Come little one, I am here. Come on out, Daddy is here. Tager said as he heard the hatchling inside the egg began calling for him. The hatchling called with high pitched sounds that sounded like a cross between an alligator’s chirping and a horse’s scream of fear. The hatchling moved inside the egg, trying to break the shell and run to its father’s side. The hatchling began to crack the egg and screamed again. Come little one, I am here. Come on out. Tager coaxed as the egg began to crack. You can do it my child. The hatchling kicked the egg again and screamed as the rest of the egg shell broke, setting him free. Tager inched closer to his child and licked the liquids from the egg from the hatchling’s body. The hatchling screamed again and reached out blindly, trying to grab onto his father’s mane. Tager lifted his newborn son in a single hand that could fit a fully grown human comfortably and licked his back and front sides clean. The child whimpered and tried to open his eyes. Patience my child, I am a single arachnid. Tager chuckled as he used a giant knuckle to wipe his son’s eyes free of the liquids. The boy opened his large grey eyes and reached for his father again. Tager wrapped his son in a human-sized towel and set him in the crook of one of his arms.
The others of the colony all cooed at the tiny hatchling that had just hatched as Tager stood to his full sixty foot height. The child was a mere six feet tall with a willowy build that reminded Tager of his mate, who had been killed by humans mere days ago. The alfa backed into the crowd, letting the next parent catch their child. I shall name you Trodite, my little one. Trodite. Tager declared, searching for his son’s reaction. The hatchling laughed and reached for his father’s hair again with a small hand. My little Trodite, you will grow to be strong, I just know it. Tager said, no longer paying attention to the next hatchling. My little one, I will keep you safe. I will make sure you are not hurt. I will always protect you. Trodite cooed as he grabbed a tiny fistfull of his father’s hair and tugged, making the towel fall, exposing his small chest, hiding beneath a tan exoskeleton. Tager held his son close as the other two hatchlings arrived within moments of one another. The crowd dispersed and the new parents walked to the hatchling’s part of the nursery. Tager set his son down in one of the cribs before any of the others could do the same. He gasped as Trodite tried to stand months ahead of time, reaching for his father again. The other four pairs of parents turned to him and stared at the infant. Trodite fell and began to cry. Tager gathered him again and lifted him out of the crib. Trodite grabbed an arm-full of his father’s hair and tried to hold himself up as he balled. Tager held his son on his neck and shoulder, making sounds that no human would find soothing although any arachnid would. He glanced helplessly to the only pair that had been parents before the day’s hatching and received encouraging smiles. Tager soothed his tiny son until the hatchling fell asleep. By then the others were gone and Tager was alone with the hatchlings. He pried his son’s arms from his wiry hair to set him down and Trodite whimpered. Tager sighed as the hatchling snuggled closer and tightened his grip. Tager slowly sat down beside the crib he had chosen for his child and held him close. It’s alright, I’m here Trodite. I am here. Tager whispered Sleep my child, sleep my small rambunctious one. I will be right here with you. Trodite sighed and fell asleep on his father’s shoulder. Tager didn’t dare try to pry his son from his place but instead decided to keep guard over all the hatchlings.
One never knew when a snake would slither in and try to swallow the hatchlings. There were also humans in the cities above the ground and birds flying above those cities that all arachnids strived to avoid. Their caverns were located eighty miles below ground with hidden entrances that seemed to be sinkholes. Snakes often stayed in the valleys where global warming had forced humans to move into their own refrigerators and made way for animals to become mutated with all the radioactive materials the humans had left behind. The original arachnids had died off after the new arachnids were born in the mutagens the humans had left. So had the original snakes, birds, and other animals. Now birds were bigger than the largest human airplanes and snakes were larger than in the movie Crocaconda.
As all adult arachnids did Tager had eight limbs (four arms and four legs) and eight eyes. None of the hatchlings had that number. They resembled humans with extremely large eyes that glowed in the dark, regardless of color. The hatchlings would be easy for the hundred foot garden snakes alone to swallow. The birds could take the hatchlings to their nests and let their babies eat the hatchlings. The adults often struggled against all three predators and searched for insects they could drag down into the caverns for the young. The only advantage the arachnids had were their webs, of which could be used as food, traps, and bandages. None of the others had these.
Tager stirred when he felt Trodite stir on his shoulder, releasing his father’s hair and snoring. Tager smiled as he once again set his son in the crib and closed it, pulling the front and top up to join the other sides. Trodite reached out to grab his father’s hair again, whimpering. Tager used a clawed finger to cut some of his hair and set the clump in the crib with his son. Trodite sighed and snuggled the clump of hair, burying his face in it. Before closing the top of the crib Tager covered his son in the towel once again. With a smile Tager closed and sealed the crib. Sleep well little one. He replied softly I will be here.
Tager, wake up brother. Galact said, shaking one of Tager’s shoulders It is morning. Tager peeled his eyes open and sat up. He could hear the hatchlings stirring in their sleep…That is, all but one….
Trodite? Tager asked
You mean your hatchling? Galact asked He is laying in his crib, somewhat awake. He’s a tiny one isn’t he Tager?
Yes, that he is. Tager answered with a sigh as he sat up.
I’ll take guard, you see to him. Galact replied as Trodite began to call to his father.
Thank you brother. Tager said. He stood and Galact nodded as he sat on the ground. Tager walked to his child’s crib and lifted the top. Trodite once again tried to stand and fell. He began to wail as his father set the side panel of the crib down and reached his hand inside. Tager brought his son into the crook of his arm and tapped his top left wrist with his bottom left fingers. He could feel the warm webs waiting to be used, the perfect temperature. He held the small slit for his webs just above his son’s mouth and let a single strand fall into his mouth. The warm webbing made Trodite stop wailing. Tager smiled as his son sucked on the web strand. As the chunk of web in his mouth dissolved Trodite reached to grab more and pulled the strand into his mouth. You’re a hungry little one aren’t you Trodite? Tager asked as the other hatchlings began calling for their parents. You’ll be a big one won’t you?
Probably not Tager. The smaller ones often end up being smaller as adults. Galact answered
There are cases where a small hatchling is a large adult. Tager countered, glaring at his brother. You are not his father so you would not know runt.
Sure I do. He’s tiny and that’s how he’s going to stay. Galact said
No, I wish he won’t but he will. Tager sighed Just look at us. Neither of us was so small. You were ten feet and eleven inches. Your son is six feet at the most and just barely. Galact argued I was nine feet and average height.
He will grow and you will see brother. Tager said . Trodite whimpered. As Tager looked down at his son the little hatchling began to urinate in the towel and squirm. Tager searched for a changing station and found it beside his son’s crib. He set the hatchling down as he whimpered again. Tager began to unravel the towel and a fountain of urine sprayed up toward him. Tager shifted to the side and the urine landed on the ground. Galact laughed as a second stream hit him in the lower left arm. Tager quickly covered his son’s lower half and waited until he felt the boy was done. He used a damp towel to clean the waste off both him and his son as his brother continued laughing. Trod squirmed on the ledge as his father wrapped a diaper on him. Tager chuckled as he picked his son up again and tried to wrap him in a clean towel. The boy squirmed and cooed, grabbing a fistfull of the bristles on his father’s hand. Trodite used his purchase on his father’s hand to pull himself closer. Tager held still as his son tried to stand on his weak legs. Trodite laughed as he stood on those wobbling legs. Galact stopped laughing and watched as the small hatchling began shuffling toward his father’s chest. Come on, you can do it Trodite. Tager coaxed You can do it, come on. Trodite held on to his father’s arm as he waddled forward, laughing. Other parents filed in and saw the display, gasping and whispering as Trodite began walking. Tager held his breath and coaxed his son forward. Three feet from making it to his father’s chest Trodite let go and fell. He sobbed and reached for his father. Tager scooped his son up and wrapped him in a clean towel and held him to his chest again. The boy quieted down faster than he had the night before and the other parents began tending to their children. Tager patted his son’s back with a large finger the size of the average human and Trodite belched, spittle dripping out of his mouth. Tager wiped the spittle away and held his son to his shoulder again. Trodite was already ahead of his father as he began trying to squirm into his father’s hair. Tager made room for another parent to set their child down and walked to his brother. Still think he has no potential? Tager asked
Perhaps he does. Galact answered as the hatchling curled into a ball.
For nine more years Trodite grew at a faster rate than the other hatchlings. In the mind that is, remained the smallest in the body. He was the first to begin talking, walking, climbing, and playing. He often played with the elder hatchlings, offering them a challenge he could not get from those his age. The others in the colony began calling him Trod, using the human word for walked for Trodite was the first in his nest to begin walking. His grey eyes were sharp, like his mother’s had been and his exoskeleton was tan, like his father’s. As the way of arachnids Trod was still nine years from coming of age. When the time came he would roll into a cocoon and slip into a hibernation that would let him grow to his full size and let his other six eyes and four limbs come through. He stayed with his father when he could and when he couldn’t Trodite would try to slip out of his crib, where he felt he was alone although he was surrounded by other hatchlings and young arachnids that were not yet fully grown. He often succeeded and searched for his father. Each time he found Tager Trod would call him and find his way to his father’s shoulder. Tager often ended up carrying his son around the caverns and unintentionally showing him how to do everything in the caverns long before time. Trod often asked his father questions and tried to do what his father did on a smaller scale. Tager would leave Trod in his crib and as soon as he knew the boy was asleep Tager would go outside for either hunting or to go to other colonies where he would give his colony’s stand in debates. Trod would call for his father and squirm free of the grips of the others in the colony until his father returned. Then, he would run to his father and curl up on his shoulder, holding his father’s hair in a grip that couldn’t be torn free without hurting Tager or his son. Trod would not let his father go too far without him, especially after one of the conference trips. He was as stubborn as his mother and smarter than any of the other hatchlings, just as she had been. Trod never thought he would embark on a journey that would make him legendary but he did indeed.
Trod awoke in his crib and began calling for his father as he felt urine begin to soak his diaper. His father did not come. Trod called again, louder this time but there was no answer. He stood up as he tried to call his father again. The caverns echoed and shuffling sounds came from the caverns. Trod whimpered and called his father again, trying to slip out of his crib. A hissing sound made him stop. That was not the sound of another arachnid. That was a snake. He cut off his call abruptly and slid back into the crib, pressing against the back of it. There were no other hatchlings in the nursery and Trod could smell what had happened to the eggs. Trod froze, holding his breath, as the snake entered the nursery. It was a rattle snake about two hundred feet long, still an infant like Trod. Another call frantically rose in his throat and the snake turned its attention to Trod. Trod called for his father at the top of his lungs, throwing his thoughts to other arachnids that were anywhere near him, hoping he would be heard. The snake prepared to strike and once again Trod felt urine begin to seep its way through his diaper. The hatchling screamed in terror as he watched the snake strike. It slammed into the crib, sending it over the ledge. Trod screamed again as he free fell thirty feet down to the ground. He slammed into the mattress of feathers and insect wings that was the bottom of his crib and the rest of the crib shattered as if made of glass rather than wood and webs. Trod whimpered and scrambled away as fast as he could as the snake slithered closer. He called for his father at the top of his lungs. The snake reared up to strike again and Trod cowered. Before the snake could strike a loud crack broke through the air and the snake fell over, barely missing Trod. Trod scrambled away from the snake’s body and looked around, searching for the source of the sound. He found six humans standing in the mouth of the cavern. Trod screamed again and scrambled away as they neared, all carrying guns and ammunition.
The humans came running to the hatchling and snake’s corpse, putting their guns in black holsters at their hips. They were all wearing skin-tight silver shirts and pants with black work boots and weapons belts that held black weapons. Trod screamed, futilely attempting to spin a web over the humans. The eldest human, a woman in her late forties, made it to Trod first and was the first to realize what he was.
“Janet, it’s a hatchling,” the woman shouted over her shoulder. Trod hit his back against the wall.
“Where are all the others,” another woman, this one in her late thirties, asked
“I don’t know,” the first woman answered. A man knelt down beside her, blocking Trod’s only escape route. “Easy, it’s alright. We won’t hurt you.” Trod tried to go through the wall as the man reached out to him and whimpered, fear filling his luminous grey eyes. He called his father as the first woman inched closer, hoping to deafen the humans and summon his father. The first half worked but not the second. The humans covered their ears and shrank back. Trod thrashed about as another woman pressed a damp cloth to his mouth. He screamed and kicked as his vision went black and his muscles were forced to relax. He groaned as he lost feeling in his body and slowly, his consciousness.
“It doesn’t look much like a spider,” Jamie commented. They loaded the hatchling into the back of the van. “He looks like the average human.”
“Did you hear that sound it made,” Janet asked.
“Yeah, but still, it looks human,” Jamie said. They locked the back of the van. “I wonder why.”
“We’ll find out when we get back to camp,” Marcine shrugged. They loaded themselves into the van.
“Seriously, it’s freaking me out. It was even wearing a diaper,” Jamie replied.
“We’ll find out soon enough.” Joe said “Now can it kid.”
“What do you think happens to make a hatchling into an adult? Is it metamorphosis like with butterflies?” Jamie asked
“Can it Jamie.” Peter snapped
“You guys are no fun.” Jamie whined
“This is supposed to be research, not fun. Those caverns looked like they were recently abandoned. Perhaps it was left behind because it wouldn’t have survived a migration.” Janet said
“It looks perfectly healthy to me.” Coco muttered, “It smacked me pretty hard. when Janet was drugging it.”
“Even a baby can cause harm.” Joe said from the back, beside Trod. “I’m glad we had dependables in the kit. I didn’t even know we’d need them. It looks like it had woken up to call its parents so they could change it’s diaper.”
“How could an animal make diapers?” Peter asked
“We were animals once Peter, they must be evolving like we did.” Marcine answered “Perhaps we will end up having to share earth with spiders. We aren’t the biggest and baddest anymore.”
Peter shrugged and looked over his shoulder at Trod, who was covered in a blanket and in a deep sleep. The hatchling whimpered in his sleep and tried to move. Joe furrowed his brows and scooted closer to the hatchling’s side. Trod whimpered as Joe uncovered him to see what was the matter and tried to move. Joe sucked in a breath when he saw Trod’s exoskeleton had a large crack on it.
“What is it Joe?” Janet asked
“It’s hurt.” Joe answered, surveying the damage as Trod moaned and whimpered “There’s a big crack in what seems to be his exoskeleton. It is bleeding too but not much. Poor thing probably hurt himself in that crash we heard. I don’t know how to fix the damage.”
Trod began to stir and moan as Joe finished his sentence, peeling his eyes open. He began calling his father and pulled his legs to his chest. He broke off and screamed as pain seared, hot and brilliant, through his body. He called again, in a higher pitch and tried to move off his side. Joe reached to help him and Trod kicked him. Joe grunted as the hatchling rolled onto his back and kicked the man again. Joe groaned as Trod called again and tore a hole in the back of the last seat in the van. Peter cursed as Trod tried to pull himself up using the seat. Trod fell as the van hit a pothole in the road. Trod called his father again as pain flashed through him, lightning fast and just as hot.
“Drug it again, please!” Coco shouted, giving Joe a cloth with chemical drugs in it.
“I will when I can pin it down.” Joe exclaimed as Trod punched a dent in the side of the van.
Trod thrashed around as he tried to escape from the human at his side and the pain in his chest and side. He called for his father as Joe pinned him down and pressed the cloth to the hatchling’s face. Trod coughed and gasped as the drugs threw him back into the blackness of unconsciousness.
Trodite? Tager asked, looking up from the path and toward the caverns, where arachnids were running out to get to safety. Galact, where is my son?
I couldn’t get him, the snake blocked my way. I am sorry Tager, Trod’s gone. Galact answered
I just heard him. He’s not in the caverns. Tager said, I have to get him, he’s hurt.
Tager, he’s gone. The snake would have eaten him before he could call for you. Galact insisted
No, listen. Tager replied
Tager and Galact listened and heard Trod’s call from the van. They exchanged looks and Tager bolted, running toward his child. He was behind the van in mere minutes, running an arm’s length behind the van. He heard Trod’s call cut off and hissed. The sound was like that of thirty trains pulling into a station at the same time mixed with an alligator’s hiss. The humans in the van jumped and looked back to find the sixty foot tall alfa charging after them, anger making his eyes red. Joe and Jamie cursed as the women gasped at the sight. Trod lay limp and asleep in the back of the van, beneath Joe, but Tager did not see it as he slammed his arm in front of the van. Coco slammed on the brakes and barely missed Tager’s arm.
“Get it out of the van!!!” Peter shouted as Tager clamped a hand on the top of the van. “HURRY!!!”
“I need a hand.” Joe said as he lifted Trod into his lap.
Before Peter could climb over the seat to help his co-worker Tager tore the roof of the van from the rest and reached in. He knocked Joe away and lifted his son with a gentle hand, cradling him. He growled and thew a fist full of sand into the van, burying the humans to their shoulders. Peter stared after Tager as he carried his son back to the colony. Tager calmed himself and looked over his child, searching for the source of his bleeding. He found it inside the crack in his exoskeleton.
Galact, he’s hurt. Tager said, reaching out to his brother
Bring him here and I will help him. Galact answered We are waiting for both of you.
Tager picked up the pace and ran back to the colony, praying that his son would live with his exoskeleton cracked, leaving his delicate insides and flesh vulnerable.
Will he live Galact? Tager asked
I don’t know Tager, we’ll have to wait. Galact answered On the bright side your son is the first hatchling to survive both a snake and a group of humans.
This is no time to be making jokes Galact. Tager snapped a Trod began to stir.
Daddy? Trod asked as he peeled his eyes open Daddy, where are you?
I’m right here Trodite. I’m here. Tager answered, coming closer to his son. You’re gonna be alright.
Daddy, I was so scared. Trod said, whimpering Daddy, I hurt.
I know Trodite, I know. Tager replied Try not to move too much Trodite.
Daddy, why do I hurt? Trod asked
You fell Trod. Galact answered
Daddy, why am I tired? Trod asked
Your body needs to heal. Tager answered Are you hungry Trodite?
Trod nodded and his father lowered a single strand of web to fall into his son’s mouth. Trod ate the strand quickly, barely waiting to swallow before he tore another chunk off. Tager watched his son with relief as the boy moved his legs as he had years before, when he had been two. Trod whimpered, asking for more and Tager complied, lowering a second strand down to Trod’s mouth. Trod pulled his father’s strand of web to his mouth and ate the second strand. When he was done he sighed and his eyes tried to close. Tager held his breath as he picked his son up and cradled him on his shoulder. More gently than ever, Tager tapped on his son’s back with a single finger. Trod belched and groaned, spittle sliding from his mouth.
Daddy, why did it hurt? Trod asked
You were hurt very bad my Trodite. Tager answered Your exoskeleton had to be pulled off in some places. It will grow back, just like before, just a lot slower.
Daddy, they killed the snake after I fell. Trod whispered Then they pushed something that smelled weird into my face and I couldn’t move. I woke up and called you but they did it again.
It’ll be alright Trodite, you’re safe now. Tager soothed, wiping the spittle from his son’s face I’ll never let you get hurt again as long as I live.
Daddy, it hurts. Trod whimpered, reaching for a lock of his father’s hair. It hurts a lot. It never did before.
I know, I know. Tager said I wish it didn’t but it will hurt for a while. When it’s done you will feel a lot better.
Daddy, I can’t reach your hair. Trod moaned
Tager bent his head a bit and Trod clutched a lock to his own shoulder. The hatchling whimpered as he breathed deeply and fell asleep. Tager glanced to his brother and silently made him promise not to let Trod know he had such a slim chance of recovering. There was an eighty percent chance of Trod dieing before the month was out and the chance grew higher and higher with each day he lived that he would die because a snake had attacked and humans had twisted his torso, making his wounds worse. The movement of the humans setting Trod in the back of the van had torn his exoskeleton from his muscles. They had made his wounds nearly impossible to heal. Tager cradled his son and hoped he would live through the night.
“What happened here?” Take asked as he walked over to the van “It looks like you were in a tornado.”
“We found a hatchling in the sinkhole. There was an entire cavern system down there. There was snake getting ready to pounce on it when we came in. When we got it into the van we found out it was hurt and hit the road. It’s father came after us and did this. Then, he took the hatchling with him, heading northwest.” Peter answered, “Can we get a hand here?”
“I’ll get a crew.” Take replied, “I’ll be right back.”
Take’s mind raced as he sped back to the base camp to get help. They had found a colony after decades of searching. They could go forward with the plan now.
Tager, we have humans on our thoraxes. Galact reported as Tager finished changing Trod’s diaper. They’re coming from the south.
Tell the others to get ready to run then. We’ll leave them in the dust. Tager ordered Have all the parents carry their young on their shoulders and protect them from the sand.
Galact nodded and Tager wrapped Trod in a towel. He lifted his whimpering son to his shoulder and held him in a cupped hand. Trod dug his nails into his father’s shoulder as Tager began to run, throwing the diaper Trod had used away. Tager ran on all his legs and three of his arms, using the fourth to hold his child. The others of the colony followed suit and carried their hatchlings on their shoulders as told. The ground thundered with the sound and feel of a colony of thirty-nine arachnids running flat out. The smaller animals ran from the colony’s path as quickly as possible. The stragglers were only behind because they were picking up the animals that had been trampled to feed on later. Cougars the size of grizzlies from the twenty-first century ran from the giant spiders and the danger the spiders ran from. After an hour of running Galact went back to find out if they had lost the humans going by ground. None of them but Tager and Trod looked up in the sky. Before Galact could return helicopters flew overhead and Tager slowed the herd. They veered off course and ran east, weaving their way through the canyon. Tager and the others scaled the canyon wall and ran northward, struggling to lose the humans. Galact joined his brother with fear bright in his eyes. Tager growled and hissed as the herd came close to a wall. A corral built for arachnids. He veered the colony off course again and lead them away from the three sides they were surrounded on by. Then, too late to stop the colony, he found another corral with the gate open. He screamed a warning too late. The arachnids were all in a panicked stampede that he could not slow. Trod whimpered and squeezed his eyes closed as his father and the rest of the herd ran into the coral. The arachnids hissed, growled, and screamed as they slammed into the walls of the corals. they all tried to climb the walls but found barbed wire and steel shards that would kill the hatchlings they all carried. Tager hissed as the coral doors were closed and locked. Trod wailed in his father’s grip, terrified. Tager desperately searched for a place to hide him and the other hatchlings from the humans.
Surround your hatchlings in webs. The humans won’t be able to get to them. Tager ordered all the the others. Use your webs and bodies to hide them. Don’t let the humans near the hatchlings.
A series of terrified Yessir came from all the minds of the arachnids as they did as their alfa ordered. Tager suited his own words and set his wailing son down in a corner. Trod wailed and struggled to get to his father’s shoulder again.
No Trodite, you must stay in the web. Tager said gently as he began surrounding his son with webs. I will not let them hurt you any worse than they have.
Daddy, Daddy, don’t leave me! Trod screamed Please Daddy, don’t leave me alone!
I won’t Trodite, I am hiding you but I will be right outside. Tager assured as he finished hiding his son behind his webs.
Trod continued wailing as his father turned his back and stood guard over his hatchling. Galact stood beside his brother, glaring at the glass tower on the other side of the wall. All the arachnids could see the humans behind the class. Tager hissed and snarled as humans entered through a door too small for an arachnid adult and most of the hatchlings. They dragged deer corpses and cameras inside the coral and acted as if they were not there. The arachnids hissed and snarled as the humans tried to come near the hidden hatchlings. Coco and Jamie walked over to where Tager squatted, prepared to attack. He hissed and pushed them away from the sack he had hidden his child in. Trod wailed and called for his father, rolling on the ground in pain. Jamie tried to go around Tager again but once again, Tager pushed him away. Coco sprinted around Tager and to the sack of webbing Trod writhed inside of and began cutting at the web. Tager grabbed her and threw her away from the sack. Jamie took the opportunity and slid inside with Trod through a hole he had cut. Trod screamed and called his father again when he saw Jamie. Jamie made shushing sounds and took video of what the hatchling was doing. Tager tore the sack open and pulled Jamie out. Jamie screamed as he too was thrown away from the sack. Tager lifted his child once again and held him close. Trod wailed and screamed, clutching his father. Tager searched the hole in Trod’s exoskeleton and found dirt inside it. He dared not lick his son’s wound but found no water.
Galact, find me some water to clean out Trodite’s wound. Tager ordered
I will do my best brother. Galact answered before reluctantly leaving his brother’s side.
Hush my Trodite, hush. I am here. I know it hurts, it’ll get better. Tager soothed as his son continued wailing and tried to climb into his father’s hair as he enjoyed doing. I know it hurts, it’ll get better. I promise you’ll feel better as soon as I can make it so.
Tager, there’s a trough on the other side of the coral. Galact reported. A few drops from your mandibles should be enough to wash the wound out.
Thank you Galact. Please, try to calm the others as best you can. Tager sighed
Galact nodded and they parted ways. Tager found the trough and dipped his mandibles in. Before the precious drops fell he let his mandibles hover over Trod’s wound. The hatchling wailed louder as the water washed the wound out. Tager made soothing sounds as he held his son still, letting the water drain. Trod wailed as his father finally released him, tears streaming down his face. He clutched his father’s hair and tried to pull himself up.
No Trodite, you’ll hurt yourself worse. Tager scolded
Daddy, they broke the web. Trod wailed
I know Trodite, I know. This time I’ll do more layers so they can’t get inside. Tager soothed as he walked back to where he had originally placed his son.
Daddy, it hurts. Trod whimpered
I know, I know. It won’t hurt forever. Tager soothed
Daddy, please don’t put me down. I am scared. Trod whimpered
I know. I know my little one, I know. Tager said I won’t let them hurt you without a fight.
“Its exoskeleton seems to be falling apart.” Coco said, using a meter stick to point to the hole in Trod’s exoskeleton as it had been seen when Jamie had taken the video. “None of the others have peeling exoskeletons. Either this little one is seriously wounded or it is getting ready to become an adult.”
“I doubt it is growing or going into metamorphosis.” Joe grunted. “It was wounded a week ago and the wound seems to be much worse.”
“I concur, the father threw us when none of the others did. Something is going on. We need to get close enough to see what is causing the pain.” Jamie replied
“Let’s see if these arachnids are nocturnal or not.” Peter said casually.
The twenty-eight scientists at the Spider Corall agreed to try to pull Trod from his sack that night, when they were sure the arachnids would be least active. They did not count on one of the females guarding the others as they slept, pacing around the corral. When they tried to go through the maze at moonrize she grabbed them and deposited the scientists back beside the door. At about midnight they tried again and made it to Trod’s sack behind the sleeping Tager. They silently cut the sack open with scalpels and slid inside. Trod lay sleeping on a bed of his father’s webbing, wearing a diaper and a towel. The towel concealed the wound until Jamie and Joe began to pick him up. The hatchling stirred but did not awaken as the scientists readied a teleporter. (A teleporter looks like an Ipod with four arms that will wrap around the wrist or chest.) They teleported Trod and all the others in the group to a lab, where they set him down and peeled the towel back. It was obvious that the wound was infected, even to the dull human eye. Trod whimpered in his sleep and kicked a leg. Jamie gasped and took a step back. The scientists quickly bound the hatchling to the table and prepared to draw the infection out. Trod made small mewing sounds in his sleep as Jamie gently put a cloth soaked in drugs to his nose and mouth. The hatchling breathed it in and his breathing became even more even now that he could not feel the pain. Peter quickly drew the infection out with hydrogen peroxide and water with expertise that showed he was an expert in the scientific field of medicine. Trod shuddered in his sleep and slowly moved his head to the side. Coco slowly washed his face and body of dirt and web strands as the hour crawled by. They returned to the sack and set Trod down in his bed again. They sewed the hole closed and retreated to the lab once again.
Later that morning, around two o’clock Tager heard Trod calling him, having soiled his diaper. Tager lifted his son out of the sack and to change his diaper. He noticed his child was wet all over with water and that the infection was gone. He gently stroked the hatchling’s side, around the wound, disbelieving. Trod whimpered and another trickle of urine dribbled into his unchanged diaper. Tager quickly changed him and cradled Trod. Trod sighed and settled against his father’s shoulder. The hatchling held his father’s hair tightly as the alfa walked toward the glass tower. Tager poked the glass when he reached it, reaching over the barbed wire and steel. He nodded to the humans when he was sure he had their attention. Then, he turned back and returned to the sack. Trod fell asleep before his father set him down again. Tager covered him with the towel and a web. Later that morning, near six o’clock Trod slipped away from his father’s shoulder and made his way to the human’s entrance. He found the security camera and poked it.
“T-t-t-tank ooh.” the hatchling said into the camera before he turned away and back to his father.
Inside there was a commotion and every scientist watched and rewatched the video, following the path Trod had followed to the camera and back. Within days Trod was an internet sensation with seven billion views. Humans made their way to the coral to see the wounded hatchling that had spoken to the camera. Trod stayed near his father but he was seen from the human side of the wall. Tager often hissed as the humans took pictures. Trod would watch the human children that were lifted onto their parents’ shoulders to get a better look as his father patrolled the corral, ensuring the safety of the colony. The humans began calling him Puerdolor, after the latin translation of ‘child’ and ‘pain’ and Loqui for ‘speak’ in latin. Trod became as famous as the old television show ‘The Voice’, perhaps even more so.
For a year Trod struggled to live as his wound slowly healed. Every night the scientists would take him from his bed, bathe him, check his wound, and set him back down. Every morning Trod would poke the camera and give his thanks. Every day children tried to get inside the corral but were dragged by parents. That is, until a single child slipped through his mother’s arms and into the employee’s entrance. He found his way to the coral and slipped inside. Trod spotted him before any of the others from his perch on his father’s shoulder. The hatchling climbed down and made his way to where the boy was, staring all around at the arachnids. Trod pushed him playfully and mimicked a human’s shriek. The boy shouted and turned around. Trod shrieked again and sidestepped, asking to play. The boy stared at the hatchling, starstruck. Trod waved his hand in front of the boy’s face, thinking he was blind. The boy blinked and moved his jaw soundlessly.
“Oh oh keeeeey?” Trod asked
“My name is Oakey. You’re you’re Loqui.” the boy said, looking Trod up and down.
“Plllllllaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyy?” Trod asked
“Sure.” the boy, Okey, said not able to get his mind wrapped around the hatchling’s words.
Trod shrieked again and nudged the boy. The boy laughed and playfully pushed him back. Trod shrieked and jumped to the side, wincing but not letting the pain ruin his fun. They played tag in the coral for an hour before Okey’s mother began calling him worriedly. Trod cocked his head at the boy’s reaction to his mother’s call.
“Down here!!!” Okey shouted “Mom, I am down here!”
Trod read the situation quickly and called his father. Tager came over and lifted Trod. Before his father had him off the ground Trod grabbed his playmate and pulled him up beside him. Okey laughed as Tager lifted both of them. His mother screamed from the visitor’s side as Tager walked closer to the wall. Trod shrieked as his father made a large, thick web over the wall.
“Okey!!! Are you alright Okey?!” Okey’s mother shouted.
“C-c-c-ca-a-a-a-r-r-r.” Trod said, gently nudging the boy toward the web.
“I’ll take care, thanks for playing with me.” Okey replied “Keep fighting Loqui.”
“T-t-t-troh dite.” Trod said “I Trodite.”
“Then keep fighting Trodite.” Okey replied
Trod waved to the boy as he slowly made his way to his mother. When he hesitated half way across Trod shrieked and urged him on. Okey made it to his mother’s arms and she hugged him, checking him over to see if he was hurt. Trod held his father’s index finger with one arm as he shrieked again, getting Okey’s attention.
“Play?” Trod asked when Okey turned around
“Can we mom?” Okey asked
“No, not today. We have to get home.” his mother answered
“Dawn?” Trod asked
“Can we come here tomorrow then?” Okey asked
“I suppose, now let’s get home.” his mother answered
“Noon.” Okey called to Trod
“Ahrrrrr Oh.” Trod said
Okey waved as he and his mother left. For the next six months Okey would come and play with Trod every day. Trod often simply watched because the other hatchlings never challenged him. His wound grew smaller by the month but his exoskeleton was becoming paler as the wound grew smaller. After a year and a half of not having a whole exoskeleton Trod’s walking was noticeably slower and he never ran.
Okey did not play with the hatchling as roughly as he had the first day, knowing he was hurting. The ten year old human and arachnid duo became stars and many other children came to see them play. Trod began to tire easily and soon he could only play with the toddlers brought inside. Okey would come to see Trod after school, giving him water and helping him eat. He would lay beside Okey and sleep all day long. Slowly, inch by inch, Okey would pull Trod into his lap. The hatchling would sigh and snuggle closer as Okey combed his hair with his fingers.
Eighteen months after the snake attack Okey could not find Trod. Tager found the wandering boy and nudged him. Okey looked up to Tager and followed the alfa’s line of sight. The sack that Trod slept in at night. Okey walked over to it and found a door already made for him. Trod stirred as the human entered, looking up to him. Okey sat beside Trod and ruffled his hair. Trod tried to crawl into Okey’s lap but collapsed. Okey jumped when he heard a cracking sound. Trod whimpered and a tear slid out of his eye. Okey pulled the hatchling into his lap and pulled a blanket over him. Trodite whimpered and tried to get closer. Okey scooted himself closer and combed his hair again. Trod sighed and rubbed his head against Okey’s thigh. The next month was the same routine. Trod would try to rise and his exoskeleton would crack as he fell. Okey would pull the hatchling into his lap and comb his hair. There were cracks and fractures all over his exoskeleton, all letting his flesh be seen by the end of the month. One June day Okey slid into the sack with a camera, knowing this was Trod’s last day of life. By that time he had a two percent chance of living through the next week and he was in constant pain worse than he had been at first. The hatchling didn’t even try to rise. He whimpered and looked up at Okey.
“I’m here.” Okey said as he set the camera down beside the entrance, already on record.
“Oh kay?” Trod asked
“That’s me.” Okey replied
“Tired.” Trod said
“I know.” Okey replied as he sat down.
Okey pulled Trod into his lap and combed his hair. Trod whimpered again as he filled his diaper. Okey sighed and set the hatchling on the carpet of webs and peeled the blanket off of him. Trod whimpered again as Okey changed his diaper, wiping him clean and replacing the diaper. He sat down again and pulled Trod into his lap. He pulled the blanket over the hatchling and held him. Trod’s breathing came in ragged breaths and gasps with shudders in between. After several hours Okey needed to relieve himself and tried to awaken the hatchling. The hatchling seemed to be asleep. When Okey nudged him Trod did not rise or respond. Okey brushed the towel out of Trod’s face and saw his eyes were closed but his exoskeleton was blue. Okey screamed and scrambled back. Tager stirred from his sleep and rolled to his knees as Okey’s scream became a sob. He opened the sack that held his hatchling and peeked inside. Trod was not moving. Beginning to panic Tager gently lifted his son from the bed of webs and towels and up to his shoulder. Tager gently nudged his child, hoping for some response. There was none. The wound in Trod’s side was red and angry, even after his last breath. Tager shook his head and used a knuckle to try to rouse his son. It did not work. The hatchling’s chest was still and his eyes saw nothing when Tager opened them. Okey had already concluded that Trod was dead and now sobbed inside the sack.
No, my Trodite, no. No, No, you can’t be gone. I can’t lose you too. No, come back. Tager sobbed, Trod, please come back. Please my child, please.
Galact moved to his brother’s side and wrapped two arms around his brother. Tager sobbed against his younger brother’s shoulder and held his dead child against his own shoulder. His sobs shook his shoulders, telling the scientists what had happened to the hatchling they had caught. Jamie collapsed to his knees and buried his face in his hands. Peter knelt down beside his brother and held him as Jamie too began to sob. The hatchling they had thought they’d saved was dead because they had interfered. The humans had killed the last possible alfa for the colony they had caught after the current one’s death. They had killed a baby because they had wanted to study something that was left better not studying.
Two years later, after starving himself to death and pining over his dead child, Tager was found dead curled around the remains of the sack his child had died in. The humans burned Tager’s body as they had burned Trod’s. The world watched as both of their ashes were spilled into the sinkhole they had truly called home. Those that had loved Trod for his struggle to live sobbed as his father was found dead. Humans fighting for the freedom of arachnids won their war, tears streaming down their faces as they tore the doors down. When the colony was set free they did not know what to do. Galact stepped up and ushered them to a sinkhole that had not been used by any animals for decades before the females began laying their eggs.
Two years and three weeks after Trod’s death a new hatchling was born with the markings of an alfa: large eyes that seemed to dwarf the eyes of all others. The hatchling was smaller than the others of that year, six feet and three inches. The little hatchling had grey eyes, a pale exoskeleton, black hair, and a curious look in his green eyes. He slipped out of his crib and to his father, an arachnid that had seen Trod take his first steps and named Acre. He was the first to walk and talk. He was the second to follow his father around in all that he did. He was nearly exactly like Trodite and thus was renamed Chatter.
Although Trodite and his father, the last two possible alfas known to the scientists, were gone their colony lived on with their ghosts leading the way. Their ghosts were often seen in the meadows around the colony with Trod on his father’s shoulder, climbing up into his hair as he always loved to do. Trod’s ghost would call to hatchlings and human children in danger and help them, dragging them away from danger with a large hole in his exoskeleton. Tager would assist the adults that were in need of it. After a century of others telling their stories the stories became legend and the legend still lives on. I am Jamie Callison’s granddaughter and my grandfather still talks about the hatchling arachnid that spoke to humans as he fought to live. He still talks about the hatchling he and the others had dubbed Puerdolor, after the latin translation of ‘child’ and ‘pain’. Now there is a myth around the father and son duo. ‘If a hatchling falls Puerdolor will catch them. If you listen, Dolorgigno (Hurt Father) will hiss as his child nears you to tell you that he is hurting but you should not cry. If you stand in a desert call their names they will lead you to safety. None know why these spiders help humans and spiders alike but we are grateful.’ I call their names when I need someone to stop my crying for Trodite and Tager always do that because they give me hope.