Rats in the Barn

barn

When I was 19, I worked for a local exterminator. I wasn’t licensed to use the chemicals, but I did inspections. A potential customer would call the company, they’d send me out to take some notes and pictures, give the property owner a quote, and my boss would come out and kill whatever little critters were causing a problem.

On a particularly busy day, I was scheduled to visit a barn on the far edge of some guy’s ranch that’d been infested with rats. He’d thought about demolishing it and starting over, but I guess there was some sentimental value because he and his dad built the place a while back. Didn’t matter to me.

I was surprised by how big the barn was. Two full floors, also. The place was packed with old equipment, boxes, and whatnot. The owner said the rats were probably attracted to the grain crates that’d sat, unopened, for the last few decades. I told him he was probably right, then he went back to the house while I started looking around.

I went up to the loft first. There were a few droppings, but nothing that made me think of an infestation. It didn’t look like anyone had been up to the loft in a while; lots of cobwebs and dust all over the place. I found a couple dead rats tucked into some corners. I took pictures and noted a few gnawed holes in the walls. When I turned back around to head back to the ladder, without any warning or straining sound, the floor below me collapsed. I fell right through, hit my leg on a tall crate, flipped over, and landed on my head.

For a minute, I thought I’d broken my neck. Thankfully, I could wiggle everything that mattered, but I quickly realized I’d broken my arm. To make it worse, I was wedged, upside down, between two crates. I squirmed and tried to fall to either side, but my pant leg was caught on a series of large splinters jutting out of a crate. The area was very, very tight. Dusty, too. It wasn’t particularly dark, thanks to the barn’s big windows, but I was terribly uncomfortable.

I’ve never been particularly claustrophobic, but not being able to move from my position was terrifying. My broken right arm throbbed and my left, because of the bizarre way I’d landed, was pinned behind me. All I could move was my left leg, but only to kick pitifully at the crates.

As the seconds ticked by, I started praying the rats wouldn’t find me. I was fairly certain I’d panic if they came. I began hollering for help, squirming pretty hard until I realized how it caused pain to explode through my broken arm. The homeowner didn’t come. But the rats didn’t, either. I tried to control my breathing; I was inhaling a lot of dust.

Once my breathing finally returned to normal, I tried to lean in different ways, hoping to dislodge my pants from the wood. Then I felt something which made me gasp. The arm that had twisted behind me, which had been prickling from pins and needles as a result the awful position it was in, was prickling for something else, too. Something was crawling on me. Immediately, I thought of rats swarming and biting my eyes out. I screamed and flailed as agony erupted from the compound fracture. I expected to see the rats any minute.

But I didn’t. I saw spiders. Countless, brown, semi-translucent spiders about the size of my palm were swarming all over my arm and had begun crawling up my shirt. Soon, I felt them on my chest and neck. I screamed and screamed as I watched them skittering in the dirt around my face. I used what little movement I had in my head and neck to crush a couple with my temple and the side of my face, feeling their bodies burst against my skin. But it was useless. There must have been a hundred of them. And the action of killing those two caused the others to start biting.

Pairs of fangs sunk into my skin from the top of my head all the way to my navel. I spasmed with futile panic and a few of them lost their grip on my skin and fell down onto my face and neck. Each of my rasping inhalations before my shrieks forced more dust from the floor into my throat. I felt my tongue get coated with the desiccating stuff, forcing me to stop screaming and close my mouth to try to get enough saliva to spit. The second before I closed my mouth, one of the spiders pushed itself in. I gagged and retched but it remained inside. In fact, it went further back toward my throat.

I flopped my tongue around, trying to get it out. It didn’t budge. So I bit down. The spider exploded in my mouth, coating my tongue and palate with thick, bitter fluid. I retched again, uncontrollably, while dragging my guts-coated tongue against the very dirt I was hoping to get rid of just moments before.

Dirt and dust flooded my throat and lungs while I gasped and flailed. Over and over, the things bit me. The bites were coming fewer and further between, though. The infinitesimal consolation I felt was annihilated after I crushed another spider near my head, however. When I lifted my head from the carcass, tiny babies which must have been riding on its body fanned out all over my face. They crawled into my eyebrows and eyelashes before moving toward my nose. I screamed louder than I’ve ever screamed in my life.

In groups of what must have been at least ten, the spider babies crawled into my nose to seek shelter. I flopped my body back and forth in abject, disbelieving terror. In my thrashing, I freed my trapped arm. Immediately, I jammed my fingers into my nose, trying to scrape the things out of me. Blood flowed as my fingernails destroyed the delicate membranes and I desperately blew dirt-caked snot from my sinuses. I could still feel them. Without thinking, I just starting banging my face into the ground. I felt my nose break immediately and the pain as I continued smashing it into the dirt was incomprehensible.

I felt two hands grab me and pull. Shocked and surprised, I fought against them, striking the person in the groin as he pulled me out of the area where I’d fallen. He yelped and dropped me on my broken arm. But I was free. I scrambled out, blood streaming from my nose, and saw it was the property owner. He’d come running once he’d heard my loudest scream.

He grabbed me by the healthy arm and dragged me to the other side of the barn, where a hose was plugged into the wall. He turned it on and sprayed me with it while I stripped off my clothes. After a minute or two, all the spiders were out of my clothes and off my body. He called for an ambulance as I stood there, naked, directing the stream from the nozzle into my destroyed nose. The ambulance got there 20 minutes later.

I needed plastic surgery to fix my face. My arm took almost a full year to be back to normal. I quit my job at the exterminator from my hospital bed. They told me not to worry about it; I’d already been fired. The barn owner had demanded they pay for the damage I’d done to his loft.

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