The Spider

Good Morning Gremlins
13 min readOct 9, 2021

The sun began to swell in the sky as the heat waves carried their long arms across the woman’s face, further out into the unknown. Death laid itself at the world’s doorstep as the heat slowly draining the last of living.

“Damn this waste land”, she mumbled to herself as she drank the last remaining bits of her self-made moon shine. She tipped her cowboy hat down to cover her face from the hot rays. The hat was stained with dirt and had begun growing holes after years of wear. When she had first found the hat, it was in a prop museum. But now that no one was here to visit the museum, why shouldn’t she have it?

As she laid back against an old, dried up log-likely to be one of the only remnants of past life for miles-she drifted into memories of how things were before the war… Before the world began to tear itself apart for the last time. She thought about the days when you could pour a bottle of water over your face on scorching, hot days as if they were nothing and then reach into the fridge for another one. But now-a-days, finding clean water was better than winning the lottery and you had better find it before the Kingdom did. Otherwise, you would have to sign a deal with the Devil just to get a taste.

She had never been within the walls of the Kingdom, but rumors of the impending hell beneath its walls were enough to persuade her. Much like and gang, military or unit, they had designated guards and soldiers that would scope out the remaining water sources and cut off access from the savages that would not pledge their allegiance. Of course, they were always willing to offer some of their findings to you. That is however, if you were willing to be branded with the Kingdom’s emblem where you would then devote your life to serving the “community”.

It didn’t take long to realize that those who entered the Kingdom were never permitted to leave, even for a moment. The only exceptions to this rule were the guards that went out on missions to search for water and the unfortunate souls, desperate enough to willingly commit to a life of slavery.

“And for what?” she thought, “Bits of water that could barely suffice one person, much less your whole family? Ha! I’d rather drink my piss and eat my leg off.”

“If you don’t find food and water soon, you just might have to…” screamed an argumentative voice in her head.

Her thoughts drifted back to days on the beach which only made her thirst that much more longing; a thirst for water and a thirst for a past life that could never be. Days when the boy with dark hair was still around and they would laugh about nothing for hours on end. But now he was gone just like bottled water and the beach. She hadn’t seen him since the Kingdom offered he and his parent’s a life in their quarters. She knew that he was still there but part of her also knew that she couldn’t simply walk into the Kingdom, profess her love and walk out of the front door with him hand in hand. Not without a fight that is.

She reflected on her own thoughts for a moment, “Intuition is a funny thing…especially when it defies all earthly logic. Almost in the way that the rocks would try to stop the tides and yet, they never really could.”

Intuitive feelings always seemed to flow through the pebbles of her mind, screaming out ideas that were seemingly impossible to reach. Ideas of how the boy and her would find each other somehow and they would ride off into the sunset on Luther, the half droid horse with a faulty artificial intelligence that she had come across on an abandoned ranch just weeks prior. He had probably been left there due to the glitches in his programming and his ability to shut down at any given moment. But all the same, she couldn’t help but think that he was left there for her to find and so she kept him with hopes of them both finding a place in this new world.

She thought back to the boy with dark hair again, who now almost seemed like a stranger in a distant memory. Every part of her wanted to devise a plan to save the boy she used to know, from the grasps of the Kingdom officials and wisp him away like an unorthodox fairy tale. A fairytale where she was the knight who came to the rescue and he would faint in her arms with the back of his hand gently laid on his forehead. She laughed to herself as this ridiculous idea unraveled in her head. Luther looked up at her questioningly, not understanding what could possibly be funny.

She repressed these comical thoughts once again and fell back into a serious tone as she realized that taking on the Kingdom would be impossible. There were too many guards and officials, many of which were the last living soldiers from the old U.S military. It was unclear how many weapons they still had from days of the war. In fact it was uncertain how much of anything was salvaged from those days, but it was now a race to gather what was left before the others did. Regardless, she couldn’t take them on alone. Even if she was able to find other people willing to aid her in rescuing the boy, she knew that if their hands ever had the pleasure of touching, the Kingdom would surely burn for it.

Suddenly she noticed that Luther was looking off into the distance and jumped up ready to draw her pistol as a cloud of dust followed a small military vehicle heading their way. The vehicle slowly made its way closer cautious to approach anyone too quickly. She could make out more than one person, heads bobbing out of the windows and guns blazing. She quickly released the pistol from its holster and jumped on the horses back as they sped off into the opposite direction to find cover.

The young woman didn’t bother looking back as her and Luther dashed through the Wastelands.

“What would be the point?” she thought.

After all, the dust would only cloud her vision even more and she could already hear the military car speeding up behind them. She needed to focus on what was in front of her. Luther was quick, even for a droid; his robotic legs could reach up to 120 miles per hour on a good day; that is to say, when he wasn’t malfunctioning. Luckily for the two of them, he was able to keep top speed as their chase with the military vehicle led on.

The vehicle was a large, tan SUV; most likely a hummer from past days but it was now altered and hardly recognizable. While the warn out, oversized tires remained the same, the rest of the car had been carved out leaving a jagged frame without any glass or roofing to conceal those inside. A small crane that had been taken from an old tow truck was welded into the truck space of the military vehicle. It was often used in circumstances such as these when a poor soul was unlucky enough to cross paths with members of the Kingdom and attempted to get away without checking in.

Even if you denied your “opportunity” to join the Kingdom, anyone who was found while searching for water and trade goods was inspected and often taken back to their main grounds with or without consent.

“To establish and enforce order…by any means necessary”; that is the motto of the Kingdom and a law they had been attempting to spread across the remains of the Old World since chaos had first broken out. Most of the remaining life in this world had already been consumed by the Kingdom in the early stages of the New World when people believed that banning together would save them as they attempted to reinstate old government regulations. That was what the representatives of the Kingdom had told everyone. But this was a new time and none of the elected officials “had” to do anything now that they were in power.

In the old days, the Peoples’ leaders were corrupt and often out for personal gain. But it had gotten even worse after all of the resources had dried up along with the population. The “New World Democracy” had quickly turned into what was now labeled as a Communist Society but resembled more of a dictatorship. There must have several other lost souls aside from the young woman, roaming the lands of what used to be the United States. She had met smaller groups of scavengers but had found Luther to be the only company worth keeping around permanently.

Ultimately, who was to say how far the current population stretched outside of the immediate area, No one was even really sure where the new coast compared to that of an Old World map. Natural disasters had taken out most of the original east and west coasts. In the Old World, the Korean government thought it would most effective to take on the U.S by attacking from the outside and slowly pushing everyone to the center of North America. The small remaining population that survived nuclear attack would become part of their new territory. World War III had been responsible for most of the fires and bombs that engulfed the United States-and later the rest of the world- but Korea got lucky when massive flooding and natural disasters finally sent the coast of California into the sea not long after they began dropping bombs.

Unfortunately for them, the thing about luck is that it’s not always in your favor. The United Kingdom partnered up with the U.S to retaliate against Korea and obliterated the entire territory into absolute nothingness. Most people were outraged by the lack of mercy on those had been killed simply by being caught in the crossfire of the two nations. But at that point, politicians had already stopped caring about what the people wanted and it was time for “severe action”. This severe action ultimately led to the demise of the world as we knew it and countries split off into what they called “Ally Sectors” as they continued to conquer and kill each other in the name of freedom.

Now people just wandered aimlessly, looking for food, water… anything really. If you wandered too far and made it to the “edge” of the New World, you were better off just turning around. Unless by some miracle you knew one of the last living pilots or seaman and had access to make your way across the oceans, there were no means of overseas transportation. Some people had attempted and it was uncertain as to if any of them had ever successfully made it to their destination. By now the ocean was so polluted that even scientists from the Old World had been devising a way to produce enough drinking water for the population. The nuclear bombs, bodies and human waste begin to pour in and it had gotten even worse.

Most of the water was more of a rusty shade of orange and was believed to be completely inhabitable by creatures of the sea. However, nature always has a way of overcoming the worst of humanity and rumors of what had become of the ocean floor sometimes made their way back to the Midwest. Stories of shark-like creatures and giant squid with acid burnt skin and sharp, red eyes made the ocean’s inhabitance seem like a lost chapter from the Tales of Cthulhu. This was something few people could wrap their heads around even with everything that had already happened. There were few brave enough to find out if the myths were true. The woman had never seen any of the morbid creatures she had heard about but then again, she’d never even been to the beach. What she feared more was on land, conveniently chasing right behind her at this very moment.

“Hey girl! Get off that fuckin’ horse and present yourself! We don’t bite…well only a little!!!!” chuckled the man sitting in the passenger’s side of the military vehicle.

He had an Australian accent and long gold locks of hair that were now collecting dust as he waved his head out of the window. The man was large and held a sniper rifle with a scope that seemed excessive, even for his choice of weapon.

“He’s probably trying to compensate for something else”, the woman thought to herself and trailed on through the desert land, urging Luther to go faster.

The SUV was catching up to them and the woman could see a blur where the crane beginning to swing around. The Kingdom had altered most of their vehicles with these cranes. They were able to rewire pieces of old construction vehicles and turn everyday SUV’s into hybrid machines that would extend a crane like arm outward into a 360 degree swing. Then it would latch onto other vehicles the way cowboy’s used to lasso in their stray cattle.

As advanced as they were, even the Kingdom had their own limitations. The only other group that was large or daring enough to hold their own against the Kingdom’s forceful army was the anarchist tribe, better recognized as the “Night Crawlers”. The Kingdom had begun calling them the Night Crawlers when they attempted to form a treaty between the two territories. The Night Crawlers did not believe in the organization of the Kingdom and hardly cooperated with the regulations they were asked to abide by. But it had been made clear that unless the two groups wanted to battle it out to the very end of their resources, they’d better come up with some kind of arrangement.

It was now law of the land that the Kingdom citizens were never allowed outside the walls and military officials were to be back in their territory by sunset. Fear of the Night Crawlers had also become a great way for the Kingdom to recruit with little resistance. As a friendly reminder of the Night Crawler ways, anyone who was feeling brave or objected Kingdom Code would be thrown out without supplies and the people were left inside the walls to hear the screams of the unfortunate victim as he or she was dragged into the desert. Those that were seeking out their own resources could not be regulated and those in charge were reluctant to let that happen.

In some ways, the Kingdom was much more civilized than the Night Crawlers. They attempted to maintain old traditions of the world. Both men and women were given jobs washing dishes, cooking, cleaning and gardening and repurposing scraps that were collected when the military went out on daily missions. People were given jobs based on prior skills and knowledge but all the same; they worked endless days until their fingers bled in attempts to receive bits of water for their families to carry on.

The Night Crawlers were much more ruthless and chaotic, sometimes even bringing back humans to roast over an evening fire. They didn’t care about clean clothes or preserving dear old mom’s last set of forks. Most of the tribe members were covered in tattoos and scarification with curling teeth carved into fine points. They wanted to make a statement larger than that of the Kingdom’s and would often tag “CHAOS REIGNS” with blood seals over any old graffiti that was used to advertise the other territory’s motto.

Gerard Bugotti had been the elected president of the Kingdom when they had first discovered the Night Crawlers. After hearing early rumors of the tribe, he had become outraged by their lack of respect towards the Kingdom and their mission to reinstate New World Order. He demanded a small group of the Kingdom’s best soldiers escort him to the area in the night where they were said to be located where they would ambush them and force them to submit to the Kingdom. The same area, the young woman was headed towards now as her and Luther continued to flee from the SUV. Only one soldier returned from the mission that escorted President Bugotti to his brutal demise.

The Night Crawler’s leader was uninterested in the forceful ways of the New World Order and captured the soldiers upon their arrival. In the end, they had let the surviving solider crawl his way back to the Kingdom through the desert land. Forcing him to drag the heads of his old friends that were chained to his legs as evidence of the Night Crawlers’ brutal nature. The soldier had come back to the Kingdom so traumatized by what had happened that no one knew for sure if Bugotti had lived or not. He had only said that the leader of the Night Crawlers had “kept him” and began screaming in terror.

No one knew the name of the women who led the demonic tribe and so they referred to her as, Hija Del Diablo; Daughter of the Devil. The Kingdom kept their future encounters with the Night Crawlers to a minimum and soon realized after Bugotti’s death that the tribe did most of their scavenging at night when most people were sleeping and the air was cooler.

Once the sunset, the Night Crawlers came out to play and everyone fled back to their homes, sleeping with one eye open in fear that they might be taken alive otherwise. However, the tribe stayed outside of the Kingdom walls and solely prayed on anyone ignorant enough to spend the night in “open land”, even those that were “just passing through”. There was only one way to be on reputable terms with la Hija and the rest of her tribe. If they were to spare you, you must be born within the tribe. The safety of an outsider was guaranteed if their sacrifice was seen as a fair exchange but few were willing to make such a sacrifice or died trying. Luckily for the young woman, she was safer with the Night Crawlers than she was with members of the Kingdom. Her parents had history with la Hija before dying but the woman was never really sure what their sacrifice was. Only that she would be safe in Night Crawler territory. Now that she thought about it, that was likely the only reason that she had survived as long as she had in open land. But why her?

“Just a little bit longer Luth, the sun is just about to set! They’ll turn around if we can just g-ufff!” the woman was abruptly cut off as the hook from the crane caught Luther, entangling and pulling out the wires from his back left leg. His leg had been almost completely torn off by the cranes grip as they came crashing to the ground and Luther’s power system shut down completely.