The Banana Spider I speak of is, more than likely, not the Banana Spider of South America, or otherwise known as the Brazilian Wandering Spider. The Banana Spider of Okinawa is big, hairy behemoth with a large, yellow crest on it. Hence the name. I have heard friends tell tales of their own experiences with this dreaded beast. Tales of bites that leave welts a 98 mph fastball wouldn't, no couldn't, leave on a batter not quick enough to duck.
My story, luckily, does not include bites. Simply fear. Fear, and revulsion.
One of the few classes taught at NTA was one of land navigation. For both day, and night navigation. Now, my unit, being the land nav wonders that we were, didn't really pay attention to the class being given, simply because we didn't need it. There were other classes, as well, but since they have nothing to do with this tale, you don't need to know about them.
Anyway, at the end of our classes, we were ready to go out and do some prac-ap (practical application). So the instuctors broke everyone up (there were other units there, as well) into groups of five, if I remember correctly. Each group was given a radio, a map, a compass, and a coordinate to find, and our point to start from. So, our group gathered our gear, plus extra maps and compasses, and headed out into the jungle to find our first point.
Now, any Marine can tell you (or, at least they should) that finding a point on the map is always going to differ in amount of difficulty. It all depends on where you are looking. On flat terrain, points are extremely easy to find. On flat terrain with trees, it is still fairly easy, with the only fun being the time when you have to look around trees to find the point your looking for. Oh, and in case you're wondering, as I'm sure most of you are, the points are usually marked by a can or some semi-permanent object on a pole with a number on it. And, of course, with hills, it was still easy, but the distance was off do to you actually going up and down hills. Now, the reason I mention this is that NTA was hilly, full of ravines, cliffs, trees, and more trees, making it very shady with a few rays of light coming through in places. But, it was still illuminated enough to find your way during the day.
Now, if I remember correctly, we had already found two boxes and were heading for a third. When you find a box, you call the instructors on the radio and give them the number off the box. If it's correct, they give you a neew point, and you set off for the next one. So, after facing a small cliff or two, and several ravines, we once again came to the approximate location of where the box should be. Knowing this, we did what we had been doing to find the previous boxes: we broke up individually and searched the general area for a box.
Now, once again, I must warn you. If you do not like to hear about spiders please click Right Here to return to my main page.
To continue, I walked off in my direction, which was full of dark shadows, strange noises, and the occasional snake moving through the underbrush. I could see spider webs spanning from one tree to another. And I also got to see an occasional small bird trpped in those webs, along with other small animals. Once again, I take out my faithful companion, Damien, my knife with the 10-inch blade, and begin stomping through trees, swinging and swiping Damien out in front of me. I had planned ahead, knowing of the dreaded beasts that inhabitated this region. So with grim determination, I trudged forth, into the dark embrace of the Okinawa jungle. I primarly used Damien to clear spider webs out of my path, allowing myself to move more freely, I thought, than my friends.
Somewhere in my search, my mind thought it heard a noise to my left. Which was the usual thing out there, so I have never been able to understand why I turned my head away from the path before me. Seeing nothing to my left, as I knew I would, I returned my gaze to where it belonged. And there before me...was a web stretching between two trees, eight feet apart....
And not more than six inches in front of me.
I remember telling myself to stop. No, I heard my brain screaming at my feet and legs to stop. Everything seemed to slow down at that point. Like a bad movie effect, I thought I saw myself from outside of my body, finally slowing my feet, and then stopping....
I remember many times before that day, and even during that day, and many times after that day, being proud of myself at one time or another for stopping my momentum from carrying me into an undesirable obstacle. But, that day, at that moment, I was not proud. I was not happy. Nor was I going to be. You see, I did manage to stop my momentum, and I did stop walking forward altogether. But for some strange reason, I didn't stop until AFTER I had walked into the web.
Once again, my brain started talking to my other body parts. These are some of theings I heard it say.
"Okay Feet, we need to move. Legs! Pick up a foot and step back! Hello? Legs? Feet? No, okay, Hands and Arms! Get Damien up and start swinging. We have to get this off of us now before the boy freaks! Heeellooooo Hands! Arms?... Moving on. Eyes! Close damn you! Before we see somethi...."
My brain never finished that thought. Because, right at that moment, a large, dark shape, with a strangely peculiar yellow crest, walked across my face. The dark shape of it's thin legs. The menacing scowl that only a creature of darkness could wear. The beady eyes that spoke of blood-lust. For the few seconds it took my brain to register what was really happening, I could almost sense the glee of the spider, for it's large kill-to-come.
I would love to tell you that I handled that well. That my brain took it all in and reacted in a controlled manner. But, it didn't, and I didn't. My friends were amazed at how fast I could run. Or maybe, once I thought more on it, they were amazed at how loud I screamed. Whatever it was, they came running to my position, seeing the fright on my face. After calming me down as best they could (I never really got calm), I was able to tell them what had happened. When I had finished my explanation, the smiles of amusement had faded from their faces. The joy they were planning to have at my expense never bore fruit. For several of them had had their own Spider Story at one time or another. And they knew the Fear of the Dreaded Beast of Okinawa. And even the ones who hadn't, knew enough to never say any more of the matter.
The leader of our group, my sergeant whose name I will not reveal, simply looked at me with that look of a bond that could never be broken, and told me all I needed to hear.
"We'll look somewhere else."