The next episode in the Myke Phoenix saga is officially one month late, but I have it on good authority that it will definitely arrive less than two months late. Because you’ve been so patient (or don’t care to the point where you still haven’t even sampled these wonderful tales), here is a significant chunk (but not all) of the prologue to Firespiders Unleashed:
. . .
Arnie Rogers was still getting used to being the sheriff of Astor County. He had been perfectly happy being chief deputy and letting his old boss Rod Skjorte handle all the administrative stuff, but then Rod had to get himself killed when aliens invaded town. That fact in itself was very difficult to accept.
It had been a weird year anyway, starting with that nutbag who walked around kissing women. That goofy superhero had to break up a fight when a bunch of angry boyfriends and husbands surrounded the guy. That was nothing next to the giant spiders that spit fire, the aliens, the big storm, the bridge collapse – what was happening to his sleepy little town?
When the phone rang in the middle of the night, it was never a good sign.
“Rogers,” he muttered into the phone, hanging onto the last shreds of a dream where he was on a Hawaiian beach with his wife 25 years ago, when they both were young and lean.
“I’m sorry to bother you, sheriff, but it’s the spiders again.”
That woke him up. Even the sound of the ocean waves stopped abruptly.
A few minutes later Arnie Rogers was in uniform and pulling up to a home near the University of Astor City, where several other squad cars were parked and stabbing the early-morning dark with red, blue and white flashing lights.
“Hey, Carson,” Rogers greeted the first uniform he spotted. “What do we got?”
“Well, sir, Mr. Thompson over there says he was walking his dog –”
“Pretty durnfangled early in the morning to be walking his dog, don’t you think?”
“Says he goes into work at 4.”
“Yep, sure. OK, walking his dog.”
“– And he sees this pack of little wolves or something cross the road over there, just scooting from the Lemens’ house into the woods across the street,” Carson said. “Except when he looked closer, they weren’t wolves, they were big spiders. At least he thought that’s what they were.”
“Carson, I’ve seen big spiders. There’s no mistaking.”
“Right. Well, they weren’t as big as the firespiders. More like puppy spiders, or whatever you call a pack of baby spiders.”
“It’s a cluster,” the sheriff said.
“It sure is,” Carson agreed.
“No, you idiot, a cluster of spiders. I don’t know why I remember that.”
“Right. Well, we’ve been going through the woods, but there’s no sign of a – cluster of spiders.”
“OK, well, get a statement from Thompson and keep looking for a while. Sounds like you all have it under control,” Rogers said. “I’m going back to bed.”
“Sir? What should we tell the media?”
“Tell them to go back to bed, too.”
“Well, all of the television stations and a couple other reporters are here asking for a statement,” Carson said. “I told them they’d have to wait for the sheriff.”
“Fudge, a duck, and her 12 sisters,” Rogers spat. “OK, I’ll deal with the press.”
“Sheriff Rogers! Sheriff Rogers!” the pack seemed to cry in unison.
“That’s my name, don’t wear it out,” Arnie Rogers shot back as he walked up squinting against the lights. A cluster of young men and women with perfect hair huddled in the darkness behind the lights.
The money sound bite that was reported in the paper and played on every radio, TV and Internet newscast for the next 24 hours was Sheriff Arnie Rogers looking grim and perhaps a little sleepy, saying, “I know people are skittish after the events of several months ago, and maybe they see things that look like something they’re not. We also remind people that making a false report can result in a stuff fine.”
“You’re not saying that Mr. Thompson made this whole thing up?”
Arnie Rogers thought for a second before replying, “No, I think he saw something that made him think of little firespiders. I just don’t want people getting ideas that it’d be fun to tie up the police by reporting other sightings.”
For the next three days and nights, the police and sheriff’s dispatchers were flooded with reports about giant baby spiders. Most of the reports were indeed pranks.
Most of them.