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Where We Left Off:
Gus launched into action when he saw a critter run and hide in the body of the truck.
November had barely begun and everyone in the northeast was confused by the weather. It’s fall. It’s not ever the same thing from year to year. There could be snow in October and wearing shorts in November. (I know, climate change). This is basically why weather people on TV and radio never need to be accurate. You have as good a chance predicting the day as asking anyone over forty how their joints feel. They’ll be just as accurate or more so.
On this November day of our Third Year of our Apocalypse after the COVID-19 Outbreak, it was warm. I was outside with Gus, our sometimes fearless private detective. We had made the rounds to feed birds and were ready to move on to the next phase of patrolling. Gus kept looking for chipmunks even though they’ve been hibernating since mid-October. I think he was remembering his last interaction with one which took place on Oliver’s patio. That’s for another case file. While Gus was thinking back to that day, it gave him the urge to go back to the patio.
There are two tables and lots of chairs on the uneven slabs of slate. There are three short sets of stairs: one leading to the grass and the other two leading to Oliver’s private quarters. The chipmunks often hide behind those two sets of stairs because they aren’t attached to the building so much as up against it. Those crevasses also get other critters hiding or sleeping there like snakes and mice. The Cook has a phobia of snakes so if one is spotted, she’ll avoid the area for weeks.
My phobia isn’t snakes. I have a particular issue with bugs and bug-like things. I know they’re all around and sometimes I have no energy left to give for even a panic attack. That’s when you know I’m officially drained. I might see a small spider and be somewhat okay. I usually speak quietly, “Look, if you just stay over there while I have to pee, we’ll be okay and I won’t bother so you don’t have to bother me. But I really would like for you to go outside.”
The thing is, the spiders are supposed to be outside. Yet, when I see them outside, they tend to be huge! The Grumpy Old Man even killed the big black and yellow garden spider that would hang out above the lilies on the side of the garage. I couldn’t believe it when he told me! That spider (or a different one, I don’t know), had been there for years somehow. I remember the effort it took for me to hold in my stomach contents while I took a photo of it to upload to the internet and get and identification. Otherwise, social distancing was a thing I did with creepy crawlies like that since I was rather young.
One year, while staying at the yoga lodge for a few days, there was a not-small spider in our shower. I opted to not shower for the rest of the stay! This year, I decided to use a shower on a different floor. Before this phobia set in, when I was very young—maybe six or seven—I actually wanted a pet tarantula! Now when I see that tattooed on someone, my stomach churns, I get dizzy, and I think I might actually faint. Fortunately for me, I don’t see those friends with those tattoos often. They do have many pets that make me cringe into discomfort.
All that backstory brings us to this early November day when Gus and I were on the patio after he climbed a Japanese maple tree. I saw something move about six to eight feet from where I was standing. One should not be able to see something “small” from that distance which meant my brain already processed scenarios like a flow chart.
At first, I wasn’t sure if something moved, but then I saw it again. Gus was near me, but he kept moving around. If something was there, I would rather that I get bit/stung than him. Everything would be worse if it was one of the cats in harm’s way.
Once I was sure that I hadn’t imagined it, I needed to find a weapon. I also had to figure out how to get into a good position to photograph it without being too close while still keeping Gus away from whatever it was. This part of the investigation was heart-pounding (for me). I snapped a couple photos. I couldn’t tell by the perfect camouflage whether it was in the frame or one of my typical blurry, unrecognizable shots. I inched closer and tried again with the same results. All I knew at this point was that I was 99% sure it was a spider.
Oh gods. Come on! Why?
The only weapon like object I found was a yellow fly swatter. I didn’t want to kill this thing if I didn’t have to. Whenever I tried to clear the area of dead leaves or move the monster to a space on the ground where it wouldn’t blend in, it would draw itself into a tight ball looking like a small rock. Unbelievable! When it was walking, those fucking legs and body were HUGE. Long legs too. Like they could keep reaching like Plastic-Man’s arms and wrap around me like a boa constrictor.
You see, when studying trauma, I learned a thing or two about the nervous system. The hippocampus is always scanning for danger. The amygdala tries to identify the danger and takes the “shortest” route to send signals in order to get the human into action to save its stupid life. Digestion stops while legs get ready to run unless your stupid brain sends into the “Freeze” state of defense or worse–the “Fawn” or “Be This Monster’s Bitch to Keep it Happy”– response.
It’s not a stick! It’s a snake! — a common set of sentences used to teach students about how our sympathetic nervous system works
To keep the alliteration, the science community has named these responses: Fight, Flight, Freeze, and Fawn. They’re also a step sometimes considered separate from Fawning which is Clinging to the “monster,” or in the case of trauma science, the perpetrator of the violence. I don’t know what “F” sounding word you could use for cling though. Dissociation is usually within the parameters of the Freeze response.
After failed attempts at moving the monster to a better spot and then acquiring a photo, I tried sliding the yellow fly swatter underneath it for a bright contrast. The damn thing curled up again. It was not making any of this easier!
By this point, Gus was getting awfully curious about the monster. I was juggling the fly swatter and my camera which had the zoom lens on it so I had to be far enough away for that to work, all while squatting and trying to keep Gus from sticking his face into the monster’s grasp. This is a ridiculous situation when I’m not in that moment.
I couldn’t do anything to get better photos. I had to get Gus away from there and put a lot of distance between me and that thing. Gus was happy to be led up the stairs to go inside and eat. I had to send the photos from my camera to my phone. Then it got really funny. I had figure out how to open them in Pixlr to sharpen them and work the contrast to make the creature more visible while trying not to look at it. And then, I got to upload those photos to iNaturalist for identification. It’s been about a month and no one has been able to categorize the creature into a more narrow listing than “spiders.”
I blocked out the creature on some screenshots and posted those to Instagram. I asked if anyone could please go to the iNaturalist app and identify this thing. No one did. Instead what I got was a direct message from a friend with a big motherfucking giant spider. It wasn’t even an attachment I had to open. Instagram just shows you the images. He thought I would find it fascinating because of the pretty red and blue colors of the monster. No. No, thank you. Then again, days later another friend messaged me a video of spider! Seriously, guys?
Oliver and Gus ate their lunches. I think I took something bland like rice and ginger ale. We went upstairs to my bedroom so I could breathe and calm the hell down.
Oliver said, “You do realize that you have multiple spider-themed costumes which you have worn, right?”
“Yes, I know. The silhouette of the logos doesn’t bother me so much, especially because they’re on me and I’m not looking at them when I wear them. I still love Spider-Man. He doesn’t look like a spider.” (#TeamWebShooters)
Ollie agreed to search through the databases whenever he felt like it, but it wasn’t going to be his priority. None of my companions or the detective agency staff cared that there might be a brown recluse right outside the door. Bites from those do require medical treatment.
Oliver stated that the monster Gus and I encountered was not a brown recluse, but he couldn’t positively ID it either because my photos are crap. I will share the photos below anyway for those curious. Since I don’t actually want to see them what I’m going to do is hide them BELOW and you can open the accordion with the “+” sign.
Case Status: Open
YOU CAN EXPAND THE ACCORDION TO SEE THE MONSTER