the basement of his bedding, he thought he might take a moment to explore. Upon re-entry, he crossed the room toward a closet. It was to the immediate right of the stairway beyond the shelves, positioned against the wall. There was a series of bookcases directly beside it, filled with all sorts of literature. As he had come within close proximity of the books, he caught a better view of their names. These bookcases contained a treasure trove of useful literature. Some titles such as Encyclopedia Britannica could be seen on the shelves, in this case it was the complete set. There were also books on subjects such as physics and mathematics, wilderness survival, the construction of tree houses, college-level text books on nutrition, chemistry, engineering, nursing, and a set of books entitled “How Things Work.”

With the present state of things in society, the books owned by old man Thomas Morris were worth gold. It seemed one might think that most people did not know how to read in this day and age. However, it was only those who grew up separate from Trybes or other forms of civilization that didn’t possess such skill sets. Each Trybe had a teacher or keeper of knowledge, known as a Libran, who educated individuals within the Trybe and shared a wealth of knowledge upon request. This bookcase however was the equivalent of a Libran far in advance of any in the Trybes.

Wayne grasped one of the volumes of Encyclopedia Britannica, pulling it from the shelf. He took a moment to acquaint himself with the book, noting that it was arranged alphabetically. Filled with curiosity and a desire to see what he could make use of, he flipped the pages to the ‘S’ section of the Encyclopedia, and went straight for the section dealing with spiders. His eyes skimmed over the contents of the section as he made mental note of the most useful pieces of information, specifically noting a diagram of a Spider which gave a biology lesson on spider anatomy. A statement underneath a heading entitled ‘senses’ suggesting that spiders who move around hunt primarily through their eyes stood out to him as being of particular value.

His mind was already taking this information and applying it to the much larger cousins of the small arachnids in the book. These creatures which occupied the shunned area would not be far different. It was essentially a larger version of the same spider. Their hunting methods and how they used their senses allowed him to make the deduction that he would need camouflage. He would be in need of something much more elaborate than a simple camouflage jacket in a woodland pattern. Wayne knew that he needed a Ghilie suit.

He had made one before, although it had been lost during the Stehekin war party’s most recent raid into Nason territory. Wayne had worked with the suits in leading war parties and patrols, having learned to make one from the Green Berets that had formed the leadership of the Trybe. He had used them primarily during scout missions, which was a time in which he especially wanted to avoid being seen. Although this would not make him invisible, it would pay big dividends especially in dealing with a creature that hunts primarily by sight.

He made one last check over the diagram of the spider, his mind making mental note of positions of vital organs. This diagram may as well have been a how-to guide for exactly how to dispatch the spiders, as when he had spotted the position of the brain directly underneath the eyes this told him where he needed to score hits. The face and the top of the abdomen at the back were places that one would want to hit, as rounds would tear into the heart and brain. Hitting either of these locations would spell the end of the spider, regardless of how large it was.

Wayne closed the encyclopedia, placing the book back into it’s place on the shelf. He opened up the closet, his eyes sweeping over the contents. Many jackets and suits identified as woodland and mossy oak camouflage hung from a wooden bar that ran from one end of the closet to the other. Wayne rifled through the various jackets, spotting a chest rig. This would come in handy for storing ammunition and other accessories for his Mosin-Nagant. He opened up the footlocker, and mixed in with other gear he found shredded burlap and sewing materials.

Wayne did not intend to use the Ghilie suit he was planning on making for hunting excursions. For hunting, he had something in mind which would be far safer than other methods. It was known as a ‘bow-trap’. The cabin was surrounded by various fruit trees and other food that could be harvested, which was something that could attract bears and other animals. It was possible that deer might venture near this area, but if not he thought of going scavenging in one of the nearby towns for salt-lick materials. Wayne had not intended to construct the Ghilie suit for this purpose, although it could be used with hunting in mind. Wayne’s purpose in making the suit was nothing short of defensive. The camouflage afforded by it would make evasion of the spiders when on the move much easier.

He checked over the various camouflage uniforms one last time. In-between many of the jackets he found a large and thick hooded camouflage jacket hanging up with a pair of camouflage pants. The jacket and pants both had many pockets, and their pattern was woodland. Holes had been cut into the back of the legs of the pants, the holes obviously meant to act as ‘vents’. Camouflage netting had also been sewn onto the jacket and parts of the pants. “Jack pot” he said aloud, collecting all of the materials as well as the jacket and pants before moving them upstairs. He placed his Ghilie Suit making materials on the table in the kitchen, before returning to the basement.

Once downstairs, he began checking over each of the jars that lined the shelves. His grandfather had canned quite a bit of food, and although much of it was many years old, they were worth checking over to determine their condition. Whatever resources were within his immediate vicinity were preferable to hunting or scavenging, at least until the Ghilie suit was made. Neither of those activities at this stage in the game would be safe. As he brushed the layers of dust off of the jars, Wayne identified the contents of what had formerly been mystery meals. Many of the jars contained home made soups, canned fruits and vegetables, and even stored meat that had been hunted from the area. Unfortunately some of these had gone bad over the years since society had last been in operation, and the seals of some of the jars had broken. He was able to deduce these facts, but he found some canned soups and fruit that were still in good condition, having been stored in the cooler temperatures of the basement and out of direct sunlight.

When he had finished inventory of the shelves, the next immediate task on his mind was fire. This was not for heat so much as the production of smoke. Smoke and flame would keep most creatures away from the perimeter, which would allow him to move around the general vicinity of the cabin without being confronted by many threats. He retrieved the lantern and moved back upstairs, putting out the flame before hanging it up alongside the main door. Wayne pulled the rifle off of his shoulder, deactivating the safety mechanism of the weapon and placing the butt up against his shoulder with the barrel angled downward toward the floor. His right index finger along the trigger guard, his left hand removing the crossbars of the door before reaching toward the knob.

The joints of the door creaked their protest as he opened it, pulling the door to his left. He stepped out onto the dirt and shut the door behind him, his eyes and ears searching his surroundings for threats. The chirping of small birds still filled the air. This was a good sign, silence would’ve potentially indicated fear on the part of the local wildlife. It was likely that if something threatening, such as a spider, was around if the chirping stopped. The song of the birds, in addition to the cans, were his only alarm system for now. This would notify him if something lurked in the woods nearby.

Dirt and debris crunched underneath his boots as he stepped out into the forest. In the dirt he spotted eight circular marks, which formed what could only have been the leg-span of a giant spider. There were two sets of four marks, one on the right and the other to his immediate left. There was a span of ten feet in-between each set of marks, or perhaps much more than that, indicating that a creature of significant size had previously stood at this location. A series of marks in the dirt of similar size and appearance could be seen until the brush became too overgrown to clearly see the dirt of the road.

Although this had not been his primary purpose in stepping out into the world, these tracks answered quite a few questions on his mind. The eight circular marks made it clear to him that a giant spider of significant size had come through this area the previous night, and had climbed up onto the roof of the cabin. Judging by the distant crashing heard the previous night, it had been gone almost as soon as it had arrived. The size of the behemoth had earned it the nickname “Big Bertha”, which was now Wayne’s official name for the creature.

Stepping out of the pathway, he moved towards his immediate right. His eyes swept and scrutinized his surroundings as he moved, making his way towards a small woodshed partially hidden behind brush. The shed was covered by a blue tarp, which caused it to stick out like a sore thumb from among the brush. He had still missed it on his way into the cabin, it had been something which he was not directly looking for at the time. Wayne bypassed the brush and pulled the tarp off of the shed, one hand remaining on the Mosin-Nagant. The shed was fully stocked with wood, some of it freshly cut. This was most likely the courtesy of his family.

When he had determined that there were no threats in the immediate area, he re-engaged the safety of his weapon before slinging it over his shoulder. He then began to haul chunks of wood from the shed to several spots around the cabin, moving as rapidly as possible. Even though he had not spotted threats, the risk of attack was still great. This was at least the case until he could get the fire going, the smoke from which he had hoped would keep monstrosities away. Once he had stationed the wood at various points around the cabin, he then collected green boughs and leaves to add to the fires once he had them going. His next move was to create firepits by clearing forest debris until he had reached bear soil and then adding rocks, building them up to keep in coals. Utilizing his flint and steel, he lit each of the fires.

Once the fires were burning steadily, he began to add the green material creating huge billows of smoke. After the fires were burning, Wayne set to work. From among the surrounding area Wayne scavenged a series of sticks of decent length composed of vine maple, one of which had a natural curve, and a small piece of wood. He brought them inside where he could work with at least a feeling of safety, and moved into the kitchen where he leaned his rifle against the wall and seated himself near his ALICE pack. Even though the fire was up, he wasn’t completely sure if the idea behind smoke acting as a shield would work. After pulling a hunting knife from his belt, Wayne cut notches into the top and bottom ends of the curved stick, and then began slicing off the extra materials from the inward section known as the ‘belly’. Once this task had been completed, he set the stick aside and retrieved some cord from his pack.

He had salvaged the cord from the local sporting goods store, some thirty miles back, where he had also found his new boots. Wayne strung the cord from one notch to the other, tying the cord securely to the curved stick. Using the stick and the cord, Wayne fashioned an improvised bow. This was a vital piece for his bow trap, which was something that he intended to use to hunt for him while he hid safely in the cabin. Once finished constructing the bow, he set it aside and took the two large thick sticks which were not curved. He then began to sharpen them to a point. These two sticks were roughly three feet long. Their sharp points would allow him to drive them into the ground. When he had reached the point in which he was ready to do this, the plan was to position the sticks at roughly four inches apart from each other, and then bind the bow to them at the correct height.

When the sticks were sharp enough to penetrate the dirt, Wayne took a fourth stick which was shorter than the other two. He cut a circular notch in the top and sharpened the opposite end. This was intended to function as a ‘peg’, to which cord would be tied to the top. He then took a fifth stick from the pile, which was a very thick and strong stick, and set it aside to differentiate it from the rest of the wood and sticks in his possession. The small piece of wood was in effect the final piece of the puzzle. This would be his ‘trigger board’, to which the trip-wire would be attached. The trigger board was around two inches wide and fourteen inches long. He cut a notch into the small board, setting it aside when he had finished it.

Wayne then began to fashion the remaining sticks into arrows, sharpening them to a point that would penetrate flesh and carving notches at the rear end to accommodate the cord. While in the process of constructing this ‘bow trap’, he occasionally moved back into the living room to feed the fire. After a few hours of constructing the trap, he gathered together his parts and slung his rifle over his shoulder again before heading back into the outside world.

At a distance of about one hundred yards from the cabin, there was a small game trail present. This was part of the reason why Thomas had chosen this location for the cabin. It allowed himself and the family to hunt occasionally. The close proximity to the trail might also have caused competition with spiders for food to be somewhat fierce, but it was likely that the deer would evade the smaller ones; because the deer population had a tendency to be jumpy. Wayne secured the area, sweeping it with his rifle before slinging it over his shoulder and erecting the trap. He would take no chances of any present threats, even with the nearby fire going.

He drove the two sticks into the ground first, and then used his cord to secure the bow to the stakes. Then he positioned the bow at what was roughly the height of a deer, although this was an estimation in his mind. Wayne set up the peg at opposite side of the trail from the bow, securing cord to it and then running it to the trigger board, which was rigged up to set off the bow. This was set up as a trip-wire, and he had run it directly in the path of the bow where the deer would most likely be moving around. He took the ‘trigger stick’ and trimmed it down some, before loading one of his home made arrows into the bow and using the ‘trigger stick’ to hold the draw weight of the bow.

His hope was that this ‘bow trap’ would do his hunting for him. The trap did not have much range to it, and relied on the deer or whatever animal sprang it coming within close proximity. This is because of the arrows lacking the feathers at their rear end that would’ve allowed them to travel greater distances to more far away targets. Wayne began moving back towards the cabin once the trap was set up. The next priority on his mind was rearming some of the alarm systems which had previously been erected. He crossed the main road towards the first dead-fall and took the time necessary to rearm it.

Since the system had already been made for him, the process of rearming it didn’t take very long. It was a matter of simply re-suspending the dead-fall in the air and setting up the trip wires a second time. On the off-chance that his sister came through this area, he hung orange surveyor’s tape along the wiring. A spider would not identify the tape accurately, and would more than likely still pass through the trip-wire. He did the same with the dead falls to the rear of the property where the spider had passed through the previous night, returning the cabin.

He stood at the front door for a moment, his mind wandering onto the events from the previous night. The present chirping of the birds took away his hesitation to be outdoors for the time being, although in the back of his mind he could see the need for limiting outdoor activity. In front of the main door of the cabin, there was a wooden porch with a covered roof. The porch covered the ground a few feet away from the door. An old rocking chair was on the porch to his direct right. The overgrown road behind him did not end at the cabin, it curved around to the right of the building and kept going behind the structure for at least a mile or more.

The Ghilie Suit was the next priority on Wayne’s mind. But it’s construction would take weeks or even potentially months. He knew that making them was a lengthy process due to his experience with them in his Trybe. This could still be the case even with the progress his Grandfather had made for him. The evidence of Tom’s work was clear when he had collected the materials. The burlap had already been shredded and the strands had been separated. In addition, the netting had already been sewn into the jacket. The burlap had even been dyed to match the surroundings of the cabin.

Yet there were still questions that needed answering on his mind. Was that spider still around, and if it was did it have a place to nest close by? If it was indeed close, it could not have been that close; as the birds were not frightened. But if it was close, perhaps it was far enough away to where the local wildlife were not on high alert. Yet anything within a mile of the cabin, or even a little further, could still pose a significant threat to warrant dealing with it.

Wayne opened the door of the cabin and stepped inside, shutting the door behind him. He retrieved the lantern and lit the wick once more, opening up the basement before making his descent into the depths below. He then moved straight for the closet down stairs, opening it up and retrieving the chest rig. Underneath the shelves, there was a series of plastic Arizona Tea jugs filled with water. He brought the chest rig upstairs to the bedroom, doubling back downstairs to grab one of the jugs. Wayne used the jug to refill everything he had used in his Hydro flask before placing it in a pouch in the rig. He then sat on his bed and took the time to load stripper clips from the can that had originally contained the accessories for his rifle. He placed each of these stripper clips in the rig until it was battle-ready, where he then began loading in some extra supplies for a short hike.

Once Wayne had finished these tasks, he put out the lantern and stepped out of the cabin back into the outside world. He then turned away from the main door to the right of the cabin, shutting it behind him as he began to follow the curve of the road. Upon reaching the back of the cabin, his eyes spotted more tracks which clearly belonged to Big Bertha, his unwelcome guest the previous night. To the immediate right of the road, ferns and other brush as well as vines and thick evergreens formed a dense forest; which an arachnid of significant size would experience difficulty moving through. This had forced Big Bertha to move along the old road intended for vehicles, and to climb on top of the roof of the cabin. The density of the wilderness along the area where the road curved around the cabin would’ve been too much for her to move through with her size and leg span combined.

If he could not avoid being seen, than his next maneuver was to use the density of the forest as an obstacle. He could for the most part hide behind and inside brush to break up his outline, but without the aid of a Ghilie Suit the risks of being seen were still astronomically high. Then the cover afforded by the forest was his best advantage, although it would not cover him from the German-Shepherd sized spiders mentioned in his family’s letter. These would be much easier to deal with than something the size of Big Bertha, who appeared quite large judging by her tracks.

Wayne removed the rifle from where it had been slung. He shoved the butt-end of the rifle against his shoulder and deactivated the safety mechanism, resting his finger along the trigger guard and pointing the barrel towards the ground. He then stepped off the road to the right, moving among the brush and trees. His eyes scanned his surroundings as his ears monitored the chirping of the birds. Wayne made sure his steps were light and as quiet as possible. He followed the general direction of the tracks on the road, having noted their path before stepping into the dense wilds. It would've been fairly difficult for a spider of significant size to change directions, considering the fact that the road was surrounded by thick woodland.

Afternoon sun shined through the canopy of the forest. The bright blue of the sky was visible through the spaces in-between the leaves of the trees. Rays of orange and yellow spread across the floor of the wilds, chasing away the darkness of the woods. Shadows from the trees followed closely alongside them, stretching across the overgrown floor of the wilderness like the tentacles of a squid. Brush had invaded the dirt floor of the wilds and had overtaken it, providing concealment for Wayne if he was to simply duck down. The potential for a threat to exist among the brush was present, and therefore Wayne remained extra cautious with his movements; and always monitored the behavior of the local wildlife.

When Wayne had covered a distance of close to a mile, the chirping began to stop. This placed Wayne on a much higher level of alertness, his eyes scanning his surroundings for threats as he began to duck down into the brush. His movements were much slower as he lowered himself into a crouched position, before he began to crawl after fifty yards, moving slowly through the brush. As he passed through another fifty yard stretch he reached a thick wall of brush. The wall of bushes formed an entrance and exit into the wilds. Beyond this wall there was a large open field.

He slowly moved into the brush and concealed himself among it. In spite of this his silhouette might still have held some visibility, yet he had hoped this would help him to evade detection. His eyes peered through the brush out into the open field. Long blades of grass stretched high into what seemed like the heavens, obscuring his vision. He surmised that even if he crouched, or stood erect, he still might have his vision obscured by the grass. One hundred yards away from his present position, partially obscured among the long grass, there was the silhouette of an enormous wolf spider. This was Big Bertha, and her eyes were scanning the opposite direction of Wayne's position. Her egg-shaped back was facing Wayne. Unfortunately, Wayne was able to spot something very terrifying occupying her back.

Hundreds if not what looked like potentially thousands of small spiders, each with bodies ranging from the size of kittens to puppies, covered her back. This made Wayne very hesitant to open fire on Big Bertha, even though he might be able to score a kill-shot if he hit the upper section of her rear abdomen. He knew from his skimming the Encyclopedia that this was likely where her heart was located, and if he could score anywhere from one to several hits in this location it might spell her doom, even though it may not necessarily bring her down immediately. Scoring a kill-shot wasn’t the issue, those babies on her back were a complete game changer.

This meant that there was a significant threat one mile from the cabin. There was no way Wayne could fight both Big Bertha and all of her young, plus whatever else lurked in the wilds. For all he knew there was an army of “Big Berthas” roaming these parts. The behemoth stopped, her chemical receptors picking up the scent of Wayne. As a wolf spider, she relied more on her sight for hunting than her chemical equivalent of a sense of smell. Yet it was still decent enough to where it could pick him up. She began to turn slowly towards him.

Wayne aligned the sights of the rifle with Big Bertha, his finger slowly moving towards the trigger. When everything was in place, he ceased all movement. Wayne was adopting a defensive stance, ready to open fire on her the minute she showed signs of hostility. Once Big Bertha’s face was facing Wayne’s position, he had a very good shot on her. Judging by her size, a few rounds in this location might put her down. She began to scan the forests with all eight of her eyes. This smell was similar to what she had detected the previous night, but was still strange, and not something she directly associated with food. Unless her eyes spotted the silhouette of a man, she wouldn’t budge.

Wayne would not open fire on her until she had proved herself a threat. Although one might think that merely what she was indicated that Big Bertha was a threat, this word could not be applied to her unless she was attacking him. The presence of the young on her back, combined with the amount of shots it might take to bring her down meant a batte he could not win. Yet he was prepared to fight that battle if necessary to defend himself, and was ready to ‘shoot and scoot’. Big Bertha had not detected his presence through visual means, the brush he was laying in affording decent concealment. She turned from his position, lumbering through the field. Without warning, she descended into the long grass, disappearing with her young into some kind of burrow.

Wolf Spiders were typically wanderers without a nest. However, their giant cousins and many other giant arachnids had acquired new behavior with their size. Spiders which were not normally social started adopting group behavior, forming nests together as well as communal webs that spanned across miles of cityscape. Spiders that hunted outside of webs began forming nests, hiding inside mines in the wilds if not directly burrowing into the ground in open fields. Wayne was not aware of any of these facts, and unfortunately would learn of them the hard way. Even reading about their behavior in the encyclopedias wouldn’t give him the complete heads up, as their behavior was now different and mixed; and the reasons for this were unknown.

Wayne waited for several moments, his eyes scrutinizing the field. There was no movement among the long grass that would give away the position of the smaller spiders. Either they were not moving, or they were not there. He let out a long sigh of relief, there was no way he could have won that battle. Slowly he crawled backwards, rising to a crouched position before he turned and made his rapid exit of this area towards the cabin. Perimeter defenses and the Ghilie Suit now took highest priority if he was going to spend any time at the cabin waiting for his sister.

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