Writers (in order): Keiss Chan, Sophie, Langston Wu, Raisa T, Lindsey Segi, Megha Mummaneni, Irene Tsen, Mariarosa Cerritos, Surya Saraf, Nina Li, Rohit Divekar, Trishla Dedhia, kaylee n, Maggie Zhang. Editor: Ms. Wilson.

As my boat sunk lower and lower, I scooped out measly palmfuls of water into the waves crashing against it. With each passing second, as the boat filled with water, the panic within me grew. For a brief moment, I looked out at the horizon, seeing an island in the distance. I sighed in relief, as I had always been a good swimmer. Still scooping out palmfuls of water, I felt something in my hand. A slightly scratchy texture, similar to wool.

But I didn’t have anything woolen. So I peered into my hands, wondering what was creating that texture. As soon as I saw what it was, I pulled back in horror and dropped it.

It was some sort of spider-mutant abomination, but not of the superhero sort. I almost covered my mouth as soon as I screamed; I would have, if I hadn’t just held a spider with it. But it was too late—the spider that had fallen back into my boat screeched a shrill, piercing cry that spread far and wide around us. All of a sudden, the blue sea turned a menacing black as two other spindly-legged mutants—but much larger than the first—rose out of the water and climbed their way up my boat.

“Oh shit.”

I now erupted with another scream, except this time, adrenaline beat my terror. From my holster, I whipped my sawed-off shotgun and prepared it for a point-blank shot into the mass of infiltrating spiders.

I stood up and fired at the intruders, blowing them into pieces of offal and gushes of fluids that reeked of hell.

My adrenaline finally settled, but fear flooded in again, once I remembered the sinking situation—and in addition, I could still hear the faint climbing of the spiders.

The night didn’t provide much aid to my struggle either. Spiders hissing, waves crashing, being drowned in the middle of your own boat—this was a living nightmare at least.

Whatever it was, my “daydream” was cut short. A string shot grasped my arm. Another came for my leg. My face, neck, back, and throat started to burn with the reality of the situation. Without even the chance to think, I was spun up like a baby burrito, only I had a feeling I wasn’t going to be nurtured. All of my movement became impaired as I slowly was covered in white silk. All I could feel was the light pitter-patter of the hundreds of legs as they finished concocting their cocoon and before my body gave out and fainted.

Thunk. Thunk. Thunk. I woke up, the panic slowly coming back to me. I could feel the pod moving, as if being dragged. That could only mean one thing: I was about to be submerged alive.

Suddenly, the pure white silk broke and fell on the floor as if some sort of invisible scissor cut them open. The submerged feeling disappeared as well. The first thing in my mind was to make sure I was safe. I tried to hold my shotgun, and that was when I realized, I’m here, on this strange sea floor, with nothing that could protect me but my bare fists.

The sea floor was like something of some vast other world. For starters, I was in some sort of air pocket, seeing as I could breathe and walk normally. But above me, I could see the ocean, strange creatures passing above my head, and I could only imagine, somewhere beyond that, the remnants of my boat. I reached out and touched the ceiling of water, but quickly yanked my hand back. The water was freezing—the kind of freezing that sinks deep into your bones and stays there.

A gray creature darted across me, its fins cutting through the water and surrounding my pocket of air in bubbles. It slowly floated to the ocean top and I tried to propel myself upward too, but it was impossible—I was now stuck at the bottom of the ocean. My body swayed from side to side as I tried to collect my thoughts. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a flash of black—and when I turned my head, I was horrified to see the spider-monsters forming a line across the ocean floor.

I hesitated. Part of me wanted to go to them, the only (somewhat) familiar things in a sea of unknowns; the other part of me recoiled at seeing their monstrous forms up close again. But ultimately, I knew that I had no choice. If I wanted to reach the surface of the water, I would only be able to find a solution by going to the things that had caused my predicament in the first place.

“We have no desire in hurting you,” assured the spider that happened to look like their leader. They all looked practically identical, the only feature distinguishing this spider from the rest being the immense fangs shimmering underneath its charcoal-like fur.

“That doesn’t mean we won’t kill you if you try anything funny, so it’s best to comply,” added what seemed to be the runt of the pack. For its size, it sure had an attitude.

“That’s enough, Arg. No need to threaten our guest,” chided their leader. “I’m sure they’ll be on their best behavior,” it hissed,its odious fangs becoming pronouncing, making sure I got a glimpse of where my head would end up if I misbehaved. “Now, where was I? Oh right, we’ve summoned you here because we dreadfully need your help.”

I had to find out what had happened. Trepidation and cold fear filled my body as I followed the spiders.

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