I Saw the Biggest Spider Ever in Peru and My Pants Were Down
In 2008, if you wanted to get to Machu Picchu, you had to take a long, blue train that rolled slowly through Peru’s jungle and mountains. The train stopped several times along the way so riders could refresh, and maybe shop, at little shanty markets, with buildings made of concrete blocks, plywood, and thatch roofs.
At one of these stops I asked a merchant for a baños and he pointed around the backside of the long, concrete building. Those Incans didn’t think much for outdoor lighting, so I sorta followed the wall by moonlight. I found a door ajar and saw a faintly illuminated toilet inside. When I swung the door open I immediately felt around the wall for a light switch, patting my palm and fingers over the cool concreted blocks. Finally, I found the switch, beneath the vanity mirror, and the little room lit up as I pulled my pants down.
Then, as I looked up, I nearly gasped out my spirit when I saw her and her many little children making their way up the wall, just a couple inches from the switch where I had just patted my naked hand. And she was bigger than that feeble hand, and the thought of touching her horrified me in slow motion, and I yanked my pants back up and leapt out of the little room, while my inner child shrieked for mommy, or maybe lamented the absence of a good God.
Back under the cool light of the distant moon, I girded my loins and decided to attempt a photograph of the beast. I prepared my camera, took a breath, and approached the illuminated doorway. Terror hassled me and I had a hard time keeping steady, so this is the best shot of the monster I could get:
As you may have inferred, I despise spiders. Spiders are not good. Did you know that after house spiders mate the female devours the male? She then lays about 40–50 eggs, consummating her narcissistic, exponential reduplication. And did you know that, for every person who walks the earth, about 2.8 million spiders crawl it? I devolve into quivering jelly when I see but only 1 spider. I’d stand no chance against 2.8 million. What I’m saying is, as mere humans, we each live on this planet because spiders let us live here.
But they watch us, and they wait.
I’m not the only God-seeker to shrink back from the arachs. C.S. Lewis echoes my own sentiment when he proclaims, “I would rather meet a ghost than a tarantula.” For Lewis, it was mostly the quasi-animated nature of the creature that curdled him: “Their angular limbs, their jerky movements, their dry, metallic noises, all suggest either machines that have come to life or life degenerating into mechanism.”
Lewis’ contribution to the discussion is valuable, but I have deeper suspicions fueling my animosity. To me it is not just the spider in its tangible form that is so deeply haunting.
Think about it: Spiders are too damn small to do all the things they do. In a single afternoon they can whip together geometrically perfect traps and know just where to place them for highest bug traffic. Then they find the perfect crevices to hide in. You can’t keep them out of your house (you might as well try ridding the world of advertisements as trying to rid your home of spiders). Seal the doors, seal the windows—they still get in! They know when you are approaching: watch them speed up (dang, they’re fast). All this with a brain no bigger than this period:
” . ”
Look at it! There’s no way! It doesn’t make sense! Something else must think for them! They must be controlled by evil spirits!
Why “evil” spirits? Because spiders are so despicable and rude. You could be in the family room dipping your chip in hummus while having a private conversation with a lover when: thp-thp-thp-thp, one crawls up the wall from behind the couch, having listened to every word of your intimate discussion. And those webs: beautiful and brilliant, for sure, yet cruel, merciless, and lacking all compassion. There, in sadistic geometry, the spider traps anything with even the smallest morsel of sustenance, then sloooowly sucks the life out of it. Intrusive, merciless, plotting & scheming, devouring, and thinking-thinking-thinking, all while being SO small!
Small, hairy-legged vessels of perfect evil. They are dark teleology: morbid evidence of an unholy spiritual reality. They creep across my scenes. They dwell in all my spaces. I gasp and flinch. I flex my stance. I pray to God, who is our only chance.