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Prologue: There was one more question, and it was in a jar.
I. A bad smell When Logan Darlock broke through the chain link fence and entered the deserted testing grounds, he was only looking for his dog Narg, whom Logan assumed had entered the private enclosed grounds and was running around inside. But it was useless to tell that to the two burly security guards who were holding him now in the back of an unmarked black van. Both guards seemed rough, and one had slapped a plastic hand restraint around Logan’s wrists. Another had told him to “shut up.” “Just sit there and wait,” the man had said. In about fifteen minutes another guard, wearing the same drab khaki uniform showed up and looked pensively at Logan. All three guards carried guns at their sides, and Logan intuitively knew that he had gone into a forbidden and most likely dangerous place. The late arrival began sniffing the air around Logan’s head, arms and shoulders. He shook his head at his companions and said
“He doesn’t smell too bad. A shower should do it. He didn’t go too far in.” The old testing grounds were overgrown with bushes and tangled vines. Everyone in Vistamount knew to avoid the compound because, as rumor had it, it was once the site of some very secretive “government” operations, operations which had ceased sometime before nineteen year old Logan was born, but talk of them still continued. Some of the Vistamount oldtimers called the grounds “Area 52” and said that alien spacecraft had either crashed or been taken there. There had never been any way to confirm that, however. Logan wondered why guards had come so quickly to pull him out. Were there still secret doings on the property? For some reason it was a big deal how he smelled, and, indeed, he noticed that the whole area was covered with a rather acrid and unpleasant odor that somehow reminded him of the smell that ants made when he used to burn them as a kid with his cigarette lighter. He knew he had picked up a little of this unusual smell while sorting through the intertwined brush looking for Narg, but Logan had risked whatever dangers because he loved his dog, and Narg unfortunately was very near death. The dog had an inoperable chancre on the side of his head, a growth that seeped fetid liquid. That too had an unpleasant odor. The
vet had said that the cancer was impossible to remove because it had already penetrated the dog’s skull. He had offered to euthanize the animal on the spot at the clinic, but Logan had refused. He had grabbed up Narg and run from the place with tears in his eyes, only to release his dog on the old dirt road that ran parallel to the fence enclosing the testing grounds. Narg was beginning to act crazy too and had darted away and disappeared. That was why Logan had broken through the fence, but no one was going to believe him. Sitting in the van for a few minutes, Logan noticed the guards talking among themselves in hushed tones. What were they going to do to him, and who were they? What agency policed the old testing grounds and why? The guard who had sniffed the odor around Logan’s body finally returned. He seemed nicer than the other two. He looked at Logan for a time and then said. “I’m going to let you go. I assume you didn’t see anything in the grounds, and I believe you that you were only looking for your dog. When you get home, burn your teeshirt, jeans and sneakers. Never come here again. And if you did by chance see something, don’t ever talk about it. This area is patrolled 24/7 and we could charge you with
trespassing. In fact, we could do a lot worse, but you don’t want to hear about that.” Logan, relieved but still manacled, shook his head in agreement. He didn’t want to hear any more about it. The guard produced a knife and cut off the plastic handcuffs and told Logan to get out of the van but to remain onsite for a few minutes. Logan willingly obeyed. Standing by the van, he noticed that another uniformed guard was coming up the road on foot with something in his hands. As the man came closer, Logan recognized his dog. Narg was cradled in the man’s arms and looked very happy. His nose was shiny for the first time since the cancer had overtaken him and his brown canine eyes gleamed with excitement upon seeing his master. He sprang from the man’s arms and ran up to Logan. The first thing Logan noticed was that his dog no longer had an ugly growth protruding from his head. His fur was totally regrown over what had been for weeks a seeping sore. His old frisky personality had returned as well, and he kept jumping up trying to lick Logan in the face. “Your dog is cured,” said the chief guard. “Now scram and never come back.”
Logan motioned to Narg and walked off down the dirt road toward the highway which led to his parents’ house on the edge of Vistamount. Narg had renewed energy and seemed to prance like the puppy he once had been. II. Five years later Logan Darlock still had Narg, who must have been about ten years old by that time and was a happy and energetic companion. He also had Taylor, his pretty brunette bride of seven months. Taylor was pregnant, and Logan was happy. He thought that twenty-four was a good age to start a family. His parents had been married much younger. Logan burst with the excitement of a father to be, but there was a dark cloud hovering over him. Something totally unexpected had happened. He was about to lose his job as a purchasing agent for Cosmopolitan Outlets, which in recent years had become the largest and most successful retailer in the country, outpacing other giants like Wal-Mart and Target and seizing huge chunks of the department store retail market. The thought that Cosmopolitan was not only closing its vast store in Vistamount but was folding all over the nation was absolutely inexplicable. Months before, the chain had topped the Fortune 500 list as the most stable employer in the country, and Logan in a mid-
management position had envisioned a rosy future. Today the news was all bad. To make things worse Taylor’s parents were divorcing, and her mother, who for reasons untold did not like Logan, was getting Taylor’s free apartment in the settlement. She had already given the couple notice, having said that Logan earned enough to afford rent in an apartment somewhere else. A crisis was looming, and neither Logan nor Taylor knew how to prevent it. When Logan gave Taylor the news, the couple took each other's hands and cried. Narg was in the room and cocked his head to one side and seemed to be sad with them because they were sad. III. A swindler is released from prison The news spread quickly all over the media. A middle aged con-artist by the name of Aiden Queck, who had been convicted of tax fraud and stock manipulation and numerous other white collar offenses was being released on a technicality from the state prison in Oshaka. Queck, looking as natty and confident as ever, stood outside the institution and spoke to the press. A sneering television commentator interpreted Queck’s remarks to be just more trickery and lamented the loophole which had freed the swindler. Undoubtedly his victims, whose bank accounts Queck had vacuumed mercilessly a few years
back, were sneering too. But Queck told the reporters that indeed he had another massive retail venture that he was partnering in. It was much like the now defunct Cosmopolitan Outlet chain that he had embezzled into its grave. Somehow the con-artist had convinced a group of unidentified stockholders to back him while still behind bars. A group of anonymous investors were once again reassured that their money was in just hands and secure. Another unsettling mystery in an America rife with corruption and business failures. It needed to be admitted, however, that Queck was a charming and engaging individual who seemed to exude success from his every pore. Five years in prison had seemingly done him no harm. Logan Darlock, passively watching the broadcast and wondering about his next move, had no idea that Queck, once again, was about to play a very great role in his future and in the future of the world as a whole. There was no way of knowing such a thing at the time. IV. Dark objects in the sky They were suddenly seen all over the world at once, and, of course, those in positions of authority took alarmed notice. Notables came forth from all corners and
speculated non-stop, and strange end of the world sects grew exponentially. Alien contact groups blossomed in church basements, and military experts proposed grotesque defense systems to protect the planet if necessary. But dark, diaphanous objects in the sky were all that were ever reported. They drifted across the sun now and then and came abruptly out of cloud banks, but they avoided commercial and military aircraft and seemed after a time to pose no threat whatsoever. Sometimes a huge dark amorphous blob would drift overland and approach the remote sides of hills and mountains, and there was more than one eyewitness account of these UFOs landing and immediately evaporating without a trace on the surface of the Earth. Public tension ran rampant for a time, and political leaders readied themselves for alien contact, each thinking that his particular country, state, province or organization would be the most likely to be contacted initially, but even as the sightings of these airborne mysteries became increasingly frequent, reportings of any sort of contact became next to negligible, and this to the degree that the premiers of various superpowers, such as the president of the United States, became more and more frustrated that they were not chosen for the first encounter. Old science fiction buffs proclaimed that the Dark Ones (a name coined in the general press) were
coming to visit whales or other sentient cetaceans. Selfproclaimed witches said it was the work of immortal demons they had known for centuries, and religious figures prognosticated the Second Coming along with the usual claims of a painful Armageddon. The year, characteristically, was 2012, when the world was supposed to end anyway, so for many it was totally natural that shadow crafts were hovering in the daytime skies. But nothing came of any it. After a time, many people ceased to notice the massive intruders, and one university pundit said on public television that if they were indeed aliens, they were totally innocuous and even useless to mankind. The world was still gripped in its daily routine of monetary collapse, recession, famine and wars about resources and stretches of sand in places where technologically primitive tribes confected explosive devices and used them to make flashy impressions on world opinion. The Dark Ones changed nothing and interfered with nothing. Many people were hoping secretly that they would, but they didn’t. During the height of the Dark Object flap, Logan Darlock collected his weekly unemployment check, watched his email for responses to the plethora of
applications he had filed and lived primarily off Taylor’s earnings as a convenience store manager. The baby, Tristan, stayed most of the time with Logan’s mother, and the struggling young couple squeaked by---always hoping as they did for better days. During this time also, Narg died. He was hit in Logan’s own backyard by a runaway motorcycle. Logan missed his dog terribly and was passingly reminded of the day the dog had wandered into the forbidden testing range and was miraculously cured of a terminal tumor on the skull. For years, Logan had repressed the event in his mind, but for an instant following Narg’s burial, it returned to him and Logan began thinking about the enclosed compound and its impenetrable vegetation which lay so close to Vistamount. Haunting a few bars to drown his frustration, he had heard more than one story that the Dark Objects quite often descended on the enclosed property, which made the place even scarier to him. It was still “Area 52.” In July of that year, SuperBuy, the new business of former crook Aiden Queck opened its first store in a deserted and remodeled General Motors assembly plant just outside of Vistamount. The store was massive, and within the year, several others would open around the
world, first in the United States and then in countries like India, the United Kingdom, France and Germany. SuperBuys sprang up like mushrooms after a rain, and the public reaction was at first violent against these huge emporiums which were so patently shilled by a known crook like Queck, who had incidentally made his home office in Vistamount and was constantly in the press for his benevolent contributions to parks, recreation areas and skating rinks. Everything the man touched seemed to be a success, even though many would-be customers at first boycotted the stores. Logan had not yet visited the site in Vistamount because Taylor used their only car, and his sole means of transport was the city bus system, which, while running to the SuperBuy, was not Logan’s preferred means of locomotion. V. A meeting on the bus While riding a bus into town to collect his unemployment check one day, Logan chanced to see the librarian who had managed his high school library all during his time in school. Her name was Joyce Richardson, and she was a thin, natty but feverously nervous black woman with a strong voice and strong opinions. He remembered her as being both progressive and rather ominous when he had been in school. Nobody ever crossed Joyce Richardson,
and her word on most matters---like, for example, the extreme importance ingesting cod liver oil daily---was taken as canon law. Joyce bore no arguments. Nor was she confronted by any. Sitting on the bus, Logan hoped that Joyce did not see him, but she did. Her keen eyes had scanned the vehicle and alighted immediately on him, and with determination she forced her way to an empty seat next to him and called him by name. Logan shook her bony hand and tried to be pleasant, but Joyce had other business. “Listen to me,” she began in a hoarse whisper, “I know you are out of work, and I can tell you right now that there is a job waiting for you at SuperBuy. They are hiring hundreds of people, and at better than usual salaries too. The place is owned by Aiden Queck, whom you probably don’t like from what you have read about him or because he put your old chain in the toilet, but Aiden is an important person, far more important than I can tell you. I know him personally, and, yes, I work now for his organization at a fairly high level, even though I am supposed to be retired. Go and see him personally right away. You have a degree in retail and experience. He’s sorry about what happened at Cosmopolitan and
wants to make good with former employees. And what’s more, I have told him about you.” With that she handed him a business card embossed with the name Aiden Queck and a phone number marked “private line” written across the back. She immediately arose from the seat and pulled the stop cord and exited the bus at the next corner. Her whole motive, Logan reasoned, for riding the bus that day was to talk to him. And to think she had hardly noticed him eight years before in high school. But Joyce Richardson was always to be obeyed, and, as Logan examined the business card in his hand, he realized that if he and Taylor and Tristan were going to remain in Vistamount, where there were precious few jobs, he would have to follow her suggestion. What was there about him that would make the old librarian recommend him, and why was Joyce Robertson, of all people, who must have been pushing seventy, working for Aiden Queck? After Joyce disappeared from view on the busy street corner, it occurred to him that she had a faint odor of something that reminded him of the smell of burning ants---and of course of the infamous “Area 52.” As the realization settled in his mind, Logan became briefly afraid. He had smelled that exact odor only once before in his life, and it had not been a pleasant experience.
VI. Logan visits SuperBuy The immense store had only recently opened, but the vast, prairie-like parking lot was nearly full. Although protests against its presence had been rife, thousands of shoppers must have been there on the Tuesday morning that Logan visited. Hypocrites, he thought. They clamor against it and claim it is closing other businesses, but they flock here just the same. As Logan walked into the store, he was greeted by a pleasant elderly woman with a face-splitting smile. “This is the largest store in the world,” she proclaimed proudly. “It used to be a factory, and there is more merchandise here than you will find anywhere else. Let me direct you to where you want to go.” Logan, taken aback by her enthusiasm, excused himself and said that he would just like to look around. He did not mention Aiden Queck or the card or even the appointment he had previous set on the private line with Aiden’s secretary. He wanted to see the store first. The first aisle that Logan navigated down was filled with energetic stockers and excited customers, and the first
piles of merchandise that struck Logan’s eye were piles of rather rich-fabric teeshirts. All were colorful and stylish and had a look of supreme quality. Logan glanced at the price tags. The teeshirts all cost between twenty-five and seventy-five cents. Cents! Farther on, men’s sports jackets were labeled from $1.50 to no more than $2. Likewise, dress pants and slacks. Excellent selection and quality and all costing around $2. Things were flying off the shelves, and the stockers were fast at work folding and refolding garments. Like the beaming greeter, they seemed abnormally happy and energetic. Logan, who had once been a buyer for a huge chain himself, noted that none of the clothes carried any sort of brand name or identification other than the strange, fingerprint-like logo of SuperBuy. There was no telling where they were made, but, of course, that didn’t seem to matter. Slave labor in Mauritania could have been responsible for the products, and the impoverished Vistamount customers would have had no qualms. As Logan passed into the food section, he noticed that there were probably more than fifty cash registers, and each was in service by a smiling and attentive employee. The lines were moving fast. Customers were coming and going more efficiently than in any retail operation that Logan had ever seen.
The food section brought another shock. Blocks of tastylooking cheese were selling for ninety-eight cents a pound. Most of the commonly eaten American vegetables were under fifteen cents. Meats of all sorts, especially thick steaks, carried price tags which never rose above $1.15 a pound, and staples like ground beef were selling for around forty-nine cents a pound. Logan had never seen such low prices in his life. He had never seen such a frenzy of shoppers. The recession had lasted over five years by this time, and people were desperately short of cash. SuperBuy had reduced prices to levels that had not been seen in perhaps ninety years. No wonder the other stores were closing. And they were, Logan knew, drugstores and standard food chains were collapsing all over the region, and most likely everywhere that a SuperBuy had sprouted. And it had all happened so fast. VII. Aiden Queck A spindly, dark-eyed woman whom Logan recognized as having once worked as an administrative assistant at Cosmopolitan Outlets showed Logan into a very modest and disarmingly small office down a well-lighted hallway on a floor overlooking the huge sales gallery of SuperBuy.
She introduced him by name to Aiden Queck, who rose immediately from a small, shiny metal desk and pumped his hand with great enthusiasm. “I’ve been waiting for you,”Queck said with no prologue. “I killed your business back in the days when I did such things, and now I want to make things right. I have your file. Ms. Richardson provided me with it. She researches things like that. What I want to know now is do you want to work for me?” Logan became slack-jawed at so sudden a proposal. He looked around at the bare walls of the room and back at Aiden Queck. Queck was a muscular man of about fifty or fifty-five with bold eyes and a ready smile. Logan had seen him several times on television, but up close Queck had a kind of animal magnetism that inspired confidence. No wonder he had been such a successful crook. But here Logan stood face to face with what must have been the most powerful man on Earth, and for some reason he felt at ease. “I need an apparel buyer,” said Queck, “and the job is much easier than anything you ever did at Cosmopolitan because we only have one supplier. I know you can predict styles and detect quality and make good estimates
of what will sell and won’t sell. Your whole Cosmopolitan record is here. There is no need for you to go into any detail. I know what I need to know about you---except for two things.” Logan nodded his head as if to ask what, and Queck smiled back at him. “First, I am thinking of a straight salary package---that is all we have here---of $250,000 to start. It will go up in time as we grow more prosperous. It comes, naturally, with a full benefit program. That sound like enough to you?” $250,000 was far more than Logan had expected. Also, his interview with Queck was not really an interview. Queck seemed to know everything in advance about Logan that he needed or wanted to know. That struck Logan as strange. Cosmopolitan had had hundreds of displaced employees. Were they all working for Queck now? And what was this uncharacteristic remorse about having cheated so many stock holders? Queck , although projecting his usual façade of boundless confidence, seemed restrained and somewhat subdued. His eyes looked tired, as if he were harboring some kind of inexpressible pain or the knowledge of something ominous.
At this very moment of decision a huge, dark and formless shadowy object burst forth across the sun and drifted to the west. In the general direction of the abandoned testing compound, Logan realized in passing. They were getting to be such a common sight in the skies that Logan hardly took notice. But his thoughts did race momentarily to the compound, his miraculously cured dog and the stern warning he had received five years earlier. Queck stared out the window at the dark object at it passed and shook his head with an air of weariness. He turned back to Logan and regained his usual élan. “You’d be working for a convicted felon of course,” he smiled. “I was released on a technicality, and there was never any doubt that I was guilty. But there is something I want you to know…” Logan suddenly found himself asking rushed questions about Queck’s organization growing so fast and about the astoundingly cheap prices. Another smaller dark object ripped out of the sky and shot at a much faster speed toward the west. Queck glanced at it and began again:
“I do not really own SuperBuy or any of its subsidiaries. I am what you call a general manager, which really means a front man. I look after the day by day operations of the business, but it is owned by others. Before I stared getting greedy with investors’ money, I started up two very successful retail operations. That was before you were born, I assume, but I was always successful. Retail was in my blood. Every store I ever founded turned a profit, from the corner convenience story I began at age 19 to Cosmopolitan Outlets. I know retail. I know how to run a business. The owners chose me because of that, and they chose to ignore my criminal record. I have no modesty about my abilities to make stores successful.” Logan sipped on the bottled water that Queck had given him upon meeting and nodded his head. “You had another question about me,” he said. Queck sighed and said yes. There was one more, and it was in a jar. He stepped back to a large cabinet behind the desk and brought forth a large glass jar wrapped in black paper. “In this jar is my final question,” he said, placing the jar on the polished metal surface of his barren desk.
VIII. Inside the glass jar Queck held the jar up to the light and began running his fingernail down the tape which fastened the black covering. Logan, amazed, watched him peel the paper away to reveal a fist-sized insect, a spider-like thing with long jointed legs sprouting out in all directions and huge, greasy looking fangs projecting under two rows of eight luminous eyes that seemed to be continually in motion scanning the room. The thing repositioned a couple of times, moving the spurs of its sharp tibiae around the inside of the jar. In all, it looked hideous. Logan had no particular aversion to spiders, but one this huge and this close made his skin cringe. Moreover, the spider seemed extremely aware and sentient. Logan noticed that its horseshoe-shaped head was larger than that of any spider he had ever seen. “What species is this, anyway?” he blurted suddenly, “and why do you have one here in a jar?” “It is a hybrid of sorts, and I can assure that it is not happy. Nothing to do with you or me. It is just its size and the fact that its job is to live in a jar.” “Its job?”
“Yes, it has a job, and it is doing it right now.” Suddenly the spider shifted violently in the jar and began flexing its multicolored thorax. From within the jar, Logan could hear the faint rush of air and saw the clapping movement of the insect’s book lungs under the chitin of its accordion-like thorax. “It breathes air just like you and I,” said Queck, “only not as often. It is breathing right now.” Queck thrust the jar under Logan’s nose. A strong and almost unbearable odor of burnt ants emanated from the slits cut into the jar lid. It was the same odor that Logan had carried away from the forbidden compound five years earlier. Fear raced through his body, and he jumped aside. “Don’t be afraid of this spider,” said Queck. “Its job is to make you not afraid. Watch this.” Queck put his face near the glass and stared meaningfully at the spider. He set the jar on his desk, and immediately the arachnid shifted position and darted one long spurred leg up through one of the slits. With skill, it locked its spur, which was clearly prehensile, around the metal and began twisting the top off the jar. When it was finished, the metal lid fell with a quiet clang to the top of Queck’s
desk. Logan was frozen in awe and fear. The spider pulled itself out of the jar and began waving its legs at Queck, who reached back into the cabinet and withdrew several brown pellets which he placed on the desk in front of the spider. The insect grasped them with his moveable leg spurs and put them into his fang-lined mouth and began to chew. Logan had never seen a spider chew and had in fact been taught somewhere that spiders only sucked liquid from their prey. This spider was chewing, and rapidly at that. Moments later, the insect leaped into the air and landed on Queck’s arm. Queck looked at it almost lovingly. The smell was getting strangely more bearable, and the spider did nothing but sit quietly on Queck’s arm. “Harmless and benevolent,” said Queck. “Let it sit for a minute on your arm, and the job is yours.” Logan was mortified. He had seen children playing with pet tarantulas in the past, but this was no furry tarantula. It was a beast from hell. In comparison, even the ugliest of tarantulas would have looked cuddly and warm. He desperately needed a job, and SuperBuy seemed to be the only show in town, but to allow such a repellant creature to sit on his bare arm was something----something that just suddenly happened.
Without warning, the spider was on him. It felt heavy and warm. Its claws made no impression on his skin. Logan noted that they were withdrawn. Its eight eyes seemed to dim into a kind of insectine kindness if such existed. By not recoiling, Logan surprised himself and suddenly began realizing that the spider was coating a small part of his flesh with some sort of sticky gray substance. Warmth flowed into his body and fear and tension flowed out. The spider was making him calmer by the minute, and before long Logan no longer seemed to care. Queck sat down satisfied and clapped his hands. The spider leapt from Logan’s arm and darted back into the jar. It seemed to fall asleep. “No need for the paper or the lid anymore,” said Queck. “It is a welcome guest, and it did its job. Too bad it is such a midget.” IX. The giants And it was a midget. A freak of some sort of hybrid birth that kept it from growing to full-size. Its compatriots were as huge as men and bore the same hideous features as the smaller version in Queck’s office. Some years had now passed, and over these years, Logan prospered along with the colossal fortunes of not only SuperBuy, which was now worldwide and located in
every population center on Earth, but the other spinoff companies that the arachnid aliens---and that is, of course, what they were---created. Automobile manufacturing plants, for example, came next. They provided nearly full employment to Vistamount as well as to numberless other locations across the planet. Home construction, housewares, and road building had followed. In every case, the raw materials were shipped directly to isolated compounds just like the testing grounds at Vistamount, from which they were extracted by the legions of Queck’s employees and distributed to plants and manufacturing interests everywhere. Projects of great benevolence also ensued: free tuition at universities, better schools, better and safer streets and finally better statesmen. An old world of corrupt leaders and gouging businesses were supplanted by an entire goods distribution network which functioned on abundance rather than shortage. Wages and salaries rose to levels that would have been imaginary in previous decades. The arachnids were seen only by Queck Company employees. In their vast underground storehouses were located products of the finest quality, products which arrived in huge, barely camouflaged crafts almost daily. World leaders felt horribly bypassed by the arrival of such abundance, and in time, they became, rather much like the ex-felon Queck himself,
simply leaders. They too were paid well and rejoiced in the abundance. Self-serving interests dissolved in a new era of cooperation. There didn’t seem to be any further reasons to hoard, cheat and steal. As for the big spiders, yes, they smelled bad, but it was a smell that Queck’s employees who dealt with them every day could quickly get used to. And yes, they were ugly… or at least at first. In time, those, like Logan, who saw them on an hourly basis, became quite accustomed to working with the friendly spiders, some of whom even had the means of communicating in most of the world’s major languages, though it must be admitted they had little to say. They wanted to remain sheltered in the remote places they lived, and they apparently desired no contact with humans other than the pre-conditioned Queck employees like Logan. On occasion, they supplied hospitals with lotions and other topical medications which cured some of the worst diseases. And the strangest thing is that they asked for nothing in return. They charged nothing for their products, and the only profits made by selling them at drastically reduced prices were intended to maintain the terrestrial distribution networks and pay human employees extraordinarily high salaries. So nothing was totally free
on the consumer end, but full employment, cheap fuels and a virtual cornucopia of inexpensive goods and services improved the living standard of nearly everyone on the planet. And of course there was still another shoe left to drop. So we can conclude by talking about that. X. Conclusion: the final shoe Logan Darlock was already a happy and prosperous grandfather when he found himself one day many feet underground in a webby burrow located off one of the main clothing warehouses maintained by the arachnid aliens. He had been there many times before, but now he was retiring, and the spiders wanted to celebrate with him. Logan, unrepulsed now for many years, sat in a group of seven of the main suppliers, who waved their jointed legs around and sucked some sort of liquid, which seemed to make them happier, from tubes protruding from between their fangs. In his hand, Logan had a whiskey sour, which had always been his favorite drink. At his side was Taylor, now turned old herself, but still pretty. For years, Logan and his wife had suspiciously waited for some sort of surprise from the aliens, but none had ever come. Conditions just seemed to get better and
better. The creatures were all over Earth, but they kept to themselves and did nothing but good. As the retirement party continued, Logan realized that mankind on Earth had truly been supplanted by a superior race which, quaintly, had arrived not by means of government but by the unlikely route of retail. Aiden Queck was, naturally, the most revered man alive, and nearing ninety, it was certain that he would soon die. Most had forgotten his felonious past. He was honored daily in the media as “the most important man on Earth.” There was some rumor that Logan might be asked to take his place. This, however, never materialized, and Logan would soon slip into a quiet and comfortable retirement. As Logan sipped his drink and looked at his companions, he became aware that the most grisly creatures imaginable could be friends and that the physical ugliness of another species was only a superficial outward characteristic. Ugly, odious alien things were not always dangerous and their intentions were not always malevolent or monstrous. For centuries the human race had desperately needed some sort of benevolent stewardship. It was, in fact, humans who were the ugly and revolting ones. The spiders for whatever reason were the kind and humane creatures. Logan remembered his first encounter with the “midget” spider,
his revulsion. Now he sat getting quietly drunk among huge replicas of the little spider in the jar which had initially caused him so much trepidation. And then the final shoe did fall, but it was a quiet descent. The English-speaking spider rose on all eight of his legs, extended his sharp spurs to make himself taller than any human present, huffed in and out some air through the thorax openings of his pulsating book lungs and began in a strange and scratchy voice. Logan and Taylor were asked to rise and stand before him. They did so willingly. “I hope we have done well by your species,” said the arachnid. “We came in peace and have given you the prosperity you deserve. You have given us shelter and a home. Let us hope this world continues as such forever. That is our plan and our only plan. It’s what you call symbiosis. Let it reign forever!” The other shoe which fell was that it did. The planet, now home to two dominant species, remained green, and everyone happily flourished in a prosperous brotherhood
born from the unlikely union of the seemingly dreadful aliens and the oft-suppressed better elements of the human race. That never changed. _________________________// Devon Pitlor November, 2009
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