Life in a Vacuum

Andy was startled and dismayed to see the spider on the ceiling.  Only an hour ago, he had washed one down the plughole in the bath tub and now there was another in the living room, just standing there.  For all Andy knew it was watching him with its alien cluster of eyeballs.  Well, we would see about that!  Andy set his jaw and went to fetch the vacuum cleaner.  He had long since abandoned any pretence of capturing these creatures with a glass and a piece of cardboard.  He had given up on releasing them into the street or the garden.  If you did that, there was every chance they would come back in again and you’d be back to square one.

He uncoiled the flex on the upright cleaner and plugged it into the socket.  The ceiling was high – Andy would have to use the longest attachment in order to reach the beast.  He switched on the appliance.  It roared into life.  Andy wheeled it into the corner, directly under the waiting spider.

“Now, I’ve got you,” Andy muttered.  He reached the hose and its attachment up towards the ceiling, daring the spider to move, to try to flee its doom.

The spider stayed where it was.  Even when the nozzle of the attachment was only an inch away – usually they’d be sucked right in at this range.  Andy realised why; the vacuum cleaner had taken to whining.  An orange light on the body was flashing.  This meant the belly of the cleaner was full.  Andy would have to empty it before it would accept as much as another speck of dust.

He sneered at the spider.  “Wait right there.”

Andy unplugged the vacuum cleaner and wheeled it through to the kitchen.  It would be the work of seconds to empty it out, to tip the mass of dust and hair and grit and gunk into the kitchen bin and then clip the containing cylinder back into place, but Andy worked quickly.  He didn’t want the spider to get away.  Who knew where it would go?  Andy wouldn’t be able to relax with it still at large.  It might drop on his head at any point, while Andy was watching television or reading or – Andy shuddered.  The memory of such an encounter when he was a little boy pounced on him from the dark recesses of his mind, ambushing him, robbing him of his sense of wellbeing.

He struggled to unclip the cylinder; his fingers were clumsy in his hurry to get back to the living room.  He swore and told himself to calm down.  If he wasn’t careful, he would snap off the plastic clip and the whole machine would be useless.

Success!  He removed the cylinder, revolted by the grey mass of debris that was packed inside it.  He upended the cylinder over the bin and shook it to dislodge the compacted dirt.

He was revolted to see something moving in the dust.  It dropped out onto the rubbish in the bin and Andy saw in horror and disgust hundreds of spiders, flies and wasps spill out with an angry buzz.  They crawled straight for him before he realised what was happening.  Moving as one swarm, every creature he had ever sucked up the vacuum cleaner threw itself at him.  Andy cried out and backed away.  He tripped over the open chassis of the vacuum cleaner, and landed sharply on the kitchen floor.  He tried to scurry away on his hands and feet, like some kind of crab – or beetle – but the swarm of avenging creepy crawlies was too quick.  Within seconds they covered his chest, his neck, and his face.  They were everywhere: in his mouth and nose and eyes.  Within minutes, Andy was dead, and the creepy crawlies made it their business to leave no mess behind.

It was what he would have wanted, the man with the vacuum cleaner.

Meanwhile, in the living room, on the ceiling, the spider spun its web.

Wash me down the drain, will you? it chuckled.  Don’t you know I have friends in low places?

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