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Creature

First, the very tips of the feelers quivered out from behind the fridge, trolling the airwaves a hundred different ways at once, making sure. Double checking just in case. Then the top of the dull brown head jutted out from the narrow space, and paused still like a spot. Its fixed lustrous oversize eyes reflected a glint from the fluorescent light of the ceiling. After the static, uncertain moment, it smoothly emerged altogether and slithered across the thin gap from wall onto the kitchen counter.

Next to the counter, standing perfectly still, Bob watched. His skin shriveled and the hair on his arms rose, and his breath caught sharp at sight of the revolting creature. So sleek and plump, it was. And at that last phase before final molting when caution gives way to overconfidence about longevity.

Bob was immensely satisfied. It coming all the way out really made his day. Revulsion and excitement apart, just as he expected, the creature had succumbed to animal instincts, to chemistry and biology. The tiniest bit of food molecules in the airwaves had stimulated receptors on its marvelous antennae. These antennae had pulled chemical cords attached to muscular systems. The systems had moved the creature's legs and mouth parts. "Go get food!" they had commanded.

And there it was.

The light from the night-bulb and the sheen of the counter-top lime-lighted the creature as it slithered across the counter, steadily, ever cautiously closing on the sink wherein the bait was laid.

Bob guessed as to its sex. Most likely female. Although not yet mature adult, it was probably already fertilized, and in 14 - 16 days would produce one egg-sac. Expelled soft, but quickly hardening to a sturdy brown shell, this capsule was a life raft for 40 to 50 babies. In three to seven days it would crack open from inbuilt mechanical forces, and release its tiny, fully functional infestation. Every single one would be ready to live on its own, and already might be fertilized.

Well learned data from diligent research, no doubt these were formidable foes.

Males were not much different. They led set, directed lives: Reproduce! was their simple drive.

As swiftly as possible, they grew up, produced sperm and got to fertilizing females. Males raced through their nymph stages, became smaller sized adults, and in Bob's estimation, they died quicker.

For him, plump female nymphs like this one, with more to live or be destroyed for, were the superior prey.

Now at the edge of the sink, it was locating the source of the stimulus that had set it off-the bit of tainted meat placed right next to the sink's drain-hole so as to catch the air current. Earlier, when he first moved in, because of impatience or whatever, when they got to this position, Bob would use a chopstick to flick the creature into the sink. Just so that he could get on with the rest of it. He had rid himself of that tendency. Moreover, this here specimen was a such fine one. So in plain respect he let it create its own path.

Meanwhile, its feelers tested a course around the edge of the sink, tentative, inch at a time. Further and further skimping along as if hoping to come upon an escalator or something.

Alert about keeping himself relaxed, Bob just watched its hesitant meanderings.

All-antennae now, any shift on his part, any vibration would startle it to a scurry back to its dark harbor behind the fridge. Then it'd be either Bob having to wait ten, twenty more minutes for a possible return, or giving up for the night, or smashing it with his hand while it was on the mad dash to safety. Then he'd have to endure a self-disgust that had him for days helplessly washing the hand.

So now Bob just remained calm and observant.

Patience was another strength he was practicing from these exercises.

At long last the creature stopped in the angle of the sink's far corner, ventured its head downwards. The feelers concentrated on the smooth aluminum surface, inputting coordinates, making assessments. All factors skewed by the food drive, it figured it could manage the descent.

Bob had made certain it couldn't.

He had so polished the sink, had made the perpendicular sides so frictionless smooth, that one claw below the initial half-inch incline, any creature venturing on that surface, pure gravity took over.

Inevitably! Just as did this one tumbling into the sink.

In the mirror of shiny aluminum, so close together were the creature's shadow and reflection, its six legs churning in confusion looked like sixteen.

Bob now allowed himself a break. Released his tension by stretching arms over his head, twisting about his stiffened neck.

Then he reached up into the cupboard, took out the capped, clear, microwave-safe bottle. The major work over, he readied himself for the fun part.

Meanwhile, the creature, striving automatically as ever, had righted itself, and prime directive in command, it had gone for the tainted meat. Like an automaton, it was. Thinking had nothing to do with its actions.

"Have a good one," Bob murmured, chuckling to himself as he watched the mouth parts work through their final feeding.