“What happened to ol’ Nathan, anyway? Tommy Franks says he went mad and run off into the mountains.” Deputy Bob Staley led Nathan Lamley’s donkey, Dopey, in from pasture and toward the ramshackle barn.
“Tommy Franks is a drunk gossipmonger,” Sheriff Ted Powers said. He held the reins to Alma, Lamley’s lone horse. “But … well, that’s sorta what happened. The way I hear it, Nate showed up in the middle of Slimcliff right at dusk, hootin’ and hollerin’ ’bout monsters.”
“Monsters?” Bob’s eyes popped open wide.
Dopey stopped at the first of three haystacks and began to munch. Taking a cue from the donkey, Powers led Alma to the second stack.
“Yep. Spiders, in particular,” the sheriff nodded. “Said his place was crawlin’ with giant spiders.”
“Spiders!” The deputy paced nervously. “You didn’t say nothin’ ’bout spiders!”
“Now, Bob,” Powers soothed. “You said yourself Nate was crazy. Besides, you seen any spiders since we been here?”
Bob still looked uneasy but stopped fidgeting. “No, I guess not. But, hey … why are we takin’ care of Nathan’s place, anyway?”
“‘Cuz he’s a citizen of our county, and I reckon he’ll be back soon enough. Don’t want him comin’ home to dead livestock.”
“Guess not.” Staley tugged on Dopey’s reins, and the donkey moved on, but stopped at the third haystack. “Say, Sheriff, why you suppose this here haystack is so … dark?”
Powers answered with a grunt as he tripped over something in the tall grass. “Dang, that is one big, black tree trunk,” he said. “And … hairy?”
Dopey winnied in terror as that fallen tree — and seven others — lifted the giant third haystack off the ground.
Horse, donkey, sheriff, and deputy ran for all they were worth toward Slimcliff, chased by the swarm of monstrous arachnids that sprang from the prairie.