'It is dark.'
That was the first thing that popped into my head after regaining consciousness. The second was that my movements were limited to a constrained space around my body, like a cocoon. The space I was trapped in seemed to be made out of a dry, paper-like material.
I ripped through the paper cocoon easily, flooding my visage with light.
'I'm in a…barn?' I thought, confusion flooding my mind.
The last thing I remembered was that spider fellow begging me to accompany it…somewhere. Though the spider was nowhere to be seen now.
"Before that spider brought me here I was almost dead…I suppose I should at least thank it for saving me before I go out there any getting myself killed again…"
It was almost amusing, being saved by someone who was on the same team as the guys who stabbed me…or maybe that was my bad sense of humor.
Shaking such thoughts out of my head I took a look behind me, where I burst out of my paper prison only to find….rows and rows of cocoons stuck to the back wall of the barn.
'There are dozens of them…'I thought, grimacing. My expression turned darker when I remembered what that spider said about the survival rate of the change.
'Only about 2-3% of people manage to live through the process…'.
I paused for a moment and listened closely, searching for anyone still drawing breath, but…nothing.
They were all dead.
I didn't know who they were, but I said a silent prayer that their souls would find peace in the afterlife. Perhaps I should have been more upset, but compared to everything I've seen up to now this was only slightly shocking.
'I can't just leave them here like this' These people, at the very least deserved a proper burial. With my mind made up on that matter I reached out towards the cocoon directly to the right of mine only to stop short as soon as my arm entered the field of my vision. Whereas before my arm was a rather pale shade of caucasian white, now it was somewhere between deep blue and pitch black. Even more peculiarly was that the skin glistened in the half light.
I winced at that, but looking at the wall of corpses in front of me I knew I should just be thankful to be alive. Besides, the skin around the wound I received earlier had already been turning this color, so I wasn't that surprised about the change to the rest of my body. What did surprise me though was how shiny my skin had become. The sheen it gave off was like metal.
Disregarding that for the moment, I ripped the cocoon next to mine apart. The person inside slumped face-down to the floor. I could see the traces of bluish-black skin where their flesh was exposed though, as well as something alarming.
Along this person's back were hard segmented plates, like armor, extending from the top of their spinal cord to the bottom of their posterior. Confused, I tried finding the place where the armor was attached only to uncover a spot where the hard plates fused with her softer skin.
Suddenly, I had a terrible premonition. 'That's not armor, it's a…a carapace? Like a crab or…or an insect?!'
Then I remembered my own skin, shining like metal- like armor. Fearfully I looked at my own arms again. They were covered with the same carapace.
'What about my face..?' I thought dejectedly. Then I remembered the corpse below me. Slowly, deliberately, I bent down and grabbed the shoulder of the person at my feet. My hands were shaking as I turned them over to see their face.
It was a monster.
This person had definitely been a woman, Half of her face, still soft and human, was contorted in silent agony while the other half was the head of some insect with half grown feelers and a malformed giant eyeball. Numerous stubby legs were jutting out from the right side of her chest, and the hair on the right side of her head had been replaced by an underdeveloped section of carapace armor.
I wanted to vomit.
I backed away from the corpse and held my head, trying to wake up from this nightmare. Unfortunately, I was then alerted to an all new horror. My head. What was wrong with the shape of my head? It felt much larger than it used to and there was no hair.
I knew the answer. I knew, but there was no way I could accept it. No way.
I raced out of the barn and towards a house about a hundred feet away. I ransacked the place until I found my target in the second story bathroom. A mirror.
Then I stopped. What would I see when I looked into that mirror? Did I even want to know?
No. But I had to know. This wouldn't be pleasant. This wouldn't be easy. But I can't run away from the truth, it'll only make it harder when I finally find her again.
I sighed inwardly and resigned myself to my fate before walking in front of the mirror and taking in my new appearance.
It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.
It was worse. Where my average human face had been there was now the giant ugly head of an insect. Long antennae sprouted from either side of my head and giant literal bug eyes were gazing back at me. At the bottom of my face were a set of hideous mandibles. The shape of my head was abominable and, though I didn't realize it up until now, there was a second pair of arms sprouting out of my shoulders. Unlike my normal arms however, which ended in 4 fingered claw-like hands, the additional arms sported long, blade-like appendages at the ends of them. Stepping back and looking at my body I found that the overall shape was humanoid, but the muscles and exoskeleton were arranged in a fashion different to a normal human torso and abdomen. Finally my legs were…relatively normal save for the claw-like feet I now had and the unnatural thinness the legs themselves sported. All in all I looked like a giant, humanoid Ant.
A giant humanoid ant.
I slumped over the sink and wept. Or at least I tried to, but I didn't seem to have tears.
'How could this have happened to me?…HOW!?'
One Month Earlier
It had been a normal day just like any other. I had just finished my shift at the factory I worked at. When I got home, took a shower, ate my dinner and sat down for an evening of online video games with my friends.
"Yo Marcus, what's good man? I was about to log out, but if you want to run the Sanctum dungeon again...?" said my guild mate 'xXWitchSlayrXx'.
"Nah it's cool, i'm just power leveling today anyway." I replied, gearing up for an evening of grinding.
"Aight, catch you later then."
I couldn't help but smile. Life was good. I had a stable job, a decent amount of money and a very beautiful fiance. Our marriage was scheduled for a little over a month from now and I was counting the days until I could finally make her mine. At the moment she was working her job however so I had some free time.
The afternoon sun was shining brightly through the space between curtains, reflecting off of the computer screen and making it difficult to see what was going on in the game. Then the sun disappearing behind some cloud.
Finally! I could play without having to try and squint past the suns reflection.
And then the sky got darker. And darker, and darker and darker. At first I didn't notice, but when the room became dark like the sun had fallen I got worried.
'A thunderstorm..?' I had thought, concerned that the internet might get knocked out.
Rather than peek through my curtains, I opted to go into my living room and open the front door. I could usually tell how far away a storm was by the smell of the air after all.
Rather than seeing a dark ceiling of nimbus clouds like I had expected there was instead a tremendous wall of fog. It must have been 10 miles high or more, because it swallowed up even the few wispy clouds that were in the sky easily. I wasn't the only one out here marveling at the fog wall either. On the house left of mine my neighbor Harry(a wizened old man in his 60's) was on his porch, neck craned to try and see the top of the fog wall.
He saw me and said "Ya got any idea what the hell that is? I've never seen the like befer'."
"Not a clue…giant fog banks like that usually only happen near the ocean or in the mountains. For something like this to happen in Ohio…"
"I'll tell ya what it is. It's the government! They've finally perfected them chemtrails!" He shouted, semi hysterically.
"Eh, don't let him spook ya!" came a voice from my right. My other neighbor Thomas, who wasalso in his 60's, had just walked out to see the spectacle and he overheard Harry's declaration.
"It ain't chemtrails you old coot, it's global warming. I told you for years what'd happen if you didn't stop driving that damn gas hog!"
"You leave my truck outta this ya crackpot!" Harry shouted back.
"Crackpot?! Why you…" Thomas grumbled.
I couldn't help but smile. I had no clue what was going on with the weather, but seeing these two go at each other like always definitely helped lessen the sense of impending doom.
The fog bank was rolling along at a steady pace. Soon enough it was right outside of our little town. Though surprised, I wasn't worried at the time. After all, it was just a fog bank. Weird? Certainly, but hardly dangerous.
Oh how wrong I was.
The fog bank hit us and brought with it the heavy smell of moisture and oxygen, like a swamp. Just standing in it was enough to cover you from head to toe with condensation. The neighbors who had all been staring dumbfounded at the phenomena vanished into the thick cloud. Even Thomas and Harry, who were each only a few meters away, were all but gone with only a vague outline of their silhouettes still visible.
"You two still there?" I shouted, half jokingly.
"Yeah!" Said Thomas
"Yep! But in this crap I couldn't make out my head from my as-" Harry said, but then he was cut off by a horrible noise.
"YEEEEAAAAGGGGHHHH" Screamed someone, a woman, in the distance. It was a bloodcurdling scream, the kind of noise that a person only makes when they're dying an incredibly painful death. I tried listening closely to tell the direction it came from, but that was a fruitless endeavor. Because when I strained my ears there was a second scream. And then a third, a fourth and a fifth. I realized then, too late, that the screams were getting closer and closer to my location.
"THOMAS, HARRY GET INSIDE NOW!" I shouted, too late, but..
Harry tried to reply "What're ya-" But again he was cut off, not by a scream, but by the foot long brown spike that appeared out of nowhere and lodged itself into his cranium, penetrating it and nailing his head to his front door.
I had no time to mourn, I ducked inside of my house just before I heard the 'THUNKTHUNKTHUNK' of spikes lodging themselves into my own door.
"AHHHHHH! HARRY, MARCUS SOMEBODY Please…Please help me!" Screamed Thomas. He was still alive, but by the sound of it he was in some serious pain. He kept shouting like that for a while, begging someone to save him, but nobody came…
I was disgusted with myself, hearing him plead for help broke my heart and made me feel like a coward for not doing anything but…
One step outside and it was over for me. Nothing would come of it but my own death. Maybe that makes me a coward, but I couldn't die yet. I had to stay alive for her.
Still, I couldn't help but peek through the living room curtains toward Thomas's porch where he was still shouting for help. He had been nailed to his door the same way Harry had been though unlike Harry, Thomas's arm had gotten pierced in two places. He was still standing up and pulling desperately at the deeply lodged spikes. There didn't seem to be any more coming, which was a relief but whoever had shot those bizarre projectiles was still out there…
And then I saw it. Faintly at first, but as it got closer even the dense fog couldn't hide the monster's hulking outline. It edged closer and closer to Thomas, who was unaware due to his intense focus on the spike. I wanted to shout at Thomas to get his attention, but my voice caught in my throat.
My prey was too preoccupied with the minor injury it had received. The prey, finally sensing the presence of another, turned around with a relieved smile on its face. Upon seeing me though, that smile turned into a scream. This was what I loved, the look in my prey's eyes as they realized that there was no escape, no way to win. Quick as a flash I bit the shoulder of the prey, severing it's free arm from its body. The prey screamed quite loudly, so I lifted one of it's many legs and struck the prey with a halfhearted jab. Despite the lack of force I put into the attack the blow was still so fierce that the prey's head was reduced to meat.
This was all good sport, but what I truly desired was the prey to come later. Powerful, nourishing prey that would make me even stronger. Unfortunately, all I could do now was content myself with these snacks and wait earnestly for the true feast to come.'
I couldn't speak, I couldn't breathe, I could hardly think for the fear that had overtaken me. That monster was straight out of somebody's worst nightmare. And even worse, I'm fairly certain that I recognized it's form. It's body was squat despite it's bulk, with massive fangs jutting out of it's maw and a huge fat back end covered in hair. It's limbs were eight thick pillars, each one as wide as a bodybuilder's chest. It was as tall as a pickup truck, roughly 7-8 feet. For it's girth, it was coincidentally also around the length of a pickup truck, roughly 12-13 feet by 12-13 feet.
Eight thick legs, giant fangs, covered in hair, and a squat body divided into three sections? Yup, I knew what that meant. It was a Tarantula. A 13 foot long tarantula. I had never been afraid of spiders before, but seeing that…thing triggered something primordial in me. Maybe it's because the arthropods have been terrorizing the non arthropods since the day our evolutionary paths diverged.
The monster was moving on. It had taken a few half-hearted bites out of Thomas and just walked away.
'Wait, it's not eating? It's not even saving him for later, it's just…killing?'
Even in my state of fear that set off alarm bells inside of my head. If that thing wasn't killing for food, then that would mean it was either defending itself, killing for sport or it had an objective. Given its size and strength I doubted that it needed to defend itself against a bunch of unarmed humans, and it's unlikely that a giant spider understands something like hunting for sport so that must mean…
This was not normal. Shock and fear had turned my survival mode on, but now that the spider was gone I could think clearly again. Giant insects CAN'T exist on the earth as it is. The maximum size of an arthropod(insects, arachnids, scorpions, crabs, anything with a shell and a large number of legs) is limited by how oxygen rich the air is. The greater the O2 content, the bigger the bugs get which means that this mist must create an atmosphere that allows the bugs to thrive. That's all fine and good, but if such a mist existed there is no doubt that it would have been discovered by now. Just the sheer size of it would draw attention to it.
I wanted to keep thinking about what had caused this, but speculating wouldn't give me an answer. Dammit, my fiance was always telling me I overthink things…
I had to save her. Who cares where the fog came from, the Tarantula was killing everyone and it would kill her too if I just stayed here. Her job wasn't too far away, only about half a mile up the road which meant that the fog had probably already swallowed up the town.
That made me frantic, I almost yanked the door open and sprinted to her job.
"Calm down" I said aloud to myself.
I couldn't save anything if I got killed. I needed a weapon. I went to my closet and pulled out the only two weapons I owned. A Greatsword, and a Scimitar. I grabbed the Scimitar, since it was lighter than the Greatsword.
Now armed I raced out of my house toward the road, consequences be damned, my life be damned., even if I have to fight that eight legged bastard myself I refused to die before I made sure she was safe.
With my resolve I hardened my heart and stayed my fears. The road ahead was no doubt fraught with danger. There was a good chance that the Tarantula I saw wasn't the only one out there.
'I will see you again Delilagh, I swear it!'