The Museum

by bdhesse

“Grandpa?” I called down the dark hallway. “I’m here.”

I see the light flash on down the hallway and the shuffling of feet. My grandpa’s head peaks out around the corner.

“Oh, you made it,” my grandpa says with some confusion. “I didn’t think you’d come, what with the weather.” He shuffles towards me as I take off my soaked  jacket.

“Of course I came,” I reply. “How would anything get done if I didn’t.”

My grandpa chuckles. “I’m not that old!” he teases.

I grin at him. “What did you need me to do?” I ask.

My grandpa thinks for a moment. “I can’t remember the last time we cleaned the arachnid displays. Would you mind dusting them?”

I frown. I hate that part of the museum. Cases upon cases of dead bugs. And most of them are up high too. And it’s dark outside. What more does a person need for a nightmare? “Fine,” I reply.

My grandpa smiles at me. “Thank you, my dear,” he says. “Now, if you’ll excuse me. I should get back to the front desk in case someone else is crazy enough to brave this storm.”

I chuckle as I walk into the old museum. It’s small, so I didn’t have far to go to get to my destination. I set to work dusting off the floor displays, many of which are so dusty it’s hard to see the dead spiders inside. These are the smaller spiders. Some so small they require magnification to see. The ones on the wall hold the really horrors: giant spiders so big they could probably eat a small dog. Disgusting.

Once the floor cases are clear I grab the ladder. The type of ladder you’d expect to see in an old library, with wheels that slide along the floor. I slide it along the wall towards the closest spider displays. This part of the job is the worst: I spend more time climbing up and down the ladder than I do actually cleaning the cases.

Finally I get to the most difficult cases to clean: the ones that follow the stairs up. They are the highest to reach, and the ladder doesn’t quite slide all the way to them. I find myself swearing as I reach over and try to clean them as carefully as possible.

I shiver as I clean the first case. As the dust comes away the tarantula in the case becomes clear. It’s a big, hairy beast. Probably as big as my foot. I’d hate to see how big it looked without it’s legs curled up under it. As much as I’ve always hated these displays, these last two spiders always creeped me out the most: neither one looks right. This first one appears brown from a distance, but up close it has an odd blue tinge.

The second one is worse. It appears to have an odd sea-shell pattern on its back. A blue and green swirling pattern. It’s really pretty, but not something one should see on a spider.

I lean over the side of the ladder to reach the case.

“Shit!” I cry as I bump it a little too hard. The case begins to tip precariously towards the edge of the shelf.

I try to catch it, but too late. The glass case falls towards the ground below. I stare sadly at the mess down below.

As I look up, I notice the spider is still on the shelf.It didn’t tumble with it’s case.

“Well, I suppose that’s a good thing,” I say to myself.

I begin to descend the ladder. As I start going down, I notice movement in the corner of my eye. I look up to see the tarantula scurrying towards me.

“Grandpa!” I scream in sheer terror.

I try to get down the ladder more quickly, but the spider is fast.

“Get away from me!” I cry as I try to smack it with the duster.

It dodges the blow and keeps scurrying towards me.

I swing at it again, but drop the duster.

The spider lunges at me, so I throw myself to the edge of the ladder.

It looks ready to lunge again, so I drop the last distance to the floor.

The spider lands where I had just been, then scurries towards the ground.

I begin running out of the room. As I get to the door, I slam it shut. The spider hisses and rams it like a rabid animal.

“What’s wrong?” my grandpa asks as he comes shuffling towards me.

“The spider’s alive!” I cry in sheer terror.

“That’s impossible,” my grandpa says. “Those things have been in those cases since I was a boy.”

The spider rams the door again.

“Then how do you explain that?” I demand.

“It’s not possible,” my grandpa cries.

“We need to go,” I say as I grab him by the arm. I pull him out into the rain.

“Where are we going?” my grandpa cries.

“I don’t know,” I reply. “We need help.”

As we’re running, a bright light appears. A shrill honking follows closely behind it.

I open my eyes to a bright room and my mom’s face.

“Where’s grandpa?” I ask.

My mom looks worried. “Hunny, your grandfather died two years ago,” she says.

“No,” I reply, confused. “There was a spider. We were running down the street. A car hit us.”

My mom looks even more worried. “Sweetheart,” she says calmly. “You just woke up from your knee surgery.”

“What?” I ask.

My mom looks up. “Is this normal?” she asks someone I can’t see.

There is a chuckle. “It’s the drugs,” a male voice replies. “They’ll wear off soon.”