So, on the edge of one town I lived in there was a dark forest of thick bamboo and cobwebbed trees that gathered in the shadows of the hills. We came with machetes and flashlights.
We needed something to keep the spiders in, so we knocked on the backdoor of a plastics factory that was whirring away even at that hour. The foreman came to us, flushed with his labors, and asked us our business. We told him we needed containers for spider hunting and inquired as to whether he could accommodate us. He looked confused for a moment but finally agreed to supply us with some clear plastic bottles. We thanked him and continued into the wild.
After getting past some chain-link fences, we were finally delving deep into the heart of the bamboo forest. The bamboo grew thick and tall, sweeping like a wooden wave over us as we struggled through the bracken and the bramble. I saw an owl framed against the light of the moon as it swept silently overhead, but it wasn’t owls we were after, it was spiders.
The biggest, juiciest spiders grow in the deepest of dark forests, because there they have few natural predators, and without a serious natural predator they grow to vast sizes. We found mammoth webs jeweled by topaz spiders, and abandoned cobwebs that lay like discarded wedding veils. My friend found a black widow and we trained the light on it. The spider’s crimson-stained abdomen seemed to burn into our souls, but when you have to taste the fire you have to taste the fire. My friend seized it in his hands and blew on it immediately to stun it. Remember that. Spiders hate air. Their body can’t handle the sudden gust. This could save your life one day when you’re trapped inside a narrow tunnel and spiders are scuttling directly at your face. Your arms pinned by your side, your mouth will be all that stands between you and a fate worse than death. You must blow, blow, blow them back, each breath exhausting your lungs until you can no longer blow and they inevitably make it to your face, for unlike you they are tireless. Then they will lay eggs in your face and you will live an undying agony for days, perhaps weeks as your face is eaten away by the swelling of the spider eggs. You will feel the tumid sacs rolling back and forth in the ruin of your face, each filled with hundreds of thousands of tiny spiders, each struggling to burst free. And they will, believe me. Burst from the inside out, fountaining out your eaten nose and through your hole of a mouth and out your ears and worst of all they will slowly but methodically eat their way through the soft yolk of your eyes and then burst out through your black eye holes, and you will feel each of their tiny legs brushing along the decaying meat tunnels they’ve eaten in your face as they escape. And then, if the god is kind, you will die.
Anyways, we funneled the black widow into the bottle and continued the hunt. Dark tunnels were formed by heavy, wild bamboo, and it was all too easy to imagine thousands, nay, naw, millions of spiders crawling around us, waiting for the right moment to drop down in their endless blackness and consume us, leaving nothing behind but bones for the coyotes to gnaw on.
We walked through that warm summer night, back to my friend’s ranch. We had several spiders. We lay our machetes down, pleased that we had not had to use them. Blood before battle is a bad omen.
Now was the part we had been waiting for. The spiders would fight. We took a stick and held it suspended. On each end a spider was placed. They came at each other like light-speed jousters, or ninjas with grappling hooks, wheeling and reeling around the stick, spinning by their web and colliding in midair, snaring each other in silk and tearing their limbs away. There are a variety of techniques that spiders use.
Sometimes a spider will block the other spider’s blows by snaring it with silk as it charges, so that when the other spider tries to draw away, its limbs are torn from it. As I said, midair fights are common as well. In the end, though, the losing spider will begin to slow and falter as its wounds become too grievous, and the other spider will placidly begin to wrap it within suffocating webbing even as the defeated spider still lives.