It was a Sunday, and boy was it a Sunday! Although it was certainly no massive surprise for a day so late into July as the day was. The reports of the spell of dry and warm weather could hardly have been missed, the weather, while not being exceptional given the state of previous summers, had been mentioned at nearly every opportunity by the seemingly fervent voices on the radio, almost as if they were trying to urge their listeners away from their Hi-Fis and car stereos and into the parks, into the public swimming pools and air conditioned shopping centres, all of which would be packed to the point where it would be difficult to draw a breath without sucking in someone else’s sweat.
Of course, that was part of the joy to be had, today was a Sunday, and a wonderful Sunday at that. No one would be working on a Sunday. Bobby spared a thought for all the poor suckers, the store assistants, the waiters, the park wardens that were all trapped in the vice of employment, all silently begging for freedom, all with their lips pursed to the cracks, exerting their best to gulp what air they could, wishing to throw off their sweaty work clothes and join the massed throng of people enjoying their time, to be part of the laughing, smiling crowds, to take in what was good about the day.
“Nope, No one would be working today” was the thought that played over gleefully in Bobby’s mind as he rolled his flatbed truck into the lot; blaring The Absolute Greatest Rock Hits of the 20th Century as the cover of the CD his wife bought him for his last years birthday assured him, of course, what the CD cover had really meant, he had supposed a few times, was; The-Absolute-Most-Memorable-and-Commercially-Available-Rock-Hits-of-The-20th-Century but all machinations of the music business aside, it sure as hell was great driving music, especially for warm and sunny Sundays and empty back roads “Not a body”
He left the truck, gas turned off, but with the stereo still blasting music, and walked towards the office, basking in the beauty of the day, feeling as uplifted and inspired as he supposed nearly everyone does when More than a Feeling comes on the stereo, feeling very pleased with himself for picking such a great day to come in, even more so that he had it all to himself.
The sky was a clear infant blue, which welcomed the decorations of gentle wispy clouds that crept up on the fringes of the horizon, an almost overbearing sun blazed right in the centre of the sky that lit up impossibly everything under its watch. He felt the heat of the sun on his skin and smiled, he willed his cells to open right up and absorb all that they could, even if he barely knew enough biology to know his skin even had cells.
Walking on the hard, baked earth, scuffed work boots throwing up small clouds of reddish dust he made his way to the little portable cabin that was made use of as the site’s office, he had hoped that Tony had left some survivors inside, the badly-kept secret stash of light beers in the mini-fridge stacked in the corner.
“No man left behind!” Tony would often declare through the huge, infectious grin spread on his amiable face, as he peeled open cans of beer.
When it came to consuming alcohol, he was the kind that didn’t usually stop until he was stopped, either by some other wilful entity (more often a perfumed entity at the end of his arm, but occasionally enough one far, far less friendly) or an exhaustion of some necessity, like cash, or consciousness. But, as Bobby noted with some relief, he rarely got started while still clocked on, ‘Anything I touch while I still have my workboots on is just oil to keep this exquisite engine running’ as Tony would put it, with his shit-eating grin and a self-satisfied pat on rounded stomach.
Bobby knew that there would, as always, be a half-drunk bottle of bourbon in the bottom draw of Tony’s desk, and he knew that he was welcome to it, but the thought of hard whiskey on a day as sweltering as this made his mouth shrivel with dryness.
Unlocking the door of the office cabin, he walked in, and stopped for a second, his brain too busy blessing the sweet coolness of the shade. Before he would resume on his course though, he stopped because of the smell in the office. Often the little wood and steel box would get reasonably smelly; hard-laboured men and confined spaces were seldom a combination that resulted in olfactory pleasure, but “Jesus Christ on a Cross” thought Bobby; it really stank in here, and not just the familiar, manly tang of sweat and dirt.
It was the sickening smell of rot. That disgusting smell that sticks in your throat and makes your stomach turn, that smell of the lunch box left out in the sun for too long that always remained intact in your mind.
Swollen black flies buzzed around the cabin, Bobby felt his hard, manly resolve waver a little when the fat ones flew right into his face, skirting along his nose and lips, grotesque gluttonous agents of decay made stupid by the heat of the sun, he swatted them away, but still hurried to the corner, he pulled open the door of the fridge and pulled out one of the three lonely-looking cans loitering inside.
He crossed to his workstation at the far end of the cabin, reached out and grabbed a large sheet of paper on the top of his cluttered desk, gripping it carelessly at the corner with his free hand, and hurried out of the stinking cabin, his skin still crawling enough to make him shudder even though he managed to make it outside without being overcome by those disgusting conditions.
Outside again, the sun kissed his skin, and the momentary terror just before was dispelled instantly, he left open the door of the cabin, to allow it to air out, he went over to the surveyor’s work desk that stood parked to his right, just in front of the office. It was a small, adjustable desk which had little clips built into each of its sides.
One by one, he sprung each of the clips open, slid one side of the sheet of paper that he had picked up, into its mouth, and released, clamping it down on the sheet of paper so that it stayed on the desk undisturbed by any ruffle of wind.
He cracked open his can of beer, a small vague shot of pleasure ran through his body at the sound, and took a large thirsty draught of the light brew and set it atop the sheet of paper pinned to the little adjustable surveyor’s work desk.
He raised his arm to his brow, to shield his view from the glare of the sun, and took in a brief surveillance of the site. The lot was mostly empty, apart from three medium-sized diggers, each of them caked in dirt, the glass planes of the cabs now translucent with grime, which were laying, seemingly abandoned, at the edge of a large, rectangular pit, headed by a large pile of dirt that previously lay where the pit was now in its place.
It would be redundant to say that the pit was the size of a house, it was supposed to be the size of a house, it did after all, exist solely so that the foundations of a house, of that size, could be laid there. Bobby knew exactly how large the pit was, or at least, it specified on his sheet of paper exactly how large it was supposed to be, right down to the inch, although he knew that the reality meant a fair amount of guess work in between that perfect exact number on the sheet of paper and the efforts of the work grunts to reach something at least like it.
In Bobby’s line of work, which had been his line of work for 21 years now, he had found himself standing in the middle of an unrecallable number of sites just like this, owned by rich people and situated in the middle of nowhere, probably how the rich like it, Bobby thought, less undesirables to keep them company.
He gulped down what was probably a quarter of the contents of the beer can on top of his work desk, and jumped down into the pit, which was roughly waist-height. Straight away he noticed that the ground at the bottom of the pit was uneven, the dirt was loose and stones jutted up into the soles of his boots, the ground had not be packed down tightly yet, strike one against the lads in the diggers, people always seem to get lazier as the weather warms up.
He began inspecting the walls of the pit, and wondered if they would be just as uneven in height, he wondered if the boys working the site had at least been thorough and consistent in their sloppiness. Remembering that he had left his tools in the bed of his pickup, he hoisted himself out of the pit and made his way back to his truck, enjoying the sun and the vague, distorted rock music playing loudly in the distance, what was it, Boston or something?
He neared the truck, close enough to make out the song for certain now, as it played through its final chorus, it wasn’t Boston. ‘…You ain’t seen nothing yet’ the voice of Bobby’s mind sung along with the track, he smiled, ain’t seen nothin’ yet, the thought had a nice ring to it, he wondered if he hadn’t, if indeed there were more wonders in life for him to behold.
He poked himself through the open window of the truck’s cab, and picked up the heavy tool belt that was slumped in the passenger’s side; he clipped it onto his waist, and sauntered over to the bed of the truck. As he reached over, to pick up a large grey tool box, he noticed that all around the bed of the truck, all about and even on his possessions and work gear cluttered on the back of the truck, were dozens of… spiders? He thought at first they must be, they crawled around with the same creepy, rapid scuttling familiar of arachnids, but they all glistened, they all seemed to have a black shell, covering their main body, much like beetles do.
They were all roughly the same size, with the body about the size of a penny. Bobby was not squeamish for insects generally, although the thought of having to drive an infested truck for four miles before he could give it a healthy hosing made the hair on the back of his neck stand up on end.
He slammed the large grey box back down onto the bed of the truck, in an attempt to shake these crawlers off his truck, but they carried on unperturbed, all seemingly on a course towards him, Bobby noticed uncomfortably. He picked up the box again and made his way back to the pit, ‘Don’t fear the reaper’ playing as he ambled back.
About half way back to the pit, he became aware that he could hear something. He stopped walking for a moment, straining his ears to isolate the sound and determine its source, he wished that he had turned his car stereo off now, but the realisation that he was wasting time on a likely futile and impertinent action soon came to him, and he continued making his way.
It was only as he came to approach the little office cabin, that he had managed to work out the sound. It was a buzzing, a violent, crazed buzzing At first he had thought that a machine somewhere on the site had managed to turn itself on, but he realised that the chugging rumble that accompanied the equipment when it was in use, wasn’t present, just a high-pitched crescendo of buzzing.
By the time he had reached the office, the source of the noise had become obvious. The cabin was now filled with flies, although there had been a large party in there before, easily more than the twenty-or-so flies most people would consider as ‘filling up’ a room, the office was totally overwhelmed now, inundated with the swarming mass. His only views of the interior would come through the streaming traffic of horrible black flies speeding round the room.
Bobby took in the sight with horror, the brief immobilisation of shock, and what he guessed might very well be fear, seeming much longer than it was in reality. He slammed the door shut on them, he wasn’t sure why, or what other option might have been available, but he did it without a second thought. The office was overcome with flies now, might as well let them have it, leave it to the fuckers.
He went to finish off the last of the can of beer that he had opened, partly for the sake of his throat, which had just now grown drier than the dusty earth he stood on, and partly to wash away the shock he had just received, thinking of the half-bottle of whiskey that was now lost inside and how that he would now much rather a shot of that than light, sun-warmed beer.
He picked up the can with a trembling hand, and to his horror, a number of flies spilled out of the opening, he lost the ability to hold onto the can and it dropped to the floor, he felt sick as he watched a dark fluid that was probably once his beer, thick and viscous ooze slowly onto the ground.
Bobby judged all of this as somewhat natural, it was a superbly hot day after all, if he were a more suspicious man, either from intelligence or from cowardice, he probably would have bolted, welcoming the prospect of being in a spider (or were they beetles?) infested truck for four hours, over the strangeness of the situation he now found himself in, but instead, he refused to recognise it as strange.
What he did think was strange though, was the small mound of earth that had appeared at the bottom of the pit, roughly in the centre. Certainly it wasn’t there before, or at least he was sure it wasn’t, but what use is being sure of what was (or what wasn’t) when things have taken different turn since?
Without thinking (swept away by the bizarreness of the immediate events) he jumped straight into the pit, he became aware again of the bad smell from inside the office, maybe it had begun to permeate out towards him, or maybe his brain was playing tricks on him, recalling the smell like a phantom sense.
He went over to the mound, and kicked it, and it toppled over in half, like a wet sandcastle that has become just become acquainted with a stranger’s unseeing foot. Almost instantly, the mound came to life. A seething mass of movement burst into action.
Beetles, or maybe they were actually spiders, the same kind that Bobby had seen in the bed of his pickup truck, exploded from the toppled mound in what seemed to be a single wave of writhing, angry movement.
The bad smell met him again, but it wasn’t nearly as present as in the office. Bobby had now had enough; unable to hold onto his wits and reason any longer, he was now bolting in a panic, like the more suspicious Bobby would have done before now.
Turning clumsily, he went to remove himself from the pit in a hurried scramble, he wanted to be out of there immediately; he wanted to be out of there now. He lurched forwards, reaching out with his arms, but unaware that his foot was caught, he was brought straight down like a felled tree.
He hit the ground, and the loose soil beneath him gave way, before he had even opened his eyes, he could feel that he was sliding.
The arachnids swarmed around him, he opened his eyes and saw a mass of them around his legs, and he screamed in terror.
He was just about aware that he could hear something, some body of sound carrying on underneath his cries of sheer terror, and when his lungs became airless; he could tell what it was.
It sounded like the static white noise that bursts out of the television when you tune it to a dead channel, and he realised with a horror that stuck in his throat preventing him from screaming any more that the sound came from the writhing mass of these spider-like creatures.
Larger ones, up to the size of a man’s palm had converged upon him now, he could feel their weight on his torso; he looked down at them with the most terrified reluctance.
The sound was not the shuffling of thousands of limbs, covered in thick fibrous hairs, flurrying in frantic motion, as though it seemed, but the creatures were hissing at him.
Some of them closest to his face had reared up their forelegs, spittle exploding from the monstrous mess of fangs and mandibles present underneath their carapace hood.
Bobby powered his arms about, hoping to dispel the terror that was so close to overcoming him. He tried to grip onto the ground, realising that he was being dragged under, forsaking the more keenly felt threat of the larger arachnids which were now squarely on his chest, hissing violently at his exposed face, but the loose earth just fell straight from his clasping hands and began to bury him.
He shut his eyes as he felt his descent quicken, the bad smell was fully present now, the air was so thick with it that it began to suffocate him, he held his breath, and then became aware of the fact that he was now completely submerged, he could feel the weight of the earth ontop of him, and the writhing mass of the arachnids about him, but then, he was in an empty space, he could move his limbs about freely, just about.
He opened his eyes to discover that he was lying in a tiny, packed chamber, which tunnelled further ahead on one direction, and to see, when his eyes had adjusted to the total darkness, the last thing that he would see before something dragged him down that tunnel, his sanity completely eroded by terror.
Just ahead of him, staring right into his face, was that familiar crazed, enthusiastic grin pulled over Tony’s face, but even in the darkness Bobby could see that this was not the grin he knew, it was a new, terrible grin stretched to breaking point across his face in mad horror, a grimace, that spoke of the nightmares that Bobby was coming to know, the grin that said ‘No man left behind!’