When Laura Ratling stayed with a friend in the Blue Mountains, she thought she’d be sleeping alone…
As part of my plan to discover the “real” Australia, I decided
to work at festivals in the Blue Mountains and found myself invited to my new Aussie mate’s house one night for a feast and a sleepover after a gig. Sloping back on the kitchen couch we were chatting away, engaging in the conventional exchange of contrasts between Oz and England. Culture: we have one, they have beer. Wildlife: ours in rubbish, their’s is scary etc. Then, I caught sight of something out of the corner of my eye and jumped as I turned to face three very spherical-bodied spiders.
“Erm… what are they?” I asked, “Oh,” she said casually. “Probably funnel webs.” “Really! Aren’t they deadly?” “Yeah, pretty much. Only if you get bitten though,” she laughed. “There was one on the living room floor the other day. “Anyhow”, she yawned and looked at her watch, “bed-time for me I think. Sleep well.” I wasn’t laughing. I gulped as I stood up and turned back to look at the spiders slowly, watching them wind their webs. I was sure I could see their fangs, waiting to bite. The most poisonous spiders in Australia, I thought, and I’m sleeping in their room.
The obvious move now was to do the “spider check”; under my pillow, beneath the sofa and in my sleeping bag. Nothing. Phew. I switched the light off and climbed in. But I couldn’t relax. Images of the little monsters scurried through my mind. I shuddered. Suddenly I heard a “clack, clack, clack” and jumped. It stopped. I breathed. Then it started again – louder, and closer. “What the…?!”
I leapt up, flicked on the light and hopped back on the bed, quick as a flash. “Clack, clack, clack.” Just above the sofa, about two feet from my pillow, was a… cicada. Big and noisy and sitting far too close to where my head used to be. Where the hell was I staying? Then I saw it. Across the floor, by the windowsill, was a funnel web. Watching me. And then it moved. A little at first, then like a bolt it darted, full-scuttle across the carpet, towards me and under the sofa. “ARGH!” My eyes wide with horror, I was up. But where to go…? I headed for the table, pulled out a chair, and jumped on, legs tucked beneath my bum so that nothing could crawl up my trouser-legs and I sat there. Safe. Staring at the sofa. Everything still… and good. But I was stranded; stuck on my chair island, unwilling to move in case Australia’s deadliest spider bit me.
Headlines like “Blue Mountains Backpacker Bitten to Death” and “Pom Girl Eaten by Spider” flashed through my mind. I looked at the clock. 1am. My friend wasn’t up for another six hours so that was me for the night; on my chair, huddled up, watching the bottom of the sofa for signs of life. But I wasn’t getting bitten at least. I was, however, pretty uncomfortable but I was not going back to that sofa-bed. No way. As my eyes grew blurry, and I yawned, I held my legs tighter so that I didn’t fall off.
And then “ouch!” I felt a poking at my shoulder. It was my mate and it was morning. I’d fallen asleep on the chair. “What the hell are you doing?” she asked. I told her the whole story, eyes still on the sofa base. “Are you serious?” she laughed. “Haha, funnel webs don’t come inside and run at you, those are house spiders! I was joking yesterday! Haha. Bloody Poms!”
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