Stacy brushed her hand over her bare calf to swat away whatever tickled her skin. They swished through knee-high grasses encroaching on the skinny dirt trail leading to the “perfect camping spot.” Those were her boyfriend’s words- not hers.
At that moment, Kenny turned and smiled. “Keeping up okay?”
She glared, even though he couldn’t get the full effect through her dark sunglasses. “Are we almost there?”
“Another half mile, I think.” He turned and continued on the path.
Stacy shifted the pack and winced when she moved the strap that had been digging into her hip for the last two hours. Her friends thought she was nuts for agreeing to go on this trip, but she had a feeling he planned to propose. After dating for three years, she didn’t want to miss it. Still, she couldn’t figure out what gave him the impression she would enjoy this.
Nearly an hour later they stopped and peered down an embankment.
“I’ll help you down,” he said, offering his left hand.
She shook her head. “It’s too steep. Can’t we just set up the tent here?”
“On the trail?” He laughed. “You can do this.”
“I don’t think my shoes are grippy en-“
He tugged her down the slope before she could finish her protest.
A few feet from flat ground, she lost her footing. Kenny’s body broke her fall. “Sorry,” she muttered before rolling to the side. The momentum flipped her onto her back.
He gasped a few breaths. “There. We made it.” He pointed to the left, toward a thicket of scrub oak trees. “We can camp there.”
Stacy felt like a turtle overturned on its shell since her abdominal muscles couldn’t right her while strapped to a thirty-pound pack. Grateful, she accepted his extended hand and ignored the barely-stifled snicker.
After they pitched the tent, he cooked pork and beans over a campfire. As he cleaned the dishes, she paused to listen to the creek. She watched the water rush over rocks, creating mini whitecaps. She had to admit; it was pretty here. She turned toward a scraping noise behind her and saw Kenny hoisting their packs into a tree with a rope he’d thrown over a sturdy branch. “What are you doing?”
He paused. “Stowing our packs.”
“Why not put them in the tent?”
“Bears.” He grunted as he threw his weight into a pull.
“Bears?” Panic edged into her voice.
“Sure. We have food in the packs and we don’t want the bears to follow the scent right to where we sleep.” He secured the rope by wrapping it around the tree several times before knotting it.
“No. Uh-uh. I want to go home. You didn’t tell me we could be eaten.”
“Settle down, Stace. They hardly come around… it’s more of a precaution.”
“Then as a precaution, take me home.”
“We’d never make it out before dark. Besides, I came prepared.”
Stacy watched as he unfolded a tripod and anchored his camera to it. “So you’re going to make a video of the bear mauling us?” Her jaw hung slack after the words tumbled out.
He laughed. “Of course not.” He gestured to the tripod. “This is to capture the chupacabra.” He pulled a Ruger LCP from the side pocket of his cargo pants. “This is to protect us from bears.”
“Chupacabra? You brought me here to hunt chupacabra.” She ran her fingers through her hair, flicking out twigs and leaves as she went. “You mean that wasn’t just a phase?”
“No way! I’ve wanted to see for myself ever since I heard of the first sighting around here when I was nine.”
“Lord, I’m an idiot.” She muttered to herself as she turned back to the creek, uneasiness creeping over her.
“I thought we could make this a romantic weekend.” He sat on the flat rock behind her and rested his chin on her shoulder. “It’ll be fun.”
She snorted. “Sure, being bait for things that want to eat us is fun.” She smacked her thigh, killing a large mosquito.
“Let’s go in the tent. The insects are worst just after sunset.”
Although angry, Stacy agreed and went with him. Inside, she slipped into her lightweight sleeping bag and turned her back to him. Without looking, she knew he was changing out of his hiking clothes into pajamas. She thought about following suit, but the idea of exposing her skin out here prompted her to stay fully clothed. She stared at the shadows of tree branches illuminated by the full moon as they shifted over the nylon tent until her eyelids grew heavy and she drifted off to sleep.
A twig snapped outside jolting her from a light sleep. She rolled over to find Kenny’s sleeping bag empty. “Not funny, Kenny,” she called out.
When he didn’t respond, her heart pounded a little faster. Her eyes focused on the shadows that played on the tent’s roof. The shadows moved differently than they had when she fell asleep. She flicked the flashlight on just long enough to check the time. 2:54. Maybe he had to go to the bathroom, she thought.
The shadow grew thicker, blotting out more of the moonlight. The form loomed over the tent. Stacy felt around the floor and found Kenny’s pants. She patted them until she found the bulky pocket and curled her fingers around the gun’s grip.
“Kenny, I have your gun. Say something.” To her own ears, her voice sounded small. It betrayed her terror and revealed her weakness. Her sweaty finger rested on the trigger.
Senses amplified, her focus rotated from rustling of dried grass, to the subtle shift of shadows, to her quick, shallow breaths, to the pounding of her own heart. When the figure loomed over the tent, completely obscuring the moon’s light, she closed her eyes and pulled the trigger.
The bullet ripped through the nylon and her eyes widened when the shadow poured in through the jagged hole. Thousands of long-legged spiders squeezed through the opening. They dropped from the roof on thin threads and stretched across the walls in a pulsing mass.
She knocked spiders away from the door’s zipper and she tugged it until the opening became big enough for her to squeeze through. Her body halfway out, she looked up and saw Kenny encased in layers of gauzy web. She brushed spiders from her face, but threads had already been spun, clinging to her eyelashes and tiny hairs on her skin.
She reached into her right pocket and pulled out a lighter. After several presses with her thumb, the flame lit. She eased it over to the tent fabric. It took several seconds for the nylon to ignite. Rather than bursting into flames, it melted and twisted. Stacy smiled when the burned circle widened and spiders shriveled and dropped to the ground.
Of all the dangers she feared, spiders never came to mind.
Inspiration: During a hike last year, my older son told me that daddy long leg spiders hid in the tall grasses and at sunset they came out where they would be all over the ground. That mental image was enough to give me the creeps (obviously, this fear has stayed nestled in the back of my mind for nearly a year!) Chupacabra hunting was also compliments of my older son, who is fascinated with urban myths. (Or is it a myth? Bwahahahaha!)
The location inspiration is Oak Creek in Arizona. I’ve hiked along several portions of it, and while it is gorgeous, you should never, ever camp next to a creek. Flash floods are common and unpredictable. If you are adventurous and feel lucky, then by all means- tempt fate 🙂
OMG! They’ve killed Kenny! 😛
BTW: I’ve never heard of a Chupacabra.
Crazy spiders! I hadn’t heard of chupacabra until my older son told me about last year.
That’s great. Expecting chupacabra’s or something similar we get spiders. Nice unexpected ending.
I’m glad the ending wasn’t predicted. Thanks for reading, Timothy!
Brilliant piece! Very clever 🙂
Thanks so much for reading, Mishka!
To paraphrase Indiana Jones, I hate spiders, Janna! Hate ’em!
I’m not a fan of them either, Michael 🙂
Ok, good to see that you’re back lol. The spiders was a nice change to the story. I figured she would shoot Kenny, because Kenny always dies. Sorry, bad South Park analogy. Anyways, this was a good story. I did see a few articles on spiders yesterday in how one used a rock as on anchor for its web since it did not have an anchor and the other lifted a shell up so it could climb inside it. It was quite neat. Also, don’t forget to trill the “r” in chupacabrrrrrrrrrrrrrrra. Take care and thanks for the story. May get out that way sometime depending on how things go here.
Yeah, I brought the creepy back this week! I hope I don’t have to trill the ‘r’ because I never did learn how to do that 🙂 Spiders are both fascinating and creepy at the same time… I like them better when they are away from me. Glad you stopped by to read the story, Sean!
I read a story the other day about a house that was overwhelmed with spiders to where the occupants left. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/10/brown-recluse-spider-infestation-missouri_n_5965116.html
Okay, that was a very creepy story. The old owners had to have known it was an issue. I’m not sure I’d want to live in the house after it’d been coated with chemicals that could kill them off!
Ewwww…….great story, but now I feel like there is something on my neck!!
Hehe, Sorry about that, Susan! (I was creeped out by the sensation, too 🙂 )
You’d think after dating three whole years, Stacy would know what kind of guy Kenny was, and he’d know this kind of camping trip wouldn’t be her cup of tea. That said, Stacy proved to be a much better camper than her late boyfriend! By the way, you promised creepy, and you certainly delivered! Finding a bazillion spiders in the woods sounds totally gruesome!
Love can be blind (or blind us to what should be obvious 🙂 ) I’m glad the creepy came through, Debbie!
What I enjoy about your writing, besides the craft behind it, is that I never really know which way it’s going to go. How many of your stories have I read trying to second guess you? And the endings are always logical, no twist just for the sake of it! This one’s no exception, though why Kenny would go out without the gun is maybe a slight stretch.
I’m glad you find them logically twisted, Emilio! As for Kenny, maybe he went out to check the camera, or answer nature’s call… especially if sleepy, he may not have thought about the gun. Or, maybe he was just an idiot? 😛
Just so you know I’m sure I’m going to be thinking about those spiders next time we camp…and chupacabras (though I’d never heard of them before and yes, I googled it, ha!) will also enter my head!
Sorry about that, Suzicate! (We’re going camping in a couple weeks, so I’ll likely be thinking about spiders, too 🙂 ) I don’t want to see a chupacabra, either…
I also had to google chupacabra to find out what it was. I never expected you to come out with killer spiders.
I never want to sit around a campfire with you telling scary stories!!! Creep me out!!!
Haha! I warned you October would be creepy 🙂 You’re safe at a campfire with me, Joanne… I don’t tell scary stories (I’m afraid of the dark and if I’m camping outside, I certainly don’t want to freak myself out!)
oh good. I’m scared of the dark too. If I was camping there would be a flashlight under my pillow!
Oh yes… And extra batteries stored nearby, just in case 🙂
Sometimes I am glad I don’t live in your mind. 😉
Hehe, it is a bizarre place, Deborah!
How romantic! (not) lol. This is a great story, but not one for arachnophobes. I thought Kenny was going to turn in a werewolf (or chupacabra), but your twist was even better. Well done 😀
Kenny as a chupacabra… that’s an angle I hadn’t thought of! I’m glad the spiders worked for you, Dianne… thanks for taking time to read some creepy this week 🙂
Holy crap Janna! All I could see in my head was all those humongous spiders in Harry Potter’s Chamber of Secrets and Ron Weasley saying “Follow the spiders, why not follow the butterflies?” This was great as all your stories!! I wish I could write good fiction.
I haven’t seen any of the Harry Potter movies… your comment has me curious 🙂 You do write good fiction, Kathy… don’t sell yourself short!
Well, if I was afraid of spiders I’d fear bed tonight! Great piece, but I had to look up Chupacabra. I guess every region has its own mystical creatures!
The first I’d heard of chupacabra was last year, but it’s apparently been around for a long time! Somehow I’m not surprised to have been out of the loop for so long 🙂
Ah.. I fear I would fall into the same trap as Kenny, being food for those spiders.. what can I say I’m an avid camper.. (and would go without a gun) … how did it look on video? I guess it could be an instant meme on youtube.
Haha, I bet the video was quite fascinating. You Tube, huh? Surely it would get some kind of ‘web’ award 🙂 Yeah. That was bad! Thanks for reading, Bjorn 🙂
When she made the shot I was sure Kenny was going to fall on to the tent. I hope she makes it out of there – hope too that any ring Kenny might have been about to give her is in his pack and not about his person. Of course, I shouldn’t be thinking material thoughts but I think I’m trying to ignore the presence of all those spiders. Well twisted at the end there. 🙂
I find spiders creepy – especially in large quantities! I’m not sure if marriage is in their cards or not 🙂
Ok, no camping for me!
Haha, this would make me think twice, too. Luckily, I’ll have forgotten this before I go camping next month 🙂