I have always believed there is nothing to fear but fear itself. When I told myself this, I was really saying there is nothing to fear. There are no real monsters in my world, except of course President Trump. I took this point of view while in the place I belonged. After all, my workplace was safe, at least with a little care. My apartment was safe also if you didn’t count the occasional intrusion by an arachnid.
Spiders give me the creeps, the evil looking little heads, the huge asses. And what did they need all those legs for anyway? They posed no real threat to me, though, this was my world. They were the invaders. They were small and easy to kill. I was a goddess compared to them, choosing mercy or death at my discretion. I told myself they were nothing to fear. There is nothing to fear but fear itself. I was to learn, however, just how much fear could make me afraid.
It was June of 2006. I was working for an insulation outfit based in Springfield. My boss, on this particular morning, paired me up with a guy named Jorge. It was going to be a slow one, but we had at least one job to do. The good news, we had the potential for an early day. The bad news, the job was located somewhere between Veneta and Mapleton, so we were in for a drive.
We loaded our truck and set out. I normally hated long trips on the job. Drive time weighed heavy like a tombstone on my head. Jorge was a conversationalist, though, and his talking lessened the pain of the trip. Forty-five minutes still felt like two hours, but we finally reached our destination.
Finding the address, we turned up the long drive and soon were confronted by a huge Victorian style house. Ancient and haunted, it protruded from the hillside. The place felt like a graveyard giving me the feeling I was about to meet the Adams Family.
Several pine trees stood guard. Old soldiers these were, shoulders drooping from long years of oppression, but standing vigilant still. The yard was riddled with their needles, like bullet casings discarded after a terrible fight. White oleander surrounded the house, brightening the gloom just a little. The scent of their flowers mixed with pine was sweet and inviting unless one considered they were deadly poisonous.
Seemingly unaffected by the gloom, Jorge reached the door and knocked on it. This aroused a terrible commotion from within. Oh no, there were dogs! After what sounded like an actual argument between woman and beast, the barking finally subsided. An elderly lady opened the door, stepping out to greet us.
She was small, thin, with gray stringy hair pulled into a ponytail. Her dress hung on her like a dishrag, as did her skin. Her eyes were deep blue and full of life. Her cheekbones were high, and she had a small pretty nose and pouty lips. In her youth, this girl had been gorgeous. I wondered how she ended up out here in the middle of nowhere.
Oh No! Dogs!
The dogs burst through the door, a shotgun blast, transforming into a whirlwind of chaotic frenzy. Jumping on us, licking our hands, and beating us furiously with tails wagging, they offered welcome.
The woman wrangled the mutts back into the house and begged our forgiveness for the outburst. We told her it was okay, but the look Jorge gave me told me what I already knew. He hated dogs as much as I do. She introduced herself as Miriam and invited us to follow her around back for a look at the job.
It was a small one-room cottage she had remodeled for use as a guest house, about 450 square feet in all. We were there to insulate the floor from underneath. From the numbers on the paperwork and the look of it, we surmised it to be a job quick and easy. Little did I know, I was about to enter another level to this place, a realm other than my own, a place where monsters exist. It was the home of my Fear.
Jorge unloaded the truck, bringing the insulation and necessary equipment around.
I hooked it all up and prepared to start feeding the insulation under the floor. Jorge took the light, and as I watched him disappear under the floor, I spied a little black spider crawling up the concrete foundation. I hope there are not too many of those under there, I remember thinking, as I passed bags of insulation to him. Finally, it was my turn to dive in.
Under the floor was dark and dank. Quick movement was not possible because the floor was only eighteen inches from the ground. I caught the scent of moss, dirt, mold, old wood and just a hint of cat urine. It smelled like a tomb, a pungent aroma I could almost taste. Jorge hung the drop light on a nail in one of the support posts, casting demonic shadows on all sides but one; however, we could see well enough to do the job.
Not in Kansas Anymore
I reached my area and began to work, placing batted insulation in the sixteen-inch bays, which lined the floor. Just a few minutes after I started, Jorge informed me that there were spiders under this floor. Spiders didn’t bother Jorge, but he knew damn well they bothered me. Assuming that he was just trying to push my buttons, I decided not to answer him. There was nothing to fear but fear itself. A few minutes later he told me again. “Shut up!” I yelled. “I don’t see any spiders!”
“No!” he said. “Terri, look by the light!” So I stopped what I was doing and slithered over to the light expecting to see a really big hairy spider or the like. The hair on the back of my neck would stand up. I would get a cold shiver, kill it and then go back to work. When I reached him, I did not see one or even two. What I saw made my blood run cold.
Literally, hundreds of black spiders perched above me not ten inches away. All of them seemed to be staring at me as if wondering why I was in their home. My heart began to race. I grabbed the light and surveyed some farther to find the same thing. There were thousands. They were everywhere, and I was hopelessly outnumbered. This was their place. I was the invader, and here I certainly was not a goddess.
Fear gripped me instantly. I could feel them crawling up my legs, down my collar, and under my shirt. I began to hear the stomping of little feet as a whole army of spiders mobilized against one common foe, which was me. I broke into a cold sweat on my head and my heart gave way to sheer panic. I could think only of escape and tried to find my way out, but confusion overtook me. I couldn’t find the exit, which was only twenty feet from me.
Jorge grabbed my arm and began to make fun of me. He was enjoying this. The sound of his voice, however, was just the thing I needed. It helped me to focus. I saw the exit, and as fast as I could, I began to swim on my belly, until finally I reached the access hole and poured myself out. Jorge followed me laughing all the way. When I got out, I began to inspect myself. I was sure those little devils were all over me, but there were none. There was not even one.
I went home that day a little wounded and a lot wiser. I learned about fear. I learned about my fear. You see, there are monsters in this world. Some are big and some are small, but the ones to look out for are those that come from within us. I learned I am not a goddess of spiders, and they are not a threat to me.