I thought it was a cockroach. A large cockroach. I heard the fluttering of wings hitting the bedroom wall, the trash can, the floor. Cockroaches are erratic, bouncing off the walls in nonsensical flight patterns.
“Did you hear that too?” Alex asked me in the darkness.
“Mmm,” I groaned, trying to ignore it and drift back to sleep.
We heard the fluttering near our bedroom door. Alex un-tucked the mosquito net and crawled out, partly to investigate the noise, partly to go relieve himself.
“Ohhh that’s a bat!” I heard, as Alex pushed the door closed, leaving only a crack to peer out. After realizing the bat’s close proximity to our room, he shut the door, and we were left wondering what to do with a bat inside our house.
After a minute the fluttering stopped.
Alex tried to open the door and investigate. The door was stuck; not locked, just stuck. We were stuck in our room, with what seemed like a dying bat just outside the door. We realized that even if we chose to go back to bed and deal with it all in the morning, we had to no way of letting someone into our house to assist us from the other side of the door. We had no tools in our room, as I had put them on our ‘utility’ shelf in the entryway. We have grates on our windows…so no way to crawl out in the morning and borrow tools from someone. We had one pocketknife, nail clippers, bobby pins, a credit card, and past knowledge from being locked in rooms by siblings and from seeing stuff in movies.
And, Alex still had to pee.
“You can pee in the trash can. I wouldn’t judge you,” I told him
The trash can has holes in the bottom.
“You can pee in that bucket on the top shelf that catches water from the roof leak.”
“You could stand on the bedside table and pee out the window.”
Eh. Searching looks.
Over the next 30 minutes, we tried all methods of escape. We tried unscrewing and taking the door handle off. We tried slipping the credit card between the door and the door jam to wiggle the latch free. We tried fiddling with the lock. We tried a lot of yanking and jiggling. Finally, Alex slipped his knife between the door and the door jam, using leverage to pry the door open. The tip of the knife broke off, but we were free.
“Careful, now there’s a knife tip somewhere out here…and maybe a dead bat,” he said.
Opening the door just a crack, he peered out at the still creature on the floor.
“Ya dead buddy?” he asked it, poking it with a decorative arrow that he had taken down off our bedroom wall.
“I think it’s dead. But now it’s between me and the xi-xi bucket.”
Quick pause. A xi-xi (pronounced she-she) bucket is a bucket kept in the house, used only for peeing in during the night when you don’t want to leave the house to go to the actual bathroom. Each day it is emptied and cleaned. It might seem real gross that we pee in a bucket, but it’s actually a wonderful invention. It beats going outside in the darkness and, on this night in particular, the downpour.
The dead bat was covered with a frisbee, and with some nervous sounds and scampering movements, Alex got past the bat and into the room across the hall. Xi-xi success!
Next, we swept the bat-under-frisbee outside onto the back deck, removed the frisbee, and hoped that a neighborhood cat would eat the bat in the night.
We were laughing and feeling successful. It was 3a.m and we were ready to go back to bed. I was sitting on the bed, under the mosquito net, Alex was standing in the doorway when he jumped out of the way of something.
“That was really big spider,” he said.
It scuttled away into hiding, near our shoes. We could not leave it there. I came out from under the mosquito net to aid in the capture and killing of the creature we now call Carl the Camel Spider. Decorative arrow in hand, Alex poked around in the shoes to scare Carl out of hiding. I held a headlamp and kept my eyes peeled. A minute later, the power was out and we were in shadows, searching. It wasn’t long before we retreated to bed, listening to the thunder and squeaks of still more bats in our false ceiling, and dreaming of how we used to live somewhere so cold that no creepy crawlies could survive.
“I think one of the lizards probably ate Carl, right?” Alex asked me at breakfast the next morning.
“Sure,” I said, trying to convince myself that Carl was no longer lurking in some shadow of our house.
It took me until noon to work up the courage to near Carl’s lair to get dressed and put on shoes. The decorative arrow worked as my extended hand as I lifted clothes and shoes, poking around and shaking things out. Carl was nowhere to be seen, still at large somewhere in our house. Each step in our bedroom, each lifting of an item, was met with caution…and fear.
It wasn’t until 6:30 p.m, as I was cooking dinner, that Carl made his whereabouts known; Alex heard him behind a piece of fabric in the bedroom.
“Ahhh, move! He’s coming your way!” I heard Alex yell from the bedroom as he sprayed bug-killin’ spray.
Just as I saw Carl enter the kitchen, I skirted around him onto the front porch jumping and yelling,”Aranha! Aranha!”-spider, spider- only to be met with quizzical looks from students passing by.
I returned to find puddles of Baygon bug spray-the best invention ever, and completely necessary for defense against Mozambican creepy crawlies- around the kitchen. It was determined that Carl had escaped once again, and was hiding behind the open pantry door.
Earlier in the day I had been texting a friend about our run-in with the camel spider. She asked me if they bite, if they are poisonous. I told her I didn’t even want to know.
Ignorance is bliss.
But before long I felt like I needed to know what we were up against.
Knowledge is power.
A quick Google search of camel spiders told me that they are not technically spiders. They are common in Middle Eastern deserts and are also found in the southwestern United States and Mexico…and, apparently, Mozambique although this particular article didn’t say so. They are not venomous but their bites are painful. It is a myth that they chase humans; they are nocturnal and if they appear to be chasing you it’s only because they are trying to hide in the darkness of your shadow. In fact, they are one of the approximately 1,000 species in the order Solifugae, meaning ‘those who flee from the sun.’ And, best of all, a quote that told me that “…in captivity they are quite the divas and require princess-like accommodations to be kept alive.”
So, perhaps Carl was a diva and considered our house to be fit for a princess, but it was his Solifuge nature that interested me most as he sat in hiding in the shadows of our kitchen. I suggested we chase him out using the light of a head lamp, and then kill him dead!
I put on my hiking boots; there would be no camel spider scuttling over my toes. Alex picked up a shovel from our entryway and handed me a heavy basket of magazines to drop on Carl. I held the light, moved our stove gas tank out of the way, and closed the pantry door.
There was Carl, squirming and wiggling, incapacitated from Alex’s excellent earlier shot with the Baygon. Now, he whacked him the shovel.
“He’s still moving,” I confirmed, shining the light on him.
A few more whacks, and we had won.
Carl was left dead on the front porch, a warning to all his friends and relatives.
Camel Spider info credit to http://www.livescience.com/40025-camel-spiders-facts.html.