Chapter 1: Along Came a Spider...
It was another simple day for Martian, as he jogged on the barren road in the middle of nowhere, the sun shining brightly above him with crystal clear skies, with little to none clouds. Martian was a average built man, with black hair topping his head and brown eyes hidden behind a pair of crimson shades. Plugged into his ears were buds that blasted music into his mind, distracting him from the road ahead or his destination; a simple one story house that stood on the right of the road, painted white with a light brown roof. A pool could easily be seen behind the house, and a small garage that sat behind the building with a dirt road leading to its entrance. Martian jogged a bit further, stopped at his mailbox and bend over to catch his breath, then rose to check his pulse and his watch wrapped around his left wrist, while a black and yellow band was wrapped around his right. After a few seconds he sighed loudly, stretched his back and headed towards the interior, only to pause and look to the building’s left; a black vehicle sat in the driveway, yet he owned no such car.
“I don't mind your visits, Gerald, but for god's sake would it kill you to call ahead and let me know you're showing up?” Martian called in as he entered the building into his small living room, and seated in his deep red couch was a man older than Martian, with brown hair and a single white streak. He wore a black suit and on his right ring finger was a class ring with a blue stone implanted. He had a cup of hot tea in his hands, and took a single sip before focusing on Martian.
“I prefer to surprise you Martian. Its much more fun to see you surprised than to see you expecting me.” He replied with a chuckled. “I take it your jog was well and easy?”
“Like I said, I don't mind you visiting me, Gerald, but what do you want?” Martin asked. “You never really do show up unless its important.” Martian walked to the kitchen, which was a small corner area away from the living room blocked by a counter top. In the far back was a hallway leading to the bedroom and a bathroom area. As Martian poured him a cup of the same tea, Gerald coughed silently and stood up.
“I'll assume that you're well aware of the Extraspecies Intelligence Treaty, correct?” Gerald asked.
“Yeah, it got finalized about four years ago.” Martian replied drinking the tea. “I remember you got put on the program cause of your grandfather right?”
“Yes, I see you do pay attention to the outside world.” He joked. “Anyways, I've been recently in charge of the Exchange Bill for awhile and I ran into abit a... bump.”
“Exchange Bill?” Martian asked. “And dare I ask what bump are you talking about?”
“The Exchange Bill is part of the treaty, which allows an Extraspecies to live with a human family in order to learn of our culture and possible new ideas for their home nations. So far, since it started last year, it was been going well, but the bump I was talking about was this Extraspecies whose been having issues settling in a host house for awhile. And that’s where you come in”
“Me? But I haven't signed up to the Host program.”
“Well.....” Gerald said awkwardly. “Of a sense, you are.”
“I may have signed you up when the Bill started awhile back.”
“I only did it in case I needed to find a Extraspecie who needed a home to live in. Besides I find you easier to work with an any other person I know.” Martian sighed loudly, and looked at Gerald dead in the eyes.
“I don't really mind Gerald but for god sake you need to let me know this stuff before it happens.”
“Would it have affected your answer if I told you then than now?” Gerald asked.
“Well, no... But-!”
“Excellent! We'll swing by tomorrow probably around eight to drop off your guest, and the next day the construction workers will come by to enlarge portions of the house, including a guest bedroom and a larger bathroom.” Gerald replied as he sat the tea cup down and turned to leave.
“Bigger bathroom...? Wait wait you mean I have less than 24 hours to clean this place up for the new guy?!” Martian shouted.,
“Its your house, Martian, not mine. But if you're a man who likes to make a great first impression...” He stopped to think for a second, then shrugged. “Then yes. I suggest you better get busy. Ta!” Gerald walked steady out the door, and Martian could hear his vehicle roar to life before driving towards the distance town. Martian sighed, and looked at his living room, scratching the back of his head.
“Man... I hate Tuesdays sometimes...” He mumbled.
The loud blaring of his alarm clock shook him from his slumber, and Martian turned his burrowed head up to the brightly illuminating clock that stood on his dresser. Its black face read ten-forty two in the morning, which caused Martian to jump from his bed and quickly reach for his jeans that sat lifeless on the floor and bolted out of his bedroom into the living room.
“Oh god I'm so sorry I didn't mean to keep you—waiting?” The room was barren of any life, yet looked rather well kept thanks to his part. Martian though for a moment before turning around and froze on the stop in pure fear.
“Oh god damn it no!” He screamed before sitting upright, wide awake and covered in sweat. He breathed heavily and brushed his eyes. He sat on his couch, in his living room, which mirrored his dream room, but with sunlight flooding the living room. Just as he sat up and put a clean shirt on, the door swung open and Gerald stepped forward, wearing this time a blue suit.
“Ah you are awake! Good, perfect timing!” He remarked.
“What time is it?” He mumbled. Gerald looked at his watch to reply to his question.
“Right now its eight on the dime.” He replied with a grin. “Now are you glad I told you ahead of time?”
“I'm going to smack you Gerald.” Martian replied. “Is the Extraspecie here?”
“Ah yes I told her to wait outside in case you were still asleep. Shall I call her in?”
“Duh I don’t want her to suffer in this heat-- wait did you say her?”
“Sekret, you can come in now. Martian is wide awake.” Gerald called outside.
“You never said it was a girl!” Martian replied.
“I don't recalled saying anything about who she is, Martian. I'm sure you can handle having a female living with you, much less a female Extraspecie.” Gerald replied. “Oh, which reminds me, you're not afraid of spiders, are you?”
“Spiders? Gerald, you know what I’m afraid of and spiders are far from that list.”
“Ah, good, very good.” Gerald replied.
“Should I know something about this girl before she comes in?” Martian asked, crossing his arms across this chest. Before Gerald could speak, the door opened and thin black sticks poked through the doorway but stopped.
“Um, Director? The doorway is kinda small for my body...” A female voice called. Martian looked closely at the doorway an d noticed a large figure at the doorway connected to the black limbs, but was unable to point out any detail from the visitor.
“Ah I should've noticed earlier... Hold on a second!” Gerald called, walking up to the door. “Martin is there another way-”
“The back door is larger, yes.” He replied. The sticks pulled themselves out of the doorway and the door closed behind them.
“Gerald.... What the hell was that?” Martian asked.
“That was Sekret, the Extraspecie who will be living with you Martian. Its also the reason why I asked if you were afraid of spiders; Sekret is an Arachne.”
“This is why you need to let me need know things before they happen, Gerald.”
“..... Hm good point but would things be different if I told ahead of time?”
“Yes.” Martian replied just as he heard the back door slide open. Martian turned, and standing in the back area was a girl with long black hair and deep purple eyes hidden behind a pair of oddly designed glasses. She wore a black and blue shirt with long sleeves, and he noticed her hands were pure black and shiny. In her hands was a blue purse that was made form an unusual material Martian didn't know. It was her lower half that caught him off guard; below her stomach was the body of a large black spider. She walked forward up to the two men, dropped the bag next to his couch, and bowed towards Martian.
“H-hello Mr. Williams.” She greeted.
“Yo.” Martian replied.
“Now there are some rules that you need to follow, Martian, but I don't have the time to tell you the full list.” Gerald said before pulling out a small red book from his jacket and handed it to Martian. “I have more important things to handle back at the Tower. Ta!” Gerald quickly walked towards the door and closed it behind him. Martian heard his vehicle roar to life, but out the window he noticed a large white trailer lugging behind him. Martian sighed and looked back at Sekret, who was already looking around the room but quickly turned her head back to face Martian.
“Soooooooo....” Martian started. “I'm Martian Williams. Nice to meet you Sekret.” He held his hand out to Sekret, who pulled her hand back and stared at his outreached hand.
“Um this is usually the part where you shake my hand back and introduce yourself too.” Martian replied.
“I know but...” She started, then looked away fro a second. “You're not... afraid of me?”
“Afraid?” He repeated.
“Most humans who are in the Host program expect... someone smaller or less looking like a creature...” She started. “I've faced many rejections for my body. But why doesn't it scare you?” Martian simple shrugged.
“I don't see at all why anybody should be afraid of you. Plus I think your body is pretty.... cool.” He replied. Seket stared at him with surprise.
“Cool?” She repeated.
“Well, I mean I heard all about Extraspecies from Gerald and know how strange looking they can be.” Martian started. “And I'm not the type to judge on looks.” Sekret let a small smile grow on her face, and held her out back.
“Forgive me earlier. Its nice to meet you too, Martian Williams.” She said. Martian chuckled and shook her back back.
“Well, make yourself at home. Its the least I can do.” He said. “Um sorry if there's no real elbow room.”
“Its quite alright. Guessing from what I heard, you're close friends with the Director?” She asked.
“The Director? Why do you call Gerald the Director?” Martian asked.
“Well, he is the director of the Exchange Program, but I'm not the only one who calls him that.” She replied. “Plus he doesn't seem to mind. I actually didn't know his real name.”
“Huh. Well yes Gerald and I go way back, but he has a nasty habit of not telling me important pieces of information at times.” Martian said with a sigh. “Had I know my name was in the Host Program, I would've outfitted this place to be more space friendly for Extraspecies.”
“That's very odd of him.” Sekret remarked.
“Yeah I know. He is an oddball, that's for sure.” Martian joked. “So are you hungry? Thirsty?”
“I am actually starving.” Sekret mumbled. “I was nervous to met you and haven't eaten anything yet.”
“Ah, its still early but I guess brunch wouldn't hurt anybody.” Martian remarked and walked to the kitchen. Sekret followed slowly, mindful of her surrounding area with her legs. She walked to the couches and sat down on the largest chair, and relaxed when her weight didn't break the chair. She spotted a small picture frame standing on the end table and picked it up.
“Martian, who's this?” Sekret asked while Martian was cooking eggs. He looks over his shoulder, and let a sad sigh escaped. The picture in Sekret's hands revealed two figures; Martian, at a younger age with his arms around a woman about his age with brown hair tied into a ponytail and bright blue eyes. In the background was a beach with a crimson sun dipping into the sea.
“That's Julia. She's Gerald's sister and my... girlfriend.” He replied.
“You look so happy with her.” Sekret said. “Where is she? Does she not live with you?”
“I rather not talk about it, Sekret.” Martian replied, resuming his cooking. Sekret had a puzzled look on her face, then put the picture down.
“I'm sorry. I didn't mean to bring a touchy topic.”
“No no its fine.” Martian quickly replied, bring out two plates of fresh cooked eggs. “It's just something I'm still trying to get over.”
“I wish I could say that...” He mumbled, stabbing his fork into the yellow mash and taking a large bite out of it.
“Oh, what did happen?” She asked. Martian stopped for a second, then shook his head.
“Na its nothing Sekret.” He replied. “Don't worry it.” Sekret started to speak up, but feel silent and looked down at her plate.
“I should've known humans would also have issues with romance..” Sekret mumbled before lifting a tiny piece to her mouth. Once she had consumed the egg, she froze in a stance that confused Martian.
“Is something wrong?” Martian asked, setting his plate down.
“This...” Sekret mumbled, her eyes locked on the plate of eggs in her hands.
“Yeah, its eggs.” Martian replied. “What did I under cook it?” Sekret shook her head.
“No.... its amazing. I never had anything like this before!” She explained before consuming the remains of her meal. “I've tasted many human cuisine but never before have I encountered anything like this before!” Martian looked at her then chuckled.
“Um, thanks I guess.” He said. “I haven't really done anything different with it.”
“Still its amazing.” Sekret replied, wiping her mouth with a napkin. “Even if its the same as the rest, it depends on how you treat it. That's all the difference it needs to be unique.”
“Or tasty in this case” Martian joke as he finished off his plate. “Anyway, I think we should cover this before anything else happens.” He held up the pocket sized booklet in his free hand.
“Oh right the Host Program Rule Book.” Sekret mumbled as she lifted a same sized book, only blue in color. “Its the same, but the blue issues goes to Extraspecies, and red goes to humans, or the Host Family.”
“I noted. Let's take a look and get this over with.” Martian replied and opened the small manual. Sekret did the same, and both sides were deeply focused on the text of the small tomes in their hands.
“Ah this is all boring and confusing...” Martian complied, closing the tiny book and lying back.
“I find it easy to understand. There a few simple rules, I understand, like inbreeding and--”
“Inbreeding?” Martian asked, peaking up. “What does that mean?” Sekret first looked confused then turned a deep red, hiding her flushed face behind the book.
“Um, just read it...” She mumbled. Martian, puzzled by the sudden change of mood, quickly flipped through his rule book, and looked for the subject heading of inbreeding. He scanned the page, and quickly shut the book as quickly as he opened it.
“Why do I ask the wrong questions...” He mumbled to himself. Sekret nodded, then pulled the book away from her face.
“There's also the case of hurting each other.”
“Hurting?” Martian asked.
“Yes. It says here that each of the sides mustn't harm each other, or could face serious consequences.” She started without looking at him, her eyes zipping from left to right. “For example, if you were to harm me in any way, you could be arrested by your authorities and I would be taken back to my homeland. Likewise, if I were to harm you, the rules also apply in my homeland, where you to show up there, as long as you got clearance and permissions to be there.”
“That's... Actually understandable.” He chuckled. “Say, speaking of homelands, where do you come from?” Sekret let a warm smile printed on her face, and lightly placed the book down on the table.
“I come from a rather large island just south of your country.” She started. “We call it the Arachne Islands. For many years, Arachnes like myself have made the island bigger and bigger by connected bridges from each of the islands and from many wreckage of human boats and planes, which confused us for many years.”
“You guys never knew humans existed?” Martian asked.
“No, we didn't. We assume it came from another race or from another world, until your government sent agents to explore our islands, an made us part of the Extraspecies Treaty.” Sekret explained.
“Huh. And why did you sign up for the Host Program?” Martian explained
“Well, I was curious of the human world. That, and I wanted to get ways from my mother. She can get so worked up with me sometimes cause I'm her favorite daughter out of all mu siblings.”
“And just how many siblings do you have?” Martian asked.
“well, let me see...” She started,m then lost focus. He noticed she started to count on her fingers, which reflected the light off its smooth surfaces in his face. He had guessed that, from ho long it was taking her, it was a rather large family. “About 100 or more.
“One hundread?!” Martian replied louly.
“Or more.” She pointed out. “Yeah, Arachnes are infamous for their large families. That's why we increase our homeland many times. Now that I think about it, I haven't met most of my siblings in ages...” As Sekret was trapped in deep thinking, Martian sighed loudly and stood up, walking towards the kitchen only to trip on Sekrets bag next to her. Something round and smooth rolled out of the open sack and stopped right next to Martian's hand.
“Hey what's this?” He asked, standing up. It felt smooth in his hands, yet sticky. “Yarn?”
“Um, that's not yarn...” Sekret mumbled. “It's silk...”
“Silk? Whoa where did you get this?” Martian asked, examining the ball of silk more. It was clear white, and glowed in the sunlight.
“I....” Sekret started, then looked away. “Made it...” Martian paused, and looked over to Sekret, then back to the ball of silk, or rather, spider webbing.
“That's.... Pretty neat.” Martian mumbled, putting the ball back in the bag. “So Arachnes can make their own clothes at home?”
“And many other helpful things...” Sekret said, looking back at Martian. “You're not freaked out about...”
“Holding spider webs? Or a spider ball? Na. Its just different, that's all.” Martian replied. “ I'm just wondering how you can make it. Can you show me?” Sekret blushed a bright red, and shook her head quickly.
“N-no! Its embarrassing to make silk in front of strangers!” She replied quickly and almost loudly. Martian could tell she was embarrassed, and dropped the subject.
“Right, sorry.” Martian chuckled. “I didn't know it was big thing to ask.”
“T-that's fine.” Sekret replied, twiddling with her fingers. “What about you?”
“Hm? What about me?” Martian asked.
“Well, we learned about me an my race, what's your story Martian?” She asked. “Martian scratched the back of his head, and sat back down.
“Well, there's not a lot to say about me. What do you wanna know about me?” Sekret thought for a moment, then snapped her fingers once an idea hit her.
“I guess I wanna know how you know the Director.” She asked.
“Gerald? Well, we go back a long time ago, probably since high school.” Martian replied. “We were the best of friends and competitive to the end, believe me. He was a fighter back in the day.”
“And his sister?” Martian sighed lightly before replying.
“She was just another friend till collage, then I asked her out one day and we just got together after that.”
“And how did hr brother felt about it?”
“Ha,well that's the best part. He actually wanted us to get together, since he knew before hand that she had a crush on me.” Martian laughed. “In fact, he soon started to pay for our dates. It was like we were already a close family.”
“So what happened to Julia then? Did she move?” Martian froze up, and looked down at the floor.
“...Then the headlights flashed, an it turned black...” He mumbled.
“Headlights?” Sekret asked. Martian broke from his trance, and looked up at her.
“Its nothing to worry about. She's ok where she is now.” Martian tried to put on a fake smile, but Sekret seemed to notice. “Anyho, how about a tour of the place before it gets bigger.”
“I guess, but...” She started to rise, and caused the table to move from its current place with her leg.
“Ah right, I forgot.” Martian replied. “Well, down the hall over there is my room an the bathroom.” He pointed to a hallway that was cut off from the rest of the house.
“I'm hoping he makes the bathroom large for me.” Sekret mumbled.” Martian was about to ask about how she goes to the bathroom, but decided it would be best not to ask.
“And maybe add a second room for you too.” Martian replied, thinking to himself. “And you probably know this, but there's also a pool out back.”
“Yes, I saw that. Don't expect me to go swimming anytime.” She lightly chuckled.
“Arachnes can't swim?” He asked.
“That, and your pool is too small.” She replied. Martian laughed at her comment, then looked back at the small books on the table.
“Well, I guess now we need to make up our own rules around the house.”
“Like what?” Sekret asked.
“Well, for example, once the bathroom is made bigger, we always knock going in.” Martian started.
“Same could go with bedrooms.” Sekret added. “Oh, I almost forget about going outside!”
“Yes. I can't leave the Host family house without being accompanied with the Host.” Sekret started. “I guess its to prevent a Extraspecie from getting lost or getting into trouble.
“Yeah that sounds right I suppose...” Martian mumbled. “Well, I guess we go the basics down. What's next?”
“How about a progress check?” Gerald asked, standing next to the doorway. His appearance surprised Sekret and Martian.
“Would you stop doing that?!” martian asked loudly.
“Stop doing what?” Gerald asked with a puzzled look.
“Appearing out of nowhere!” Gerald though for a second, then shook his head.
“Na, its too fun to give up.” He replied. “I can see you two are getting along just fine.”
“Y-yes, we covered most of the rule book and about each other.” Sekret replied. “We removed any large bounties with each other.”
“Oh? Well that's good! I told you Martian was the man you could trust.” Gerald replied with a smile.
“Wait, she was with another Host family?” Martian asked. Gerald looked at Sekret, who looks hurt.
“You didn't tell him?” He said. Sekret shook her head. “Well, then I don't have to tell him then. Goodie.”
“Wait what?” Martian said confused.
“Now that I know you two are the best of friends, I must take off. Ta!” Gerald replied.
“Director, wait.” Sekret spoke up, catching Gerald off guard. “Martian won't tell me, but hat happened to your sister?” Gerald pause for a moment, then looked at the wall.
“Ah well that's a different story for another time.” Gerald replied. “I can't really say much, but when the time is right, I'm sure Martian can tell the full story. Ta!” He then took off out the door,and disappeared from sight.
“He truly is a strange man.” Sekret mumbled.
“Yeah, I already knew that...” Martian mumbled, looking back at the picture of Martian and Julia, a night that he would never forget.