SPIDER WARS Sample
Spider Wars is the first novel in its series
By E.A. Bundy
Chapter One: Seascape
I had told myself this long-planned painter’s holiday would save me from my sorrows, but it wasn’t working. The more I tried not to think about her—
Distracted by a flash of color, I glanced past the large drift log nearby to a neon-blue, stunt kite. A teenage boy in cut-offs splashed through the surf beside a young girl shrieking with joy. Apparently they had not heard all the warnings regarding sneaker waves, rip tides, and hypothermia. Maybe I should add a dramatic marine rescue to my otherwise ordinary seascape.
A burst of wind over the three-foot diameter log stung my eyes with fine sand. Other particles had fouled my palette, brush, and oil painting and I didn’t appreciate this new “mixed-medium.” Glancing at my canvas, a fresh layer of grit muted the colors of the pigment coating. Opening my mouth to utter a colorful protest, I received an unwanted sprinkling on my tongue. Sputtering to extract this salty contamination, I moved my left hand from where it steadied the easel in order to wipe the specks from my mouth, remembering not to do that with my paint-smeared right hand still holding the brush.
The breeze gusted more fiercely than before, knocking my easel over and flinging the stretched canvas away like a rectangular Frisbee. One dislodged leg of the falling easel spilled the jar of thinner and turned the paint palette upside-down.
Not only had my girlfriend dumped me, now her haunting presence seemed to be dumping everything around me as well. A scream of rage rose in my throat, but extinguished when I heard a female laughing just across the log.
No. It couldn’t be. Had she followed me to the beach to continue the persecution? She knew about the condo and how I loved the Oregon coast. She even knew of my long-standing hope to get away from it all and paint nonstop until my creative frenzy ceased. Before my eyes turned unwillingly to the laughing female, I mentally pictured what I must look like with paint smears brightening my skin, clothing and windblown hair. As my gaze rose toward her, the offensive smell of paint thinner filled the air.
Previous thoughts disappeared as I stared at the girl a few feet away—a complete stranger. I gulped uneasily as bright blue eyes fixed on mine while she continued to laugh. Her mirth-filled voice spilled over me with such genuineness, I jerked my fingers away from my mouth and closed it without saying a word, trying to let my anger subside.
Black hair danced in the wind as her pink lips swallowed the last laugh before forming into a sweet smile. She wore a red-checkered, sleeveless shirt, tied up with a knot at her breastbone, revealing midriff skin and her navel. Wet blue jeans were rolled to her knees. Barefoot or not, she was one of the most beautiful girls I had ever seen. In fact, she warranted a double-gulp.
“I’ll get it,” she said of my canvas, scampering away.
I watched her retrieve the painting where it now rested some forty feet down the beach. She tilted it upward, looking at the surface, and then hid it behind her as she returned, obviously trying to prevent me from viewing the damaged paint.
Under other circumstances her efforts would have pacified me. However, despite her beauty and the pleasant manner in which she approached, my life was a shambles. This painting fiasco was the outer evidence of my inner turmoil. Even though the blue-eyed beauty looked nothing like Celeste, still, they were both girls in their late teens, and I’d come here to get away from anything reminding me of my former girlfriend. Involuntarily, I pictured Celeste on the last day of school when she laughingly said in front of all our friends that we were through. Mixed together with the memory of that cruel laugh, this other girl’s mirth now had the same adverse effect on me. By the time she arrived carrying the painting, I simply glared at her.
It was difficult to stand up. My legs had cramped as the cool dampness from the sand seeped into my body. Rising with a supreme effort, and after one bitter glance, I abandoned her there along with my painting supplies and staggered away toward the condominium. So incensed was my departure, I splashed through the deeper parts of a stream flowing to the ocean, unmindful of carefully picking my path. The squishiness of my running shoes added fury as I wound through driftwood toward my destination. For now, the Lincoln City condo would be my refuge. I plodded up the path to the long row of buildings.
Among the myriad background noises, I absently heard seagulls screeching overhead and gleeful children in the distance—plus the nearer sound of a girl calling out, “Wait…! You forgot your paints.”
I kept walking. The tide could take them for all I cared.
Something—probably a sand-covered sock—prevented the condominium door from slamming behind me. I did not care. Let the seagulls wander in if they wanted. I plopped into one of the overstuffed Naugahyde chairs. In the cool of the living room, my forehead felt oppressively hot. My parched mouth yearned for something to drink, yet I sat there, unmoving.
Even in my dazed and distressed state, I watched a daddy-longlegs spider pursue a smaller black one of another variety. The undersized arachnid looked like a black widow, but I didn’t think they could live on the coast. The spiders encountered one another where the wall met the floor and the "fight" was brief. The lesser tried to run across the smooth surface but the daddy-longlegs soon caught up and loomed over it, tumbling the loser into a ball, binding it up with webbing. Something about that arachnidan drama caused me to shiver.
When a shadow stretched from the front entryway across the fake marble flooring, my eyes continued their fixed, downward stare. I did not look over as I heard my easel and painting supplies deposited on the coffee table. Bare feet whisked across the sandy floor to the kitchenette where I heard the refrigerator door open.
Sounds seemed to magnify as ice cubes clattered into a glass, followed by the fizz of a carbonated soft drink cascading over the ice. Footsteps padded toward my chair. The full glass poised beside my cheek, and tiny droplets flicked my skin as if flung from the effervescence by microscopic catapults. The aroma of ginger ale flooded my nostrils and the cold wet glass brushed my cheek as it moved to my mouth. She said softly, “Drink.”
I stared at her delicate fingers circling the glass, and then swallowed the amber liquid. The taste was amazing. When had ginger ale become so delicious? Yet I still sat there, unmoving. She lowered the glass and traipsed out of sight, seemingly to my bedroom. Unusual as these events were, I did nothing except sit and wonder why I had reacted so negatively to this beautiful girl. It was not in my nature. What was going on, and why did I now rest in my chair like a hunk of driftwood? My eyes closed as the comforting whisper of her feet crossed the living room. I heard the front door quietly shut, and the deadbolt latched with a metallic thud--
Chapter Two: Kira
When I finally awoke, I lay in my condominium bed. How had I gotten there? The girl wasn’t tiny, but she could not carry my dead weight. I was exhausted as before. The bedroom door was partway open and the air conditioner churned in the living room. Chilled, I glanced at the goose bumps on my exposed right arm and shivered as I saw how many there were. Only the thin sheet protected my body, the coverlet having been removed from the bed.
She entered the chamber dressed in her makeshift top, but she had taken off her wet pants revealing a bikini bottom that matched the red of her shirt. I felt self-conscious, realizing that under the sheet I was bare-naked. How had that happened? I glanced around. Where were my clothes? Her giggle did nothing to dispel my increasing anxiety, and when she flopped beside me on the bed, my apprehension went off the scale even though this was my male dream come true. I tried to sit up but her body held the sheet tight, binding me in place. Her fingers slid along the hairs of my exposed arm, sending shock waves of primal energy throughout my body.
Out of desperation, I managed to turn onto my side in one supreme effort. I had to face the fact my confidence around gorgeous females was nonexistent after—but I didn’t want to think of her.
“I’m Kira,” the girl said with a smile, raising her hand to my forehead. Her fingers gently pushed the hair back around the side of my face. “You were really worn out,” she observed.
I didn’t know how to respond. I wanted to ask why she was there at my side, but was afraid if I did, she might leave. When she turned, I observed her bare legs were goose bump free, even in this semi-frigid air, and I recalled her touch had been warm on my face. I wanted to take hold of her hand so the comforting warmth it brought would continue, but her proximity muddled my thoughts.
She scooted even closer. Her mouth turned to mine, startling me, but when we kissed, I stopped thinking altogether. Neither my most vivid dreams nor my fanciful imaginings could top this reality.
* * *
When I awoke again, she was gone. I lay there feeling warm at last, and simply enjoyed the moment. Propping up my pillow, I gazed about the bedroom. The door was still slightly ajar, but the sound from the air conditioner was subdued, and the room temperature more moderate.
Something felt very different, creating a nagging fear I could not identify. I tried telling myself that perhaps she belonged to some secret mercy squad of gorgeous girls who rescue emotionally drowning guys from awful relationships. I only briefly questioned why a beautiful girl would unaccountably “befriend” me.
The humming noise wasn’t the air conditioner. It was more pervasive, accompanied by a vibration that somehow reassured me. I wanted to get out of bed, but stalled from modesty. If I stood, she was bound to enter the room. Looking about for my clothes and still not finding them, I pulled the sheet around me and slid my legs toward the edge of the bed. The door was open a few inches and I paused, wishing it closed.
Although I felt no breeze, some draft sucked the door shut. Reassured, I jumped from bed and raced to the closet. Sliding the door aside, I found nothing but a single hanger holding an institutional green, one-piece body suit. Where had that come from? I’d once again forgotten to bring more hangers from home, and where was my suitcase? Running back to the bed, I peered underneath. Nothing there.
The built-in dresser was also empty. Maybe Kira was washing my paint-fouled clothes. Perhaps the vibration I felt permeating the room was the washer on spin cycle, or the dryer. I returned to the closet and put on the single piece of apparel. It was amazingly lightweight, fashioned from a knitted, clingy fabric that conformed to my body—way more form fitting than I liked. Still, it was better than going naked. A little better, anyway.
I wished this room had a mirror. I’d just have to go into the bathroom to check out my reflection. As I turned toward the entry, I saw the edge of a full-length mirror fastened to the partly open closet door. Odd—in all the times dad and I had come here I had never noticed that before. Pulling the slider into fuller view, I gazed at my tall reflection and swallowed. This fabric revealed much more than I was accustomed to. I wouldn’t mind seeing Kira in something like this, although her current outfit was super-fine. The green that I now wore, however, was definitely not my color.
Laughter broadcast from the doorway. “Nice butt.”
I turned my head, keeping the front of my body partly away from her. “Uh…my clothes?”
“What you’ve got on will have to do.” Her eyes appraised my physique and I know my face reddened. She moved to the bed and sat looking at the wall, allowing me to approach without the embarrassment of her continued stare. She patted the sheet beside her, where I should sit. How did some girls have the courage to wear such revealing clothes? I purposely sat so close we’d have to look mostly at each other’s faces—but not so near that we touched.
She smiled at me. “We must discuss some things.”
With her mouth so near, keeping my mind on topic and talking coherently would be difficult. Trying to cooperate, I asked, “Like what?”
She said, “Your father is away, so he won’t notice you’re gone.”
“He knows I’m in this condo at the beach,” I replied apprehensively, trying to recall if I had told her he was traveling on yet another sales trip, and wondering where my cell phone might be.
“I want us to go…elsewhere,” she began, but glancing at my one-piece clothing, she added, “Green’s no good for you.”
I had already figured that out.
She focused on the pant legs of my uniform. “That’s better.”
When I followed her gaze, I did a double take. My lightweight coverall had turned a soft shade of blue.
Taking hold of my hand, she gave the physical reassurance I desperately needed. Leaning her head against my shoulder, she said, “We’ll take it slow…so you can adjust.” She placed her fingers on my right wrist and I realized I was squeezing her other hand unmercifully.
“Sorry.” I loosened my grip. When my head turned toward hers, she kissed me. I was just getting used to that—actually liking it a lot—when she pulled back.
“Let’s take a walk.” She stood and headed for the door. I guessed a little sea breeze would not hurt me right then, although I could think of something more awesome we could do—except that I was too big a chicken to say so.
When she unlatched and opened the front door, I started to walk out, but what I saw caused my legs to buckle. Half-collapsed on the flooring, I looked toward the ocean, but something unfathomable greeted me. There was no porch or guardrail just ahead. No sandy beach farther out. Not even a kite or seagull. The entire Pacific was gone.
Instead, I stared at a smooth, white wall curving slightly inward at the top and bottom, extending as far as I could see in either direction. Kira helped me up and led me back inside to the bedroom where we lay together atop the sheet. She held me and said in my ear. “It’s all right. You did fine. I thought you’d pass out, but you didn’t.”
That was the moment when I lost consciousness.
* * *
When I came to, she was reclined beside me on the bed. My body shook slightly, the vibrations increasing as I focused on them—until she kissed me again. A profound kiss that revived me and quieted my nerves. When our mouths separated, I breathed deeply, feeling quite rested.
“Come on.” she rose, pulling me to my feet, leading the way through the outer room to the front doorway. It remained open and revealed the pristine wall that formed a lengthy passage. I let her tow me leftward along the outer corridor.
“Is blue okay?” she asked.
What was she talking about? The hallway was soft white.
“Your overalls,” she explained. “Is blue all right? We can make them any color you wish—hues you’ve never tried before even with your paints—whatever you want.”
I looked down at my trouser legs. Blue was my favorite color but not this shade.
She squinted at a point about a foot out from my shoulder. “It looks like you’d prefer light turquoise.”
When I glanced down, my clothing had altered hue and I did like it better. In fact, I realized I often forgot that this blue-green shade was another of my favorite colors.
“These suits,” Kira said, “serve many functions. They will maintain your body heat at the optimal degree no matter what the surrounding temperature—not counting the center of a star, of course. It doubles as a diving suit, extracting oxygen from water and passing it through your skin by osmosis, directly feeding capillaries. It delivers the most oxygen through your chest to your lungs, and you will feel no need to breathe through your nose or mouth. Of course, it is handy on planets with different types of atmospheres, as long as there is some available oxygen.”
Was she messing with me? I began to hold my breath, testing it for myself. We walked on and on. She was right. I felt no urge to take a breath.
Kira laughed. “A doubting Thomas, are you?”
“More like—” I began.
She completed my sentence, “A doubting Mark.”
I stopped short, realizing my mouth hung open because I’d never told her my name.
“We know a lot about you…and earth’s current civilizations. Of course, languages evolve so rapidly we need to take crash courses whenever we return. Especially now in your cyber age, English is mutating rapidly.”
She’d been here before? Still holding my breath, I wondered why I was not totally freaking out.
“Oh, yes. A few times, but things change greatly between visits. By the way, you can breathe normally now that you’ve proved what I told you about the suit. Not breathing, and coming to rely solely on this technology, creates dependence…an eventual problem. You would have noted very quickly if I wasn’t breathing when we met. But in order not to breathe, I’d have worn one of these suits, and then you would have noticed, because I would have stuck out in a crowd.”
I looked down at her bikini and smiled, she drew attention anyway, even at the beach. The coverall suit was pretty cool, but--
“You may have noticed something else.” She looked meaningfully at me.
The only thing I noticed was how “hot” she looked, dressed for the ocean.
'Thank you, but I meant that I can read your mind.’ Her words sounded just like her voice, only they were inside my head. ‘Telepathy is commonplace among us. But, as with the suits, we take care not to overdo it, maintaining our ability to communicate orally.’
I turned away from her, feeling disoriented, and started down the passageway. I was overwhelmed, and it felt like I might throw up. The last thing I remember of that little outing is my legs weakening and my body slipping to the floor....
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