#1: X White
He woke late with a gnawing hunger in his stomach. There was something else though; a feeling of uncertainty, which had never greeted him upon waking in the past. He rolled over in the soft afternoon light, basking in the rays of the autumn sun filtering through the white blinds of his third story apartment. He peeked over Anna’s abandoned pillow at the clock and saw that it was 1:18 PM. It was Sunday afternoon already. He had slept through mass again, and he could tell by the sounds down the hall that Anna and her mother had returned already and were hard at work in the kitchen.
Victor Cruz was a dishwasher at Mo’s Bar and Grille. The job paid well enough to keep them in the apartment. He did not get home until 4:30 AM on the weekends, which did bother him, because it meant he missed mass. Anna would not wake him when he was tired. She was a good hardworking little girl. If it were not for Anna and her mother making empanadas and cooking for the single construction workers that lived in this complex, they would not have a car, and would have to live in some rough neighborhood downtown—no place to raise the children. Anna was already pregnant with twins. Just the thought made him smile as he pushed himself up out of bed in his boxers and T shirt and headed down the hall to have breakfast while the ladies had lunch.
The carpet was nice and white and fluffy, having been brushed by Mamma—by hand!—as she did every morning of the week.
America, home of the lazy gringo and the fat rapper!
He could not believe how lucky he was to be living in such a nice clean place provided by such easy regular work. And when the babies got here, they would all be able to stay. When spring came he would pick up a landscaping job during the day so that Anna could go to school. With an associate’s degree she wouldn’t have to do laundry at the hospital every weekday night, and Mamma wouldn’t have to stay home alone all night, particularly with the two new babies—a boy and a girl would arrive in just two months.
He thought to himself as he passed the bathroom, How lucky can one Mexican chicken farmer be?
Then, as he stepped into the living room, he heard Mamma sobbing. She was sitting on the couch holding her face, looking down at her ankles sobbing. When she looked up at him there was terror in her eyes; an expression he had never seen on her face. He made to walk over to her and she put out her hands for him to stay back. Just then he heard Anna curse and screech in the kitchen. Mamma’s eyes told him that that was where he needed to go—now!
Anna cursing, that must be bad! A rat—Mamma got bit by a rat! A rat is in this nice apartment? Oh I’m taking care of this!
Victor stepped quickly around the corner to see Anna swatting wildly with a recipe magazine at…a…a spider? Only this was like no spider Victor had ever seen, not even around Vera Cruz. His wife was in a kitchen fight with some disgusting spider that had bit Mamma. There was only one thing to do.
Victor grabbed Anna in his left arm, took the magazine from her as she sobbed hysterically, and rolled it up.
Girls are always so afraid of such creepy yet harmless little things.
He would take care of this and then have his empanadas. No spider, no matter how big, was going to get between Victor Cruz and Mamma’s empanadas!
The funny thing was this spider was as large as a quarter and was sliding across a strand of red silk that ran from the counter back up to the top of the refrigerator. It had crab-like eyes on stalks, a white X on its hunched-forward beetle-back, and did not seem to have enough legs. He smashed the nasty little redneck gringo spider with the cookbook and it flew across the room and splattered on the window. It sounded surprisingly heavy as it slid down the window trailing gooey stuff.
Anna jumped a tiny jump of relief in the crook of his arm, so he turned to kiss her and calm her down. Her lips tasted sweet and salty from her fear, “Baby, is Mamma okay? Did, she get bit?”
For answer, his pretty little wife, with her big brown eyes and perfect perky pregnant little body stretched into one of his old T-shirts, just looked past him in horror, up at the top of the refrigerator, and screamed!
Victor pushed her away as he turned and felt something stick to his left shoulder. Above the refrigerator, on top of the frosted flakes box—his favorite cereal, with the oil-company tiger on the box—perched another of those nasty spiders. A long strand of red silk—no, more like stretched out chewing gum—was connected between his shoulder and the disgusting spider. The spider’s eyes seemed to him more like a fly’s eyes or a grasshopper’s, with the many facets, as they gleamed softly in the filtering sunlight.
Victor snarled and advanced on the nasty thing with his rolled up magazine. Even as he closed the distance between his self and this household invader Mamma cried hysterically in the other room and the spider leaped. His swing missed as the spider travelled so fast along the cord—no, attached to one end of a contracting rubber-band— that it was on his shoulder as fast as the snapping sound that announced its arrival.
“Arrgh!” Victor growled as he stabbed at the thing with the butt of the rolled up magazine, smashing the bottom banana-shaped part of its abdomen and its bottom two legs against his hard shoulder. As he clenched his teeth and breathed in for another stab, a stab that would squash the thing against his shoulder, he saw that it had a mosquito like tube coming out of its face and into his shoulder, and that it was already filling up on his blood! The white X on its back was becoming red, and more black goo was dripping from its smashed hind part.
Enraged with the knowledge that this nasty little thing was drinking his blood he brought down the butt of the rolled magazine with all his strength, smashing it into his shoulder. But the thing had jumped off, and back, no longer attached to him by the gooey red strand. Instead it was floating above and in front of him under a translucent red …parachute? The same gooey red bubblegum stuff that had just connected them was now acting like a tennis-ball size parachute. The nasty spider-like mosquito-faced beetle was gliding slowly down from a point just above Victor’s head.
As Victor cocked back with his magazine and Anna screamed out in the living room, the grasshopper-like eyes of his tiny enemy seemed to regard him with a calculated intelligence. There was something about the way the little eyes twinkled, one tiny panel at a time; that gave him pause. But, with another cry from Mamma, he regained his resolve and swung. As Victor swung like he was swatting flies for pennies for German tourists back in Cancun, the thing’s back opened, the X in two parts now, and no longer red, but back to white. Something ejected from the opened hatch like shell of the back—no some things—out to the sides. Some were splattered on the magazine as it hurdled to its target, and others disappeared above his left eye even as the sickening smacking sound of the heavy magazine hitting the bug and splattering it into the cabinets mixed with the syncopated screams of feminine horror coming from the other room.
With no time to relish his victory over the insect intruder, Victor took a deep breath before darting around the corner. When he did so a number of red, white and black, chocolate-chipped sized dots rushed into his mouth. He gasped as something attached to the back of his throat, and something—some things!—clawed their way up into his nostrils—and, oh God!—something bigger descended, with pinching pauses, down his throat!
Victor was overcome with horror. He had, himself, like his apartment, been invaded by something he could not stop and did not understand. He knew suicide was a sin, but he was already in Hell—there had to be a saint for this, and if there wasn’t God would surely make one! He would have yelled goodbye to Anna if he thought she could hear him over her and Mamma’s screaming. But if he had, he somehow sensed that the sound coming from his mouth would not be his.
With one last act of defiance Victor Cruz sprinted across the kitchen and dove headfirst over the table through the front window. The glass shattered with surprising ease. The light metal decorative windowpane frames did hang him up— or at least it seemed—for an instant as he crashed through the shattering glass toward the hard pavement below. The light metal frames clung to him and scratched him, but did not stop his decent to the pavement.
As the clawing and burrowing in his airways continued and began to burn he looked at the pavement like a lover, wishing for nothing but her final kiss. It was not to be. His hip brushed a tree branch, a branch of the tree that housed the comical squirrel that Mamma fed from her own hand, and he flipped over, landing flat on his back. He felt his back break and separate from his hips when he landed. Then, as the back of his head slammed into the pavement, he was fortunately spared the horror of continued consciousness.