Estimated reading time — 16 minutes
It started three months ago. The missing and dead animals. I had proof of what was doing it. I even had the sheriff come to my house. But they think I’m crazy. Now, I’m being accused. I need undisputed proof. I have tonight to get it. If I don’t make it, if I die, I need the truth to be out there.
It exists. And there may be more.
I confess, I am an introvert which may have partly led to why I’m now a suspect. For those of you that are wondering what an introvert is, I will give you the quick and easy. I usually thirst and hunger for privacy at all times. Though I can engage people like everyone else, I prefer not to. And I will go well out of my way to elude them if humanly possible. Even friends, not that I have any, and family, though they are not local anyway. I am inclined to be alone and among my own things and thoughts to be completely comfortable. There is a little more to it, but that’s the meat of it.
A little background as to my neighborhood. It’s a rural cul-de-sac. It has been mostly the same people for the past few years. Not exactly farm land, although many in the little community have animals and pets, or HAD animals and pets I should say. Aside from the usual pleasantries, I have little interaction with my neighbors. Sure, while mowing or shoveling snow in the winter, they’ll engage me in some small talk. You know, the weather, sports or how everyone’s lawn looks. But I keep my answers short and sweet. There are those will eventually pick up on my vibe and they’ll end the conversation. Unfortunately, there are some that won’t get a clue, regardless of how politely abrupt I try to be. For a couple years they attempted to entice me to join in on the community cake walks, yard sales, church or holiday celebrations. Now they don’t bother, as I have turned them down at every request. Still, it’s a small friendly community where everyone waves as you pass them on the street while driving or walking.
So imagine the neighborhood’s reaction when the animals became missing or dead. The uproar is ongoing, of course. According to the previous fliers handed out by the sheriff every few days, the count stands at four dogs, six cats, five goats, a dozen chickens and an unknown number of wild birds, squirrels, raccoons and possums. Personally, I had no vested interest in the subject as I had no animals nor pets. But it did strike my curiosity on an intellectual level.
Now on to what brought me to the situation I now face and how I got caught up in this ten days ago. I have a day job but I really want to be a writer.
Being a writer is difficult. I think the stupidest thing I ever said is, “I think I’ll write a book, how hard can it be?” Which is what I was working on the night in question. Of course, it no doubt would be a best seller, at least in my mind. Now I just hope for the chance to finish it. And as is my custom while writing, I take breaks every hour to use the bathroom, grab a quick snack, fix a drink or step outside for a cigarette. Most times it’s a combination of two, sometimes all four if I am feeling adventurous and multi-talented.
This intermission would be a smoke and a drink. I stood from my desk, stretched and stepped over to the kitchen cabinet, pulled down a bottle of whiskey and replenished the glass along with some coke and ice. It required a small sip for taste. Satisfied, I placed the full tumbler on the counter. I love to write, but what I like most is writing at night. It’s my weekend off the routine job and it’s three a.m. The latest I have written in some time. I’m mostly asleep long before now. Inside is quiet, aside from the low music playing in the background. Outside is equally calm, enabling me to think or clear my head away from the words on my computer screen. I exited my back door to the patio, lit a cigarette and began exploring the midnight sky well lit by a full bright spring moon, blue shining stars and just a few slow floating clouds.
My closest neighbor keeps cows and chickens, separated from my yard by a tall wooden planked fence. Occasionally, I will hear the cows stirring around in their dark pasture and as instinct will happen when they make noise I will glance in that direction even though I can’t see them. They were in the west part of their playground, still grazing, I assumed. That was when I saw, in my backyard, just out of the corner of my peripheral view…
The yard is small by comparison of those around me. It’s narrow at about twenty-five feet from house wall to fence and about seventy at length where it meets my other neighbor’s short chain-link fence. Because the moon was so bright I did not need to engage the porch light and I prefer it that way as I can see the stars more clearly, plus it saves on energy costs. Due to the way the ground sits, the moon light at this hour beautifully floods almost the entire yard, almost.
I snapped my surprised gaze in that direction widening my eyes. Beyond the dim light just entering the dark shadows, closer to the corner of my house, stood out these two large, round, coffee mug sized orbs the moon was reflecting off of. The eye-shine was silver white, and I judged the visitor as being about a foot and a half to two feet higher than the ground. Still, from where I stood, the eyes were enormous. Larger than any I have ever seen. And I knew they were eyes because you just know when you’re being watched.
Where I live is full of all kinds of creatures, and I am visited by them often. So often, I could issue names to them. Yet what I was looking at was not a raccoon, possum, cat (sometimes my neighbors), dog, goat, chicken, rabbit, fox or any other animal eyes I had seen prior. Even with fences, they will go over or under or around and onto my property. At roughly sixty feet away I had a clear visual of the creature’s eyes without being able to identify the animal, which made me feel uneasy. But equally these were eyes I know I had seen before, yet I could not place, not in the reality of my current mind. My curiosity was rising a little higher, so I took a slow step closer with no reaction. Then another, and yet another. It was a risk because I had yet to identify what the eyes belonged to, but I wanted to know.
As I stated, I am familiar with the indigenous animals that occasionally visit. And most of them would have jumped and run off at this point. But this one, when prompted by my last footing, shifted quickly and directly sideways about four feet to the right in the short grass. It did not blink. It did not adjust its head or its vision. It did not raise itself up in order to move. It shifted… rapidly, sideways. Moving with complete silence, at no time did it lose the fixed glare it had on me. Now we were in direct line with each other.
This movement caught me off guard and I physically startled, as I didn’t expect it to be so fast. Nothing I know of has eyes that big and moves that quick. And still it remained concealed in the shadow of my home. My adrenaline began kicking in. My fight-or-flight response was taking over.
What in the hell is that? I asked myself. Slightly turning my head hoping the angle would provide a better picture with my strong eye without my glasses. It didn’t.
I knew enough about the subject to know the creature had binocular vision shown by eyes that were close together and directly in front of its presumed head. A hunter quality, not a forager. I became more uncomfortable and felt an increased heart rate. Blood began rushing to my limbs, head and ears and I shook at the thought that I was not just a curiosity to this creature. It, in my own backyard, was hunting…me. Without taking my eyes off those eyes that were staring at me, I extinguished my cigarette and back pedaled towards the door, increasing my speed the closer I got. I considered hitting the switch for the patio light being more luminous than what the moon was providing, but it only covers the patio and wouldn’t be of use at a distance. No, I would just let it be and not stick around. That’s what my instincts were telling me to do. Going inside, I locked the door with a loud and confirmed click. Double checking it was secure, pulling and turning the knob several times to satisfy my safety.
I proceeded from whence I came, my desk and my writing, still shaken and forgetting all about the drink I left upon the counter. This endeavor of course was fruitless, as my curiosity was at the peak. What was it? After about fifteen minutes with no words coming, my inquiry bested me. Being a former soldier and former hunter, two things I have not done in some time, I have firearms in my home for self protection. It was a matter of the hunted becoming the hunter. Wanting to face this big eyed visitor. To know what it is. I grabbed a flashlight and my nine millimetre from my bedroom safe. Making my way to the back door, I flipped the switch for the exterior light, took in a deep breath and stepped outside. My legs shaking with fearful anticipation. With no intention of shooting unless forced, my finger remained off the trigger with the firearm in a low ready position, my adrenaline high and my heart pounding. My intent was to identify and scare it away. My pistol was for the possibility that it might not scare away easily and attack instead. A flashlight sweep of the area showed I was alone, as near as I could tell. The unidentified, shining eyes now gone. However, in the pasture, the cows had moved to the other side. At night, it’s rare they make any mooing sounds at all. But tonight, they were quite noisy and active as I could hear them running. At my average height, I strained to look over the tall fence. I even tried my flashlight through some of the lower cracks, but the visual was too limited to see anything. I figured the bulls must be “feeling the mood” as they do during the day this time of year. With my curiosity temporarily satisfied and feeling secure that my rightful place as king of my domain was unchallenged, I puffed my chest and retired for the evening. But there was still that little “What was it?” remaining, tugging at the back of my brain.
The next day, from the moment I woke, the question dominated my thoughts. Through the afternoon and the evening. Baffled because in my mind’s database of animals, nothing known to me fitted the subject. My excursions in my backyard for that night were uneventful, though I visited with a holstered pistol.
Eight days ago.
As I was leaving for work two days later, I checked my mail as usual. Amid the sale coupons, electric bill and other junk, there was one piece that caught my eye. It was a neighborhood alert from the sheriff’s office. It said a cow was found dead, adding to the growing list of animals. The cause of death was unknown, but the authorities suspected foul play as they had with several of the other domestic animals. There is only one neighbor in the area with cows. And that’s the neighbor just past the fence in my backyard. “Damn.” I realized I was likely out there the night of the killing. The same night I saw those eyes. What, out here, would kill these animals, and what’s large enough to kill a grown cow?
Seven days ago.
Because the dead cow was basically in my backyard, the sheriff contacted me. I can tell you that spontaneity is rarely, if ever, in an introverts vocabulary when involving the outside world. Hell, even if I know the person calling me on my phone, I will almost never answer unless it’s a planned call. Introverts are planners. We do not deal with surprises well, even birthday parties. So imagine my discomfort level when the sheriff’s deputies arrived at my door unannounced. I can assure you I was uncomfortable with them to say the least. There was no doubt in my mind they picked up on my nervousness, compounded by my personality trait. Yet, I answered all of their questions. I even told them about those eyes I saw at three a.m. Other than the three of them scoping everything in my house, which only increased my discomfort, they encouraged me to contact them immediately if I saw those eyes again, or anything else I deemed suspicious.
Three nights had passed since my experience. Though I cut back the visits to my yard, when I did venture to out in the evening, I would again go armed. And still the nagging question remained.
“What the hell was that thing, what were those eyes?”
Five days ago.
Saturday afternoon greeted me with glorious sunshine. These are the days I enjoy the most. Birds, lots of birds. Wren’s, sparrows, crows, humming’s and jay’s flock the yard fluttering about and singing as I tend to my raised garden where I grow cooking herbs. I even have a pair of red-tailed hawks that live high in a nearby tree, usually flying over-head hunting for morsels to feed their chicks. I may not be a fan of people, yet animals have never bothered me, they’re just animals. They don’t judge or torment you the way people do. But there were no birds in sight today, not one. And not a sound from them, not a song or a caw. My subconscious picked up on this as I caught myself occasionally checking the spot where I had seen those eyes. The lack of activity from the animals made it eerily quiet. The pedestal garden is not big at only six feet by three feet. So I have a full visual command of everything on it. Which not only includes the herbs, but insects too. There are quite the variety of fliers and crawlers.
A spider stalked a fly upon the wooden rim. As the spider edged closer and closer to it’s prey with short bursts forward, the fly would take to air only to land slightly further away, prompting the spider to try again. It was like a game they were playing, which I found entertaining. I am fascinated by insects. I have been for as long as I could remember. Last year I recall catching a jade colored praying mantis. Because one, I didn’t know we had introduced them in the states in the past twenty years and two; they are really interesting to study. Did you know, of all the insects in the world, it is only the mantis that can turn its head? Some even say mantis kept as pets can even recognize people. I kept and studied the beast for two days before returning it to the yard. Fascinating creatures. I was equally struck by the short legged, black-and-white striped spider with the small white dots that was stalking the fly as I had not recalled this species before. They had likely always been here, and I was just noticing the details. I decided to capture and study as the striking colors reminded me of a zebra, skunk or panda, among others.
As I returned outside, I removed the lid from the trap jar and went to locate my friend again. Once I found him I placed the jar high and brought it down slowly from above. I was leaning and within catching distance when unexpectedly the spider zipped nearly two full inches to the right to avoid the oncoming glass. I stood straight up in instant shock, dropping the jar to the green grass realizing the movement was exactly what I had seen that night in this very yard. I know most spiders have very weak eyesight, in fact most are near blind. But this one saw me and observed the jar which equally disturbed me. I leaned again for a closer look and observed multiple eyes as with most spiders. But this one had two very large orbs directly in the front of its head, and it stared right back at me. My mind rattled my memory. I had seen these before in various nature documentaries. The eyes and the movement hit me like a brick. If you were to magnify this little creature about a million times, these would have been the eyes and movements I witnessed several nights ago in the shadows of my house. “No way! That just can’t be possible!” I said out loud.
I ignored my garden and ran to my laptop.
“Phidippus Audax.” I read, “Commonly referred to as the ‘daring’ or ‘bold’ jumping spider. Black and white with white dots and green metallic colored fangs. Thrives in North America. Venomous but not harmful to humans because of it’s size. And as with most jumping spiders, vision is excellent. It’s considered intelligent as spiders go. Prefers flat surfaces for ease of hunting. Though it uses webbing as a safety line while jumping, it does not use webbing on its prey. An average size for mature males is eight millimetres. Motion is in quick linear movements as opposed to other spider species whose movements are more fluid. Can jump up to fifty times it’s body length.”
I must be crazy, I thought. There is no way this is what I saw that night. But with the information I had, it’s the only thing that reaches the criteria other than size. The more I enlarged the picture on the screen of my laptop, the more concerned I became with those eyes. Black as obsidian. Cold, still and barren, without feeling. As dark and empty as death itself. The enlarged picture was frightening.
I watched a few videos of these hunters. They will sit in one spot for a long time to determine if their object of desire is a threat or food, before they eventually strike with amazing speed. Is that what it was doing the night I saw it, sizing me up, studying me? And it could have easily been on top of me in a blink of an eye. If that’s what it was. But how, how did it get so big? And even if I was right, who would believe a story about a giant jumping spider killing animals in the neighborhood?
“No.” I said to myself, “your active imagination is really stretching here and on overtime. Bring it back to reality dude and go get a girlfriend instead.” Yes, introverts talk to themselves.
But what if, I thought? What if it was? You’ve always wanted to put a camera back there to capture pictures of animals. So why not now? I suggested to myself.
That evening I drove to a local sporting goods store and purchased two trail cams. These are used in forests and other locations. They activate on movement to capture still photographs of animals or whatever else might be of interest. These I bought with a low light option for night use. I placed in the batteries, made a few adjustments and mounted them on two locations in the yard. All this time hoping the creepy thoughts running through my head were wrong.
Each morning I would load whatever images there were onto my laptop. I photographed a rabbit coming from the opposite yard, realizing it couldn’t go this way as it turned and went back. Then a mole as it dug up two holes in my lawn. I had forgotten all about questioning my sanity until the third morning.
There was the same rabbit entering and leaving. I chuckled, wondering if it does this every night as I flipped to the next picture. Then I choke-swallowed my hot coffee hard, forcing it down my throat to keep from spitting it all over the laptop as I coughed. It took a whole ten minutes for me to accept what I was seeing. Ten minutes to get my eyes and brain to sync together to make any reality of it, which wasn’t working. Ten minutes to deal with the dread of fear as I filtered through four pictures over and over of a horrific sized arachnid. Two of the pictures, snapped at three a.m., were at a distance of about thirty feet while it was in the grass. One with eye-shine, but greenish because of the nighttime setting of the camera, sent a chill up my spine. The other two were on my patio. I was astonished! I couldn’t believe it! But there it was! I felt I was in the middle of a nightmare or a fifties “B” movie. It must have stepped out of range as I couldn’t determine which way it had crawled. Maybe to my roof. Or maybe to the cow pasture for more beef.
After measuring the patio furnishings, I estimated the creature was easily two-and-a-half feet across or more and roughly four feet long. The size of a large rottweiler. Each of the eight legs were as big around as my arm. By my calculations, its curved dagger like fangs were five inches long or more. If it were to jump on a human and deeply sink those fangs into flesh, and release the venom, it would be all over in mere seconds. As impossible as it seemed, I couldn’t deny what I was looking at, and it was real. I was scared. I needed to tell someone.
Loading the photos onto a thumb drive, I took them to the local sheriff. After an entire day and repeating my story over and over to deputies and detectives, they took me into the prosecutor’s office. There they accused me of photo-shopping the images. They threatened me with arrest if I continued to interfere with a police investigation. To them, I was a crackpot. This was no more to them than was Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster. Just another hoax. I have given no one any doubt as to my sanity. At least, in my mind. It seems once you’re labeled as “quiet” and being one that “keeps to himself” you will be nothing other than an odd-ball which I have heard my whole life. That’s what my neighbors told the other deputies canvassing the neighborhood as to my past behavior with them the morning I was being questioned. They escorted me home where they presented me with a warrant and promptly confiscated the trail cams, my laptop and my firearms under the guise of being a person-of-interest. They instructed me not to leave. They were going to take my phone, but due to the circumstances they couldn’t justify that as it is my only means of communication, and I wasn’t under arrest, yet.
I dreaded the thought of being in my own home with this fear looming over me, knowing this animal may be outside my door, waiting. Waiting with it’s creepy eight legs and eyes. The thought of it jumping on me was frightening. This wasn’t the first time I regretted being an introvert. But it was the strongest. Yet, even if I wasn’t who could I call and what would I tell them? I’m being hunted by a man-sized spider? Who would believe me? No one.
Three days ago.
Two days later, they returned to my house. As the other neighbors watched, they cuffed me for their safety and hauled me to the sheriff’s office. This time the questions were about a neighbor. One who had disappeared. Information that they hadn’t released, yet. They showed me a picture of a face which I admitted I had seen before and even spoken with on rare occasion. They gave me a name which I was not familiar with, as I had no depth with anyone in the cul-de-sac. I could provide nothing regardless of how they re-phrased the same questions over and over. I felt like an idiot repeating “I don’t know” countless times. How many ways did they want me to say it? During a rest period, they left me alone in an interview room. It came to me that each sighting took place at roughly three a.m. I had studied enough about animals to know that some of them, even insects, will establish hunting trails close to their home. They will follow the same trail at virtually the same time as long as it provides a food source. My backyard is the spider’s hunting trail, I thought. If there was truth to that, it would be back. For a lack of evidence to the disappearance, the cops let me go, but they would still keep me under watch. I brought up the animal again. I told them of my theory. They laughed. I begged them to have deputies at my house every night until it’s caught or killed. The lead investigator rolled his eyes, chuckled and said he would see what he could do as he pushed me into the back seat of the police unit taking me home.
That same night a deputy arrived at two forty-five a.m. He remained until three fifteen and departed. There was no sign of the creature. All it did was solidify to the cops that I am crazy. Frankly, I was also beginning to doubt my sanity. Then it dawned on me that if it had fed on the human the previous night, it wouldn’t need to feed for a while.
No deputies showed up the following night.
Nor the next. But the authorities had made an announcement on the news that an arrest of a person of interest will take place in twenty-four hours. That would likely be me.
Well, I’m not one to tolerate labels when they get thrown at me, especially if they’re not true. I am not a crackpot, and I will not be jailed for something I did not do.
I am convinced the thing will return tonight to feed. It must.
So, for anyone to believe me. To believe the animals in the neighborhood are being killed and the missing person is because of a gigantic arachnid…
I’m going to capture it.
I have set snares that are secured to the house and the fence.
For this to be even remotely successful, I need bait. Bait to entice it so doesn’t crawl or jump over the cattle fence. Bait to make sure it stays in my yard and traverses long enough for the snares to trap it.
That bait is me. Since they confiscated my firearms, all I have is a flashlight and a knife.
I am seated on my back patio as I write this on my phone. It’s two forty-five a.m and it’s deathly quiet. It’s coming. I know it’s coming. I am terrified beyond belief. The fear of facing down a gigantic killing arachnid is enough alone to kill me. I’m sweating as my heart beats out of my chest. I have the back door open if the snares fail and I need to dive inside. But with the speed of a jump, I highly doubt the knife or the escape will work at all. The next few minutes will decide my fate. I will update this if I live long enough. But for now, the only thing I can do is wait. Wait for…
Credit : iamMWH
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