The "Daily Doodle" concept is intended to warm up my creative engines, and is essentially free writing, poetry or prose, usually accomplished in under an hour with a minimum of corrections. From time to time, I will post the results here.
In some cases, the piece will also be a special commission, prompted by a particular buyer. Readers can still custom order their own quick short-short stories: details here.
This particular story came from watching two workers cleaning out the apartment next door to me. From what I can tell, they didn't unleash anything particularly scary in the digging. I did see a pair of my old shoes in amongst the stuff tossed aside, however, which was weird.
The two men had been at in for over an hour, and they still were only halfway done. The apartment’s tenant had been evicted because the amount of stuff he had in his flat exceeded the parameters of his lease. He had left the previous week after three different U-haul trips. That there was still so much junk to sift through gave the laborers an idea of just what kind of hoarding had led to the old man being booted. One of the pair had spent most of his time breaking down cardboard boxes for recycling. There must have been a stack of twenty so far. Even with a utility knife, it was tedious work. Slice, collapse, slice, collapse.
As he did this, the second man was putting what he could into garbage bags, bringing them out one after the other. Shoes with no mates, books water-damaged beyond the point of being readable, old clothes and blankets covered in mildew and mold, an electric desk lamp, luggage, an audio speaker. If this is what he had discarded, the mind could only boggle at what treasures he had decided to take with him. One bedroom, kitchen and bath, stacked to the ceiling with junk. Where had the man even lived amongst all of this? Did he sleep on piles of old suit jackets? Use this empty fuel canister as a chair? He had a small round-top table, but it had two rectangular laundry baskets on top of it, one inside the other, and the top one full of empty paper bags. Or, more to the point, paper bags full to bursting with folded paper bags.
They wore masks and gloves to avoid breathing anything toxic or getting poked with anything sharp. There was still the fear that something might fall on their heads, so they worked from the top of stacks and down toward the floor. As they went, the bigger danger seemed to be what they might find behind these towers of things. Black mold covered one wall that had been obscured by milk crates and plastic buckets and magazines. They started throwing containers out without emptying them, just toss the whole thing in the dumpster. The ghosts of countless unidentified lives could be buried in any one of these dresser drawers that had long since lost their dresser.
“It’s like Antique Roadshow stopped at an insane asylum,” one of them quipped.
The jokes stopped when they got to the closet. Inside, there was another door, a blank surface with a knob and hinges but attached to nothing. It stayed standing thanks to a dent that the corner of the door had made in the wall, propped up with the most tenuous of connections.
Terry held the door on either side and pulled it out, easing it toward his co-worker, who took the bottom so they could carry it out of the apartment lengthwise. The first man was waiting for the other to go, but Bill had stopped. He was staring at the man at the top of the door. No, not staring at, but staring through. Which is what shook Terry’s nerves.
“What’s the deal, man?”
Bill flicked his eyes upward, indicating Behind you.
Though afraid to look, Terry had no choice. What fear of theirs had been realized? Was this day’s labor worth a day’s pay?
At the back of the closet, there was a large spider web. It spanned the two walls and touched the ceiling, sprawling back over the interior shelf. Its bottom was only about three feet from the floor. Had a man walked into such a web, it would entangle him immediately and completely.
The spider sat at the center, as if it had been placed there. It was mostly black, its flesh mottled with yellow spots. It didn’t move, but there was a feeling in the air that it was alive. The arachnid had presence. They were in its domain.
“Jesus, that’s creepy,” Terry said.
It wasn’t just the spider, though, that sent a chill through his body. It was all the things that hung along the web, discarded objects strung along a dead clothesline. There were several husks from the spider’s meals, which were not really surprising, but these were surrounded by things that should not be there. A fountain pen, a child’s sippy cup, a pocket watch, a bit of string, a three-pronged adaptor for an electrical plug, a charm bracelet--all things that must have found their way into the home with the other detritus, only to be stolen by this added visitor. How had the spider gotten here? Did he stowaway in one of the hoarder’s special finds?
Terry and Bill were both holding their breath, waiting to see if the creature would react. In the quiet, they could hear the watch still ticking.
Current Soundtrack: Coconut Records, Goats (Original Score)
All text (c) 2012 Jamie S. Rich