The Banshee's Wail
There is a sound that we all hear at least once in our brief lifetime, a sound so distinct that chills vibrate throughout our bodies as soon as we hear it.
This piercing sound acts as a signal-
the banshee's wail warns that one of us may die sooner than Nature anticipated.
It's a sound we grow up fearing, tales from our few elders echoing in our memory to avoid these bloodthirsty banshees at all costs, to boldly jump without hesitation as soon as the wail penetrates the air. I always thought the elders were paranoid, devoured too many drunken mosquitoes in their youth, hallucinated these horrors.
But I was wrong.
I witnessed such violence accompanied by the banshee's cry. The elders were right; Even as our abdomen spots mature from orange to pure white, we have to remain careful, always watching, always prepared to jump away from our forewarned death.
The evening sun stands in the center of the opaque sky surrounded by clouds, beaming rays of warm light upon the overgrown browning front yard. A brisk breeze caresses the ruby red roses by the porch, forcing the stemmed dancers to sway in the rhythm of Nature.
A perfect spring day by any definition.
The sky fills with laughter as juvenile Homo sapiens kick a faded red rubber sphere against the metal garage, producing the sound of mechanical thunder with each strike. Gentle music drifts from the cracked kitchen window accompanied by the occasional canine barking. Here I rest basking in the sunlight on the splintered window shutter as the breeze rustles through my hair, merely observing the Homo sapiens. There are two of them, both equally as ugly as the other one. Their legs are uneven, only two of them touching the grass. I watch as the shorter Homo sapiens trips over a predominant rock and falls onto the pavement. Why do these strange creatures have only two of their legs on the ground for stability when they have such tendencies to miss obvious tripping hazards? I watch as the fallen Homo sapiens slowly lifts itself off the ground and proceed to join the other one in kicking the sphere. Not two breezes later did I observe the smaller one trip over the same rock again. This is why two eyes, or even four eyes, is inadequate. Homo sapiens.
What bizarrely designed creatures.
I remain stationed on the shutter in the sunlight as the juveniles continue to foolishly kick the sphere against the garage, a booming sound that occasionally makes me fight my instinct to jump.
A shadow passes overhead.
I twitch my front legs and quickly scurry behind the small gap between the back of the shutter and the house as a make-shift sanctuary from the fleeting shadow.
It's encroaching towards my location.
From my left side I watch as a robin lands on top of the rusty mailbox post, it's red chest puffed proudly as it lets out a battle cry. Its beady eyes immediately focuses on the ground with sporadic head tilting from side to side in search of its lunch. How incredibly exhausting must it be to tilt and turn your head in order to see your surroundings, a constant energy consumption that could be better spent in taking down its prey-a prey such as myself. I continue to observe it from the cool shadow, examining the twitch of excitement it must have felt as it suddenly hops from the top of the mailbox onto the grass. In one swift movement, the robin accurately pecks the ground. As its head rises towards the sun once again, I see a captured worm.
I see the worm wiggle, the poor prey's plea to be exonerated,
to be free from its pending death sentence.
Yet in an instant, the worm is gone as its plea falls upon deaf ears. The robin puffs its red chest again as it hops to a neighboring patch of grass in search for another unlucky victim. As the robin is about to strike another victim, another clap of metal thunder rings out. No sooner than the sphere hitting the garage door did the sudden noise startle the robin, the once fearless predator now fleeing from a noise that poses no danger. With effortless flaps of its wings, my foe leaves.
I wait for another couple breezes before venturing out back into the sun, the sight of the poor wiggling worm still embedded in my memory.
How that could have been me.
Yet my sympathy ends premature as my body signals the need for its own subsistence. I remain on the shutter as I look in nearly all directions simultaneously for my own prey. I wait patiently as another clap of thunder rings in the air. Within a breeze, I see it, my own perfect victim. Sitting on the window seal is a fly, its plump, delicious body merely waiting to be tasted. I slowly stalk towards the fly.
I can't startle my meal.
I feel the pressure mounting in my legs with each anticipated step. It turns its back towards me with its wings fluttering in the breeze. I quickly attach my silken life-line thread to the shutter if by some chance my aim is faulty. Now is the time. I instantly jump onto my prey, biting into its side. My front legs clasp around the body as the shocked spasms slowly decrease as my venom starts to subdue my meal. Once it remains still, I quickly devour it as the sun highlights the window seal. Like the proud robin, I too ignored my prey's plea for life.
After absorbing my meal, I attach another life-line thread to the seal and jump back to my shutter. This becomes one of the few instances in my life I am glad I did follow protocol and attached my silken thread as the once peaceful breeze was overcome by a surge of violence. As I jump, the breeze flings me off the seal, forcing me to dangle off the edge like an amateur against Nature. Embarrassed, I slowly start to descend my life-line to reach the ground until something catches my eyes. On the ground below the window seal is someone we all know, one of the most popular man of my species.
I gaze down upon him.
With those perfect white spots on his abdomen and long legs, it's no wonder he manages to cross species-barriers and star in a Homo sapiens movie. How couldn't both Homo sapiens and our own species love him? I resist my urge to jump down by him in fear he will run. I had never really considered becoming a mother until this moment. The idea of hatching hundreds of children scares me. However, how could I resist reproducing with such a fine specimen, a man that could help me produce attractive children?
He raises his hairy front legs up towards my direction. I take another notice at his white bands on his legs, how his metallic blue chelicerae shine in the sunlight. I dare confess my heart skips a beat at this moment. I lower to the shadowed ground and watch as he raises his arms again followed by a series of quick side steps, providing even more chances for me to marvel at his hairy beauty. I continue to observe him, how he gracefully moves his legs, his two-step dance around me, as he completely encompasses my anticipating body. I carefully inch closer, our eyes locked as his chelicerae flicker. His seduction dance progresses as the metal thunder roars in the background. I chance another step forward.
His long, hairy legs freeze in the air as he seizes his rhythmic two-step ritual.
He begins to retreat,
his eyes still locked onto mine.
No! Don't go!
I boldly take another step towards him. And then he is gone, jumping backwards in a full retreat. I watch as he continues to jump into the blades of grass until he is out of my sight. His beautiful dance slowly becomes a wistful memory. I stay on the ground paralyzed almost as if overcome by my own venom.
I am ok.
I will be ok.
Who would want to become a mother anyways?
Still on the cool pavement, I remain focused on the direction my once suitor leaped away in. The sphere produces another crack of thunder, a noise which I am now unable to subdue my natural instinct to jump. As the metal thunder roars, I leap out of the shadow and into a sunny patch of pavement away from the potential threat. With my back against the direction of the juveniles, I observe another fly buzzing around the same cracked window I had previously devoured one of its relatives. The fly lands on the window seal nearly in the same location as its predecessor. I begin to stalk as I climb up the side of the house. Halfway through my journey, I notice something from the side of my eyes-a red sphere encroaching near my location. I pause my stalking as the sphere continues to bounce until it slowly rolls and stops slightly past me. The smaller juvenile that kept tripping over the rock comes prancing after the sphere, slightly giggling as it stalks its own prey. I watch as it walks past me, bends to pick up the sphere, and turns.
I see it.
It sees me.
Its big eyes lock onto my largest pair. The breeze fills the space between us. And then the transformation happens, a transformation I have only seen once before. The Homo sapiens drops the sphere back onto the ground, the two shorter legs spring closer to the abdomen, its eyes growing wetter as they continue to stare into mine.
It proceeds into the final stage of the metamorphosis-
it opens its ugly mouth
and the banshee begins to wail.
Zephyr, Patrick. "Phidippus audax (courtship)." Patrick Zephyr Nature Photography,
29 September 2020.