“Merry Christmas, Gramma! Wake up!”
Nettie dragged her eyelids slowly apart and squinted at the digital clock’s red numbers. 5:47AM.
“Gramma wake up! It’s snowing! Merry Christmas!” Kiki’s voice rang back as she went running down the hall.
Nettie sat up and pulled her robe from the foot of the bed, wrapping it warmly around herself, then pushed her feet into her slippers and headed down the hall.
Kiki was in front of the big living room window, leaning over the back of the old brown couch to look outside. She was dressed in blue flannel pajamas, her little head topped with several small braids that were a bit sleep-tousled despite all the brightly colored barrettes weighing the ends down. One of her small feet was up on the armrest of the couch and dangerously close to a few ornaments on the Christmas tree.
“Kiki, watch your feet,” Nettie said, fumbling to put her glasses on.
“But look Gramma, isn’t it nice? Look how it comes up the windows and makes pretty patterns.”
Nettie pushed her glasses up onto her nose and stepped up to the window, just behind Kiki. When her vision came into focus, she gasped.
The ground was completely white. Nettie’s old Dodge wagon and the other cars in the lot, the mailboxes, and the front porch roof all had a coating too. Everywhere there were hundreds – thousands – millions – of tiny white spiders, crawling and covering everything. Spiders were slowly making their way up the window glass and swinging down from the crabapple tree. Somewhere down the block, a woman screamed.
Nettie gasped and pulled the curtains shut.
“Gramma, why’d you do that? I wanna see the snow!” Kiki pouted.
“Baby, that’s not snow. Don’t go outside or open the windows!” Nettie picked up the phone and dialed 911, but got only a busy signal. She hung up and looked around. The living/dining room of the two-bedroom apartment didn’t have much in the way of furniture: couch, coffee table, tv stand, Nettie’s armchair in the corner, the small table and chairs where they ate meals. She turned on the television, hoping for the morning news.
“Just a terrible mess,” said a blonde newscaster, shaking her perfectly hot-curled head behind a long desk. “For those of you just tuning in, the town of Lampwick has been overrun by a huge swarm of white spiders. No one has been able to contact local authorities, and the National Guard and fire departments from the surrounding areas are being mobilized. If you are in the affected area, please stay in your homes and wait for help. We--”
Nettie turned off the tv. It was now 6:00AM.
“Gramma, can we open presents? Can we?”
Nettie rubbed a hand across her forehead, looking at Kiki’s little face. She clearly had no idea that she was in any danger. “Tell you what, baby,” Nettie said gently, “let’s have some breakfast first. I’ll start the water for the grits. Want some bacon?”
“Sure!” Kiki said happily. “Can I watch tv?”
Nettie turned the tv back on and switched to a children’s program running on a cable channel. “There you go.”
Kiki happily settled into the couch cushions.
Nettie put a small pot of water on the stove and turned the heat on, then went down the hallway to the closet and pulled out a large bath towel. She walked back down the hallway, folding the towel into a flat, narrow rope, and stuck it underneath the front door, wedging it tight. Peeking into Kiki’s room, she took a sheet of paper and a bright green marker from the little desk and wrote “2 people in here. Please help!” on the paper. She grabbed a strip of tape from a kitchen drawer, and pulled back one curtain behind the couch just far enough to put the sign up in the window. The spiders covered more of the glass now, but there was room for the sign to be seen, if someone was looking. Nettie shivered and tried not to think about bug spray and fire and how long it might take to come from any roads leading out of town. She closed the curtain again.
“Okay, Kiki, scrambled eggs or fried?” she called over her shoulder. “And how many pieces of bacon?”
“Scrambled!” called the tiny voice from the living room. “And two bacons please!”
Nettie put the bacon on, singing a Christmas carol to herself in a voice that hardly sounded like her own.