i take a weary swig from the battered gatorade container. a drop for my dry mouth, then nothing. it doesn’t feel cold enough in my hand. i hear the ice shift when i tip it on its side, feel its heft and take a closer look. nearly full, still. i notice the fruit flies and larvae frozen in the water beyond the plastic, watching and waiting for reanimation or death. as it thaws, so do they. as i drink, they die. i don’t care. i don’t have the time.
sitting at someone else’s desk. creating an outlook in the desert heat among a tangled web of files and tasks in virtual and physical piles. i drift lazily between dream worlds of little boxes on the screen in front of me and messy stacks — both short and tall — that surround and swarm aggressively inside my mind, clouding thoughts and clogging neural pathways. confused, overwhelmed. drowning in the last dry heave of life. someday soon this parody will continue to play without me.
an idea finds me through the fog. some sleep might help. i urge my aching body to stand from the uncomfortable chair and walk over to the bed, bottle of frozen water still in hand. i try taking another swig to get a little more of what i wanted. some fruit flies always escape. most don’t.
lowering the bottle, i startle and freeze cold at the sight of the conspicuous dark shapes resting secure in space atop my comfy white pillow. out of place. my tortured eyes struggle, focus slowly and adjust in the dim light of the room. three giant arthropods. at least seven inches, each — even with legs retracted. black. shiny. dangerous. alive? pulsing. slow and smooth just as my heart pounds fast and hard, adrenal glands pumping sweat rancid with fear. i try to recognize the scene, and fail. two, clearly mating. spiders of different species, it seems. mating. victoriously relaxed. the third, not quite a spider. close, but not quite. an outsider. slightly larger, sitting completely still opposite the slow, rhythmic pulsing of the mating pair. it watches. it waits.
finally, i recognize them in the hazy silence of the early hours, while the Others sleep. an icy chill runs down my spine, and i shiver. no longer Strangers, i don’t dare go closer and disturb their ritual focus. they take note of my presence without breaking rhythm. they don’t care, because i don’t interfere, nor do i intend to. moreso than i, they know this. cautious, i back away and return slowly to the desk in a daze. exhausted, and unable to sleep. thirsty, and unable to drink. overwhelmed, and unable to concentrate. i convince myself it’s better this way.
my work keeps moving through cycles, where the end of the old rotation starts to look a lot like the beginning of the new. tonight, i’m the one watching. waiting for it to finish. for the track to break, the train to derail. i feel it getting close, coming through the dry desert air, dripping with expectation.
the sun rises over the horizon, greeting me with its giant, painful light. always right on time. i feel an intense scrutiny beneath the looming lens, ignore thoughts of water and rain, and prepare myself for the escalation of another day when the Others wake…