“Watch out for spiders,” Harry told him before he went out.
“Ha, ha,” Devin hefted his toolkit.
“I’m serious. Knew a guy one time, spider was hanging out on top of this old digger…”
Actually there were eight items on his list. Hopefully it wouldn’t take him too long, because it was cold as fuck all outside. He let the door to the trailer slam shut and stepped out into the junkyard pulling on some insulated work gloves and putting up the leather-and-wool hood of his Carhartt jacket. Cheyenne winters were no joke.
He whistled for Sheroy Brown, but the damn dog didn’t come. Whistled again, waited. Nothing. Where was she? Devin stomped around to the dog house, wind nipping at his ass, the skies clouded. He ducked his head down, needlessly, because he could see that the German shepherd wasn’t in there. Well, where the hell was the bitch? She couldn’t have spent the night outside, and you would think with the weather she’d want to stay in her house, where it was warm.
So instead of heading out toward the north corner of the yard, where he knew there were a couple Nissans, he turned toward the fence and started walking the perimeter, calling and whistling. Jeez, he should have let her into the trailer at night. It was criminal to keep her out like this, even if they had run a vent right out to her house from the trailer. Only reason she didn’t sleep in the trailer was because of fucking Harry. Fat sonofabitch said she got hair over everything, made the office look bad for customers. As if anyone gave a flying fuck at a rat’s ass what a junkyard office looked like. After today he’d tell his uncle that Sheroy was sleeping in the trailer, and if Harry was still being a dick about it, she could just come home with Devin and stay in his apartment. Fuck what the landlord said.
On the eastern side the snow was drifted right up against the vehicles there. Chain link and barbed wire might keep out thieves, but it didn’t do shit for snow. His workboots were laced up tight, but even so by the time he got through it he could feel snow melting on his shins.
He’d made almost a complete circuit of the perimeter when he saw it: a spot where the chain link had been pulled out of the ground and pressed upward, leaving just enough room for a dog to wiggle through. Well, there was the answer. He was surprised Sheroy would try it, but apparently there’d been something out in the wide world she wanted to chase. He looked out at the hills, the irregular snow half-covering the blanched grasses, hearing the trucks dopplering past on the highway and the wind making static in his ears. “Fuck.”
Hopefully she would come home. Hopefully she wasn’t dead on the highway. He considered taking the Ford to go look for her, but… hell, she could still be in the junkyard somewhere.
So he went and looked over the Nissans, found what he wanted in a ’54 and worked at pulling it out. Then a left door from a Ford truck, and a side mirror from a Chevy sedan that he removed with just the Gerber multitool he always carried in his jeans pocket.
By now he really was freezing, but he thought he should get halfway through his list before going back in for lunch. Number four was a steering wheel from Toyota minivan. There was only one in the yard, and it hard probably been sitting there untouched for ten years now, but he thought the steering wheel was probably still in it.
Christ, they hadn’t made it easy to get to, though. Cars piled on all sides. Half of this stuff was just scrap, should have been cleared out of here ages ago. Not just cars, either – there were pallets of old generators, broken solar panels, a bunch of antique office computers. Sometimes Uncle Harry went to auctions and bid on lots, ended up with stuff like this. Then it sat there for twenty years. They should call the yard a museum and start selling tickets to come in and look.
You couldn’t even get to the van. Cars were piled right up against it, so you couldn’t open the doors. But one of the rear doors, maybe… He clambered right over the roof of a 2042 Ford Long Haul, a fucking antique, and finally hopped down from the hood onto honest ground again. More litter scattered in the gravel and weeds, a soda can, a black power cord from who knows what.
Of course the rear doors were locked. He got out his jimmy bar, slid it down the window until he found the latch. Devin was a motherfucking expert at opening cars. He’d be a killer car thief, if he ever wanted to be. Instead you’re just a junkyard dealer. Not even that. Junkyard dealer’s assistant. But shit, he was young. Twenty-four was still young, right? So what if he’d never finished high school. He knew cars, and that was something. And he still got girls, or would, if he wasn’t with Lora. Lately she’d been talking about kids, which made Devin’s skin crawl. Maybe it was time to break it off with her, even if she didn’t mind blowing him when he asked. Things got stale, otherwise.
The lock gave with a gratifying click, and he stuffed the bar in his back pocket and hurried to put his gloves back on. His fingers were turning white. He opened the door, stuck his head inside, and froze.
The van wasn’t empty. Stretched out on the floor was a teenaged boy, shirtless and barefoot, bare white skin exposed to the cold, and Devin’s first thought was shit there’s a dead kid in here. He needed to call someone. Harry first, or the cops? Harry, get him out here. His gloved hand scrabbled for the phone in his pocket. Kid must have been the one to pull up the fence like that. Some runaway, looking for a place to chill for a bit. To chill, ha ha.
He pulled off a glove with his teeth, let it drop to the ground, thumbing the menu. Kept looking at the body. It occupied only a narrow space in the van. The rest of the interior was filled with… he didn’t even know, looked like weird electronics, wires everywhere, computer parts, pinned to the walls, extending right into the cab, and was it just him, or was it actually humming, kind of loudly, actually, this stuff was on.
The wires. The power cords. It wasn’t just scrap. It was plugged into the grid, or maybe to those old solar panels he’d seen.
What was worse, some wires didn’t go to the machinery. They went to the kid. They went right into his arms, like IVs.
And squinting into the darkness, he saw another body with wires running into it, lying there in the cab: his poor dog, Sheroy Brown. She hadn’t run away. She’d been caught.
His uncle’s voice squawked on the phone. “You need something, Devin?” Devin looked down at it, and that was when he felt something drop onto his neck from above.
He yelped and jerked backwards, hands flailing. He grabbed at his neck with his right, felt plastic and metal and tried to tear it away, but the thing had already wrapped four wire-strong limbs around his neck. He felt a pinch at the back of his head where the skull met the spine, realized the thing was trying to hit him with its stinger, but the leather hood of the Carhartt was preventing it.
Spider spider holy fuck it’s a spider!
He kept trying to pull it off, but it only tightened its grip around his throat. He couldn’t breathe. Fuck, he couldn’t breathe, in a second he’d pass out, and the spider would pull down his hood and stick its stinger in his spine and then he’d join the kid in the van.
Suddenly he remembered the Gerber multitool in his pocket. The multitool with wire cutters on it. He got it out, fumbled it open while his throat convulsed. With difficulty he slipped it under one of the spider’s legs, scraped his neck, while stars lit in his vision. With both hands, he clenched the grips together. And again.
The leg parted, its loose end flapped against his hood. One more. He had to dig the multitool right into the flesh of his neck to do it, he might hit a fucking artery, but it was that or be a slave to this bastard freak machine, so he jammed it up there and clenched for all he was worth.
In an instant the spider fell away, wire limbs flailing at the ground, trying to flee under the van, now that it was wounded, but with half its legs cut it was too slow, and Devin stomped on its body with his workboots with a triumphant curse. He kept stomping until it was just little pieces of metal crushed in the gravel.
Who knew what twisted fuck had designed the things, but someone had, a couple decades ago. They’d become a minor danger in junkyards and cities, anywhere with a lot of electronic and mechanical trash. The spiders gathered parts until they could replicate, and if they could, they’d punch into a human, using the body as a trash-gathering agent that wouldn’t be challenged by other humans, and the brain as a biological supercomputer.
Here he’d discovered a nest. There would be at least one spider on the unlucky boy, and another on Sheroy, but with luck and good medical attention they’d both be okay. He picked up the phone, got his uncle on the line again. “Call an ambulance. And a vet. And an exterminator.” He paused. “And from now on, Sheroy’s sleeping inside.”