As the wind carved its way swiftly across the sand and rocks of the Wirral side of the River Dee, seagulls tried desperately to maintain some sort of stability as they circled in the air, and a few dogs that were out still played and jumped around as though not affected. One of those dogs, ‘Baron’, a three-year-old border-collie sniffed around the rocks and pebbles for nothing in particular, its owner near the shoreline, concentrating hard on the metal detector that he slowly swept over the ground. With his earphones on, he, like the dogs, barely noticed the wind, even though it tried to push him off balance.
Jimmy Reynolds was 52 and had been an avid user of metal detectors for 14 years, travelling all over the country, and sometimes abroad in the pursuit of hidden treasures, of which he had found quite substantial amounts, from ancient Roman coins, to gem-encrusted jewellery. He had walked this area many times, as he only lived just less than a mile away, his detector having swept over the sands time and again, hoping that perhaps he had missed something, or that maybe something had recently been buried, but he could spend hours wandering up and down, the dog enjoying it as it played and explored every time as if it had never been there before.
Jimmy was the type of man who had to buy the extra-large in clothing, and sometimes even they would stretch at the seems and rip. He had attended many lose weight programmes, but usually gave up after around a week, the temptation of junk food simply too much for him. He was balding with uncontrollable dark hair above his ears and around the back of his head, and the wind tore at it with its intensity, but Jimmy simply continued sweeping the detector over the sand.
After an hour and a half, with Baron sniffing around the shoreline, and Jimmy deep in concentration on the dry sand where it was difficult to walk, near a pathway entrance, he heard the familiar beeping sound, indicating that there was something below. He always brought a trowel with him when he went detecting, and was soon on his knees digging away.
After nearly a metre, and a few stares from passers-by, he found what it was that the detector had discovered. It was a key, a rusty, three-inch key with a label attached. He picked it out and wiped the label clean. ‘Room 15. The Dahlia hotel’ it said, and familiarity began to grow in Jimmy’s mind. The dahlia hotel, he thought. Where was that? Then he remembered. It was around two miles away, hardly noticed because it was just another empty building of no significance, its heyday long gone, its windows boarded-up, and decay and rot having set in soon after it had closed. Jimmy thought he knew where it was, and pocketed the key, whistled to Baron who looked up with concern on his face as if to say: ‘What? We’re not going already are we?’
As his home was en route to the hotel, he dropped the gear off, except his trowel, and set about trying to find the hotel. With Baron by his side, not needing a lead, they eventually reached the area where he thought it was, only to find himself staring at an estate agent.
Another wander around the roads, and he found it along a quiet side road. It was a small place with only three floors, sandwiched between the rear of a baker, and an apartment building. Its red doors were firmly locked, and he knew there was no way in that way. He wasn’t sure why he wanted to try the key, as he was guessing that it would simply open into a normal hotel room with dusty furniture and a view of the backyard, yet, somebody was responsible for putting the key where he had found it. Was it somebody who had thrown it away in haste? Was it a tenant who had to bury the key so nobody could get inside? If so, why?
Jimmy wanted to find out, so found himself around the rear of the place, surprised to find a backdoor open that led him to the hotel’s yard. He was unsurprised to find a door locked, but it was, however, rather loose on its hinges. Jimmy knew he had to work fast, as he guessed somebody from another back window could probably well be snooping at him, telephone in one hand. It took five minutes of him trying to be quiet, and Baron pacing around behind him as though he knew that this was illegal. With his strength, and nearly breaking his trowel, he wrested the door open, and soon found his way into the foyer next to the dust-laden reception counter.
Through various uncovered parts of windows, and cracks in the boarding, minimal light pierced through, creating enough light for him to see the stairs, and basically to see where he was going. They creaked as he walked slowly up, the dog racing ahead of him. It seemed to get darker, but still, he walked along the soft carpet, trying to find room 15.
It wasn’t on that floor, so he made his way up the stairs again, the dog racing ahead, panting and sniffing around. There was just enough light to see the room numbers, and because the hotel was fairly small, he soon found himself standing in front of room 15. There were a few wooden planks nailed across it, and the words: ‘Private, do not enter’ were attached to the door on a torn away piece of card, but it was too dark for Jimmy to see that. He set about taking away the planks, which wasn’t too difficult, as they were easily wrenched away, the cracking sound shattering the stillness.
He could just about see the door handle and fumbled around for the keyhole. He didn’t know why he was hesitant but knew he hadn’t come this far only to turn away. He tried the door first, but wasn’t surprised to find it locked. He slowly inserted the key and turned it. The mechanism hadn’t been used in a long-time, and its workings were rusty and stiff, but the lock clicked open, and Jimmy pushed the door, only to find some resistance.
It opened slowly, but whatever it was pushing against sounded like a clump of grass that was slowly being torn away. Baron raced inside, and within seconds was barking loudly, and if Jimmy knew Baron, that was a bark of fear. He thought perhaps that a window had been left unboarded in this room, as there was daylight, albeit somewhat shady. He walked in only to see his dog barking at something he could not see as it was around a corner. It was immediate that there was something very strange about this place. What appeared to be silky stringed webbing adorned all surfaces, and it was quite an effort to join Baron as his ankle boots kept sticking to it. It was all over the living room, except for the large hole in the middle of the floor, where the daylight was coming from. I could be in a giant spider’s den, he thought, and when he looked and saw what Baron was barking at, he saw that he was.
A large black Katipo spider, the size of a transit van, was poised with long spindly legs ready to strike, its eyes obviously staring at them. They had wandered right into its nest, and the hole was its entrance. Jimmy yelled and staggered back, falling over Baron and into the hole, where he fell directly into the spider’s tangled webbing, slowing his fall.
The sticky threads were wrapped around him, but he could see through them enough to see that he was in some sort of forest, the ground being around ten feet away. Baron continued barking, then gave a high pitched yelp, and fell silent. Jimmy thrashed around, but only made it worse for himself, and then the Katipo came out of its den, the shiny black eyes getting closer. Its legs wrapping more silky thread around him, and Jimmy could no longer see the other dimension, a parallel universe, a universe exactly the same as the earth, where humans had evolved, but the spider had grown to be the top of the food chain, the dominant species.
Humans were simply their prey, and a tear in the fabric of the dimensions, not of the spider’s, but nature’s making, was the small entrance into what the spider called home. With the room being sealed, the spider simply saw it as a place to nest, where it could put the humans and animals it had caught in storage for when they were hungry, which is what it did with Jimmy, cocooning him alive, and dragging him back into his own dimension.
Baron’s barks of terror were muffled by the thread wrapped around him, and Jimmy’s screams went ignored. They were blended into the fabric of the nest, along with its other victims, ready for when it fed, and when it had finished, it saw along the corridor, an open door, a door into a new universe.