I woke up quietly. It was early and still dark, maybe cloudy, I couldn’t really tell. I began my morning routine, but it soon became clear that it was going to be one of those gradual mornings, where my brain would take a good 20 minutes to boot up, meaning that I’d only really regain consciousness somewhere between the shower and the sink. Why had I woken up so early? Ah, that’s right, it was project day, and I had wanted to get an early start on my novel.
When I went back into my room to change, I saw a couple white spheres from the corner of my eye in the center of the space, glinting under the faint blue of the morning’s darkness. With a flick of the switch, their true forms were revealed: each of these baseball-sized silvery-white orbs had a face and legs—scrawny, tiny legs that looked completely ill-equipped to carry the rest of their girth. Despite this, they were deft and nimble, scurrying around and rolling on top of each other, like a pair of self-juggling props.
They noticed my presence, shook their butts at me, and scampered under my bed.
I stood aghast, scratching my head. I didn’t really want to deal with a spider problem on my project day, but I knew that if I left it alone, the issue would take up residence in the anxiety neighborhood of my subconscious, and that place was already overpopulated. No, I had to investigate this if I wanted a free conscience.
I headed to my office and rummaged through some mislabeled boxes until I eventually found my weapons of choice: a long 700 lumen flashlight and a self-made 455 nanometer blue laser. As I dual-wielded my way back to my bedroom, I couldn’t help but feel smug that I had spent the time and money to build that laser, even if it did involve frying the first $200 diode I had gotten. No matter how annoyingly quick they were, I knew the laser would make short work of them.
My room didn’t look any different when I returned, so I lay down on the ground, positioning myself within range of the bed and awkwardly trying to use my elbows as levers, just in case it came down to melee combat.
I turned the flashlight on and the underside of my bed erupted in a blaze of brilliant white. After my eyes adjusted, I began looking, with the laser held at the ready, but there was no movement and the flood light made it difficult to see anything amidst the junk that was strewn about down there.
I heard my family calling me down for breakfast. “What time is it?” I thought as I glanced at my wrist for a watch that wasn’t there. I told them that I was busy with something, speaking loudly enough that they’d hear me, although I was nervous that it’d startle the spiders.
My dad and brother showed up in my room a few moments later. I was still lying prostrate on the ground like an amateur birdwatcher. They asked me what was up.
“Nothing, just some big spiders,” I said, still on the ground.
My dad nodded knowingly, and the two of them helped me up. “Don’t worry,” he said, “we have experience with this.”
Without hesitation, they grabbed my bed and heaved it to the center of the room, then presented the uncovered under-bed landscape to me like an offering made to a mad king. I tip-toed my way over the leftover debris, trying to locate the little scoundrels, but I could find no hint of them. I gave an “X” signal with my arms—gestures were the best way to communicate in enemy territory—and I could see a hint of disappointment flash on their faces.
But my family was undeterred. Next came my desk: no spiders. Then my side table: no spiders. Then my bookshelf: no spiders. But something else jumped out: a small dark shape appeared from behind the furniture and started flitting around the room.
“That’s not it, that’s just a cockroach,” I said calmly, even though it was definitely not a cockroach. It was much flatter and wider and somewhat horseshoe-crab-shaped. And for some reason, it was getting bigger.
My dad and brother also acted unconcerned, even though I was hoping they might try to convince me that we should just light the room on fire and leave. Instead, they convened together, and in the span of a few seconds they had gotten into an argument, escalated to a game of rock paper scissors, and compromised on the results. Before I could join in on the decision-making, they gave a premature victory cry and got to work. First they pulled everything away from the walls of the room: furniture, electronics, posters, everything. Before I knew it, my possessions had formed an island in the middle, like a great new ecosystem rising from the cold carpet sea.
But there were still no spiders.
The horseshoe bug was still running around the room, weaving and dodging in between our legs in more and more elaborate and unnecessary routes. It had continued to grow and was now the size of a small dog.
It caught me off guard after its 85th lap when it decided to hop onto my pants. I stared blankly at the thing on my leg, my mind struggling to come to terms with what had just happened.
My dad and brother stood idly by, arms crossed, having completed their labor.
“Do something about this, please,” I said, stiff as a board.
“Like what?” they replied, simultaneously.
“I don’t know, just get rid of it somehow.”
But they refused, assuring me that the little thing wasn’t going to hurt anyone, and that, at any rate, it was my responsibility to deal with it.
“I wouldn’t have had to deal with it if you hadn’t established a new continent in the middle of my bedroom,” I said, but was promptly ignored. I sighed and shared a glance with the horseshoe-crab-shaped thing still staring up at me with its beady little eyes. I reached down and pulled a lever behind my leg, detaching a section from the rest of my pants. As I took off the now-separate pant leg, I nodded approvingly, happy that I had opted-in to the release mechanism with my original purchase.
I kneeled and gently placed the pant leg down. The horseshoe bug was still happily clutching at the cloth, but it wasn’t the only thing looking back up at me. A small, neon blue centipede had appeared nearby, having crawled out of the debris, and was now wiggling its antenna intensely, either waving at me or just sniffing the air.
My dad and brother simply left. I heard them heading back downstairs, chattering about their victories in my room, a job well done. I looked around and noticed how absolute, yet orderly, the renovations had been. Not a single thing touched the walls, and even though I had expected my stuff to be piled into a haphazard heap, it was instead in a well-defined, surprisingly compartmentalized, all-in-one bedroom block, with desk, shelves, and tables positioned around the main bed.
I didn’t dislike it.
Meanwhile, the dog-sized horseshoe was still clutching onto my detached pant leg, making little squeaks of delight, while the blue centipede was waving at me vigorously. Yes, it was definitely waving at me.
With the original instigators nowhere to be seen, I accepted the day as a loss. So I shrugged, got some treats for my new friends, and crawled back into bed. Hopefully I could get a few more hours of sleep before my family would bug me again.