Deathspider/Midlife Crisis

From Unofficial Handbook of the Virtue Universe

Jump to: navigation, search


Go on and wring my neck

Like when a rag gets wet

A little discipline

For my pet genius

My head is like lettuce

Go on dig your thumbs in

I cannot stop giving

I'm thirty-something

Sense of security

Like pockets jingling

Midlife crisis

Suck ingenuity

Down through the family tree

You're perfect yes, it's true

But without me you're only you

Your menstruating heart

It ain't bleedin' enough for two

It's a midlife crisis...

What an inheritance

The salt and the kleenex

Morbid self attention

Bending my pinky back

A little discipline

A donor by habit

A little discipline

Rent an opinion

Sense of security

Holding blunt instrument

Midlife crisis

I'm a perfectionist

And perfect is a skinned knee

You're perfect yes it's true

But without me you're only you

Your menstruating heart

It ain't bleedin' enough for two

It's a midlife crisis...

- Faith No More, 'Midlife Crisis'

He dreamt of a beautiful white sand beach, the water was a surreal blue. He could feel the sand under his bare feet, inbetween his toes, the grit against his skin. The sun was arcing down in the western sky, the sea rising up to meet it. He turned back from the surf, towards the resort where palm fronds swayed and whispered in the gentle breeze. Under the shade of a tree, a young woman reclined on a beach towel, sunglasses glinting in the light off the waves. Wearing a white bikini and a broad-rimmed hat with a pink bow on it, she gave him a smile, beckoning him over.

He grinned, looking hungrily at her long legs, and he trod over to her, kneeling at her side.

“Well, what’s this? A kitten, all scantily clad and looking all sexy…”

She grinned and pointed at her lips. “This kitten needs kisses.”

He leaned down, lightly brushing his lips to hers. “Kisses with the option of groping?”

Her hand came to rest on his swim-trunks. “Mmm. There’s a distinct possibility of that, yes.”

He laughed softly and kissed her again. “That’s the kind of distinction I like…” She laughed and nuzzled against his cheek as her hand lightly untied the front of his trunks. “Mmmm… Are you sure? There’s still people on the beach.”

She hushed him with a kiss and pulled him down to her.

He stirred in his slumber as Daniel Wright watched, separated by a barrier of reinforced concrete, steel, and plexiglass. The Shadow Spider they had captured with the three others was restrained with cuffs and leg irons, and a collar chained to the floor, wired to give enough voltage to fry a rhino. The Spider was doped to the gills as well – he wanted no complications. Complications got people killed.

Since he was the field commander for the Metro LA resistance cell, he had lived a life of paranoia, long stretches of nervous, fearful boredom; punctuated by periodic bouts of incredible, shocking violence. His face bore the scars of a ‘complication’ – a Shadow Spider had infiltrated the Cell in his native Memphis, and he was one of the few survivors.

Since then, very little was left to chance. A resistance cell who didn’t bide their time, prepared for contingencies, and took every precaution to prevent ‘complications’ usually ended up dead.

Or eaten.

The regime in Washington was utterly corrupt, a group of gangsters and kleptocrats and scum, all bought out by the corporations long ago, who in turn were controlled by the Council. Very few outside the higher echelons of both the resistance and the government knew of the Council. Originally a terrorist group from Italy, they had suddenly disappeared off the radars of most counter-terrorist organizations. They went deep underground, their operatives infiltrating the powerful multi-national corporations. They took public office. Over the course of several decades, they had reached the highest levels of government. And who would stop them? Even the president was buddy-buddy with Saudi oil princes who fund terrorist factions all over the Middle East.

With the money and limitless resources of the government, the Council was free to mass produce some of their nasty pet projects. Genetically enhanced soldiers, enhanced cybernetic troops, directed energy weapons, and last but not least, the monsters like the Shadow Spiders. The werewolves and the vampires were too ostentatious, too limited in scope. The Shadow Spiders were monstrous yet versatile killers, able to shift back and forth from human to hybrid form.

They had become an urban legend, leaving bits of their victims behind, terrifying wraiths trailing the dissidents, the radicals, the people causing the regime irritation.

Now, no one dared to speak against the establishment. Labor movements, already anemic from the past several decades, had effectively ceased to exist. There was no counterpoints offered by artists, literature, film, comedians – even the anonymous internet was no protection from reprisals, and they occurred with startling and sickening speed. Many an indignant college student had been ripped apart by the Spiders after making pamphlets, organizing some meaningless demonstration, or even posting an inflammatory statement that may have only tangentially referred to the monolithic establishment.

But there was a resistance. Referred to as terrorists and traitors, small cells of people tired of being weak, scared, and impotent started to form. Possessed of a necessary rabid paranoia, organization was a slow process, fraught with peril. Trying to make contact with another cell was a difficult and dangerous affair – you could meet sympathizers attempting to root out the resistance, undercover cops or military, or xenophobic maniacs who had long screamed about such a situation like this from their isolated, white supremacist, survivalist camps in rural strongholds.

Often, Wright met more fanatical racist skinheads in resistance cells than in the enemy they both fought. Still, some cooperation was necessary for arms, ammunition, information and the like – as much as he would like, his cell could not shun them. You just had to use them correctly, and not any black operatives in sight of the racists. A bullet from a frothing white skinhead will kill you just as surely as from a storm trooper rifle.

Wright was a tired man.

Years of hiding, fighting, of fear, had taken its toll on him. His wife and family killed in the Memphis riots, when the military had opened fire on a group of protestors. He was a man who didn’t have skin anymore – every inch of him was a callus. He had become hardened to brutality and horror and violence. So when the three people he had brought in with the Shadow Spider, he didn’t spare their feelings or made any attempt to coddle them.

They had a choice to make – fight or die. They had been marked and that was that. If they couldn’t cope, they would die. The world was too cold to give them anything else. And gently coaxing them along was anathema to Wright. Coddling was for children before they realized what a horrible thing life was. They were adults. They had better realize that Wright gave them the only chance they had, or they’d be eaten. Now that the four Spiders that had been assigned to take care of them didn’t report in and they found the bodies, these people’s lives were forfeit.

As for the Shadow Spider that saved them, well, that was an interesting dilemma.

He was a musician, really big with the Latinos. But he was most definitely a Spider. The Sniffer units all resistance fighters in the Cell carried confirmed this, detecting the chemical traces in the air, coming from the pores in his skin. But he definitely was the one who killed the Spiders sent after Penny Richards. Not an everyday occurrence, that.

He couldn’t be left unattended, that was for sure. A loose Shadow Spider in the safehouse? He had seen the results of that before, no thanks. Perhaps he was a rogue. Kind of high profile for a rogue. A cursory internet search had brought up his appearances in Latin America and Europe. Either the regime had Spiders in the entertainment world, or… well, why would they let a rogue go on Entertainment Tonight? His passport was freshly stamped. He’d only been in the country a couple of days. And the Council wasn’t really into, how shall we say… not very tolerant of people with a skin color other than white.

It definitely bore further investigation.

But for now, he had some new recruits to look after.

He dreamt of many things.

An eternity of fighting, brutal battles with an astonishing variety of thugs, mobsters, robots, dead things, bizarre monsters ranging from disembodied toothed eyes to gigantic beasts made of crystal, others like werewolves or Lovecraftian horrors. Supervillains and psychopaths and incredibly powerful madmen. He’d seen nuclear explosions, alternate dimensions, demons, and would-be world conquerors.

A city filled with people out of a comic book.

It was insanity, dressing in a juvenile costume and beating people senseless. But by contrast, here in his world, it was no less insane. An Orwellian nightmare of conspiracy and totalitarianism and monsters lurking in the dark. And he, a simple, insignificant musician, a Mexican guitarist, who worked hard to get where he was, enjoying fame and fortune and all the things they brought.

And in the dream, he found himself comparing this insane fantasy world of comic superheroes and villains, and the life he led here.

In the Hero world… well… who was he?

The dream unfurled, from his life in King’s Row, a lowly drug runner, to falling off the expressway and into the clutches of the Council, being vivisected and changed and turned into a creature, a killing machine.

He could have been like one of the Shadow Spiders, the beasts who served as the secret killers of the US government, like they were in his world. He could have been a monster. His flesh could have consumed his spirit.

And for a time, it almost did.

But he chose to rise above his situation, the circumstance became happenstance. And he chose to become a Hero, and not a victim.

He wasn’t perfect by any means – some of the things he did made Miguel cringe. Bad decisions, some bouts of contemptuous self-pity, tactical errors that hurt him badly. Seeking validation and his self-worth in women unwilling or unable to give it. His attitude sucked. A lot.

But at the end of the day, he was still trying. Trying to make a difference.

Miguel felt a little envious. He looked at himself, and his achievements and money and fame, and found himself lacking in areas where this dream hero excelled, where the Hero had overcome a horrible, life-altering event, his change into a Spider, Miguel’s only trial in life was getting on-stage. Everything came to him so easily, he really wanted for nothing.

While the Hero railed against injustice and cared about changing the world where he could, what had Miguel done? The great injustice in his world, the empire the United States was establishing, he was content to be cowed by fear like everyone else. He was no real victim here, he was a disinterested bystander.

While the empire silenced people with fear, he not only remained silent, he did so willingly, as to not sabotage his precious dream of being a star.

Here, he had let his dream consume his spirit. Here, he was meek and silent and uninvolved.

But what was the point of opening his mouth? He couldn’t change things. What could one insignificant guitar player from Meh-he-co do what thousands of righteously indignant people tried to do, and ended up in the stomachs of the Spiders for their efforts? What was the point of throwing all that he had away for a freedom that was impossible to attain, a freedom that people like himself wouldn’t appreciate anyway?

Look at the world!

Look at a culture that cares more about American Idol and Dancing With The Stars and who’s got a nicer living room set, who’s got a bigger SUV. Is that a culture worthy of someone sacrificing themselves? And what would people think anyway? Would they even appreciate the sacrifice? Would they simply dismiss it as some random crazy person? Or would, deep down, they resent the implication that they themselves were nothing but sheep, too comfortable, nestled in their debt and their precious job and family and every other trapping our culture uses to keep people too busy and too doped up, to keep them subordinate and stupid?

What, then, is the point of sacrifice when it is unwanted and unappreciated?

But upon further review, it wasn’t about self-sacrifice at all. His other self was perfectly aware of how society felt. That altruism was folly – the world was so filled with injustice and inequality and waste that one man’s sacrifice was ultimately meaningless. People, the world at large, you have to realize that you will never change the way they feel, human nature is selfish and petty, animal instinct with the conceit of sophistication and intellect.

You do it for them, in spite of them.

And you do it for yourself. You do it for any number of reasons, there’s plenty, take your pick. You have to realize that, yes, the world is too big to change all by yourself. But you do what you can to make the world, your life, something you can stand to look at. Whether you find redemption or satisfaction or validation, that’s subjective.

You do what you can, and let the philosophers and thinkers and the navel gazers wrack their brains trying to find an ethical explanation, because deep down you already know the truth.

Do what you can.

And you can do it whether you have power or not, everyone has the potential to change their world. Sometimes they choose not to, they are comfortable with the life they’ve chosen.

But not Miguel. Not with the unflattering reflection he saw in the mirror of himself. Not anymore.

Do what you can.

And what you can do is…

“Wake up.”

Wright stood over Miguel’s bound form, looking down with a glacial calm. Miguel blinked and rolled on his side, taking account of the situation. Around him, several men and women in urban camouflage stood ready, armed with all manner of firearms, looking quite willing to shoot him if he so much as sneezed.

“Uh… Buenos dias…” he mumbled, growing restless inside the straitjacket.

“Well, polite courtesy is always a nice thing to hear from a Spider.” The man with the black beret said, his hands clasped behind his back.

“I do endeavor to try. I am wondering – what is with all the guns?”

The man with the beret grinned. “Los Angeles hospitality, son. We tend to take precautions with Spiders.”

“Mm. So it appears.”

“What we’d like to know is why you went rogue.”


“Yeah. Rogue. As in: why did you carve up those Spiders at Tyler Preston’s studio? You, yourself, being a Spider and all.”

“I… they… they attacked me. I know that Tyler and the women he was with, they had a video of them. And I know I am not one of them.”

The man curled his lip. “Define ‘not one of them’, because the wound marks on those Spider corpses are definitely from another Shadow Spider. And the pheromones coming off your skin are telling us different. So that right there is kind of disputing your claim. Unless you mean ‘Not One of Them’, which would, given the evidence we have, make a lot more sense. It also gives more credence to the ‘rogue’ theory we’re batting around, right? So. That brings us back to square one. Why did you go rogue?”

Miguel thought for a moment.

He rolled onto his other side and angled his head to look at the man with the beret. “It’s pretty complicated. I’m not entirely sure I know what’s going on. Right now, your guess is as good as mine.”

The man grunted, folding his arms over his chest. “That’s not answering my question.” He cleared his throat. “I think you need to get an idea of what sort of situation you’re in. You, for all intents and purposes, are a Spider. One of the enemy. Right now, you’re in the presence of the Metro LA resistance, and we will fucking kill you if we do not feel satisfied with the information you give us. If you are a rogue, then we will take the appropriate measures. If you are with the Spiders, then you can damn well better believe we will take the appropriate measures. So, please, be candid.”

The man squatted down, narrowing his eyes at Miguel. “I’m going to give you ten minutes to tell me a tale. If you’re holding out on me, boy, I will personally blow your goddamned head off. Tick tock, Mr. Sanchez.”

The man stood, his knees crackling like popcorn.

“Everyone out. Let’s leave our arachnid friend, let him have some time to think.”

As the scuffle and rustle of the troops filed out of the holding cell, Miguel exhaled.

Right. Do what you can.


Ten minutes later, Wright walked into the holding cell wielding a very large pistol. He looked down at Miguel grimly and prompted him to speak with a wave of his hand.

Miguel swallowed hard. “Ah…. You know, you have a very brusque method of encouraging a dialogue.”

Wright’s reply was curt. “I do endeavor to try.”

“You’re going to think I’m making it up. Hell, I’m not even sure if I believe it.”

“Then you’ve got nothing to lose. Talk.”

Miguel rolled back onto his other side. “I’m a Mexican flamenco player who came to the United States to record an album. I met Tyler Preston two days ago. That night, I started having very vivid dreams of another city where I was a super hero with super powers just like a Shadow Spider. I went to Preston’s studio yesterday to start recording, and I found the studio dark and left wide open. When I went inside, I was attacked by the Spiders. Somehow, I killed them all and freed the others.” He paused. “Then you shot me.”

There was a brief moment of silence.

Wright raised the pistol and aimed it at Miguel’s face.

“You were right. I don’t believe you.”

Personal tools

Interested in advertising?