I remember a short story... or I remember part of it anyway.

The vague plot was that this guy discovered that Earth was part of this big war. Spiders were on one side (the good guys), flies etc were on the other side. I think he discovers this because he can hear them, which causes the bad guys to get all upset.

The scene I remember is at the very end, where the hero is trapped in a house with some spider etc allies. The spider has been explaining the war etc. Our hero asks, "will we win". The spider answers, "Yes". Then..."Oh, do you mean this battle? No, we will almost certainly die. I thought you meant the war."

I would have read it in the late 70's or early 80's I think. That's all I got...

  • Reading the title, my first thought was the Arathim from Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Jul 9, 2020 at 19:41
  • 2
    Thanks for inspiring a question about this story.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jul 9, 2020 at 20:43
  • @Randal'Thor, my brain is filled with old stories, this site is cool. Jul 9, 2020 at 20:55

1 Answer 1


"Expendable", a short story by Philip K. Dick, first published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, July 1953, available at the Internet Archive. It was part of the (unaccepted) answer to this anthology-identification question.

Wikipedia summary:

The plot centers on an unnamed human being caught in the middle of the ongoing, million year conflict between the degenerate descendants of the insects (Earth's original inhabitants) and humans (the invading species).


"I see." The man nodded. He licked his lips, running his fingers shakily through his hair. "Do you think — that is, what are the chances — "

"Chances?" The Stinger undulated thoughtfully. "Well, we've been in this work a long time. Almost a million years. I think that we have the edge over them, in spite of drawbacks. Our arrangements with the birds, and of course, with the toads — "

"I think we can save you," the Cruncher put in cheerfully. "As a matter of fact, we look forward to events like this."

From under the floor boards came a distant scratching sound, the noise of a multitude of tiny claws and wings, vibrating faintly, remotely. The man heard. His body sagged all over.

You're really certain? You think you can do it?" He wiped the perspiration from his lips and picked up the spray gun, still listening.

The sound was growing, swelling beneath them, under the floor, under their feet. Outside the house bushes rustled and a few moths flew up against the window. Louder and louder the sound grew, beyond and below, everywhere, a rising hum of anger and determination. The man looked from side to side.

"You're sure you can do it?" he murmured. "You really can save me?"

"Oh," the Stinger said, embarrassed. "I didn't mean that, I meant the species, the race . . . not you as an individual."

The man gaped at him and the three Eaters shifted uneasily. More moths burst against the window. Under them the floor stirred and heaved.

"I see," the man said. "I'm sorry I misunderstood you."

  • 1
    Wow, that's great. I especially love it when the actual story is on the web somewhere so I can re-read it. Jul 9, 2020 at 2:22
  • 2
    @VaughnOhlman A story about spiders on the "web", I take it that was pun not intended? ;)
    – Davy M
    Jul 10, 2020 at 0:03
  • 1
    My rule in life is to ALWAYS take credit for puns ;) Jul 10, 2020 at 0:18

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.