The itsy bitsy spider,
Wiped out humanity!
Admit it, you were singing along, weren’t you? Maybe it’s because you have been so eagerly awaiting the third installment of Crawlies. Well, wait no longer, because here it is! See what fresh horrors await our survivors, if you dare!
In case you missed them, or want a refresher on how humanity ends, you can read parts 1 and 2 of Crawlies here:
Crawlies - Part 3
The wound was moderate in size and circular with slightly torn edges. Besides that from the initial stabbing, there was little blood around the wound as the crawlies had a powerful coagulant in their stinger that could be used to accompany the delivery of their eggs into a host. After all, it would do them no good to inject a host just to have it die. Sammy lie on the ground panting and going into shock. Bob loaded another clip into the rifle and shot the handle off of one of the doors with little consideration for what he might attract or what could be behind the door itself. With everyone else’s attention diverted, no one stopped him.
Bob scanned the darkened room and saw no sign of crawlies. He entered with a little more caution then he had shown in opening the door. He quickly found what he was looking for and drug it out into the hallway. Bob used the chair to prop up Sammy’s feet. When Callie looked at him questioningly, he simply stated, “To prevent shock.” Callie just nodded and turned her attention back to Sammy.
“Shhhh,” she cooed, “It’s going to be all right. Everything will be fine, you’ll see.” She gently stroked his long hair away from his face. She had no romantic feelings for him, but felt that he deserved the kindest of treatment given the circumstances. Sammy looked up at her and managed to slow his breathing and nod.
Sammy croaked out, “You know what you have to do.” He reached into the chest pocket on his jacket and pulled out a small package. With shaking hands, he tore the package open and a small vial of gasoline and matches fell out. Callie shook her head and looked away. She wanted to scream at the injustice of it all. The whole situation sucked and she was tired of watching good people die because humans had been bumped down a few notches on the food chain. She wanted to sink deep within herself and pretend that none of this was happening.
Sammy’s voice brought her out of her denial. “Please, don’t make me do it myself. I don’t want to go to hell.” Callie was disgusted at the very notion of heaven or hell at the moment. How could any God allow such a plague to overcome his creation? Humanity may be fucked up, but they didn’t deserve this. Again, however, she did not see any need to upset the man. He was essentially dead. Now that he was a host, it was just a matter of time.
Callie nodded and reached to Bob for the rifle without looking at him. When she felt nothing enter her hand, she looked back towards him. He just shook his head and aimed the rifle at Sammy.
Bob’s voice was choked with tears, “Any last words, buddy?” His aim never wavered from Sammy’s head.
“At least I’ll see Patricia again.” Sammy managed to say. None of them knew who Patricia was. Sammy had never really talked about his past prior to the outbreak. Now, they would never know.
Bob kept his eyes on Sammy as he pulled the trigger. The left side of Sammy’s head exploded in a rush of blood, brains, and skull. He instantly fell still. Bob and Callie carried the corpse into the side room with as much care as they could. Once the had him situated in the middle of the room and were sure that there was nothing around him that could catch, Callie opened the gasoline vial and spread it over the body as well as she could. She lit a match, closed her eyes, and dropped it onto the corpse. There was an instant rush of flames and the body began to be consumed. Bob and Callie left the room without looking back.
Bob stepped out of the room in an apparent daze, but quickly looked around and saw Ben cowering across the hall. Before anyone could react, Bob grabbed Ben by his shoulders, lifting him off the ground and slamming him into the wall in one fluid, forceful motion. Ben could not meet the angry man’s gaze. He shook, although Callie didn’t know if it was from fear or from whatever had been wrong with him from the moment he had joined their group. Bob did not seem to care.
“Where the fuck where you?” Bob screamed, the spittle coating Ben’s face yet not causing a reaction in the man. “You throw that fucking thing at him like your passing a football and then you run? I should put a fucking bullet through your fucking head!” Bob’s face was crimson and the veins on his neck and forehead were standing out in his fury. Callie didn’t think that Bob and Sammy had known each other prior to meeting at the beginning of the outbreak, but they had been through a lot since that time. They had as close of a friendship as people could hope for during this whole mess.
“I didn’t know,” Ben feebly tried to argue his defense. “I didn’t know it would infect him.” He continued to shake.
“What did you think the thing was going to do, give him a fucking kiss?” Bob shook Ben as he yelled at him. Callie expected the smaller man’s neck to snap with the ferocity of Bob’s attack. All of the others in the group just stood watching the whole thing play out, but for different reasons.
Natasha was tending to Will and his injured leg. She had managed to stop the bleeding and they were lucky that the bullet had gone straight through his leg. It had miraculously missed hitting any major arteries from what they could tell. Will was unable to get up without help. It was doubtful that he would have helped Ben even if he was able to do so. Will, Bob, and Sammy had been a team and he felt the same way about Sammy’s death as Bob. Additionally, he blamed Ben for the bullet that had injured him and would likely turn into a death sentence. Given the condition of the world, a person who was unable to run was not likely to survive long. Callie was torn.
Callie didn’t want to see Bob hurt Ben. It wasn’t that she didn’t think he deserved it for what he had done, she simply felt some degree of pity for him. He had reacted in fear and that was all. At the same time, she had not liked him from the moment she had met him and believed that they might be better off without him. Overall, her desire to please made her hesitant to choose sides. She had thought that her need for approval was a handicap when the world was fully functional, but now it was crippling.
There really was a physical need to be with a group that accompanied with psychological one. She couldn’t picture surviving very long on her own. She had not realized just how soft she had been in her life prior to the outbreak. How much she had taken for granted as a natural part of her daily routine. She didn’t have the knowledge or skills to survive something like this on her own. Her conscious and her survival instinct were at opposition with each other. Finally, she found herself deciding on the best course of action without having to take sides.
Callie cleared her throat and spoke loudly enough to make sure that Bob would hear here through the fog of his anger. “If you are going to kill him, do it quickly so we can move on. The longer we stay here, the less chance we have of finding Jacob and Elizabeth.” She didn’t really think that Bob would kill Ben and she was desperately hoping that stating it in that way would snap him out of the rage trance he seemed to be in. At the same time, it did not place her against Bob, so she felt that it was a safe move.
Bob seemed to hesitate and then get a hold of himself. He released Ben, who sank back to the floor and curled up into a ball. Bob looked down at him in disgust. “This guy isn’t worth the extra time it would take to kill him.” Bob spat on Ben and walked away towards Will and Natasha. Callie looked down at Ben with a mixture of pity and revulsion. After a brief moment, bent over and tapped him on the shoulder.
“If you are planning on coming with us, you had better get up,” she said. With that she walked over to Bob, Will, and Natasha. She felt that her conscience was assuaged at the attempt. “Can he walk?” She asked Natasha as she reached them.
“We’ll need to help him, but I think he’ll make it.” Natasha confirmed.
“Don’t bother,” Will stated as unemotionally as if he were telling them to go to a movie without him. “I’ll just slow you down.”
“The hell with that,” Bob sneered as he lifted Will up. Will accepted the help and managed to limp down the hall with Bob’s help. Bob handed Will the spiked club and took the machete for himself. He handed Callie the rifle and commented “Better for someone with two open hands to handle this.” Natasha still held the flickering torch. As they started down the hall Callie noticed that Ben had rejoined them but was hanging a few feet to the rear of the group.
As they walked down the hall, Callie could hear their footsteps echoing through the corridor. Her heart pounded and she swung the rifle from left to right. She expected something to jump out at them any moment. After a few minutes and some more twists and turns towards the center of the building, she began to wish something would attack. It was too quiet. The building was disturbingly unguarded for a nest. With each step her tension built until she felt the irrational urge to start banging on walls and objects they passed in order to prompt something out of hiding. She resisted the urge, but when Will coughed, she turned quickly and almost fired at him. Seeing what she was about to do, Bob shoved the barrel of the rifle towards the floor without a word.
Callie managed to keep herself from pulling the trigger, but it was close. She took a deep breath and steadied herself for the continued trek through the building. They still followed the blood trail, although it had started to taper off and become inconsistent. Callie knew that there was no way that Elizabeth was still alive and wondered how long it would take Jacob to come to the same conclusion. She was about to round another corner when she heard a loud grunt of pain from behind her.
Callie, along with the rest of the group, turned and saw Ben bent over gripping his stomach in pain. She shined her flashlight right at him and saw the look of pure terror on his face. What she did not see was confusion and all of a sudden all of her questions were answered. Bob must have sensed the same thing. He passed Will off to Natasha. Before Ben could react, Bob slammed him up against a wall and tore his shirt open. Callie instantly saw the reason for Ben’s closed, secretive nature.
The injection wound on Ben’s chest had long since healed over, but it was still as clear as it had probably been on the day he had been made a crawlie host. Callie watched in disgust and horror as his stomach actually bulged outward with the stretching of the creatures’ legs and bodies. Bob took several steps back and growled some incomprehensible swear words. Callie raised the rifle to shoot Ben and end his misery. Her hesitation allowed Bob to take action.
Bob reached into the back pocket of his pants and pulled out his gasoline and matches. Before anyone in the group could stop him, Bob twisted the cap off of the small bottle of gasoline and doused Ben. He quickly struck a match and touched it right to Ben’s chest. Ben became a pyre of burning flesh in an instant. As his screams quickly became shrieks of agony, Callie thought she saw a smile on Bob’s face. She didn’t hesitate any longer. Callie pulled the trigger and ended Ben’s suffering with a single bullet to the head.
Ben’s corpse dropped to a burning pile on the ground. Will limped over and added his gasoline to the fire and the popping sound of Ben’s burning flesh was now accompanied by the high pitch squeals of the trapped and dying crawlies still in Ben’s body. They all watched until the fire died down. Bob’s smile did not fade. Callie gazed at him. She wanted to hate him, but she could not allow herself to do so. Despite, what Bob had just done, she still needed him and the rest of the group. She tried to placate her guilty conscious over what she had just allowed to happen by reminding herself that Ben had been lying to them the entire time. By doing so, he had put them all in danger.
“I guess that explains why we haven’t seen any crawlies in a while,” Bob said, nodding to the blackened corpse on the floor. “We better go find Jacob and Elizabeth before the rest of the hive finds us. They are going to be pissed.”
- - -
Although it could never be verified, it was a widely held belief by most of the scientists studying the crawlies that there existed in them some kind of swarm mind. Observations and reports from the field seemed to suggest a connectivity between the minds of the creatures that bordered on telepathic. Since it was too dangerous to gather them in large groups in order to test this theory, all that the “experts” had to go on was speculation based on circumstantial evidence and anecdotal reports. Two main sets of evidence pointed strongly towards this conclusion.
It had been noted by clean up teams each time there was a specimen escape and subsequent overrunning of a laboratory that every crawlie containment unit was empty. It did not seem to matter how far apart the cages were or even if they were separated by walls or sections in the facility. Every containment unit would be empty, the same previously unknown weakness in the unit being exploited on every one of them. It seemed obvious to the scientists conducting the after-incident reviews that it would not have been possible for any known method of communication to pass along this information in such a widespread and consistent manner. The general conclusion, although “officially” dismissed, was that there existed a telepathic link between the crawlies. This link was dubbed hive-mind. The theory was also backed by reports from the field.
Many soldiers around the world reported a similar situation when crawlies were encountered. It would not matter if one or a dozen were initially encountered. Within a few minutes, crawlies would come from every corner and crevice in the surrounding area. This was one of the reasons it was so difficult to collect live specimens. Soldiers seldom had time to safely capture a specimen without risk of being overwhelmed. The surviving soldiers often said it reminded them of a scouting team being sent out to locate then enemy and then calling in reinforcements. Anyone who voiced this opinion aloud was quickly reassigned to a location where they would not stir up any panic. By this time, most of the governments of the world realized that they were fighting a losing battle. The focus was starting to shift away from research and containment and towards keeping the public calm while doomsday scenarios were developed and debated in secret. Things were coming to an end.
- - -
As they moved through the dark corridors, they could all hear scuttling sounds coming from behind the walls. Each one of them knew what that meant. The crawlies had been keeping their distance because they knew that Ben was a host. They had sensed the growing creatures within him that were preparing to emerge and did not want to interfere with that or risk them being harmed in any attack. Now, however, Ben was dead and with him the creatures that he had carried. The crawlies not only no longer had any reason to stay back, but they were likely going to be seeking revenge for the death of their own.
TUNE IN NEXT WEEK FOR THE FINALE OF CRAWLIES!