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Creative Nonfiction

This story contains sensitive content

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.

July 09, 2023 07:23

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33 comments

Kevin Logue
07:36 Jul 09, 2023

Great as always Michelle. Lured in with the humour, grossed out by the spider descriptions, empathetic as a new parent to that inner Valkyrie. The natural voice of this made it such an easy flowy read. Spot on! The worse we have in Ireland is a false widow spider, but when my wife was pregnant she got bit on the foot by one. It was a torturous time for her, it swelled up, blistered and got infected. Now, every insect that enters the house must be brought down with hellfire and brimstone, ha.

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Michelle Oliver
07:40 Jul 09, 2023

Hell fire and brimstone is spot on. Blow torch or nuke them I say!

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17:12 Jul 19, 2023

Ooo that must have been horrible for your wife. *False* widow spider?? I thought they were harmless! So even if you recognise it you learn to stay away 😄

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Kevin Logue
17:20 Jul 19, 2023

The ones we get here in Ireland, are Noble False Widows, their bite is a kin to a wasp sting. But my wife is one of those that insects are attracted to, and when she gets bit it's always multiple time. It was horrible, the infection was the main issue that lasted.

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17:21 Jul 19, 2023

Ooh I'm so sorry for your wife. When was it?

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Kevin Logue
17:29 Jul 19, 2023

Almost a year and a half ago. She down has spray bottles around the house of watered down vinegar to dose anything with more than two fours legs hahah

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Amanda Lieser
22:25 Aug 05, 2023

Hi Michelle, Oh heavens! This was a tough story to read as I have always been and probably always will be terrified of spiders! You did an exceptional job of describing every little details(so thanks for that) ;) I’m joking, of course. The story was great and I wouldn’t expect you to spare me the gory details. I liked the inspiration for the tale and appreciated that you added the quote at the end. Nice work on this one!!

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Michelle Oliver
23:54 Aug 05, 2023

Thanks for reading. The quote at the end is from Winnie the Pooh, which was my daughter’s favourite cartoon at the time. Arachnophobia is quite debilitating. I am ok with little spiders, but as they get bigger, I just freeze and can’t deal with it, so this is why his memory is still so vivid over twenty years later. How did I find the courage to act? That is something I’ll never know. Mothers instinct is greater than fear.

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17:11 Jul 19, 2023

This was great! Absolutely great! Finished all your stories! Man, I wish there were more! Keep writing please! 🍁

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Michelle Oliver
22:37 Jul 19, 2023

Wow you finished all of them! I’m impressed and flattered. Thank you for reading them and liking them all.

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Russell Mickler
02:42 Jul 17, 2023

Hi Michelle - I do think that you're right about your Australian assessment - everything there does try to kill you. And I was specifically thinking about huntsman spiders the size of cats in bathtubs, and, there it was ... shudder. I had a friend doing research there and she'd send pictures of these suckers in her bathtub. Then I imagine them on the floor in the middle of the night, under your bed, yikes! Horrific, indeed, and real-life, too. A good introduction and accounting of your experience ... R

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Michelle Oliver
09:42 Jul 17, 2023

Thanks for giving it a read, and I promise you that there are some things here that aren’t actively trying to kill you. Koalas won’t and the quokka is too cute to do much harm. Actually that’s probably the complete list of things that aren’t scary.

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Ellen Neuborne
22:48 Jul 16, 2023

Well done! I actually let out a scream when the spider was spotted. Never underestimate the mom instinct.

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Michelle Oliver
09:49 Jul 19, 2023

Thanks for reading. A mother’s instinct is to protect and to this day I am amazed that I was able to defeat the spider.

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Breannen Prusank
13:37 Jul 16, 2023

Loved the amount of personality that came through in your writing! I thought there was great balance between terror and light heartedness - it made the terror that much worse. Totally agree, too, about the spiders. It’s not only the look - it’s the way they move!

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Michelle Oliver
13:40 Jul 16, 2023

Thanks for reading. I’m glad someone is with me on this. It’s the alien-like way they move that creeps me out.

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22:45 Jul 15, 2023

Fun story. I spent six months in sydney worried about little tiny spiders that could kill me, and didnt even know there was a giant spider that i needed to worry about too. I really felt the fear in the story when the huntsmen was heading toward the baby. Great writing!

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Michelle Oliver
23:04 Jul 15, 2023

Thanks for reading Yeah the red back is pretty nasty. The huntsman is big but harmless, just freaky.

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Marty B
06:03 Jul 14, 2023

Im OK with spiders (Though a palm sized one would give me pause), but I feel your pain with snakes- Oh My! You described the adrenaline and instinctual fear so well! I was right there with you diving into the backseat to protect the little one from the ravages of Aragog! Great story!

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Michelle Oliver
07:00 Jul 14, 2023

Thanks Marty. Snakes are worse but at least they are not coming into the house or car on a regular basis.

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Sherry Bazley
23:52 Jul 10, 2023

Michelle, I've read Australia has more poisonous entities than any other nation on earth. It's also got the Great Barrier Reef and some of the grittiest humanfolk on earth! But the tale of a spider the size of your hand, I never read till now. I was already impressed by your writing skills, and now add mothering skills to the list!

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Michelle Oliver
01:46 Jul 11, 2023

Thanks Sherry. Yeah Australia gets a bad rap for venomous creatures. Most are pretty hard to find though, and you’d have to be pretty unlucky to come across one. Huntsmen are quite common, and they look ferocious but are actually quite harmless, just creepy!

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Michał Przywara
22:19 Jul 10, 2023

Very fun tone here :) And an excellent take on the prompt! Don't get between a momma bear and her cubs. It is true though, isn't it? When push comes to shove, we can find incredible - mind boggling, really - reserves of strength and willpower. And yeah, kudos to the husband for keeping the car driving during the act - that had to be a whole other kind of unsettling :) Thanks for sharing!

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Michelle Oliver
23:43 Jul 10, 2023

Thanks Michal. I’m not a horror writer, so this weeks prompts were a bit daunting. Well, they say write what you know, so this is what I know!

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Delbert Griffith
09:33 Jul 10, 2023

Ok, this reeks - absolutely reeks - of a real experience you had. It's too genuine and chilling to be otherwise. And it's scary as hell. Wow, you really brought out the goosebumps with this one. I've had experiences with brown tarantulas here in Texas. Non-poisonous, but still scary. I, like any sane person, don't care for spiders and the like. I bet everyone who reads this will feel those goosebumps like I did. You really hit the horror prompt well. Kudos on relating a mother's warrior instinct in the tale. Yet another universal theme, an...

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Michelle Oliver
10:02 Jul 10, 2023

Thanks Del. Yep a lived experience. No creative license here whatsoever. Thanks for the pick up on the exclamation points. If you’ve ever heard an Aussie tell a story, we speak in exclamation points, always that upward inflection. Yeah I overdid the points, thanks for the pickup. I have removed some… hopefully it still reads well.

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Lily Finch
05:08 Jul 10, 2023

Michelle, the flow and pacing of this story was delightful and great. You catch the essence of spider attacks and then run so well. Loved the voice in this story too. Good sense of plot and thru line. Great job! LF6 seem bigger that they actually are!” - than?

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Michelle Oliver
06:11 Jul 10, 2023

Thanks for giving this one a read and for the pick up. No matter how many times I read through my own stuff silly errors get by me. Appreciate your eagle eyes!

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Lily Finch
14:22 Jul 10, 2023

I feel like we do that for each other so many times. LF6

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Emma D
18:28 Jul 09, 2023

Great story, Michelle!

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Michelle Oliver
23:46 Jul 09, 2023

Thanks for reading it.

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Mary Bendickson
15:47 Jul 09, 2023

Now I know why you hated to love my itsy-bitsy Spidey story from a couple of weeks ago. Yes, we can be brave when our babies are threatened.

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Michelle Oliver
23:50 Jul 09, 2023

Yep, it still amazes me twenty years later, that I was able to do that. Spiders are my kryptonite, so mother’s instinct is stronger than primal fear. Thanks for reading.

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