Arachnophobia, by Kelly Crigger
Kelly Crigger is an accomplished author who writes for Fight! Magazine, Real Fighter Magazine, and Muscle and Fitness, among others. His most recently published book, Title Shot: Into the Shark Tank of Mixed Martial Arts, can be purchased below. As a Ranger Up Exclusive, the book is signed by both Crigger and world-renowned Mixed Martial Artist, Matt Lindland.
I was never afraid of spiders until one tried to sting me, wrap me in a cocoon, and hang me on its wall for a midnight snack. It was 1995 and I was a Captain assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group out of Fortress Bragg. Ecuador and Peru had just finished another perennial squabble over their disputed border and my Battalion had gotten the assignment to lead a peacekeeping operation to police up the remnants. It was a rewarding experience that I looked forward to, but soon learned the only bone that gets thrown the Chemo’s way is the one no one wants. I was staged in Panama to be the resupply dude loading planes with food, water, and mail every day for the guys who were doing the real work.
Every so often, though, I weaseled my way onto one of the flights to Ecuador to ask questions, prod around, and assess how I could better serve my unit. Sporting clean BDU’s and a hangover, I wasn’t a popular among the men who were toughing it out in one of the most inhospitable places on earth without booze. So I was like a menstrual cycle-I visited once a month and left after considerable discomfort to the host.
Still they tolerated me because I sent them all the necessities of life so they reciprocated by putting me up in a GP medium tent with the rest of the general population instead of in solitary confinement under the stars, which are extraordinarily bright on the equator, I must add. In fact the moonlight there was brighter than any I had ever seen before, which turned out to be my undoing one night.
So there I am, sleeping in the middle of the Amazon with about ten other guys. I had a trusty Army cot and the one piece of equipment that always occupied the bottom of my duffel bag-a mosquito net. From everything I’d heard the mosquitoes in Ecuador were more like Jurassic park pterodactyls than invertebrates so I thought it wise to bring the net. Whether or not that was a good decision I’ll leave up to you.
I woke in the middle of the night to a tent that felt more like an interrogation room with all the moonlight streaming in when I spotted an arachnid the size of a terrier on my net. It resembled a hairy dinner plate and was heavy enough to bow the net fully a foot lower than normal.
“Jesus Christ,” I exclaimed in typical soldier fashion.
A sane man would have left a venomous equatorial arachnid the size of a veal calf alone, but I am a dumbass and so I reached up and flicked the tarantula with my middle finger. My intent was to dislodge it and then…who knows, maybe watch it scurry away to make a meal out of someone else (I’m a member of the Noble Order of the Blue Falcon after all).
But flicking it was an unfortunate choice of action that became evidently clear when I realized the beast was actually on the inside of the net. Although my finger registered this fact when it felt the hairy pig on my digit, my brain was in denial right up to the point that it landed on my chin.
In the history of man, two hundred and thirty pounds have never moved so fast or swatted so furiously at nothing. The sheer weight of that Shetland pony landing on me made the cot’s legs give way and crash to the ground, waking a few of my fellow troops. My incoherent squeals of “Get it off me!” and wild thrashing woke the rest.
“Broken arrow! Broken Arrow!” I screamed to rally them to my aid. At that time, I really had no idea what the term meant except that it was supposed to get everyone to stop what they were doing and help the person yelling it.
When the Carpathian hydra (which I swear growled at me) attempted to bury its fangs through my chest, I tried to invoke their fear of the undead and yelled, “Get a wooden cross and holy water!”
Again, no one flinched.
I struggled to keep it from killing me and turning my innards into liquefied goo for its offspring when my buddy, Dean, finally switched on a lantern. His voodoo worked. Knowing it was caught, the mutant angel of death flew out the tent door as I struggled to get untangled from the remnants of my cot and netting.
“Avengers Assemble!” I screeched in a last ditch effort to get my bunkmates to rally. Again, silence. When me breathing returned to normal I asked the befuddled Dean, “where’d it go?”
“You mean that?” he responded, pointing at a miniature spider scurrying away from the broken shards of my bunk.
“Huh,” I said, feeling like I’d just called Melissa Etheridge hot. “Seemed a lot bigger a minute ago.”
I can’t be sure but as Dean rolled back over to sleep I thought I heard him mumble, “that’s what she said.”
Many years later I would be assigned to the Operations Group at Fort Irwin, California to be an Observer/Controller, or O/C. All of the teams in Operations Group were named after desert animals since Fort Irwin was nestled in the heart of the Mojave.
I was assigned to the Tarantula team.