**Public Service Announcement: If you don't like spiders...you'll want to skip this one!**
There is a cave in the middle of the Belizean jungle. If you have an irrational fear of spiders, avoid it at all costs. I don’t mind spiders at all. These were not normal spiders…but I’m getting ahead of myself.
We’d spent the day ATVing in the jungle and eating fresh-cut mangoes by a muddy tropical stream. I was feeling very cool and worldly, and when our guide announced our next stop would be a cave, I was floored. Spelunking in the rainforest!? It was like a real live adventure. I may or may not have had images of Joan Wilder running through my head.
The cave itself was, indeed, awesome. It wasn’t the first cave or the biggest that I’d been in, but it was neat in its own way, and the guide regaled us with all the geological history of the area. We were outfitted with headlamps and squeezed deeper into the tunnels, watching for stalagmites and stalactites.
Then I saw this.
It sat on a rocky outcropping about seven inches from my head. When my light first fell on it, I thought I might need new shorts. I turned ever-so-slowly to my brother, who was walking behind me, never taking my eyes of the…thing. “Dude, what is that?”
“I don’t know. It’s creepy cool though.”
I shot him a look. “Just don’t make any sudden movements.”
Our tour group had stopped and, as luck would have it, he and I were stalled in the narrowest part of a corridor that brought us even closer to what I had now dubbed the death spider from hell. Don’t get me wrong, it was really cool. Just not from five inches away.
We’d lost track of what our guide was saying as we watched it, but now we heard him giving excited orders as murmurs started through the rest of our group.
“That’s right. Go ahead and turn off your lights. We will then experience the absolute darkness one can only find in the depths of a cave.”
We traded glances. “Oh, heck no,” I muttered. “No way am I turning off my headlight with that thing about to pounce.”
“It’s moving,” my brother said.
The cave dimmed as the others doused their lights.
“Everyone, please,” the guide said. “We need all of the lamps off to experience total darkness. Those at the end, please turn them off.”
He meant us. Gulp. My brother turned off his lamp. I stood rigid, eyes riveted to that creepy many-legged body that scurried way too close for comfort, and flicked off my own headlamp.
It was the longest ten seconds of total blackness in my life. I envisioned the thing springing at my face the first chance it got. Its furry little tentacles crawling over me, fangs dripping. (Do you see the picture? The thing seriously had fangs!)
The guide’s voice gave the okay to return to normal lighting, and you better believe I had my lamp back on before he finished his sentence. The creatures (by this time, there were two) remained more or less in the same spots they’d been when we went dark. I think my brother and I both sighed a little in relief - I know I did – and we climbed back into the bright Belizean rainforest, another adventure under our belts.
We found out later that the creatures were whipless scorpions, technically not spiders. They’re not even poisonous. But in those glacial seconds of total darkness, trust me, my imagination morphed that thing into one of the freakiest, most deadly creatures on the planet.