From Unofficial Handbook of the Virtue Universe

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You're dead!

Ah ha ha! Open your eyes!

See the world as it used to be when you used to be in it

When you were alive and when you were in love

And when I took it from you!

It's not over yet

You don't remember?

I won't let you forget

The hatred I bestowed

Upon your neck with a fatal blow

From my teeth and my tongue

I've drank and swallowed, but it's just begun

Now you are mine

I'll keep killing you until the end of time

Surprise! You're dead!

Guess what?

It never ends...

The pain, the torment and torture, profanity

Nausea, suffering, perversion, calamity

You can't get away

- Faith No More, Suprise, You're Dead!

It had been fiftenn minutes since the nightmare began.

Fifteen minutes since the horrors had burst in, chittering, slavering abominations, and for Penny Richards, it was the worst fifteen minutes of her life.

Aatiya, Tyler, and Penny were held tight in a tangled web of sticky, ropey tendrils that had erupted from the Shadow Spider’s hands, binding their arms, legs, and torsos. Held fast as the black fanged beings moved about, securing the camcorder with the incriminating evidence upon it, Penny Richards realized that the blinding, insane fear she had left before was nothing compared to the feeling she now felt, the finality, the true face of life, she would be devoured.

She counted four of them – powerfully built, with dark grey carapace-like flesh, brutal looking spines erupting from their shoulders, vicious curved talons on the tips of each finger, white hair on their heads, wisps of it like spider-silk flowing in the breeze from the air-vents.

The eyes, glowing with a malevolence usually reserved for demons in a movie. And the terrible, translucent fangs, dripping with clear liquid. She was reminded of the old ‘80’s sci-fi movie, Aliens.

Fitting, because these Shadow Spiders definitely matched the description.

There was one that looked vaguely feminine, with long, flowing white silk for hair. She seemed the one taking the most enjoyment out of the situation, the cruelest. There was an especially large one, his white hair braided into cornrows. He had taken down Tyler, Tyler with his huge arms and stocky frame, with effortless brutality. The others were almost identical to each other in height, build, hair, and eerily enough, movements, body language, and talked at the same time, hideously synchronized twins.

The large one held the tape in his taloned hand, pinched between two claws. A merciless, amused grin formed, revealing those gleaming fangs.

“Look what we have herrrre….” A deep voice, rumbling from it’s chest.

“Did you think you could esssssscape ussss?” the female lightly growled, perched upon the wall, and began licking each tip of her claws, eyeing their captives.

“You thought…” one of the twins began.

“We were fairrry…” the other finished, seamlessly breaking in, and his twin finished for him, just as seamless.

“…tales, didn’t you?”

The large one stepped close to Penny – his proximity, his smell, making her writhe in unreasoning terror, thrashing against her bonds. His pheromone scent ignited the animal, reptile brain inside of her, the reaction akin to the heart pounding fear of a rabbit in the shadow of the hawk, for this thing in front of her was predator, and she was pretty. And for all of humanity’s much vaunted achievements, for all of our so-called higher reasoning and intellect, when confronted with a true predator, we revert back to the fearful, weak, defenseless prey we once were on the savannahs of primordial Africa, huddled around a fire while the wolves watched in the darkness, the firelight reflected in their eyes.

This wolf had Penny Richards, helpless, reflected in his.

All illusions, all hopes, dreams, affectations of achievement and the arrogance of our modern lives died in the glowing red orbs that promised oblivion.

“You caught ssssome interrresssting footage, Misssss Rrrrrichardssss…” it purred, wagging a finger in her face. “You werrrrre peeking. Sssssome thingssss people sssshouldn’t concerrrrn themssssselvessss with.”

The female on the wall skittered overhead, crawling up and over the wall and stopped,her face now upside down and inches away from Aatiya’s. “Yourrrr frrrrriendssss, I wonderrrrr if they will tasssste asssss good assss yourrrr otherrrrr onessss…”

The twins stood apart, silent, subordinate, perhaps. Penny didn’t know if she could handle their weird synchro-talk.

“Ssssee… the migrrrrantsss you sssaw… they arrre a thrrreat to ourrrr countrrrry… it’ssss rrright that they sssshould die, they’rrrrre not even Amerrrricanssss… Sssscum, sssubhumansss… But foolsss like you believe in letting anyone into ourrrr countrrry, diluting it, sssspoiling it….” The big one, the Alpha male growled.

The female hissed in Aatiya’s terrified face. “Sssspoiling ourrrr food sssupply…”

“Mud people… dirrrrt farrrrmerrrrsss, in the dirrrt wherrre they belong….” The large one spat, and in a horrible mockery of tenderness, caressed Penny’s jawline with a talon. “You, howeverrrr… Sssssso nice, pink, crrrreamy…”

The female ran her tongue along Aatiya’s cheek. “Delicioussss…”

Tyler groaned, woozily coming to.

Penny wished he wouldn’t.

The big Shadow Spider laughed, harsh and sibilant.

“Ssssso glad you could join ussss… catching you napping feelssss sssso cheap…”

Tyler shook his head, blinking. Penny heard him gasp “Oh God” in a very weak voice.

And then, they seemed to stop all at once, their heads turning towards the door. Faintly, a Hispanic man’s voice.

“Hello? Senor Tyler? I forgot to give you your wife’s cell phone…”

The four Shadow Spiders darted in the direction of the sound. So much for a reprieve.

A tear rolled down Penny’s cheek.

She had never felt more helpless.

Miguel looked into the studio, every light was off, yet the door was still open. Curious, but…

He shook his head. He smelled something. That same feeling of being watched fell over him, the insane rush of energy that he felt in his dreams. He shuddered, and doubled over, clutching his stomach.

He heard something, something scuttling towards him. It was like the roar of a freight train, SO LOUD. He looked up and…

The Shadow Spiders were swarming out of the back room, eyes flashing, teeth bared…

…Just like in the dream…

…Just like he was in the dream…

The Spiders hissed as they came at him, frothing with venom, like a nightmare come to life.

He jerked spasmodically, his body surging with adrenaline, his heart machine-gunning beats in his chest, but he wasn’t ready for it, his conscious mind wasn’t prepared to command the body, his fear freezing his thoughts.

The man he was in his dreams was not the man who had worked his way out of the cantinas playing guitar, who was a famous flamenco player, who was on Entertainment Tonight. The man in his dreams was born in blood and misery and violence, a killer like the predators coming at him.

The largest impacted against him, bowling him over on his back. The fluid grace the others saw was slowed down to normal, what was once a black blur of death was now in regular time. And now the thing was over him, fangs so close to his throat, fetid breath washing over him. It’s nostrils flared.

“Hnnngh… well… thisss isss sssstrrrrange…”

Out of instinct, instinct that was honed in another reality, another world, Miguel pushed up with his hands, slamming into the chest of the Shadow Spider, knocking it clear.

The Spider, quite bewildered himself, impacted against the ceiling, plaster shattering, and bits of it fell to the ground as the Spider clung there.

The female snarled. “Well, we have a live one, don’t we?”

The twins, creeping along the walls, started their eerie back and forth.

“Well, brother.”

“Yes, brother?”

“It seems we have.”

“A renegade.”

“Among us.”

“A lost spider…”

“…Come to play…”

Miguel, too confused to think, let his conscious mind go, none of it made much sense anyway. His body was, it appeared, to be the only one clued in.

So let his body figure it out.

The big one with cornrows leapt at him, talons outstretched, hissing. Without thinking, for his mind, the mind of this world, couldn’t process things fast enough. His body knew what to do.

Flashing out with an uppercut, his fist impacted against the Spider’s chin, the jawbone snapping in half. The huge form of the Spider collided with the floor, the ceramic tiles breaking with a brittle crack. Miguel took to the ceiling, clinging there, as the female came at him, snarling.

As she launched herself, he dug his fingers into the ceiling, swinging his feet down together, and he pistoned them into the female, abruptly stopping her forward momentum.

She grunted with the impact, her claws coming out and the talons dug into the flesh of his thighs. Hissing, he let go of the ceiling as she clung to him, and his weight slammed into her as she met the floor. She screamed, his weight compressing her ribcage, asphyxiating her. With a savage growl, he took his hands and closed them around her windpipe. His thumbs on her windpipe, he heard the crackle of cartilage as he began to choke the life out of her.

Clawed hands shot out and scooped him under his armpits, and he was airborne, thrown back by the twins. On instinct, he somersaulted in mid-air, landing in a crouch in the hallway leading into the recording area. He hissed in defiance.

From the time the leader of the pack had pounced on him till now, fifteen seconds had elapsed.



“You?” the twins whispered, both crouching low. Behind them, the female was choking on her own blood, and the leader was rolling around in pain, spitting out a broken fang.

“Lost little.”


Miguel faked left, then as the twins anticipated a right move, he darted left, bounced off the wall, and slammed into the brother crawling on the right wall. The drywall gave way, crunching in under the impact. Swiftly slipping an arm around the brother’s head, he yanked the Spider in front of him, where the twin on the left wall rushed forward, hand already coming down in an arc, and the Spider sank his talons deep into his brother’s face. The twin shrieked in agony.

Miguel dropped the Shadow Spider to the ground and lashed out, breaking the remaining twin’s cheekbone. The twin staggered, and Miguel followed up with a roundhouse kick, shifting the Spider’s face several inches from where it should have been. The twins were down.

The female was on him, shrieking in a choked, gurgling tone, claws going for his eyes. She knocked him to the ground, both snarling like wolves. He slammed a knee into her gut and forced her off. The female landed on her side, and was up in an instant. She attempted to gurgle something, but her partially crushed trachea prevented it. She sprang at him.

Instinct prevailed. Miguel’s hand, now tipped with the cruel, curving claws, flashed out in a chop.

She fell, clutching her throat, blood gushing out.

She collapsed, twitching, bleeding, choking on her own blood.

The big one with cornrows staggered at him, red eyes flaring. His jaw was shattered, but seeing his pack go down had gotten him back in the fight.

Miguel hissed, crouching low, his claws bloodied.

The alpha male drooled venom, his jaw hanging slack. He lunged forward, claws leading.

Miguel went low, somersaulting forward, tucking his legs, and as he rolled onto his back, his feet shot out, impacting against the alpha male’s knee, dislocating it, bursting the kneecap – the Spider’s leg bent backwards.

A strangled cry of agony erupted from the Spider’s misshapen maw as he toppled over, blinding pain rendering it stunned.

Which would explain why it went down wrong, the broken leg underneath it, a sound not unlike a piece of chicken being apart, gristle and flesh tearing wetly.

Miguel growled, crawling forward, and grasped the alpha male’s head and twisted, snapping the Spider’s neck. The Spider choked out a gasp, then fell silent, shuddering as it died.

Miguel let the body drop, breathing hard. He swayed slightly, then his back slapped against the wall, chest rising and falling. Slowly, his mind returned, consciousness filtering through the violent red haze.

Oh God… just… like my dreams, he thought. He wondered if this was another of his dreams, a waking dream. As if he had fallen asleep while walking, or made it back to the hotel room, and this…

The pain in his thighs where the female had driven her claws into his flesh – that seemed too real. Too strident to be anything but real.

If this was real, then… what happened to Tyler and the women?

He rushed into the living room outside the booth and saw Aatiya, Tyler, and the blonde woman bound tightly to the wall with strands of what appeared to be webbing.

“Tyler?” he said breathlessly.

The women and Tyler looked at him incredulously.

“The Spiders! Where are they?” the blonde asked.

“Jesus Christ, Miguel…” Tyler exclaimed. “How… how did you get past them?”

Miguel, his hands crimson with blood, his pant legs shredded and damp with more of the same, winced as he made his way over to the Tyler (somehow ripping away the webbing that was clinging to the woman’s bodies, one woman being Tyler’s wife, seemed a bit too familiar) and pulled away a ropy mass that bound Tyler’s wrist. It broke away, somewhat brittle now, dark blood oozing out from what appeared to be blood vessels in the thin strands. Miguel gritted his teeth and yanked away more of the webbing, soaking both men in brackish, coagulating blood.

“How did you get past them?” Tyler looked out into the hallway once he was free, and saw the four bodies of the Shadow Spiders, shocked.

“I don’t know…” Miguel muttered, slumping against a nearby wall. He was pale, sweating profusely. He mopped his forehead with his sleeve.

“Miguel?” Tyler persisted, seeing the sunlight reflecting off pools of blood under the Spider’s bodies.

“I said, I don’t know!” Miguel said, fear, exhaustion, adrenaline making his voice shrill.

Tyler stared a moment longer at the abattoir his front hallway had become, shaking his head.

“Tyler!” Aatiya screamed. “Get us out of here!”

Tyler went to his wife and began ripping away the blood filled webbing with a grunt, looking over at Miguel suspiciously, nervously. “What are you?”

Miguel wiped his face again, leaving bloodstains on his face. “I don’t know.”

The four looked upon the corpses of the Shadow Spiders, taken out to the back, and laid out near the dumpster.

Aatiya had hastily mopped up the blood in the front hallway, but the air still stank of their scent. Now laid out on a layer of black plastic trash bags, the creatures looked just as horrific in death as they did in life.

“Miguel… you’d better start talking.” Tyler said quietly.

Miguel looked down at the bodies, not really sure this was happening. “I came back, to give you guys Aatiya’s cellphone, and… the big one here…” he pointed. “This one jumped on me and after that… I don’t know. Everything went away.”

Aatiya shook her head, still in shock. “How do you not know?”

Penny had her camcorder running, taking footage of the corpses. She was somewhat steadier now, but the rush of fear and adrenaline was wearing off – she was crashing, and only the opportunity to have proof of the Shadow Spider’s existence kept her on her feet.

“We can’t stay here, not now. Whoever sent those guys, they’ll be wondering why they haven’t reported in.”

Aatiya knelt down, touching the weird hid of the alpha Spider. “But where do we go?”

A metallic click, on cue, answered them.

“The only place you can go. With us.”

They turned to see several men in urban camouflage, all armed to the teeth with assault rifles and other assorted small arms. A man with a black beret stepped forward, a pattern of criss-crossing scars marring his face. He regarded the four with ice blue eyes.

“You’ve been marked. The Spiders have their scent on you. Going back to your normal lives is no longer an option. You can either wait for their kind to catch up to you or you can come with us.”

Tyler frowned, crossing his arms over his chest. “Who are you, buddy?”

The man with the beret grinned, but the smile didn’t touch those cold eyes. “I’m the guy whose gonna save your hides. Unless you want to be Spider bait.”

Tyler looked down at the four corpses of the Shadow Spiders, then a suspicious look to Miguel. His frown deepened. “Hunh… I think that’s a good enough answer.”

The man with the beret nodded grimly. “Good choice. One thing though. Davidson!”

Another man rushed to side, wielding a rifle. The man in the beret gestured to the group. “Sorry for this in advance, but we haven’t survived this long by taking unnecessary risks.”

The man, Davidson, smirked and raised the rifle, aiming at Miguel, who looked at the man with the beret uncomphrendingly. The man nodded.

Davidson fired, a blue feathered dart slammed into Miguel’s neck. Dazed, Miguel swayed on his feet, the world losing cohesion.

He fell into blackness.

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