Burgess, I thought. That’s his name. Franky Burgess.
He walked past me and I said, “I’d turn on a light, but the power’s out. Must have, you know, blown a fuse or something.”
He gave me a look that suggested what I just said gave him a whole new perspective on my mental state. I could read his face perfectly because the living room light was on.
“Oh. Right,” I stumbled. “Guess it’s back on now.”
I blinked. Had it been on this whole time?
The place was a mess. I mean, it had been a mess before (the blood I dripped on the carpet actually blended with a nearby coffee stain) but where we were standing gave us a clear view into the kitchen, where drawers were flung open, a roll of paper towels had fallen onto the floor and a pile of plastic lids had spilled out of a cabinet. A couple of steps after that and he would have a view of the main bedroom, where it looked like a bomb had gone off. Oh, and there was an alien spider monster trapped under an overturned laundry basket with a piece of furniture piled on top of it.
The cop moved into the kitchen and I followed him. I heard a skittering noise from the bedroom and saw the spider trying desperately to escape between the plastic bars of his laundry basket prison. The cop gave no notice. He looked at the bloody box cutter on the counter, then glanced back at me and my several bloody wounds. I stepped casually backward, stopping in front of the bedroom door, leaning against the door frame as if I wasn’t somehow trying to block the view of the room with my body.
“Yeah, that,” I said, nodding toward the little knife, “I cut myself a few times, no big deal, I was … trying to get this thing off me. I think it was a possum or something, I couldn’t get a look at it. It was clawing me up pretty bad.”
He was looking past me, into the bedroom, and said, “Can you step aside, sir?”
Screw it. Let this thing bite his eyes out, what do I care? Go right in, Franky.
I stepped aside and Franky the Cop entered the bedroom. He surveyed the carnage, then finally looked down on the overturned basket. Five little armored legs writhed around between the plastic slats. The cop casually looked away, glancing into my closet with disinterest. Finally he looked back at me.
“So, did you kill it or what?”
The beast was right there in the basket. In full view. Jaws clicking against the plastic, a sound like a dog gnawing on a bone. It had gotten a few legs entirely through the basket and was now pulling its body through. All of this went entirely unnoticed by Officer Burgess.
He doesn’t see it.
“Uh, no. I tried to trap it.”
The thing had its head out of the basket now. Franky looked down. Nothing to see. He looked back at me.
“Have you had anything to drink tonight, sir?”
“Couple of beers, earlier.”
“Have you taken anything else?”
“Can you tell me what day it is?”
The spider had a third of its body out of the basket. There was a thick piece of armor around its abdomen that was wedged in between the plastic strips. It had four legs working on the problem.
“Thursday ni—uh, I mean, I guess it’s Friday morning now. November fourth, I think. My name is David Wong, I’m currently standing in my home. I’m not high.”
“The neighbors are worried about you. They heard a lot of noise in here…”
“You try waking up with some animal biting you in your sleep.”
“This isn’t the first time we’ve been out here, is it?”
I sighed. “No.”
“You put some weight on top of that basket there.”
“I told you, I was trying to trap it—”
“No, the basket was you trying to trap it. I’m thinking the weight is on there because you thought you had trapped it.”
“What? No. It was dark. I—”
The monster pulled the widest piece of shell through the bars. Halfway out. The difficult half.
“Is it possible you made all those cuts yourself? With that knife in there?”
“What? No. I—”
I don’t think so …
“Why do you keep looking down there?”
I took a step back out of the room.
“Do you see something down there, Mr. Wong?”
I turned my eyes up to the cop. I was sweating again.
“Have we been seeing things tonight?”
I didn’t answer.
“Because this wouldn’t be the first time, would it?”
“That was … no. I’m fine, I’m fine.”
I focused on not looking down at the basket. The chewing sounds had stopped.
I couldn’t hold out anymore. I looked down.
It was gone.
I felt my bowels loosen. I glanced around the room, checked the ceiling. Nowhere.
The cop turned and left the room.
“Why don’t you come with me, Mr. Wong, and I’ll take you to the emergency room.”
“What? No, no. I’m fine. The cuts are no big deal.”
“Don’t look minor to me.”
“No, no. It’s fine. Put it in your report that I refused treatment. I’m fine.”
“You got any family that live here in town?”
“Nobody? Parents, aunts, uncles?”
“There a friend we can call?”
“John, I guess.”
I was glancing everywhere, trying to spot the spider, no idea what I’d do if I did.
“Well, tell you what, give him a call and I’ll hang out here until he shows up. Keep you company. In case the animal comes back.”
I couldn’t think of anything that would make this guy leave, short of punching him and forcing him to haul me to jail. That hardly seemed like a solution, though.
The cop can stay as long as he wants, I thought. As long as he doesn’t go to the toolshed.
Franky the Cop turned to me at that moment and said, “I’m going to have a look around outside.”
I let the cop go out the back door, but didn’t offer to follow him. I guess he wanted to do a walk around of the yard to make sure there wasn’t a corpse out there. Let him. As soon as he was out of sight, I moved back through the kitchen, into the living room and then through to the bedroom. I flipped on the light, checked the ceiling, checked everywhere. No spider. I heard the muffled sound of steps on crackling leaves and saw the cop outside, passing the window with a flashlight. I headed for the bathroom, soaked a washcloth and cleaned the dried blood off me. I got a Band-Aid on my shoulder and cleaned up the eyelid, flinching with every stinging touch. I went into the bedroom, searching for the monster, even looking in the laundry basket in case the thing had decided to return for some reason. I put on a shirt and tried to push down my hair, thinking I could present a picture of a stable citizen for the cop and make him feel better about leaving.
Before he asks to see the toolshed.
I grabbed my phone from the bed and dialed John one last time. Three rings and then—
“John? It’s me.”
“We got a situation.”
“Can it wait until after work tomorrow?”
“No. There’s something in my house. A—”
I glanced around for the cop.
“A creature. It took a chunk out of my leg and then it went for my eye.”
“Really? You kill it?”
“No, it’s hiding somewhere. It’s small.”
“Size of a squirrel. Built like an insect. A lot of legs, maybe twelve. It had a mouth like—”
I turned and saw the cop standing in the bedroom doorway.
I nodded sideways toward the phone and said, “This is John. He’s on his way.”
“Good.” He nodded toward the back door. “Do you have a key to that toolshed outside?”
I pocketed the phone without saying good-bye to John.
“Oh, no. I’ve lost the key. I mean, I haven’t been out there in months.”
“I’ve got a pair of bolt cutters out in my trunk. Tell you what, let me open that up for you.”
“No, no, that won’t be necessary.”
“I insist. You don’t want to be stuck without your lawn implements. You can finally rake all these leaves out here.”
We stared each other down. Man, this just kept getting better and better. I found myself wishing the spider would jump down and eat this guy.
“Actually, I think I have a key.”
“Good. Get it.”
I went into the kitchen and plucked the toolshed key off the nail next to the back door, where it had been in plain view the entire time. Franky the Cop let me lead the way outside to the shed, staying a few steps back so that he could have time to shoot me in case I decided to wheel on him with fists of fury. I held out the key and took a deep breath. I slipped it into the padlock and snapped it open. I pulled the toolshed door slightly ajar and turned to Franky.
“What’s in here … I, uh, collect things. It’s a hobby, that’s all. And as far as I know, there’s nothing illegal here.”
Though you could say some of it is, uh, imported.
“Could you go ahead and step back, sir?”
He opened the little shed and stabbed the darkness with a flashlight beam. I held my breath. He went right to the floor with the light, where a body would be, I guess. There wasn’t one there, not right now, and instead he illuminated the crust of grass on the wheel of my lawnmower. Then he flicked the flashlight beam to the set of metal shelves along the back and side walls. The beam hit a glass jar the size of a can of paint and illuminated the murky liquid inside. Officer Franky Burgess stared at it, waiting for his eyes to register what he was seeing. Eventually he would figure out it was a late-term fetus, a head the size of a fist, its eyes closed. It had no arms or legs. Its torso had been replaced by a jointed mechanical apparatus that hooked around to a point like the tail of a sea horse.