January 3rd, 2011: Glass doors to the emergency room swept open to let an admitting nurse meet a team of paramedics unloading a gurney from their ambulance.
"Teenage female found shoved into a locker filled with biohazardous materials, unresponsive at scene, BP 120 over..."
"Whoa, whoa, WHOA!" The admitting nurse interrupted the Paramedic, "Jesus Christ , couldn't you brush the bugs off of her?"
"We tried, but she's still covered in all that crap."
"The hospital was fumigated just last week," the nurse said, "I'm going to go get that bug fogger I bought this morning, she needs it more than my apartment does."
"Put an oxygen mask on her, we'll get started when she gets back."
April 1st, 2011: I woke up with the alarm, took my regular morning jog, showered and got ready as usual. The feeling of dread at going to school was still there, but no sensation of butterflies in the stomach was going to halt what I had prepared for this day. I ran down the extensive checklist in my head yet again as I gathered all the necessary bugs within my range.
January 4th: I struggled back to consciousness and looked around the blurry, unfamiliar room. Teal cabinets, white sheets, and chrome railings around her bed came more or less recognizable even without glasses.
"I'm in a hospital" I thought. "
"...a sptimnhet of bnaanas fserh form Bizarl ctserouy of the cpae Sedritr..."
Memories of the ordeal in the locker rushed back, but I forced them aside and pushed the call button. I heard the chime sound down the hall at the nurse's station and the squeak of tennis shoes of tile walking towards my room.
...letcoad on Lrod Seret beweten the Lrarbiy and ftifh ..."
"Hi honey," the nurse said when she entered my room, "You're awake already, that's a very good sign. Do you know where you are?"
"...and now weehtar with our own ..."
"Um, in a hospital... but I don't know which one... " I said. "Have you called my Dad yet? He's Danny Hebert and he works at the Dockworkers Association..."
"... the lnog rgane fsoercat, caler and clod Wadensedy and Trudsahy,..."
"Oh sure, honey, " said the nurse, "He's in a conference room yelling at a school district representative right now. I'll be sure to let him know you're up."
"...Fardiy wtih one to tehre ihecns of amcuctuloain, and hviaeer sonw epxceted oevr the weneekd..."
"OK, um, sorry. That TV is a little distracting"
"Wow, you've got crazy good hearing. The only TV on in this wing is in the waiting room at the end of the hall."
"...form all of us hree at cnahenl two nwes, gongohidt Bortokn Bay..."
"Taylor! Thank goodness you're awake!" my father said as he crushed me in a big bear hug.
I focused my attention on my Dad and I hugged him back. The muffled sound of the TV faded into the background, a lone spider spinning its web in the opposite corner of the waiting room.
"Hi Dad" I said coming to breakfast with Danny. He was reading the paper. I was unsure if I should bring up the bullying now or... No, that die has been cast. Gotta go through with it. We finished breakfast, Danny said goodbye and drove to work.
I picked up my bags, locked the door and headed to the bus stop.
January 6th: Taylor went out for her second ever morning jog even though it had snowed, but taking that excuse now would just lead to more excuses later. She reached out and sensed bugs in crawlspaces under lots of homes, and all over inside the Smith's place, empty ever since they went on vacation last year and got caught in Behemoth's latest attack. The cold and fatigue wore at her, but she pushed to go just a little farther than yesterday, Satisfied, Taylor turned to go home and got a clump of snow down her back from a jostled tree branch.
"Just perfect." Taylor thought.
Her bus arrived at Winslow, but Taylor had got off the stop before to better avoid any of her regular bullies or their cohorts in the crowds. She saw some poor guy getting kicked in the butt over and over again, until he turned around and pulled off the 'Kick Me' sign taped to his back. At least it's enough of a distraction for her to toss the old duffel bag into the shrubs in front of the school. As the last students get to class hundreds of Black Widows emerge from the duffel bag into the crawlspace beneath the school trailing silk, braiding it as they go. The bag suddenly is yanked inside by the lines of silk to leave no evidence behind.
January 17th: It was hard to believe it had taken that long for the school to pay for her medical bills and settle, but the inevitability of her return to school had finally happened. Of course the bullying picked up again right away. Emma and Madison pretended she was invisible until Sophia knocked her into a garbage can. Taylor made it to her first class, Computers with Mrs. Knott, and found her school email folder completely filled with abuse. Taylor choked back a sob, not willing to let this beat her down, even though she felt alone and outnumbered.
Then she sensed all the bugs in the crawlspace beneath the entire building, in the walls, everywhere. A slow smile formed as Taylor realized she would never be outnumbered ever again.
Taylor felt calm as she created an entire new mail account and caught up on the class assignments she had missed during her absence.
Taylor had finished today's computer assignment in Mrs. Knott's class half an hour ago and focused on maneuvering all the pieces into place for later. The bell to signal the end of class was about to ring and on her way out of the classroom, her favorite and most sympathetic teacher stopped Taylor to talk.
"Honestly dear, no one would have blamed you if you decided to skip. Especially today."
"I know Mrs. Knott, but I'm not going to let a few pranks get the better of me."
Taylor raced through the halls to Mr. Gladly's class, she ducked and weaved around the slower students since it seemed every guy who thought he could get into Madison or Emma's pants tried to score points with a trip, shove or... Taylor ducked when whatshisface from Art class pulled out a can of what turned out to only be silly string. Although she wouldn't have put it past Emma to get someone to try and use actual spray paint to tag her, especially after that 'Your shirt looks like it could use some mustard' bit had put the cafeteria at the top of her no-go zones last May.
January 20th: Tripped down the stairs by Sophia after lunch, Taylor limped through the rest of the school day. She passed the Smith's vacant house on her way home. Hadn't their son played soccer? He surely wouldn't have taken his shin guards on vacation, would he? Taylor decided to try a little bug-assisted breaking and entering, happy at figuring out how to unlock the service door to the garage using the cockroaches inhabiting the kitchen. Maybe they had a first aid kit too...
Taylor tracked everyone in the school with a bug or three for over two months and it was second nature by now. Even if she couldn't always avoid the bullying, at least she led them into dust-ups between the ABB and E88 wanna-be kids every so often. Alone in the History classroom for a few more moments, Taylor tipped her backpack under Madison's desk and directed bugs on their way with their cargoes.
February 1st: Apparently the spiders had gone on autopilot spinning silk into her costume while she was gone at school. The leg continued to taper almost to a point, with only an inch round hole remaining. Maybe she could cut it off and turn the cone of spider silk into a sock or something. It was just too bad the most effective weaving only happened while she was there to guide the spiders. If only... Taylors train of thought came to a sudden halt as she saw the old duffel bag she had taken to camp under the stairs. She was already wearing shin guards and kneepads under her baggy clothing, why not have a few continue to weave while she wore her costume under her clothes, and bring along a few more to weave squares of silk underneath the school during the day. She could even bring back bugs to feed the spiders at home and leave some to feed on the bugs beneath Winslow.
Madison swanned into the room as if she owned the place, smirked at Taylor with a look of disgust and chatted with her friend Julia until Mr. Gladly began the lesson. Of course Madison would have covered the seat of her desk in glue had Taylor not arrived first. Mr. Gladly, purposefully oblivious as always to his favorites, hadn't even noticed any of the past weeks action against her. At least this time what goes around came around as the start of the lecture was interrupted when Mr. Gladly discovered the whoopie cushion beneath the pillow on his stool only when it was too late. When the class erupted in laughter Taylor took advantage of the opportunity to prepare for later. As predicted, Madison went to sharpen her pencil in order to knock her books to the floor yet again, giving Taylor the opening she needed .
February 10th: Even though the completed armored costume trousers kept most injuries from happening, especially that 'accidental' broom handle whacked across her shins yesterday, it was the emotional punishment which was so hard to bear. So she thought of her mother's flute as a talisman of... she wasn't even sure anymore. Not after it had been vandalized so thoroughly. Those bitches regularly took so much pleasure reminding her how they destroyed something she valued above everything else , so in return she would destroy something each of them valued.
Her wanderings home brought her near Emma's neighborhood. A derelict outbuilding nearby was infested with termites... No, too obvious. Especially when she came out as a bug-controlling Hero. So... no direct bug attacks. No secondary effects which could only be caused by bugs, like termite damage either. She'd need to go a further level removed.
The bell rang and Mr. Gladly's class ended. Madison stood up with a twirl, lightly flaring her skirt which was a little too short for the cool of spring. Madison exited with Julia and other hangers on, and she could detect Emma, Sophia and others gathering. Taylor took a deep calming breath, steeled her resolve and strode out of the classroom.
February 18th: WHOOF Sophia sneered above her as Taylor struggled and failed to remain upright after being punched in the solar plexus the instant she stepped through the door into Art Class. She couldn't breathe...Taylor had detected the tick burrowed under the skin at the base of Sophia's neck, but she expected a regular shove, not to end up lying paralyzed, gasping for breath on the floor. Holy pink fairy armadillo dicks, that was too much! Other students gasped, but remained cowed into silence, knowing any action to help her would condemn them as well.
Holy pink fairy armadillo dicks, that was too much! Other students gasped, but remained cowed into silence, knowing any action to help her would condemn them as well.
Taylor summoned a hornet from the nest underneath the boiler room. It took a few minutes for the formerly hibernating insect to find its way to her classroom, and it finally crawled though the grate and dive bombed Sophia. Mandibles bit just above Sophia's hairline which caused her tormentor to flinch, but when the hornet attempted to sting it... couldn't. Sophia reached up and crushed it before there was any second attempt. But how... Weird.
Emma and Sophia met Madison, Julia and the other hangers-on at the base of the stairs. To their surprise Taylor turned away from them and merged with the traffic flowing to the Cafeteria. "So the loser's not running away to one of her regular hidey-holes," Sophia noted snidely, "Big mistake."
February 21st: Good thing she'd started on Madison's stuff the previous week, because that sucker-punch last Friday moved Sophia to her top priority. She would have followed her tormentor home that day, but the out-of-town Track Meet had denied her that possibility. It was weird actually staying after school for a change instead of racing to leave this hellhole, especially noting the flow of individuals and groups by the bugs planted on them as they left for the day, met up with friends, or like Sophia participated in afterschool activities.
Now would be a perfect opportunity to put athlete's foot fungus in Sophia's street shoes, if only she knew how. Taylor directed bugs into Sophia's locker to burrow a small hole in the left shoe instep padding and plant a small chunk of gravel there as a consolation prize. A few students hung out in the bleachers as the coaches put the athletes through their paces. Eventually Taylor realized there were drug deals happening beneath the bleachers as one kid after another walked up to a Merchant gang member and left once their business completed. Eventually Track practice ended and ... Sophia just made a drug deal?! While she was in the shower cockroaches investigated and felt something hard, smooth, curved. Little bottles? Also crinkly plastic packages, syringes maybe. Taylor tried to follow Sophia home, but instead of the bus she was sure Sophia should have taken, she instead got into a van which drove the other way.
'I'll just have to try again tomorrow' Taylor thought.
Taylor was among the first to find a seat since she wasn't waiting in line for food like almost everyone else. She picked a table with her back to the wall and near an exit so she could run if her plans went south. Taylor opened her backpack and placed her art project on the table to work on it a little more before class next period. Moments later Emma, Sophia, Madison and their clique entered the Cafeteria. Emma scanned the room and smirked when she spotted Taylor. With a nod to the others the mob of bullies bore down upon her. Spiders in the vents and on the ceiling and mixed swarms on top of fluorescent light fixtures made themselves ready.
March 1st: It took a solid week until she tracked down where Sophia lived. Taylor got on the bus a stop before Winslow, and hid while Sophia got on and stayed busy on her phone almost the whole time. Then she pulled out a second phone and put it away after a glance. Sophia exited the bus and ran home, going upstairs to her room as the bus moved beyond Taylor's range but still within sight of the next bus stop where Taylor walked back up the hill to Sophia's home. She'd explain to her Dad she just forgot the time while studying at the city Library. Taylor brought in more bugs to investigate the row house when Taylor realized Sophia wasn't there. She sent more bugs inside through vents and up through the walls from cracks in the basement. Sophia's backpack was in the entryway, her clothes were in her room with the tracking bugs still on them, but Sophia herself had vanished. What. The. Fuck?
When her tormentors approached her table in the cafeteria, Taylor sent her bugs into action.
"Time to go Carrie ..." Taylor whispered softly.