Turk pulled through the front gate and drove down the narrow dirt driveway. His work truck bounced with the grooves of the road, occasionally causing his head to bang the interior roof of the pickup. He barely noticed the thuds; he was primed for the kill.

He loved his job. Being an exterminator lacked glamour, but made up for it by being exciting. Turk never knew what he might find under floorboards or inside air ducts. He considered himself the God of the insect world, ready to rain down hell and fury on entire colonies of unwanted houseguests.

Today was special, though. He’d received the call from dispatch this morning, and in his excitement, didn’t even pack his lunch. Most people would rather set their hand on fire rather than deal with a spider infestation. He even knew some exterminators who tended to pass these jobs up. Not Turk. If he was God, then spiders were the antichrist, and Turk was ready for the apocalypse.

Turk let himself smile as he bounced his way down the road further into the shade of the forest.

Even better, he thought to himself as he lost sight of civilization and mile-markers. They get bigger out here.

The sun was now lost from view. The canopy of trees overhead not allowing its light to penetrate anything below. Turk had lost himself in fantasies of killing eight-legged creatures by the hundreds and barely had time to stop himself from plowing over the lady standing in the middle of the dirt road that served as a street.

He slammed on his breaks, causing his tires to screech and sending everything in his front seat flying onto the floorboard. He had only been inches away from slamming his face into the steering wheel.

Standing in the middle of the road only inches away from the trucks bumper was a little old lady. She hadn’t even flinched as the truck was hurtling toward her. She just stood there with unblinking eyes and a toothy smile that seemed too wide for her face.

Turk manually rolled down the driver’s side window so hard he was lucky not to break the plastic handle.

“Jesus, lady, are you trying to get yourself killed?” He said as he stuck his head out the open window while the dust began to settle around him.

Slowly turning her head to align her eyes with his, she broke her stance in front of the truck and moved around to where Turk sat. Her movements were stiff, not letting her arms swing with her stride as if she were balancing a book on her head.

“No Mr. errr Asher is it?”

“Yes, ma’am, but please call me Turk. You must be Anna.,” he said as he studied her face. She managed to hold that toothy smile with ease. He was confused at her calm demeanor after nearly being mowed down, but with as many people as he dealt with on a daily basis, he was somewhat used to the crazies.

“You’re on my appointments for today. According to my paperwork, you may have a few unwanted critters crawling around in your house.” As he said this, his eyes shifted away from her unblinking stare, “Speaking of, where exactly is your house, ma’am?”

Turk had only just realized that there was no home in sight, at least not visible. He was surround by dense forest which seemed to be home only to shadows.

Waiting for an answer that didn’t seem to be coming, he met her eyes again, hoping that her un-genuine smile had eased, but it had not. It was still there, firm as ever.

“It’s just right through that small clearing of trees, Mr. Turk.” The right corner of her mouth twitched as she said this, and for a brief moment, her eyes clinched shut, causing crow’s feet to form in their corners.

Her smile seemed even more forced than it had just a moment ago, and as she moved closer to Turk as he sat in the truck, she had to stop to brace herself. She put her hand against the front fender seeming to hold herself up. She looked dizzy like people do when they stand up too fast and let all the blood rush to their heads too quick.

“You feeling okay, ma’am? I can call the office and have ‘em reschedule.”

He was hoping she wouldn’t take his offer. He’d been anxious the whole way here. Excited to see the size of the army he’d be battling this morning.

“No!” Her abrupt shout caused his butt to leave his seat in surprise.

“No,” she said again but this time with a measured calm.

He must have look as bewildered as he felt, because she felt the need to explain herself. Still holding herself against the side of the truck. She looked like she was fighting back a strong pain in her head.

“I am fine. Rescheduling is not an option. I’ve just been waiting out here for so long. I’ve been waiting for you, Mr. Turk. I must say, you’re not quite was I was hoping for, but I suppose you’ll do. Yes, you’ll do just fine.”

Her smile had returned, but what Turk failed to notice is that it had shifted from faux congeniality. It now had a mad quality about it.

Turk was now only focused on the clearing that led the way to his Gettysburg.

“Well, if you’re up for it, I guess I should get started. The sooner the better.”

“Yes, Mr. Turk. The sooner the better. Follow me, please.”

She took her weight off of his truck and stood still for a moment, letting her body find balance on its own.

He stepped out of his truck, leaving his gear in the back. He always liked to assess the situation and then choose his arsenal accordingly.

He held his hand out to her to shake it. She studied his fingers for a moment before gently returning the gesture. She almost seemed frightened to touch him. She looked like she was reaching for a burner on a stovetop, not sure if it is hot or not, but ready to pull back at the first sign of heat.

What he felt in her hand almost made his stomach turn and he had to hold back his surprise. Her skin was cold but that wasn’t the most disturbing part. The space under her skin which held bone and fat and meaty tissue seemed to move. It bulged and sank into itself. Her hand seemed alive, like an organism of its own, attached to her body but somehow separate. He jerked his hand back after only a few seconds, but not wanting to seem rude, he tried to rationalize his actions to her.

“Sorry, ma’am, I deal with some pretty toxic stuff in my line of work. I get something on you and the next thing you know, you rub your face, and it feels like your eyes are on fire.”

“Quite understandable, Mr. Turk.” Her smile had returned. She looked like a little kid who had just gotten away with stealing gum from a market. “No need to explain.”

She turned away and started walking through a small clearing that Turk assumed must lead to her house. The multiple strange exchanges he had experienced in such a short time with this lady were starting to accumulate in his head. He felt the small hairs on the back of his neck raise up but tried to attribute it to the drop in temperature as he entered the deep shade of the trees.

Still, he wondered if she held that same smile as she led him through the woods.

After a short walk with Turk following close behind, she abruptly stopped, almost causing him to bump into her. He had been looking at the ground as they made their way through the forest.

When he looked up, what he saw made his jaw hang open. No words came. He just stared, not in surprise but confusion.

To describe this house as being in poor repair was an understatement. It was stuck in purgatory. Trapped between life and death, though much closer to the death side of things.

The barely standing shell of Anna’s cottage seemed to be one strong gust of wind away from being nothing more than a memory for people who are no longer alive to remember.

A small path of cobblestones, upturned and in disarray from years of usage led the way from the remnants of an old wooden mailbox all the way to the front door.

The door in no way could serve any purpose. What was once undoubtedly a sturdy barrier, protecting its inhabitants from nighttime monsters of the forest now hung only on its bottom hinge. This door did not sway with the breeze but held its position firmly, no doubt due to the amount of rust covering its last surviving hinge. It was only slightly cracked open, awkwardly leaning, the weight at the top desperately trying to pull free from its attachment at the bottom.

Even from a distance, Turk could see the door had been painted and repainted on multiple occasions, the most recent color being red. The red had begun to fade a long time ago, giving way to olive green underneath which gave way to a pale blue before the colors of old ran together into a pukey brown.

The boards covering the front of the house were pulling free of their nails. Slanted and drooping in awkward positions. Some areas were free of the wood entirely, not even a trace of the houses former skin lying on the ground. Just gone.

The roof was missing most of its shingles, the tar paper was exposed in many areas and was torn and fluttered in the afternoon breeze, making a soft and rhythmic whap, whap sound as it rose from the wooden beams below and fell back down with the slight force of the wind.

Without turning toward Turk, she just said, “We’re here,” and began walking toward the barely hanging door. Turk’s uneasiness was overshadowed by disbelief as he followed her inside. Confused, he followed her and began to wonder just how senile this woman was. She was maybe in her fifties and had kept up with her hygiene. Nothing so far spoke to her lucidity, especially this house. This uninviting house in the middle of nowhere.

Surprising to Turk, Anna pushed the door open with one hand and it swung freely, no resistance in that one hinge. As he stepped inside, his nose was invaded with dirt, and his eyes were clogged with cobwebs. Inches of dirt covered the floor, not giving any hint as to what type of material was under his feet.

She stood by the door and slowly shut it behind him as he walked in, but he didn’t notice. He just stood there trying to understand his environment.

This place doesn’t need an exterminator, it needs a match. Spiders seemed to be the least of Anna’s problems. The place was filthy. There didn’t even seem to be electricity. He remained in that same position in front of Anna, trying to take in his surroundings.

He stood in what must have served as a multi-purpose room used as a kitchen, dining room, and sitting room.

There was only one open doorway on the opposite side of the room, which gave way only to darkness. He assumed it must be the bedroom, because there was no sign of sleeping quarters in the room he was standing in.

His eyes had only begun to adjust to the dimness of what he understood to be the kitchen when he noticed the shells of dead rats on the table to his left. He stumbled forward looking for something to lean on as the blood rushed to his head, causing him to become dizzy. Not noticing the carcass of the house cat beneath him, he tripped and fell face first into the loose dirt beneath him.

“Mr. Asher.” That annoyingly pleasant tone had left her entirely, though he could still sense a smile when she spoke, it was no longer pleasant. In his confusion, he had almost forgotten that she was there. She spoke slowly as if she were trying to annunciate every word, but something was not right. Her voice held the same tone that it had earlier, but it sounded like she was trying to speak through a mouthful of garbage.

“Quit crawling on my floor, you little cockroach.”

Turk dug his hands in the dirt to push himself off the floor. He yelped with pain as something sharp pierced the tip of his index finger. He pulled his hand away to examine the damage done but his eyes remained fixed on what was below him.

On his knees, he used his uninjured hand to move away the loose dirt in front of him.

“Bones?” he muttered as if unsure of his own conclusion.

Below him under the first layer of filth lay tiny bone fragments alongside a few complete skeletal remains of rats, birds, and a number of other creatures from the rodent family that he could not identify.

“What the hell?” Forgetting he was not alone in the room, he asked himself again. “What the hell?”

“Those are what we call appetizers, Mr. Asher. Tsk, tsk, tsk.”

It wasn’t what she said that disturbed him the most. It was the way she slammed her teeth together after she said it. It sounded as if it had been done with such force that they should have chipped and fallen out of her head.

Confused and past being terrified, Turk raised up from his kneeling position to look at Anna. What he saw sent him right back to the ground. Scooting on his butt to the wall behind him, pushing against it as if it was going to open up and offer him a barrier between him and the monster he now saw.

Anna’s smile now spread from ear to ear. So wide that the skin on the corners of her mouth was tearing. No blood under the skin, no blood at all. Her teeth were actually falling out as she slammed her jaw together, still managing to hold that smile. One by one, they pulled free from her gums falling onto her tongue, and she swallowed them.

Her eyes were bulging forward, forcing themselves out of her head. Pulling free of their sockets, they fell to the ground collecting thick gobs of dirt as they rolled toward Turk’s feet. 

“Tsk, tsk, tsk.”

The skin on her neck had started to rip right down the middle, flapping loosely and falling on her shoulders; still no blood.

His wide eyes moved down her body. The area underneath her shirt was bulging and squirming as if it was alive, trying to break free from its cloth restraints, and he remembered how her hand had felt when he shook it. Squirming and alive. Her torso was jerkily starting to fall forward toward Turk, but her knees did not bend. Her feet remained firm in the dirt as her body fell forward, and she was on all fours. Her knees cracked loudly, breaking as they bent forward at an impossible angle, but she didn’t show the slightest indication of pain. 

With her body at an impossible angle, she started to move toward Turk like a dog with four broken legs.

“Tsk, tsk, tsk.”

“Help! For the love of God, somebody help me!” Turk screamed, finding whatever strength he had inside him, he managed to pull himself up off the floor, avoiding the creature before it reached him. He scanned the interior of the small house, sizing up his options and only seeing one.

He was trying to find the willpower to make himself move while her body continued to fall apart in front of him, exposing meat and bone. All the areas under that meat were still bulging, and Turk did not want to see what was trying to break free.

He thought of the room again. It scared him not knowing what else he could run into, but it could not be worse than what he was facing now.  

“Tsk, tsk, tsk.”

Turk could hear that thing getting closer, and against his will, he looked right at it. That painful tooth crunching sound was now accompanied by a putrid odor. It was the smell of rotting meat. It was the smell of old death.

The thing that had once been Anna no longer existed. Pieces of her meat lay strewn on the floor. Body parts were scattered around. Fingers, tongue, and other chunks of flesh he couldn’t recognize.

The muscle and fat that had concealed that bulging mystery underneath was falling away, and Turk

realized that things had gotten much worse.

Anna’s blank toothless face fell to the ground, and that fleshy protective barrier between Turk and hell was now exposed.

Thousands of spiders spilled out of her body. Some were the size of small dinner plates. Others were no bigger than a quarter and every size in between. They spilled toward Turk in a waterfall motion. Running over each other in a desperate race to get to him first. One organism had become many. Whatever had caused them to hold themselves together for a common purpose had left, and now, they operated in a frenzy that Turk could recognize only as hunger.

Turk bolted for the opening. He ran at full speed not scared of the unknown, because what was following him was more terrifying than anything he could imagine. He turned the corner and burst through the blackness at full speed. He made it maybe five feet before his entire body came to a halt. His first thought was that he had hit a wall, but the thought was only fleeting, because the barrier that had prevented his escape was soft.

“Tsk, tsk, tsk.” That sound was now amplified a thousand times over.

“Get away from me, you psycho.” Tears started to roll down Turk’s cheeks as he said this. He realized there was no such thing as Anna anymore. He couldn’t appeal to the human side of anyone, because he was the only person here.

With as much force as he could manage, he pulled the left side of his body free, but the force made his body spin around, causing his back to become stuck to the trap he found himself in.

Turk had only just realized that he wasn’t tangled, he was stuck. He felt as if his body had been super glued to a huge fisherman’s net.

“Tsk, tsk, tsk.”

The spiders were still spilling over each other as some of the smaller ones reached his feet and made their way up his pant legs, even squirming their way down into his socks.

He felt like his body was being teased with thousands of needles as they made their way up his body, and underneath his clothes. They crawled into his ears and up his nose, even working their way under his eyelids, though he was clinching them tightly.

“Please don’t. Please don’t.” These were the only words Turk could muster as the spiders ran over his tongue and down his throat.

Finally, Turk’s vocabulary disappeared, leaving him with only the ability to sob.

“Tsk, tsk, tsk.”

He felt the weight of the bigger spiders that had been slower to reach him as they climbed up his body. 

He knew pain was coming, but it was worse than he had imagined. All at once, like a general giving his army the order to fire, the spiders all sank their fangs into him. It felt like his blood had been replaced by acid. The burn spread through his body as his flesh was being torn by both tiny and large fangs.

He struggled. Like a rat in a trap, it was all he could do.

“Hebp mlee,” were the closest to words he could manage as his face and body rapidly became numb. The numbness seemed like salvation to him, and he was happy it came.

With the final twitch of an index finger, Turk was gone.


The thing that had once been Anna, smoothed its new skin over its face as the sound of an engine could be heard approaching from a short distance. Turning to the mirror to check its appearance, the thing smiled and slammed its teeth together. “Tsk.” It was good to be full again.