Chapter 8

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Burt stood at the edge of the cliff, his sharp eyes scanning the basin below through his glasses. Twenty minutes had passed with no sign of Tyler and the Crawlers were still crawling around the basin happy and healthy. He was getting impatient.

"Burt?" Casey's voice pulled him from his intense watch. "Seen anything yet?"

"Negative. Nothing. Crawlers don't look any worse for the wear either. Are you sure the poison will work?"

"I'd bet my life on it. The tests were clear, there's less than a 3% chance it won't kill them, but even then they'll be weak enough to be taken out by more conventional methods."

The survivalist pursed his lips. Well, at least there was a silver lining to the situation. Still, why did they have to take so long to die?

"How's Roger doing?" he asked, changing the subject.

"Better than he was when you found him," Casey replied. "He's breathing a lot easier now."

"I suppose it'd be too much to hope that he's coherent enough to tell us what exactly happen to Tyler?"

"Yeah, sorry. He hasn't woken up since the first time."

Burt sighed. He hadn't expected any different but it was still annoying to hear. "Alright. Keep trying the radio and keep an eye out for Crawlers. Some of 'em look like they might be headin' out soon. Over and out."

Putting his radio back in his pocket and picking up his binoculars, Gummer resumed his vigil, waiting.

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It's amazing how quickly one can develop a fear when put in the right conditions. Growing up on a farm, Tyler had run into plenty of spiders and had never once been scared of them. Wary, yes, if they were poisonous; but never scared.

Now...he was officially terrified of them. Being buried alive with more tiny spider creatures than dirt could do that to a guy. Not to mention that his flashlight had died, leaving him completely in the dark. He could feel them though, crawling and creeping all over him. The ones that passed over the Plexiglas on his helmet made small tapping noises as they walked. Times that by a million or two, and Tyler's nerves were reaching their breaking point.

He could just imagine....any moment they would find a way into his suite....their tiny, needle-like legs poking his skin....crawling over his face....climbing into his nose....his ears....a real life version of that movie he'd seen as a kid-

'Dammit Reed, just shut up!' he shouted at himself angrily.

His mental self-chewing-out froze there as the ground suddenly shifted around him. Tyler stared into the darkness uselessly, waiting for Burt's shovel to come breaking through any moment and pull him out. Well, actually there were several other, much worse scenarios running more prominently in his mind, but he was doing his best to blatantly ignore them.

He just hoped the one involving the worm didn't come true.

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"Dammit, El Blanco," Burt hissed under his breath, glaring at the mound of sand and dirt moving slowly through the basin. The Crawlers had finally begun dropping off but now the damn worm had suddenly decided to take a scenic tour and was ambling around without hurry.

He was just about to toss down a few grenades to run him off when the ground next to the graboid suddenly dropped, the dirt collapsing on itself. El Blanco veered away in surprise, tunneling out of the basin quickly.

Burt stared at the strange sinkhole, zooming in on it with his binoculars.

"Burt? Was that El Blanco? What happened?"

The survivalist ignored Casey's worried questions for a moment, looking for any movement within the fresh dirt. There was none.

"Burt?!"

"I'm here."

"Don't scare me like that," she snapped. Her voice softened. "Why did El Blanco tear out of there so fast? Did you do something?"

Burt shook his head even though she couldn't see. "No. I was about to when part of the ground next to him caved in. Startled him I guess."

"Caved in? Why?"

"I don't know. But....I was wondering," Burt glanced through his field glasses again. "Do you know where these things make their nests?"

"Well.....typically it would depend on the species of spider, but since these things are so large, it sort of limits where they can hide them away from predators....I'd say underground or in caves would be the best bet," the scientist paused for a moment, almost suspiciously. "Why?"

Burt didn't answer at all this time, instead putting his gear back in his vest, grabbing his gun, and starting down the edge of the cliff. He slid down most of the way, climbing the last few feet. Keeping quiet as possible, in case any of the Crawlers still had some fight left in them, he made his way out to the sunken hole.

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Tyler didn't remember the rescue. The collapsing dirt had been heavy, and had knocked him unconscious for nearly an hour. At the back of his mind, he was pretty sure he might have fainted at the same time, but he was never going to admit that.

It'd been a week since then. Most of the Crawlers had died from the poison, and those that hadn't had been hunted down by Burt. The nests were burned, the store wall was in the process of being fixed (again), and Roger had fully recovered.

The town was back to normal once again.

The bench that usually sat in front of the window of the store had been temporarily relocated beneath the water tower. Nancy was sitting there, glancing through one of her magazines and watching the guys work. She couldn't help but notice that this was the second time in a year that the front wall of the store had been destroyed; she wondered if it would become another regular phenomenon.

"Hey Nance!"

The potter turned her attention to Lupe, who was over from her cousins' car. "You guys leaving finally?" she asked in a teasing tone.

The teen nodded. "As soon as Alex is done shopping for all the souvenirs in Jodi's store. Then it's back to Bixby fer him and back to Kansas fer me." She grinned.

"Excited to get home, I'm sure," Nancy smiled.

"Yeah. Not that I didn't have fun, but I miss grass deserts and funky rednecks."

"Funky?" Nancy's brow furrowed in confusion.

Lupe shrugged. "The rednecks in my town are rednecks...but they're also big on the rap, and rock music, and all that stuff. It's weird. Like they're half country, half California."

"Lulu! Come on, hurry up!" Alex called. Lupe turned to make a face at him for accusing her of being the slow one.

Nancy laughed. "Sounds interesting. Well, you guys be careful."

"We will," Lupe assured, waving. "See ya later!"

Moments later the black car pulled away, honking a last farewell to the residents.

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