2 AM AT A MOTEL IN THE CITY • by Cory Cone

The yellowed lampshade on the bedside table goes bright, goes dim. It buzzes, threatens death before settling into a weak, cool glow.

Rory says, “I remember when we were eighteen.” She stares at the ceiling, recalling. “We ran through the rain to Meyerhof House because the soda machine was broken in your dorm.” She bites her fingernails, spits splintered bits into the shadows beside the bed. She reminisces whenever they’re here, in this same room, on this same bed. “We were soaked by the time we got back. You ended up sick and missing classes for a week.”

Jake asks, “Have you remembered where we first met?”

Rory’s hair covers her face. It hides the tear Jake knows is struggling free. She doesn’t answer.

She loses a little something each time.

Jake does what he can to work whatever that something is back out, but it’s useless. What’s gone is gone.

Rory lights a cigarette. Her lipstick is more brown than red and it stains the filter.

“It’s a non-smoking room, now,” says Jake. “And you shouldn’t be smoking.”

Rory stands on the bed and reaches for the smoke detector on the ceiling. From where he sits, Jake can see beneath her shirt, to the gray flesh of her stomach and chest, to the protruding indications of her ribs. Thin strands of listless silk flutter along her skin like loose threads from a shirt. Rory twists the base of the smoke detector free and pops out the battery. She pockets it and sits back down, puffs on her cigarette.

“I wish we’d never found him,” she says.

This hangs in the air with them a while, as thick as the smoke from Rory’s cigarette.

“You’d be dead,” Jake says, breaking the silence. “I’d be alone.”

Rory’s looks across the bed at him. The first time, three years ago, they had been in a constant tight embrace, both of them terrified, confused, but excited.

He supposes that he wanted it more than her. Needed it more. Watching the smoke leave her lips and caress the side of her face, tangle with her hair, he wonders if he’ll ever forgive himself.

There’s a knock at the door. Not loud. It could have been nothing.

Wasn’t.

Rory drops the cigarette into a glass of water. It hisses, dies. “I can’t,” she says. “Jake please, I can’t.”

“I’ll get it,” says Jake.

“Just a minute more alone. Just me and you…”

In the struggling lamp light Jake sees how tired she looks, and, because he must, he leaves the bed and opens the door.

A child looks up at him, a boy no older than nine dressed in overalls. There’s a small messenger bag slung over his shoulder.

“Come in.”

The boy steps past Jake over to the round table by the shuttered window. Jake closes the door, shutting out the scream of a motorcycle along deserted city streets, and engages the latch before joining the boy at the table. The boy places the bag down and retrieves from within a lidded mason jar, sets it on the table. The lid is pocked with small holes, and a spider—what Jake has always taken to be a spider—the size of his fist writhes within the jar, filling it completely. Its hairy legs tap audibly against the glass.

The boy looks to Rory; she’s curled her legs onto the mattress, wrapped her arms around her knees and pushed herself against the headboard. He sighs, turns back to Jake. “Is she ready?”

“No,” says Rory. “I’m not.”

The boy snatches the jar from the table and prepares to return it to the bag.

“Wait,” says Jake, seizing the boy’s arm. He’s never touched the boy before. He senses something beneath the surface there, not physical, but something nonetheless. He wants to ask how old are you but fears the boy leaving, never coming back. He releases the boy’s arm. “She’s ready,” he says, glances over to Rory. “She has to be.”

Rory looks from the boy to Jake. Back to the boy. She scoots forward, and lays back.

The boy unscrews the jar’s lid, and the spider skitters up and out, barely fitting through the opening. The boy pinches its bulbous middle between his fingers and holds it away from his body. Its legs flail wildly, jerking the boy’s arm this way and that. He nods to the empty jar. “Bring that.”

Jake takes the jar obediently into his hands and follows the boy to the bed. Looking down at Rory, the way she lies there, he feels strangely like a mourner at a funeral service.

The boy leans over Rory’s face, stares expectantly at her mouth. The spider quivers between his fingers as, with his free hand, he guides Rory’s shirt up, revealing her stone-gray flesh, the indications of her suffocated ribs. He begins to massage her stomach, gently at first, then going deeper, working his fingers over her skin, weaving them to her chest, to her neck. He rubs at her throat until her mouth opens wide and she gasps.

A set of thin legs sprout from between her lips, weakly shivering. The boy deftly lifts from Rory’s mouth a saliva covered spider, this one like a limp, wet rag, and drops it into the jar in Jake’s hand. It twists momentarily, then stills.

Rory’s eyes grow vacant, her chest motionless.

“Hurry!” Jake cries.

The boy places the new, lively spider, still gripped between his fingers, over Rory’s empty mouth. It probes at her lips, at the darkness between her teeth, and then savagely works its way inside. Jake watches, tears in his eyes, as the lump descends down her throat, explores beneath her flesh.

As the boy packs the depleted specimen into his bag and departs without a word, Jake kneels beside the bed, takes hold of her hand, and waits for Rory to breathe.


Cory Cone is a writer from Baltimore, MD, where he works as a Business Analyst at the Maryland Institute College of Art. His short stories have been published in a variety of magazines and anthologies, most recently Shrieks & Shivers from the Horror Zine and A is for Apocalypse. You can follow him in instagram.com/corycone and twitter: @corycone. He blogs once in a while at www.corycone.com.


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Rate this story:
 average 3.6 stars • 32 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    Compelling atmospherics and horribly creepy set-up.

    But it’s sort of like heating the oil and frying the onions, and then not adding any meat. This is an intriguing prelude. I think there were two choices that might have made have enabled this to work–prune the descriptions to the minimum necessary to set the scene and give at least a hint of why Rory has triggered such an awful fate–or don’t try to cram this into the flash format. It’s certainly worthy of a fuller exploration but as is, I think it’s not fair to give a rating vote.

    Also, I found it jarring to realize this has only been going on for three years. The set-up made it seem a much longer time-frame. Of course for the unfortunate protagonists, three years of this might well feel like eternity. But it impeded the flow for me.

  • Rose Gardener

    Yuck, yuck, yuck! But in a good way. (I think.) I’ll have spider nightmares for days now.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    Not one for arachnophobes. I felt at the end the yuck element overwhelmed the story since I wasn’t too sure why Rory had to vomit up and swallow spiders.

  • amanda

    A story with no epiphany and no point just a yuck factor.

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  • Carl Steiger

    Oh dear. I for one found this nightmarish piece fascinating, even though I don’t know what to make of it.

  • This story really appealed to my creepy side. I appreciated the ambiguity within the tale. Each time I thought I had the direction figured I found myself on a dead end. I liked the descriptions and found it rather noirish in texture. Alexander I like the way you think.

    5 stars from me.

  • MaryAlice Meli

    Wowee, zowee. This is a major button puncher for me. I wondered if Rory was victim to a dreadful disease that traditional chemo or radiation or pills of any kind could not stop, only freaky, big spiders. She didn’t even chew!! Eeeeeeeekk.

  • OscarWindsor

    Not my favourite kind of read, but exceedingly well written.

  • S Conroy

    Creepy, creepy, creepy. I’d sleep better if I could find the rationale to it all, even a hint as Sarah says.

  • Dan The Man

    Great tightly-written story. I love fiction that allows the reader to put their own interpretation on the meaning. Yucky, tale spinner, but definitely one for the web 🙁

  • Cory Cone

    Thank you, everyone, for taking the time to read and comment on my story. And welcome back, EDF!

  • When I read past “There’s a knock at the door.” I realized I had jumped from the cliff without realizing there was a cliff to begin with. Hallmark of a talented writer. Sure, I would have liked a hint, and perhaps Sarah’s observation of a longer piece would be wonderful but it is what it is. Highly entertaining. Do, Cory, write again.

  • Jeffrey Yorio

    Rather enjoyable, the ending wasn’t what I expected. The background to this would be worth in an expanded version. Well done.

  • Chris Antenen

    I can have a dark side, but you can’t. I can’t even rate this. There’s something missing and something I want to be missing. I can’t believe I read this twice looking for that something and hoping the other something would be gone. Obviously I’m out of words.