A Spider Bite

I did not know it, but a spider was slowly lowering itself down a line of silk that would deposit it on the pillow only a few inches from my head.  I was not sleeping soundly, still tossing and turning from the strange Australian outbush meal that my guide and crew of carriers had prepared for us earlier in the evening, but I was trying.

My mind was full of many thoughts that both kept me awake and continued to scare me.  It seemed that each thought of cutting our way through a trail led, eventually, to a water buffalo, a Komodo Dragon, or a deadly snake of some kind attacking in a way that ended the expedition.

But as I tried to sleep, in that hazy oblivion of restlessness, a very deadly spider had targeted my pillow on which to land.  Closer and closer it dropped until it soundlessly landed next to my ear.  As I turned, the spider bit me instinctively, then scampered out of the way.

It was only a small bite—the fangs merely punctured the skin of my ear—yet the venom raced through my bloodstream like an electrical charge.  It went straight to the neurons in my brain, then spread into all the cavities of my upper body, and within minutes I was inflamed with pain and delirium.

I thrashed on my cot and dug at my ear like I wanted to pull it off.  My breathing became short and gasping.  My throat seemed to close.  My skin was on fire and my eyes bulged uncontrollably.  The spider had scampered off to the side of my pillow, then jumped down from the cot.  It quickly escaped the danger of me accidentally hurting it as I lurched about.

But I soon stopped my movement.  It was as if I had become catatonic: stiff, rigid, unmoving.  Even my eyes didn’t blink.  My heart barely beat.  My head throbbed, but nothing seemed to move.  I was probably about as close to death as one could get without actually dying.

There was no way to yell for help, no way to move or stagger out of my tent. I was forced to lay there, immobile, paralyzed, while the venom of this deadly spider spread through me in heartstopping ways.

Eerily, my awareness began to drift from inside me to above me as if fleeing from the danger in my body. I could see myself laying there, motionless, while my consciousness hovered above me, looking but not helping, visualizing but not penetrating.

Was this death?  Had I died and didn’t know it?  I could see my body below me, but it wasn’t moving, wasn’t breathing.  Had my soul escaped, or was it now just looking for somewhere else to go?

It felt as if I could move if I just willed it.  I looked to the door of my tent and I was instantly there.  I wanted to look outside, so I moved through the flaps of the tent.  There was a fire in the fire pit, burning brightly.  Several native guides were sitting around it.  Some were sleeping, one was smoking some kind of bushman’s cigarette.  Sparks shimmered up into the night sky as the man tossed another small log onto the fire.

I wondered if I could move wherever I wanted to go?  I looked over at where our truck was parked, and instantly my consciousness appeared there.  I could slip in and out of each place where my interest focused.  I went inside the cloth covering stretched over the back of the truck, then darted under the truck and even into the cab.  It was easy.  I was limitless.  As soon as I thought it, I was there.

I streaked back to the tent to see if my body had changed.  No, it was still laying there: no sign of movement, no sign of life.  Yet, I was unfettered in my ability to move about.  I went back outside the tent, hovering above the campsite like a streetlight.

I watched as the campsite slowly began to quiet and movement diminished.  The embers of the fire glowed a deep red while flames still flickered warmly over those near enough to feel their heat.  I could even see the eyes of animals in the bush as they peered into the clearing, wondering if they dared move closer for fear of becoming visible.

For some reason, I had thought of the mountain pass where we had been stymied by boulders and a rock slide earlier in the day.  Instantly, I was there.  The log we had pried under the frame of the truck to boost it over a boulder was still where it had been tossed when we got the truck free.  The tire marks were grooved into the soft soil where the tires had spun, and a small tarpaulin that had covered a box of radio equipment still laid where it had fallen when the truck pulled away.

Suddenly, I was on the face of the mountain, then skipped to a place in the desert.  It was impossible to stay still as each thought took me somewhere—instantly.  The cove of a river.  The trunk of a fallen tree.  A trail among the rocks.  An eagle’s nest high on the mountain.  Poised over a waterfall.  Then, back at my camp.

It was exhilarating!  My movement was so effortless.  My observations so clear and unrestricted.  I returned to the inside of the tent, only to watch the final breaths of my body as my breathing stopped.  And…