They had left two days before. Lynn’s job was to care for the house while everyone was gone. It was an easy task, or series of tasks, unless something went wrong. That happened often after the Big Freeze
The generator ran all by itself, fueled by two huge tanks of diesel in the garage. It was barely audible. In fact, unless she thought about it, she didn’t hear it at all. If the generator quit, there was nothing to be done. Lynn was not mechanical. Not in the least.
Her husband and son had gone after their daughter. Both Tom and Mike were mechanically talented, in almost every area. The basement was nothing more than a series of specialty shops covering such mysterious areas as electronics, electric, and plumbing. All areas that Lynn did not even want to think about. She worried about them though. She briefly thought back to the days, not long ago when, if something in the house failed, she could simply call some expert and have that person come fix whatever the problem was.
The Big Freeze had changed everything. One day everything had simply stopped. The electricity had gone off, never to come back on. The gas to the oven and range had quit. And people had gone into some sort of cave mentality. Almost everyone stayed home, unless they had to get something really bad. What television they could get told of a temporary downturn brought about by energy shortages and economic failure of the banks and insurance companies. There was hope if one watched television, which they didn’t do much because the generator only produced enough electricity for necessities. They could watch some television during the day because no lights had to be on.
Her husband and son would be back with their daughter by the end of the day, which was half gone. All Lynn had to do was get through another four or five hours. She stared out the window on the front room, the library, and sipped from a cup of coffee. It was her seventh so far. She knew she was wired, which explained why her hand shook so badly when she brought the cup to her lips. She spilled small drops, time after time.
Their home was situated in the country, about five miles from any other town. Farms surrounded them, which wasn’t pleasant when the farmers fertilized their fields in the spring. But spring had passed. Her husband said the house was perfectly placed for the trouble they were in. Her husband was paranoid. He called it hyper vigilance though. Desert Storm had done that, followed by Iraq and Afghanistan.
Lynn looked down the drive to the circular cul-d-sac down the gentle hill.
The cul-de-sac was there so other lots could be built on, but nobody had yet to attempt that. A stream ran along one side of the house, paralleling the driveway.
With the pines they had planted a few years ago, and the open areas of grass, now too long because the John Deere took too much fuel to run, it was a beautiful scene. She sipped more coffee, and then gently patted the table with a kitchen towel after a few drops fell. She sighed, holding the cup out over the sprawling canvas in front of the window.
Her husband had thrown the canvas over their gun. Before the gun they had had a beautiful table with a custom chess set laid out upon it. Before the gun the front window had never been opened. It flipped up on hinges, operated by a single lever on the far wall side. Lynn had never liked the window but her husband had told her that you couldn’t fire a gun from a house very easily, unless you have an open field of fire. She’d just shaken her head, at the time, and then ignored the strange construction effort.
Lynn had had one lesson with the gun, and it had not been pleasant. They couldn’t even shoot it, her husband said, because the bullets were too hard to get and too expensive to buy. She’d tried to absorb the lesson but her mind had strayed. Guns were boring and useless, in her opinion. But they seemed to always make men happy. She ignored guns as best she could, without letting on that she felt nothing in regard to them. Lynn had learned when she was young that it was better to act interested in such things as hunting, fishing, sports cars and guns rather than let men know how she really felt.
It was two o’clock exactly when they drove up. Lynn had just come back from the kitchen with another cup of the Hawaiian Kona coffee, her favorite. She’d sat down and wondered what things were like out in Hawaii and if she’d ever see the place again.
She heard the cars drive up before she saw them. Two pick-up trucks and some sort of military looking S.U.V. She new instantly that it was not her family returning. Her husband would have driven over the fields nearby, just as he had left. Driving over the field saved almost half a mile when headed for town.
The S.U.V. led the two pick-up trucks in making slow circles around and around the cul-de-sac. Lynn sat frozen, the coffee cup in her hand, half way down to the table. She stared. She felt no fear, only open curiosity. She questioned herself. Should she go to the door or open the window and yell out? Or do nothing? She decided to do nothing. Foreboding began to form in the pit of her stomach when the vehicles stopped and nobody got out. She heard the motors die, one after another.
Lynn could not see through the windows of any of the vehicles. It was like they had special dark coverings over them. Slowly, she placed the coffee cup on the flat arm of her chair. Still, she didn’t move, her eyes glued to the three trucks. The S.U.V. was dull black while the pickups were red and silver. None of them looked new. They looked intimidating and threatening. Fear began to work its way up her body. Lynn’s shoulders began to shake. She worked on controlling her breathing, which was close to becoming panicky gasps.
The window of the S.U.V. slid half way down. A man held one hand to his mouth and yelled.
“We’re coming in. You have a generator. We can hear it. You have fuel, food and things we need to survive. Don’t attempt to stop us.” The man’s hand dropped enough for Lynn to see a large white face sporting a full beard.
She stood, and then ran to the side window. There was no old Range Rover coming over the rise or through the fields. Her husband was not coming to her rescue. She let a long breath out feeling tears run down her cheek. It was better that her family was not driving right into the situation and she realized it. She moved to the front door of the house just adjacent to the library. She opened the door fully.
“Don’t come up here,” she screamed, her voice coming out broken and ragged with fear. “I’ve got a gun.” She slammed the door, leaning against its cold surface. She relocked the deadbolt, knowing that the small metal device was just about useless against what was down at the end of her driveway.
Lynn walked shakily back into the library over to the far wall. With both hands she pulled smoothly on the overly large window lever. For the only time in her memory the long horizontal window eased open. She pushed down until it was angled upward, leaving a nine-foot gash along the full width of the library wall.
She heard laughing. The two pickups had lowered their own windows and the men were talking.
“She’s got a gun. The lady’s got a gun. Not a man to be found. What kind of idiots would go off and leave a MILF like that alone.” It went on and on. Instinctively, Lynn knew that the men were talking to build their own sense of confidence. She also knew that she was in deadly danger.
“We’ll see your gun and raise you,” the same voice said, as had spoken the first time. Suddenly great explosions issued forth from the trucks. Lynn dropped to the floor, unaware that the move had been automatic until her face rested against the hardwood. She watched chunks of the front door fly backward into the hall. Her anniversary door. The special carved door had been her husband’s gift to her earlier in the year. It took minutes for the shooting to stop. Lynn knew that there was nothing left of the front door. There was no barrier between her and the men in the vehicles. She also knew that that fact would be readily apparent to them.
Lynn crawled to the stereo cabinet, pulled a pair of Bose earphones from between some CD boxes and put them on. She began to turn but then stopped. Turning back she hit the ‘on’ button to the amplifier, punched in the numbers one one four on the CD player panel and plugged the hanging cord into the machine.
The canvas lay before her as before, with a few coffee stains atop its gray surface. She pulled it off and pushed it aside. The spider sat in front of her, looking hideous and evil. She went to the back of it. The thing had three metal legs, a great protruding antenna and a metal belt hanging off its left side. The metal belt was filled with pointy rounds of different colors. Plain polished brass, brass with red tips and then brass with black tips. Those were the only colors the insect displayed.
Lynn sat behind the thing, like her husband had showed her. She gently pressed her hands around the two wooden handles at the back, while her thumbs fell, almost by themselves, onto the tips of a centrally mounted metal butterfly. She looked out over the thing’s snout. The men in the vehicles were still carrying on through open windows. She couldn’t really see any of them, however.
“It fires from an open bolt,” she said out loud, releasing her right hand from the wooden peg-like hold to grab another lever along the side. Lynn pulled the lever all the way back, and then let it go. The sound of a very solid metallic whack somehow made her feel better.
“I have a gun,” she screamed out through the open window again.
“You already said that,” a deep male voice boomed back, so loud that there was no problem hearing the words right through the Bose earphones.
Lynn shivered. The sound of the man’s voice was so frightening. She felt malevolent violence roll right up through the grass and into the library with her.
“I hope this works,” she whispered, putting both of her thumbs back on the butterfly lever. She looked with one eye through the back sight.
“You look through the little hole and out over the front bar,” she said to herself, squinting with her left eye until the side of the S.U.V. filled her vision.
She waited. She didn’t know what she was waiting for. Pachelbel’s Canon in D began to play in her earphones. The tone poem began to double up as it continued. She loved that part.
There was a distinctive click from in front of her. Through the Pachelbel Lynn identified the sound as that of a car door opening. She pressed down on the butterfly with both fingers.
The gun began to fire. It moved on its own in little jumps. Lynn fought to hold it down and get the barrel pointed the right way. There was gray dust everywhere and bright flashes in front of her. She could barely see anything, but she held down on the butterfly tips. The gun seemed to sweep back and forth of its own accord.
And then there was only Pachelbel. Lynn sat inside a thick gray cloud, the smell of cordite so strong that her nose seemed permanently wrinkled. Shell casings were all over the library, along with a vast number of clip-like things. The last strains of the Canon played out. Lynn removed the earphones and set them at her side. Suddenly her legs ached and her hands hurt. She remembered holding the wooden handles very hard.
The gray cloud was smoke she realized. She could still see nothing. Gingerly she rose to her feet, being careful not to touch the spider. It sat smoking on the floor
“I don’t know how to reload you,” she said to the thing, looking around the room for ammunition but not seeing any. She went to the hall, stepping over the parts of front door that lay strewn in her path. She went all the way to the back of the house. She opened windows along the back wall, and then went to the kitchen.
A cold cup of coffee sat on the counter next to the coffeemaker. She picked it up.
The library was clear of smoke. She could see out the window. The trucks sat as before. Lynn squinted. Looking very hard and carefully she thought she could make out holes in the sides of the trucks, but she wasn’t sure. She drank cold coffee.
She had no idea how long she sat drinking the coffee in very small sips. She noted that her hand did not shake at all, and she was surprised by that.
The Rover made its presence known before she heard it. Across the front yard grass it flew, straight to the top of the driveway. Doors opened and slammed.
Her husband was there, and her son, and her daughter. Lynn did not get up.
“I don’t know where the ammunition is,” she said to all three of them.
“Oh Mom,” her daughter said, kneeling among the brass cases and spent clips, trying to pry the empty coffee cup from her hand.
“That was a hundred rounds,” her husband mused, staring out toward where the trucks sat silent and unmoving, “and that’s a fifty caliber Browning machine gun, not a spider,” he went on. “Those black tipped rounds were armor piercing. They didn’t bounce off. They probably moved on, right over into the next county.”
“Well, you better go down there and talk to those men. They’re probably pretty mad, but you need to reload the spider first,” Lynn said, finally letting her daughter have the cup.
“Yeah, I guess I better see to that,” her husband responded, unable to suppress a small smile.