A couple of weeks ago, I was laying on the couch watching TV and suddenly my head started to itch, in fact the whole back of me was itchy. I got up, scratching my head and back furiously, and within minutes I could feel a lump forming on my head – something had bitten me! The next day the bump was the size of one of those bouncy balls the kids love to annoy you with, and it hurt to even lay my head on a pillow. Eventually, after many days, the swelling went down, and it didn’t hurt as much, but I still have a pea-sized bump on my head.

That was weeks ago, and this week, I visited my father in Florida. He lives in a rather remote community called Dunnellon that’s halfway between Tampa and Orlando. It’s a lovely neighborhood, although almost eerily quiet. When I sit in my dad’s kitchen and look out the front window, I see more squirrels frolicking in the street in any given morning than people or cars passing by.

Today, as is my habit, I walked in the morning. I’d brought my iPod, with a new audible.com book that I had downloaded before I left Phoenix, so I began listening to it. Usually when I buy audible books, I read the summary carefully, and carefully consider whether I want to listen to up to 30+ hours of the book, but before this trip, I’d been in a hurry. I ordered this book based on the fact that it was science fiction and got rave reviews. The title should have been a tip off.

As I walked through my dad’s very lush, green neighborhood, which is pretty much out in the middle of nowhere, I saw

This is what the neighborhood looks like.

This is what the neighborhood looks like.

rabbits, squirrels, a falcon, and a flattened snake on the road. A prehistorically large beetle of some sort, with lobster-like pincers, had also met its fate, like the snake, as its friend (sibling? wife?) trundled across the road, and extraordinarily large dragonflies buzzed back and forth in front of me as I walked.

This new book I was listening to was a bit disconcerting, particularly in this environment. Within the first 30 minutes I realized that “the hatching” was not going to be chicken eggs. This book was about a world apocalypse by way of voracious spiders -yeech! If you know me, you know I am terrified of spiders. I can deal with bugs, but not spiders – my daughter, Elizabeth, has the same issue, maybe even worse (ok, with a lot more drama anyway). Because let’s be honest – spiders are just so … eight-legged and sinister and icky! I can’t even watch them on TV. When I married my husband I almost had the minister insert the words, “and will you, Jim Tolar, kill every spider that ever comes near Kathleen, even if she wakes you from a dead sleep in the middle of the night …” and I have seriously, on multiple occasions, called friends, when JT was out of town, to come kill spiders because I cannot handle the thought of them creeping around somewhere in the house. One friend, a guy, used a vacuum extension to suck up a giant spider in my house because he was afraid of spiders, too, (or maybe because you would have needed a brick to kill the thing, it was so big) – so it’s not just me!

So as the book unveiled the concept of hoards of man-eating spiders as biological weapons, I was already starting to feel a bit faint. That’s when I started looking around at the humid, green, jungly neighborhood. I imagined what was living in the thick bushes on the side of the road – do they have black widows in Florida? And abruptly, I looked up. Something had caught my eye in the sun – a huge silvery-threaded web. I mean humongous – two feet high by three feet wide, spun between a couple of trees, and smack in the middle was a really hair-raising black, long-legged, loathsome thing with yellow stripes. Ugh. As you can imagine, I high tailed it out of there!

This morning, I finally got up the grit to go back to the spider’s web. I thought maybe I’d imagined it, I mean, why would that web appear right when I was listening to a novel about shiny black spiders eating people’s brains? If it was there, I figured I’d take a picture because I knew no one would believe this story. And, it was still there, guarding the middle of that silvery, perfectly symmetrical web, and as I tried to gather up the courage to get close enough for a picture, I spotted another web, just down the tree line. I gave an involuntary shudder as I realized it was about the same size and held another shiny black spider. Nope, I was not going to get a picture. I was going to get away from there as fast as my legs would carry me. It was all just too repulsive. There were probably countless spiders in the grass that I had been standing in, plotting an attack!

Seriously, they looked just like this!

Seriously, they looked just like this!

When I got back to my dad’s, I couldn’t even bring myself to scroll through pictures on the internet long enough to find out what kind of spiders they were – but when I typed in big, black Florida spider with yellow stripes – well, you can see the image.

This morning during my walk, The Hatching detailed the gruesome spiders that are it’s main characters, explaining how they thrive on blood, and ravage their human hosts, and as I listened, I reached tentatively up to touch that bump, where “something” had bitten me on the head …