Elements of Horror #4: The Giant Spider Thing

In honor of this wonderful annual season – being October, the month of Halloween, scary scares, frightful frights and ghoulish fun that will send waves of goosebumps honking in terror across your skin – I launched a new series of articles called Elements of Horror – in which I’ll unpack various characters or elements I used in some of my horror stories! This time, our topic is the giant spider thing from “Life Signs“!

Curses are by nature negative, malicious and not good for those who come by ownership of such items which are said to be cursed! In “Life Signs“, I wrote about an ordinary-looking silver jug which turns out to be an ancient alien artifact discovered on the brand new colony of Atooin (which is still technically under construction). There’s nothing much out of the ordinary about the jug however – a fact supported by a battery of lab tests and scans – it seems just like an ordinary jug, except that everyone who comes into contact with it dies within about 24 hours… and the thing is, it’s already been doing the rounds for several weeks now, and even Atooin’s sheriff has fallen victim to its curse!

As you might imagine, the gent in the manager’s chair in the Atooin terraforming company’s head office finds this a little disturbing, but even more so when it winds up on his desk and far too close for his comfort! Something had to be done, and fast! So he calls an old school friend – who now happens to be an Admiral in the Space Fleet – for help! Admiral Tawney in turn, is rather wary of any sentence containing words like “supernatural”, “paranormal”, “curses” or “unexplained”, and knows just who to hand this little hot potato to… so he calls Captain Stuart Flane of the I.S.S. Mercury to give him the bad news.

[Incidentally, in order to see the rest of these articles in this series, click on the category name Elements of Horror!]

The origins of the aptly named Jug of Death are rather murky, but suffice to say, the item was discovered on a brand new colony planet by employees of the terraforming company hired to get it into shape for its new residents to move in! The following is an extract from “Life Signs” introducing the item:

The Jug of Death was an ordinary-looking silver ornamental jug, just about the size of a quart. It had no markings, save for a few scuff marks and a myriad of small dents and chips it had sustained over its very long lifetime.

The object was uncovered by a couple of workers just over a year prior, while they were leveling and clearing land to be used to expand the atmo-processing plant just south of the main complex. The item was spotted by a worker and dug out by hand from the dry, lifeless Atooin soil. It looked like it had been tucked into an alcove in what turned out to be the buried remnants of a low stone wall, which had resembled some kind of foundation. The workers – who were well on the way to getting the job finished ahead of schedule, were keen on their pending bonuses – and so the last thing they wanted to do was stop while some lab-coats prodded around their construction site. Thus, the correct procedures when uncovering things of that nature hadn’t been followed, in that the Company’s small company of exo-anthropologists and other lab-coat-wearing geeks with a keen interest in such things was not notified, and the man who found the relic kept it quiet and hid it – presumably thinking it was a rather nice keepsake to take with him one day when he returned home again.

The uncovered alien foundations – which they never found out had belonged to an ancient temple – were destroyed by the earth-moving machinery – and since they were now gone, never investigated further. Anyway, by the end of the next day, the site lay beneath Vent Number 132, a towering hollow cylindrical chimney that began spewing water moisture into the planet’s air right on schedule. The workers collected their bonuses, and their cunning little dodge might never have come to light at all, except that death seemed to follow this antique silver jug – like a homing pigeon – well, homing.

The first death attributed to the jug was that of its finder, less than a day later. Greg Bindel, 45 years of age choked to death alone. Investigators concluded that he’d been chewing on a taco while doing naked aerobics, or so the story went. A couple of months later, a friend of the deceased who inherited all the dead man’s possessions, found the jug while going through them, and decided to keep it for himself. Again, the unfortunate new owner died within a day – this time of a rather messy accident involving a counter-top waste disposal unit. Deputies found Mitch Danken slumped over the kitchen counter in his small apartment, with what was left of his right arm stuck in the mechanism – his dead eyes fixed on the gleaming silver jug less than a few feet away from him. As though following a strange pattern, the mysterious silver jug was again passed on with Danken’s personal effects to its next new owner, who shortly afterwards followed the first two in a string of suspicious accidents that rapidly become the basis of Atooin’s growing new local urban legend!

The pattern of mysterious deaths relating to ownership of the jug continued, from owner to owner – with no discernible signs of foul play – until, just over a year later, the mysterious alien artifact reached its thirteenth owner… and even though someone – presumably one of its previous owners – had marked it with a paper tag tied to the handle, that read “BEWARE! THIS IS THE JUG OF DEATH!” – owner number thirteen thought it might be a good idea to auction it off that night at the Crazy Eight, the canteen that catered to workers at the atmo-processing plant! Even more unbelievably, someone actually paid good money cash up front, and bought it! There was a good deal of speculation and congratulations as owner number thirteen bought a round of drinks for the whole bar – and promptly didn’t die. Number thirteen congratulated herself and slept very soundly that night.

Just thirty hours later however, the Jug of Death’s fourteenth owner was found stone dead – snuffed out in a mind-boggling domestic accident in his bathtub inside own locked apartment – with no sign of foul play. The deputies were completely baffled, and to be honest – a little spooked. So far, the thirteenth owner of the Jug of Death had been the only person to have had ownership of the item without actually dying – at least, not yet. Sheriff Yackley was pretty sure Trucilla Gorny – the seller – felt pretty darn clever for having outwitted ‘the curse of the Jug of Death’.

At any rate, it was at this time that Sheriff Yackley eventually had had enough of this nonsense, and confiscated the artifact from the crime murder scene of death. Sam Yackley wasn’t really the superstitious type, but since none of his deputies would even touch the damn thing at the scene of death – not even the folks wearing the latex suits and gloves, he gripped it with a pair of barbecue tongs whilst repeating “T’ain’t mine!” aloud just in case, like a kind of mantra to ward off harm, and placed it carefully into a plastic evidence bag. Then he locked it securely away in the squad-room’s evidence locker – on the top back shelf, in an old cardboard cracker box marked “EMPTEE”.  And there it remained for a week. A month. Then three months.

Meanwhile, there were no further mysterious deaths on Atooin – accidental or otherwise, and nothing happened to Sheriff Sam Yackley either, which he attributed to not having actually touched the damn thing with his bare hands. But it couldn’t stay there, and he knew it. The idea that the curse might somehow find a way to latch onto him – or one of his deputies, bothered him! To tell the truth, it gave him night sweats just thinking about it! The evidence locker was a high-traffic area after all – and the possibility that one of his colleagues might remove it from there, or take it out to look at – resulting in more unexplained deaths about the place, was just appalling!

To make matters worse, Yackley’s fears were actually realized. One night, a deputy – keen to post a photo of himself holding the Jug of Death on the social media of the day – snuck into the evidence locker late after work. Security camera footage clearly showed him take the jug out of its box and set about taking selfie’s of himself while posing with it. After that, he carefully replaced the cursed object where he’d found it, and left. He didn’t get very far. Station personnel found his body the next morning at the bottom of the fire-escape stairs, tied into knots. The Jug of Death had claimed its fourteenth victim.

The effects of this curse don’t just end with death – as Stuart Flane, Captain of the Mercury discovers to his horror! During his visit to Atooin to investigate the mysterious claims surrounding the Jug of Death, space pirates attack the colony and enter the terraforming management complex! Flane and his friend and first officer Vic Chapman and the erstwhile director’s secretary escape via a secret entrance leading to a panic room – and in the midst of the journey, Flane’s skin comes into direct contact with the dreaded object!

Fear not – Flane doesn’t die on contact, but rather curiously, appears to enter some kind of alternative conscious state – and finds himself standing in a similar dark tunnel… alone. He appears to be nowhere near where he was before, and nobody answers his calls. The place is dark and silent, and as he moves along the rocky passage way reminiscent of a lava-tube more than an actual corridor, he notices that the crunchy sound under his shoes is coming from finely ground chips of bone! Creepy, no?

The passage in the rock opens up into a large chamber similarly cut from the rock, and covered wall to wall with bone chips. The light is dim, emanating from small fires and torches, and a raised dais in the center of the place draws him in. It’s there that Stuart Flane encounters the giant spider thing – a monstrous arachnid large enough to pick up an elephant and bounce it on the ground like a basketball! The terrifying, sinister beast which lunges at him from the shadows seems to fancy Flane for a light snack, and to add his bones to the plateau of corpses that makes up the dais – and there he is, without a single weapon on him!

What is the giant spider thing? Is it a spirit? A demon? A god? Who knows – but you can find out about it and how Flane deals with it by reading “Life Signs“!

To read more about the curious alien artifact called “the Jug of Death”, click on the cover below to get the free ebook:

Further reading:

In Closing

That about covers it! I hope I’ve explained all this in a satisfactory manner!

Feel free to email or message me via Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn if you have any comments or questions!

Until next time,

Cheers! 🙂


If you’re reading this long after it was posted, click “Elements of Horror” to see a list of all the articles posted in this series!

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All material copyright © Christina Engela, 2019.


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