The horses had been screaming all night. The stables rang with their piercing squeals of agony as vets and yard boys scurried to ease the pain of their pregnancies, to little avail. All they could hope was whatever was coming, sooner than expected or physically probable, was coming soon.
Sir Paul Daker paced up and down in the yard outside, overcoat wrapped tightly around him against the briskly chill December morning. Frost crunched under his boots as he stamped on the cobble stones impatiently. He wasn’t a man used to be kept waiting, nor his nature to be unattended.
The knight of the realm was an uber-editor of the highest order, his daily hatezine the top seller in the land, now that silly cow Banks was bloodily dispatched in the epic London massacre that burnt Buck House to the ground. Luckily, the primary members of the Royal Firm were away during the inferno, holidaying in Vanuatu, although several thousand of his readers were left dead or brain damaged even worse than normal. She made great news, he’d give his once competition that, and a demonic unicorn was so great a scapegoat he wished he’d thought of it himself.
Hence him standing in the freezing cold in a rank stable yard that morning. The unicorn had been reduced to a skeleton in the ashes of the palace, albeit one with a human skull soldered to its peak. However, the beast had managed to impregnate a half dozen female mares over the course of his rampage, and Paul knew to sniff a bargain in the air. His paper had bought the stables lock, stock and cock. If there were more killer offspring to come, he was damn sure going to own them.
His right hand whipping boy, Mason, scurried out of the stables breathless, almost slipping arse over tithead on the icy cobbles. “The first one’s coming sir,” he said, sweaty face agog.
“About bloody time,” said Daker, pushing the sycophant aside as he marched to greet what he’d bought. He gagged on the smell as he entered the stable, excrement stronger than his papers printed.
Two stablehands were struggling to brace the screaming brown mare as vet Don Walsh crouched by her arse. Five other mares were also being manhandled through their labour by sweating slave monkeys, but this brown bess would be the first to lay a unicorn egg. Its stomach bulged and stretched, rippling with the kicks of the beast inside.
“I think it’s turned,” said Don. “I’m going to try and pull it out. Whatever it is.” Walsh took a deep breath and plunged his rolled up sleeves up into the mare. He looked curious as he grappled around inside, searching for an appendage to grab, then his eyes bulged and he screamed.
With a spray of blood the vet fell back into the hay. His arms were chopped off at the elbow, now bloody stumps ejaculating gore over the shocked onlookers. Blood landed on Daker’s right toe, and he leapt back aghast. What followed was worse.
A liquid torrent sprayed out of the mare’s arse, covering the veterinarian in his death throes. There were things moving inside the slurry, monsters with eight legs and striped yellow and black bodies. Spiders. The mare was not giving birth to a unicorn, it was spewing mutant spiders.
The horse screamed her last as her stomach exploded, splashing its contents onto the stable floor. A hundred more spiders scurried out of the grue, heading straight for the stablehands, enveloping them within seconds, shock too great and fast for them to even raise a cry before the arachnids swarmed down their throats. They fell to the ground, spasming wildly as their flesh was torn away by the clacking incisors of the eight legged freaks.
Further down, the remaining five pregnant mares also exploded. Some of the other vets and yard boys managed to scream before they were silenced by the gushing swarm. There were bloody thousands of them. Daker and Mason stood, mouths open, before the knight’s wits finally returned.
“To the Rangie.” He turned and ran, pushing past Mason for the stable door.
“Wait for me,” cried Mason, following his master into the yard. They had a run to the farmhouse entrance where the Range Rover was parked.
The yell and rush drew the attention of the swarm. The spiders followed. The crunch of their boots on the icy cobblestones was soon drowned out by the clicking of thousands of mutant feet chasing them.
Although in his sixties, Daker easily reached the Range Rover before his youthful underling. The same cutthroat determination and survival instincts that defined his career now powered his legs, and he threw himself into the safety of the 4×4, slamming the door behind him. Mason banged against the side of the Rangie seconds behind, a look of horror on his face as the spiders swarmed over him. That look didn’t last long, as a hugely bulbous mutant sucked his eye out, then crawled into the screaming man’s vacant socket.
Desperately, Daker reached for the ignition, then realised with horror he didn’t have the key. Bloody Mason. He looked at the man being eaten alive on the other side of the glass, and saw in his now skeletal claw the Range Rover fob.
Bugger. Well, at least he was safe inside. The creatures would surely dissipate soon. After all, this was the farm belt, there must be some pigs, sheep or bloody donkeys for them to feast on nearby. It wasn’t as though they were after him deliberately. He would just have to wait out the storm.
Suddenly he winced, as needle sharp incisors bit into his ankle, and he felt the rush of hairy feet crawl up his leg. He looked down and saw the bulge of the mutants as several of them rushed up the inside of his trousers, heading for his groin. The air vents had been left open, and somehow the arachnids had located the entry point to the vehicle surprisingly fast.
Daker screamed as a monster entered his rectum, chewing it open to widen the gap for its colleagues. They didn’t stop, more and more flooded into the cabin, entering him with vicious glee. He could feel them inside, wriggling around his guts, sucking his penis into his groin, chewing into his liver, but even worse he could hear them. He could hear the rage of their thoughts.
They were intelligent. They knew. They knew everything. Every devious act and vile lie he had whitewashed in the name of patriotism or necessity. All the people he had destroyed out of spite, carpetbagging or just the whim of boredom. As the spiders ate, they reminded him of his life with each nibble, every bite vengeful retribution for the pain he had inflicted on his own species and the world at large.
Paul Daker had enjoyed a long career presiding over the nation’s news, sponsoring greed, malice and deception for decades in the name of totalitarian capitalist power. It took him a long time to die.