It was a torrential rain. Harder than Alex and Corey ever remembered. And it didn’t stop all day and into the night. There was no wind, no lightning, no thunder, just rain. Straight down and hard as a shower at the needle setting only with huge drops, so large you could have seen them individually if they weren’t coming down so hard and fast.
And every drop hit the stump that had been left by the arbor company who had cut down the tree after the last hurricane had blown it partially over, the roots out of the ground on one side so the tree listed by about thirty degrees and seemed to be hanging on by a single root that looked like a thread stretched so tight that it would snap at any moment.
Now, the tree was a flattened stump with roots that looked like a giant spider’s legs, tentacles sucking into the earth surrounding the stump and holding on, as if for dear life, as the pounding rain flooded the lawn around where the forty-foot tree had stood.
Alex and Corey waited all day for the rain to stop and, when it hadn’t by midnight, decided to go to bed.
They were exactly the same age, had grown up living across the street from each other in Smithtown, Long Island, gone through public school and college together and, when they both graduated from NYU Law School, married.
It was as close to an arranged marriage as it could have been except that it wasn’t arranged. Their parents were friendly, but not especially close. It was Alex and Corey who were inseparable from the day they’d met sitting next to each other on the school bus that first day of school in second grade.
They’d been married for five years and had not strayed far from their roots, living in an apartment complex in Hauppauge, a few miles from where they’d grown up, and had chosen their law office, in Oyster Bay, because Teddy Roosevelt had had an office in the same building during his presidency.
The tree had been standing about twenty feet behind their apartment in a small park-like area people used to walk their dogs. They’d always enjoyed having the space to look out, especially as the fall turned the leaves to an array of colors.
Now, it had one less tree, and they wondered what would happen to the stump.
By the next morning, the rain had finally stopped and everything seemed to be as dry as if there had been a drought rather than the rain they had witnessed. Before doing anything else, Alex and Corey went to inspect the tree stump, but it, too, was gone.
Alex, to everyone except her grandmother, who still called her Alexandra, was used to dealing with odd cases and arguing them before a jury, but this defied not only her ken, but all of her ability of speech and she simply crumpled to the floor.
Corey knelt next to her and put his arms around her shoulders, but he, too, had no words, and they remained speechless for the next ten minutes until it seemed like they’d stay there all day. Finally, Corey stood and Alex followed, but neither spoke as they got ready to leave for their office.
Another half hour later, still speechless, they drove passed a park area in another apartment community and saw three new tree stumps exactly like the one that had been outside their apartment. Corey nearly drove off the road as he looked at the stumps rather than where he was going – the day before they had passed the same park and there had been no trees where the stumps now were. And if Alex hadn’t screamed, Corey would have driven into the car stopped at the red light directly in front of them.
Now, almost catatonic, they continued toward their office.
They were both glad it had been a busy morning, filled with a steady stream of appointments and a variety of clients, which kept them talking and their minds focusing on legal matters rather than on tree stumps.
At two o’clock, the sandwiches they’d ordered arrived and they turned on News 12, the local news channel, to catch up while they ate at their desks.
Their sandwiches were half-way to their mouths when the report of four giant spiders that looked like tree stumps seemed to be eating their way through a corn field on the north fork. The report went on to state that three other farms had already been devastated.
Arachnologists and arborists had been called in, but every time anyone got near to where the spider/tree stumps were sighted they seemed to disappear, only to be spotted again in the next farm or town.
No one had a plan. The County Executive was already there and the Governor was flying in, and the National Guard was being considered. Everyone was told to stay in their homes, but the north shore farmers were not prepared to sit by and watch their crops disappear.
The farmers and the viticulturists had already banded together and were on the move like an army invading hostile territory, but by the time it was too dark to continue, the creatures, whatever they were, seemed to have completely disappeared, and the devastation had stopped.
The Governor, County Executive and several State Senators gathered for a press conference on the stage of the local high school. While no one had anything definitive to say, it was agreed that they would resume the search at dawn. In the meantime, they asked everyone to remain calm and stay in their homes. No one took questions, and everyone left the stage.
“Did I say anything interesting, Doctor?”
“Barry, why did you come here to be hypnotized?”
“To help me stop smoking. Why?”
“What do you do for a living?”
“I’m a marine biologist. Did I say anything interesting?”
“Very. You told the strangest story.”