I fiddle with the lock. The key always jams. I have no idea why, but every time I try to get inside our mailbox, I have the same trouble. I guess I could tell Reception, but that requires a lot of effort that I’m not willing to make.
I sigh and put a little more power into it, really forcing the key inside and jiggling it around. It has the desired effect. The key turns, and I hear a satisfactory pop as the small door to the mailbox falls open revealing a package.
That’s strange. I wasn’t expecting anything in the post.
I pull the box out. It weighs almost nothing at all. I hold it up to my ear and give it a light shake, but there’s no sound from within. I shrug and place it on the shelf above and then collect the rest of the mail. There are about five letters in there. I shuffle through them to see if there’s anything essential, but it’s all junk mail, except for one letter, which is a bill. Nice.
I pocket the bill and throw the junk letters straight into the bin. The thing is overflowing with letters. The same nonsense that I’ve just received, no doubt. Four pointless letters for each apartment. That amounts to a lot of letters. I turn to leave but halt when I realise I’ve forgotten my package. I grab it from the shelf and wedge it under my arm for the short walk back.
Outside the weather is glorious — a perfect winters day when you live in Houston, Texas. In the low twenties or seventies depending on what you’re used to. Me being an Englishmen, I flit between Celsius and Fahrenheit. Everyone uses the latter, but I can’t bring myself to stop using the former. Force of habit, really.
Anyway, the weather is terrific. Clear blue skies, the sun sits high, and there’s no breeze at all. This kind of weather puts me in a good mood. It’s a far cry from back home. Right now, those poor blighters are in the dark dead of winter. Negative temperatures. It’s hard not to be smug walking around the apartment pool in a pair of shorts and flip flops. I’m in such a good mood I even try whistling. Life is pretty good when you think about it.
I’m making a cup of tea in the apartment when I remember the package. It sits on the side, near the sink.
The apartment is open plan, same as all the others I’d imagine; this isn’t the pocky flats back home. This is an airy space with a decent amount of light. I leave my cup to stew and grab the package. I give it a once over in my hands. It’s just a simple brown box with a label on the front with my name and address. Nothing else. No return address or any indications of where it’s been or how far it took to get here. Strange but not totally unusual. Might be a Christmas present. We aren’t that far off now. Just a few weeks or so.
I return to my cup of tea and place the package down next to it on the kitchen top. I fish the teabag out of the cup, drop it in the teabag tray, give it a stir, and take a quick sip. Not bad! The exact right colour and strength. I place the cup back down and begin to open the package. It’s lightly taped down at the top, so it quickly pops open with only some minor fiddling. I rip the tape away and scrunch it up into a ball and drop it on the top. With both hands, I open the box and peer inside. As soon as I see the contents of the package, I let out an embarrassingly high-pitched squeal and then let the box fall closed again. To follow the squeal, I take a step backwards.
“What in the bloody hell?”
It’s no use. I can’t stand here forever.
The last few minutes I’ve spent standing and staring at the box and worrying that the contents might start scurrying out, but the package has remained closed. I should throw the thing straight out. There’s no need for me to have another look inside really. No good can come from that.
The problem is, I’m one of those kinds of people that just can’t help himself. I always look again. When I was ten, I found myself at the top of St Paul’s Cathedral looking down in terror as the height smashed me in the gut and made my head spin. I didn’t realize I suffered from vertigo, or even what it really was, until that moment. I started to cry and my parents seeing I was terrified tried to walk me back down. Despite my fright and shaking legs, it didn’t stop me taking one last agonizing look. So, you see, I’m a bit of an idiot.
Anyway, I approach the package and gingerly lift the flaps to reveal the interior.
Not just one or two but a whole box full of them. I’m no expert, but they seem to be common house spiders. Not dangerous, I believe, but they still gave me a fright. I wedge the flaps of the box open and take a step backwards, so that I’ve got a safe distance between me and it. I’m not phobic or anything, but I just don’t want to be near that box.
I crane my neck and look inside. The spiders are still in there. I’ve no idea how many. Enough for it not to be an accident. Someone has sent me this package, but why? A prank? A joke? A trick? Who knows, but I’m not happy about it!
As I stand here and peer down into that package, I realise something. The spiders aren’t squirming or scurrying around their box. They just sit there, lined up as though in some kind of predetermined order. I can’t help but frown. The strangeness of the situation forces a few more words out of my mouth despite my solitude.
“Now, what the bloody hell is going on here, then?”
“That’s not much of an introduction if you don’t mind us saying so, guv.”
My mouth falls open. A few seconds later, there’s a small tremor through my body that might be shock. It convulses through me. I blink a few times and try and get my brain into gear, but it doesn’t want to help me out.
“Sorry, guv, but we’ve just got to ask. Are you okay? You look like you’re about to have a funny turn.”
My mouth remains open, and I slowly blink a few times as the confusion weighs heavily on me.
Finally, my brain reacts…
A box of spiders just spoke to me…
Now that my brain is working, my body follows.
I quickly turn and rip open the utensil drawer. I grab the biggest and sharpest knife we have and yank it out. I return to my spot at a safe distance, with the knife held aloft, and stare back into the package.
“Now, what do you plan to do with that then, guv? I have to say you’re being quite rude.”
Despite my shock and terror, I feel some anger blossom. Who the bloody hell does this box of spiders think it is!? I don’t bother to mince my words.
“Rude? Rude!? I’m not being rude! What’s going on here!? Is this a joke or what!?”
I menacingly point my knife towards the package like I’m some kind of fencer. I must look ridiculous, but I need to hold my ground. If I don’t, I’ve no idea what could happen.
A few seconds pass in silence. It’s broken by what sounds like an exhaled breath. The spiders begin to speak again.
“Oh, I see! You didn’t get the email, did you? Sorry about that. That’s not something we get involved in. That’s Customer Service, you see, guv. They should’ve sent you a message to say we’re en-route. Have you checked your spam folder?”
I can feel that blossom of anger growing due to the absurdity of the situation.
“Spam folder? Spam folder! Now, hold on a bloody minute! I don’t give a bloody hoot about Spam folders!! What I’d like to know is… why is there a box of bloody talking spiders on my bloody kitchen top!”
A fair question, I think. I fall silent again and point the knife at the package, so they know I’m talking about them. Of course, they must know I mean them, but I don’t know how this is all meant to work.
I wait for a second and hear the unmistakable sound of a ‘tut’ before they answer.
“Now then, guv. I think you need to calm down a bit. Maybe have a cuppa tea!”
Just for a second, I nearly blackout. My vision fills with stars, but it quickly passes. My knife had begun to droop a little, so I quickly right it. Clearly, something is off. There’s a box of talking spiders in my apartment, and I really need to find out what’s happening. Before I can make any decisions, they speak again.
“Look, guv. If you check your spam folder, you’ll find an email in there explaining the whole thing.”
They may have a point, as mad as that sounds. There has to be some explanation for what is going on. I pull my phone out of my pocket and quickly unlock it, careful not to take my eyes off the package or lower my knife. I open my spam folder and scan down through its contents. It’s mostly filled with offers for million-dollar windfalls or penis enlargements, but near the bottom, there’s one from a curiously titled company: Arachnid Pest Control.
I open the email. At the top, it reads: We can get places that no ordinary exterminator can get. Or your money back!
The frown that has never left my forehead since I opened the package deepens, and then vanishes as I have a light bulb moment.
Not that long ago, I had been complaining to a friend from Houston about the mosquitoes that had infested our apartment. It had been going on for months. The little blighters had been devouring my flesh. The summer had been hot, and they’re still lingering around even now when they usually are all but gone. They had said that they knew of a good exterminator. Something that would sort all of my troubles out. They’re out of town and said they would arrange for it to be sent over. I had forgotten all about it. Of course, I had no idea what they had in mind.
I quickly scan the email. Sure enough, at the bottom, there’s the name of my friend and the prepaid fee. Not a large amount but a tidy sum. I can’t believe it.
“You okay, guv? Is the email there? If it is, and if it’s okay, we’d like to get to work. If I’m being honest, we’re all starving.”
I slowly close the phone down and put it back in my pocket. The email was thorough and all in order. There’s not much I can say to that then really. I guess I should just let them get on with it. I lower the knife down and place it on the kitchen top. I clear my throat and then reply.
“Erm… Well, yes. That’s fine. Go right ahead. Is there anything you need from me? How does this work?’
“You don’t need to worry about that, guv. We will disperse around the apartment and get to work. You won’t even see us. It’s a permanent arrangement, you see. Just rest assured that you won’t ever have any problems with mosquitoes or any other pest again.”
I don’t really know what to say to that. The email was very thorough, after all, and we do need to get rid of all these mosquitoes. I must have been thinking this through for too long before the box of spiders speaks again.
“Guv? Is it okay if we get cracking?”
I do the only thing I can do.
“Yes, of course. Thank you very much. Go right ahead.”
The spiders quickly flow out of the package en-masse. My skin crawls, but they spread out across the kitchen top and then disappear in ones and twos into different parts of the room. As quick as that, they’re all gone.
I lean forward and peer into the now empty box. I grab my cup of tea and put it in the microwave to warm it up. I take one last look around the apartment, but I can’t see even one spider anywhere in sight. They were right when they said I wouldn’t be able to see them. I sit down in my chair and sip my tea as my skin continues to crawl.
One week later, I’m sitting in that same chair after reading a few messages from my friend. They’ve asked if I got the package and whether it worked. It’s taken a few days to get used to the idea, but honestly, I haven’t seen one spider since then. More importantly, I haven’t seen one mosquito either. I told them they’re doing an excellent job, and I’m not lying when I said it. They really have. I should leave the company a review really — five stars without a doubt.