The crickets rub their legs creating a middle night melody and the locusts join in to perform a disorganized, yet naturally-pleasant cacophony. I lay awake, listening, appreciating. The moon shines brightly, illuminating the space that I occupy just a little too much. I like it a bit darker. The rain fly is drawn back to expose the mesh netting of the tent - the material that composes the majority of my fabric-based shelter. Although the elements are but inches from me, they cannot reach me. I am protected - at one with nature, yet blissfully separate. I can smell the fresh mountain air and watch as the ever-changing array of insects traverse the exteriors of the structure's walls. My eyelids grow heavier with each passing moment and I am drifting off into the realm of dreams.
What's that? A subtle, yet unnerving sensation. Tiny vibrations on my mid-leg; seemingly innocent movement. I swat lazily at the the insect thinking that this will dissuade its further assault of my peace. In seconds, my mind reverts my thoughts back to where they were before the unwelcome interlude. Now, I drift away.
Eyes shoot open! Pain! A sharpened sensation - one brought on perhaps from vengeance. This time, I slap my thigh - hard. I hope to be quick enough to squash the very life force from this disrespectful invader. For a microsecond, in my mind, I see the broken creature begging me for reprieve - crippled and dying. How dare you attempt to devour my flesh!
I reach upward and center to push on the button that engages my LED camp light. It is suspended from the roof of the tent from a soft, pliable nylon cord. As the interior of my temporary domain is illuminated, I see the enemy fleeing over the side of the air mattress. I give chase. My sleep-filled eyes are opened enough to discern the identity of the attacker. An arachnid.
Why have you visited me with malicious intent? Why have you put this painful bite on me? Is it because I attempted to swat you earlier to protect me own sleep? I do not back down! Lifting the edge of the mattress, I am met with only blackness. The overhead light shines in the wrong direction to cast its glow to the underside. I scramble for a flashlight not knowing where it is. Being a full-grown man, I still fear the spider. It shows no emotion - no compassion - no mercy. It travels the night searching for sleeping victims; a stealth killer.
I know that the wish of my nemesis is to do me in. Certainly, it did not deliver the bite simply to enrage me; it longs for my death. Flashlight now in hand, I wish that the moon shone brighter still. Light is my primary weapon - and comfort. The hairs on my neck stand erect as I feel its multiple eyes watching me from behind. I spin around - ready for further assault. I am braced for another pain-yielding attack from the night-prowling adversary. Nothing there.
I unzip the right door of the tent - and then the left. I step outside calling my puppy, Buckethead to follow. My house slippers are parked at the entrance, but I elect not to step into them - yet another possible hiding place for the enemy. Overhead light, flashlight and moonlight combined are not enough for me to uncover the hiding spot my reaper. I begin to empty the tent. Item by careful item, I place the contents of my wilderness home outside and then, with a sweeping, thorough check, back in. I go over every inch of surface area on every piece of gear and equipment that I possess. Nothing.
I throw some new kindling on the almost-extinguished fire and grab a cold beer from the cooler. Checking my seat, I sit and contemplate my next move. If I go back in, surely the night stalker will emerge from its hiding spot to continue its plan of annihilation. I check the clock on my cell phone - 4:45 a.m. Daybreak in roughly 2 hours. I wait.
When dawn comes, I again scour the interior of my tent to no avail. My attacker has either abandoned his quest to destroy me or has moved on to kill another. Exhausted from my efforts of self-preservation, I go inside the tent again, now in full light, and lie down. The spot where the spider bit me earlier is swollen and red. It itches me and I wonder if the creature injected enough toxin to induce exaggerated levels of cellular necrosis. There are no answers; there is no victory possible. I collapse, defeated.
I awaken to the midday heat causing me to sweat profusely. I sit up instantly, scanning the area for danger. As silly as it seems, I cannot relax. This one small insect, no bigger than my pinky finger's nail, has disrupted my tranquility and eliminated my capacity to gel with nature. I try to understand the spider's needs. I want to love it, yet I know that such a vile entity will never be capable of returning my favor.
Each night thereafter, I await for the return of my potential slayer. I sense that it awaits - just outside my door - knowing that I can never zip my zippers tight enough to keep it out. I know that it waits there - close by, yet unseen. It waits for me to sleep again. It waits to kill me and consume me in total.