Tracking down rumors of a “Spider Forest” in our own South Florida backyard, Weird Things editor Justin Robert Young and myself found ourselves ambushed whereupon Mr. Young was savagely attacked by a spider. With Mr. Young locked in mortal combat with the beast, it was all I could do to shout encouragement and reach for my iPhone to try to capture the epic battle. The climax of which is embedded below (Warning: not for the feint of heart).
As soon as we set foot in the forest we got the sense of foreboding that WE DID NOT BELONG THERE. It wasn’t just the impossible number of spider webs and spiders that covered nearly every square foot of the forest, it was the sense that all of the webs were interconnected into one giant web that we had haplessly found ourselves walking into. Every footstep into the forest sent a silent vibration on to the meta web letting the spiders know that prey had been ensnared. A million eyes were upon us…
The deeper we went the darker it became as the foliage began to turn the forest into an arboreal cave. The other animals one might find in the forest were deathly silent. They were there to be sure, but moved around with a gallows quietness. Further in it became apparent that we had stepped into a labyrinth from which we may never emerge.
In the black heart of the forest the attack occurred under most peculiar circumstances. I was trailblazing and using my height to boldly knock down any webs that would impede our safe passage. As I scouted ahead I heard a shout from behind. I turned to see Justin punching into the air in a desperate attempt to defend himself from the vicious beast that was trying to devour him.
The spider moved too quickly to get an accurate description, but it was easily as large as my open hand. I helplessly watched as the spider flew around Justin using its web to trap him. No sooner would Justin try to swat at it then would the spider swing to the other side. It became immediately apparent what the spider’s strategy was; like a great white shark or a crocodile that uses a victim’s thrashing to ensnare them deeper into their jaws, this cunning creature was using Justin’s furious energy to wrap him into its web so tightly there would be no escape and the spider could drain him of his vital life fluids at its leisure.
With the image of a comatose Mr. Young searing into my mind’s eye, knowing the spider’s devious intent to use its victims vain attempts to free himself against him, I knew I had but one solution: Render the panicked Justin Robert Young unconscious lest he trap himself so surely in the creature’s web the only escape would be through the shedding of his mortal coil.
I tried to plan the quickest and most humane strike. A Ju-Jitsu punch to the head? A Mui-Tai kick to the chest to knock the wind from his lungs, making him take pause? All of this made complicated by my admittedly encyclopedic knowledge of martial arts techniques. Had I wanted to kill my target the choice would have been immediately and the results deadly. In this instance I deliberated for too long. For this I apologize to Mr. Young. My hesitation in striking him unconscious could have cost him is life. A life I’m no doubt certain he would gladly sacrifice in the service of Weird Things, but a life stricken down too soon no less.
Instinctively pulling my iPhone from my pocket to capture this conflict, the spider suddenly changed its tactics. It became clear that it had not been aware of my presence. This is not an uncommon occurrence. It’s been said that I have a preternaturally stealthy manner not unlike those invisible masters of Ninjitsu. Some of this is second nature to me, part of it is due to training I received in certain places from people to whom I have sworn secrecy. Once the spider sensed that I was there and all eight of its cruel eyes were locked on me its attack became a retreat. In the presence of a greater predator it knew this battle could not be won. For sure his plan to incapacitate Mr. Young was almost complete, but the moment I materialized into view it knew its hope of devouring Mr. Young unmolested was lost.
As quickly as it appeared, the spider faded back into the forest. I had to resist every urge to leap off the trail chase after it and kill the beast out of loyalty to my friend, but vengeance had to be put on hold to make sure that Mr. Young was indeed okay. As we made sure that he hadn’t been bitten and injected with some deadly venom, I realized that chasing after the creature would have been a very bad idea. Its retreat could have been a ploy to separate the two of us to divide our efforts to defend ourselves. My bloodlust impulse to seek out the foul creature and drive my fists into it carapace had to be abated. Now was the time for logic and reason.
We hastily made our exit.
In retrospect we are left with several questions. Since I was in the advance we know that the spider was laying in wait to attack. There was no web for Mr. Young to step into. Was this attack a genuine attempt? Or was it a feint to test our defenses? While my catlike ability to prowl unobserved may explain why the spider didn’t sense me and attack, it still doesn’t confidently explain why I wasn’t attacked at any point even though I was in the lead throughout the expedition.
I suspect the ambush was the forest as a whole trying to find out if it could pick off our party one by one from the rear until we were all ensnared. Unsure of our who or what we were, it sacrificed one spider to find out. I cannot say for sure what it made of us. Clearly it saw Mr. Young as prey. As for myself, I have no idea if it saw me as prey or predator. I do know that I am happy that we escaped with our lives intact. And next time, and there will be a next time, we will step into the forest more aware of its treachery and have perhaps some of our own to offer up in response.
In the meantime, although Mr. Young seemed unscathed beyond physical exhaustion from the ordeal, psychological speaking it was quite traumatic. I know he would appreciate your well wishes to a speedy mental recovery. Please let him know in the comments below that your thoughts are with him.