A Short Story
The Tarantula was alone. He had been for as long as he could remember. ‘I am so sad and so alone!’ he said. He was in, as he always was, his burrow. It was dark in there, and this didn’t help relieve the Tarantula’s sorrow. Sadness had become commonplace. He had been alive for five years now. Indeed, all of them spent alone. While the darkness of his burrow fed his woes, he still found himself occupying it more and more. He only came out when his hunger was so insatiable that his legs started moving without his consent. He would always find a bug to prey on, big or small. His legs would take him so fast at the bug. His fangs would pierce the shell. He would then waste no time in returning to his burrow. His body satisfied for another month.
At this point the reader may wonder how the Tarantula got his water. On the other side of his terrarium lived a small clay dish that was always filled with water. However, he never paid it a visit. So, how did he get his water? His species (Desert Blonde Tarantula) can last noticeably longer without water than other species of tarantula. He didn’t need to drink more than once a month. He simply got all the water his body needed from his food intake.
Alas, this was only once per month that he left his burrow. Once a month for five years. Sixty times he had left his burrow at this point. Actually, around sixty-five times may be more accurate. In his early years he wandered around outside his burrow. On two separate occasions he got lost, scared he wouldn’t find his way back to his burrow, and one particular time, he was cornered by what looked to him like a giant disabled spider that had an entirely fused underbelly. He hated this and was so scared he moved his hind legs back and shot hairs directly at the alien-looking thing. It did the trick, and he found himself scrambling for his burrow.
‘What a sad life I lead!’ said the Tarantula. ‘I hate to be inside this burrow alone, yet I hate to leave! If it were not for my body moving without my consent, I would never leave. But then would I not be all the sadder? I certainly do hate it in here. It’s too big for one. And I find it dark and depressing. I have even taken to talking to myself as is evident. How much longer must I suffer this painful loneliness!’
As luck would have it, not much longer. After five years and one month, three other tarantulas moved in. They appeared in his burrow one by one. They daintily placed their furred legs one in front of the next and looked around. They stopped intermittently using their front legs to inspect the area. They brought with them each a different stench that was foreign to him. He didn’t know what to do at first, so made himself as small as possible and watched them. Then they started talking to each other. He couldn’t understand what they were saying. They were speaking with some strange dialect. None of them looked at him. They acted as if he wasn’t there. It took him four days to muster the courage to say something.
‘Hey! You three. Where do you come from?’
Slowly all three of them slightly unfurled themselves from their huddles and looked at him. Two of them stared, and the third, who was the biggest, replied: ‘Iñche Wingka Rayen.’ He deduced her sex by the sound of her voice. After looking down and moving his eyes from side to side in some rapid fashion as if conjuring up a plan of immense proportion, he said: ‘I have been here for a long time! My entire life! Where were you before this place?’
‘You do speak my language! Where were you before this place?’
‘No allkün. Sorry.’
‘What about them?’ he said, pointing toward the others.
‘Sorry. Sorry.’ And she returned to her huddle and went to sleep.
The Tarantula wondered if he was in fact hallucinating all of this. He had already long ago taken to talking to himself, so he thought it may not be out of the realm of possibility that he would make up companions for company. But then wouldn’t it make sense for him to imagine them to know his own language? Whatever was happening, he felt like it was an invasion on his life.
For a while he had questioned no more to them. He simply watched. Watched as they moved in and out of the burrow, as they spoke and laughed with one and other, as they dragged in prey and drained it on the substrate. Even the way they ate was foreign to him. The other two were male. Oftentimes he watched as they tried to mate with the female. They would look as though they were fighting. It scared him. ‘Leave it alone will you!’ he would say.
When his body willed him to move out of the burrow to find food, he had to pass them as they huddled near the opening of the burrow. They all watched him through upturned eyes. He hated it. He could really smell them this close. Foreign and strange. After catching something, this time he was scared to bring it back to the burrow and so ate it outside. It had been so long since he had really taken a look around out there. Whilst eating, he noticed the soggy looking moss that plagued the roof of the burrow. He noticed the leafy green plants that sprawled around the land. In the distance, the strange lights and movement of giants. He left his meal half-eaten and sped back inside the burrow. The large female was in the spot he had taken to calling his spot.
‘Excuse me, that’s my spot.’
‘No, my spot. Mine. I was there first. I just left to eat. I never want to leave actually, but my body makes me. That’s my spot. I have been here all my life.’
He stared at her and didn’t know much what to say. The other two were back by the mouth of the burrow asleep. He looked back at her and repeated:
‘Yes. That’s my spot.’
She looked at him and didn’t move. In fact, after some time of looking at each other, she eventually went to sleep, and he huddled next to her and slept also.
He awoke to a strange turbulence. He didn’t know much about what was going on. He wasn’t on even ground and there were legs all about him. He panicked. He ran as quick as he could and it wasn’t until then he realised that he was, without his knowing, on top of the female and attempting to mate with her.
‘I am so sorry! What, I have no idea what is going on!’ he shouted.
She only looked at him and moved closer. He felt his body move towards her. Both of them closed in again and continued mating. As with eating, this came as instinct to the Tarantula. He and his new mate. From then on, the other males gave him looks of discontent and sometimes furious anger and hatred.
Even though he had mated with one of the foreigners, he still saw them as such and felt annoyed that they were in his burrow. ‘Could you not find your own burrow?’ sneered the Tarantula. And he would pepper comments such as this throughout the time they stayed there. The reader should not judge our Tarantula. Intolerant though his behaviour was, we mustn’t forget that he was scared and alone for much of his life and had become sick of it.
Sure enough the Tarantula was powerfully potent. Not long after they mated, the female had produced many eggs that soon spewed hundreds of baby tarantulas. They attached their miniature bodies to and fed from the mother. He watched them. He couldn’t quite believe that for all his life he had been alone but now there were hundreds of his kind inside his burrow.
A large number of the children died relatively soon. Those who didn’t, developed quickly and began to talk. Their accent was strange to him, but they spoke both his language and their mother’s. Every time they would speak the latter, he would shout ‘this is my burrow! In my burrow we speak my language!’ and the children would run to their mother and group up against the opposite side of the burrow.
Once space started to get a bit too tight, many of the spiderlings were taken from the burrow by some big netted contraption. There was a small panic amongst those who were taken, but everyone tried to be as still as possible so as to not be taken themselves. And then there were about twenty tarantulas left. Our lonesome Tarantula, the three immigrants, and about sixteen spiderlings. The Tarantula wondered if the rest of them would be taken out. Maybe they were put there to mate and with that being complete, maybe he would only have to wait a little while before his burrow became his own again.
‘Oh, how I wish to be rid of these strange people! They cannot help me. I am a lonesome spider that needs his space. Even my own spiderlings speak the foreign language. In my own burrow! Why can’t you all just go back to where you came from?’ said the Tarantula.
Six months passed. He had eaten three times. With the spiderlings growing exponentially, he felt himself withering away through competition for food. They were everywhere now. They were inside and outside his burrow. They had three more burrows about the terrarium. They spoke a hybrid language and formed whole new cultures. He wondered whether they would be removed at all and whether he would get his loneliness back. He had become rather tired. The other tarantulas didn’t consider him a father but rather a pest. Someone who would only shout at them regularly and wish them away. But he had become the kind of pest that’s accepted as part of everyday life. Even when he was at his most annoying, they were still not angry with the Tarantula, for soon they would eat him.