CW: Forgive the Aussie slang and vernacular swearing.
In Australia, everything is out to kill you! It’s a vicious rumour that we Aussies perpetuate to keep you out. Spoiler… Not everything in Australia wants to kill you, just most of it looks like it will. Except crocs. They will kill you without blinking an eye, or kangaroos. They literally tell you with their body language to “F*off or I will F* you up!” They’re mad buggers, hoppin’ mad. A ‘roo will take on a speeding car and live to tell the tale—or not—but death doesn’t scare them. One Christmas night, a bloody, ornery buck leapt into the side of my moving car, denting the driver’s side door. It then hopped into the light of the headlights and stood there in a pose as if to say, “What’re you gonna do ‘bout it?” Yeah, they’re the tough guys, but I digress, this story is not about them.
This story is about the smaller, more freaky and less deadly Australian staple, the Huntsman.
If it has more than four legs, it’s a hard ‘nope’ from me. To have eight is just ridiculous. These critters come huge in Australia, bigger than my outstretched hand, and most of that size is the hairy eight legs. Their bodies are quite flat and the freaky buggers can get into all sorts of places. I hate them. I mean cold chill down my spine, totally freeze response whenever I see one. Jokingly I say I only keep my hubby about because he is good at killing the things, while I’m all ‘deer in a headlight’. You see, the buggers move incredibly fast and if you don’t keep a close eye on them, you will literally never find them again, and then, who knows where they will show up?
Once, I was resting on a pile of washing that I had just brought in, contemplating the merits of folding it compared with the merits of sleeping on it. (I was a new mum and folding took energy while sleeping was so tempting.) I felt a brush against my throat and a quick sting. Immediately, I flicked my hands to brush away the feeling and eight hairy legs went flying. Needless to say, I screamed, the baby cried and hubby came running. After a thorough search, he tried to convince me that the spider I saw was this tiny house spider we found.
“Fear can make things seem bigger than they actually are,” he tried to explain to me. I was not convinced, but I sat back on the couch, ready to believe him, because the alternative was a great hairy beast roaming free in my house.
Yep, you guessed it. Next thing I knew, eight hairy legs came creeping up the side of the couch and along my thigh. I nearly embedded myself in the ceiling, I jumped so high. Hubby was not allowed to rest until the beast was dead, and I had witnessed its demise. I felt like the evil queen in Snow White. “Bring me proof of its death!” I wanted its carcass in a jar, displayed as a warning to any other arachnid who might be foolish enough to venture near my castle.
It was then that I learned huntsmen are not poisonous. I had to ring poisons information, all the while images of asphyxiation due to my throat swelling were running through my brain. No, their bite hurts, but it’s not lethal. A cold ice pack will alleviate the discomfort.
Lethal or not, I don’t like them. In fact, I loathe them so much that just the thought of one leaves me in hysterical anxiety. It’s the way they move, and don’t get me started on the eyes. They have eight. That is six too many!
This story begins as we are driving to my mother-in-law’s house. The baby strapped in the car seat, hubby driving, and me, well, I’m zoning out on new mum exhaustion, watching but not seeing, glad that I was not in charge of the vehicle. From the back seat I hear a whimper, a fearful series of little gasps that register in my fog clouded ‘baby brain’ as terror. When I turn to look, this great, grey huntsman, it’s legs slowly extending and contracting in that alien way, is creeping up the side of the baby car seat, slowly making its way up the strap toward my daughter’s face.
This is when I become possessed by the spirit of a Valkyrie. It’s the only possible explanation. Without thinking, in one movement I have my shoe off, seat belt unplugged and am leaping through the cabin into the rear of the moving vehicle. With surprising dexterity, I flick the hairy bastard into the back of the station wagon. But I’m not satisfied with that, because you know how they return, like vengeful cyborgs! I follow it into the rear luggage space, shoe in hand, violently smashing until it is dead. I then collapse into the back seat, and with shaking hands, put a seat belt on. My heart is pounding, the baby is crying and my husband, who had not seen the beast, is freaking out.
“What the hell is wrong?” Thank God he drove in a straight line during the chaos. I can barely explain. Mouth dry, heart thumping like a jackhammer in my chest, I just shake my head.
When we arrive at his parent’s house, we lift the tailgate to check out the carnage. The thing with huntsmen is that once you kill them, they curl into tiny packages, those great big legs wrapped around their much smaller abdomens. They don’t tend to look so big anymore. This one was huge, even dead it was the size of my palm. When I see its carcass, I nearly pass out. How the hell did I have the nerve, the guts, the sheer bravery to attack and kill the monster? I don’t know, but my legs will not stop shaking as we unload the car and go into the house.
When we come inside, my mother-in-law is concerned for me. I must be as white as a sheet and trembling like a leaf. With incoherent and incomplete sentences, I have to recount the story, reliving the terror vicariously once more.
How is it that we can be reduced to the wobbling jelly of fear, but in an instant, transform into a tigress if our young are threatened? You never know what you are capable of, if the circumstances call for it.
“You are braver than you believe.” Christopher Robin, Winnie the Pooh.