Close Encounters

The following diabolical account took place a few months ago:


It was a dark and stormy night… I was settled into my bed, which at this point was only a board with a thin mattress pad draped over top. The rain pitter-pattered on my windows and the roof above me. Outside, I caught intermittent bursts of faraway thunder. It was one of those comfortable storms, where you feel happy to be inside, yet completely unaffected, aside from some soothing sounds. Like a Jack Johnson Banana Pancakes type of storm. I’ve got no reason to be outside, and even better, I have an excuse to be inside and do nothing. Bad weather is a desire of the slothful.


I was new to China. I hadn’t lived here for two years. That afternoon following my classes, I was overtaken with that insatiable desire to take a nap—the unappeasable somatic inclination that generally overtakes me at least seven times a week. Being new to China, I made a mistake that every jaded American who’s ever been to a country with rational systems of measurements makes: I set my alarm twelve hours too late. It was 2:00 and I wanted an hour-long siesta. So I set my alarm for 3:00. Problem was, it wasn’t 2:00, or at least it wasn’t 2:00 on my cheapest-in-the-store, couldn’t-break-if-you-used-it-as-a-hockey-puck Samsung go-phone. It was 14:00! In my pre-nap giddiness/haze, I dialed in 3:00, when 15:00 was the appropriate hour for my wake-up call. In any event, I ended up sleeping about an hour and paid no mind to the alarm not ringing.


So, I settled into bed around 10:00 pm (22:00), blissfully unaware that I would be rousted from my sleep only five hours hence. I read a few pages of the beat up copy of On the Road I’d taken from the Sherman Library and shortly thereafter descended into dreamland, the storm pitter-pattering me to sleep.


Alas, as typically happens with alarm clocks, mine went off at the time I had set it for: 3:00. I came to, nodding my head back and forth on my pillow. I rolled over and reached down toward my cold tile floor to get a hold of my phone. I wasn’t hitting the right key. I glanced down to assess, and as I did so… Through the faint illumination of my hockey puck phone I could see it. And, even though it barely created any sensation, it felt like one thousand piranhas had gotten hold of me. A spider, the size my hand, and then some, had crawwwwled across the back of hand. I sprung into action with the urgency of Jack Bauer with 15 minutes to find and diffuse a bomb hidden somewhere in the walls of the White House. I grabbed On the Road and smacked it against the ground in the spider’s direction. One, two three. On the third smack, I jumped fully out of bed and went for the light switch. The room was now fully lit. And so was I. I’d gone from pure REM to full-on 5-Red-Bulls heart-pounding vigilance.


I inched over to On the Road, which was now backside-up, showing a picture of Kerouac in an old-school striped cardigan. This was one super large arachnid, and I didn’t really want to see it, dead or alive. I slid my index finger under the book and flipped it. Nothing. Thanks for that you beatniks. I cursed Kerouac and his friends. Now shit was really on. The innocent storm had now, at least in my mind, become an epic natural disaster. The windows shuttered, lightning pounded the mountains, and each moment brought us closer to utter destruction.


I gathered myself frantically. I’m a pretty easygoing dude, but when there’s a pancake sized beast on the loose, in my tiny room, I can’t just climb back into bed and play pretend. No. No sleep would be taking place before my adversary had been annihilated. I grabbed my flyswatter and, wearing boxer briefs and sandals, started the chase. I looked under stacks of papers, in drawers, and with great fright, under my pillow. I figured it would have to be under my bed. Why did it have to be there? Anywhere but under the bed. I was looking for something I didn’t want to find, like a test you know you’ve failed, but have to see your score anyway. But, if I didn’t find it, the result would be significantly worse. I’d never sleep again. I felt like the meek teenager in a horror movie who slowly goes to open the door that the audience knows the killer is lurking behind. Under my bed were a few suitcases, so I couldn’t really see anything. I edged closer, the storm pounding behind me, the walls shaking with each thunderous roar, and moved my suitcase to the side. Still. Nothing.


I briefly came to the conclusion that I’d made it up. I was barely awake after all. It was dark at the time. So, I decided to conclude my search. I knew, whether I had made it up or not, sleep would still be impossible. I pushed my bed as close as possible to the wall, shoved my covers between the crack so that, if the spider weren’t in fact imaginary, it wouldn’t be able to make any moves. Obviously, the light stayed on—I had to stay hawk-eyed, head-on-a-swivel. Couldn’t be fully on guard in the dark. And, potentially, I was scared shitless.


I cautiously lay back down. I made it up. No spider. Nothing to see here. I leaned over to grab On the Road, and there it was, darting from under my bed. I’d missed it. I jumped up with the adrenaline of skydiver. I seized my size 12 Florsheim leather loafers and attacked with full force. This time I didn’t miss. I knew I got him but I refused to look. The 25-minute 8-legged reign of terror perpetrated on room 302 was over.



The next morning I got up and reluctantly turned over the loafer. The spider was no bigger than a bottle cap.


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