- - - Spider Of The Foothills - - -

Written and Illustrated by Benjamin Andrew Fouché

I had once spent a night travelling in the shadow of such persisting fear.  It was the kind of fear that sluggishly, but inexorably draws nearer.  The kind of fear that remains obscured and hunts imperceptibly.  The kind of fear that leisurely watches its victim.  Indeed, it is cunning, and perhaps that is why so many fellow travelers have never journeyed beyond the thickly, wooded foothills.  Fortunately for me, I did evade whatever resided in them.  I am still forever grateful to this day, however, I narrowly escaped its unforgiving wrath. 

The horror all began when twilight had ceased.  The wind that shook all of the surrounding brush had a disquieting whistle.  The Mountain Maples, which were scattered along the underbrush that bordered the timber, were shuddering in the blustery gale.  The towering Red Pines rocked back and forth, lofting against each other, while the short prickly limbs of the Black Spruces swayed in the strengthening gusts.  The slender sliver of moon was barely luminous, which made my environment appear all the more darkened. 

The ridged landscape of Vermont can be a beautiful place; alas, during the hours yonder dusk, it can be an untamed and wretched wilderness full of preternatural menace.  While the horse that I rode steadily trotted forward, we both heard a blaring howl.  I say we because even my horse paused a moment, seeming a little fearful.  Now, being a traveler, I can, of course, distinguish a wolf’s cry from something unnatural.  What I heard was not the wail of a wolf, but a wail of something borne from pure malevolence. 

I continued on, and my unease endured.  There were many more unearthly whines and bellows that resounded over the murky hillsides and hollows.  What disconcerted my soul most about them was that they seemed closer every time.  I was convinced that whatever it was, had been watching me. Hurrying onwards, into the gloom, I began hearing the throbbing of hordes of feet behind me.  Gravely dismayed, I turned my head to see a shadowy figure dart headlong into the woodlands. 

It was all too sudden for me to discern what it was, but the brief sight of the creature reminded me of an enormous spider.  By now, my horse was hurriedly dashing deeper into the forest; for she knew what was stalking us.  All at once, I heard the ear-piercing shriek again.  The abhorrent nightstalker was advancing on us.  Riding below the overhanging tree limbs, I heard branches snap, leaves crunch, bushes rustle––it was by now, undoubtedly on the hunt. 

We had galloped hither and thither through many ravines while being chased by that relentless arachnid.  Unfortunately we were only amidst the beginning of the vast foothills.  The unremitting creature ravaged anything in its path––then, in a few more seconds it disappeared altogether.  I was slightly relieved, but certain that it would return.  As we found our way back to the main path, we warily strode further on.  Shortly after, the crescent moon had been swallowed by the heavy, billowing hazes in the heavens. 

I could scarcely perceive which way was which, so I quickly lit my lamp to regain my bearings.  For a while, the woods were very hushed and the pervading silence unnerved my spirit. My horse carefully treaded farther into the timbered hillocks. Moments later, we abruptly heard the dreaded drubbing of that creature.  It was closing in upon its prey; us

Hastening my horse, we dashed through the thickets as yet again, the monstrous spider swiftly crawled after us, crashing through the brushwood.  By now, I knew we were almost to the end of the woods; for I noticed the copses were thinning out.  However, the horrid thing would give up to no end.  I sharply turned my head, for only a moment, to finally get a thorough glimpse of the hideous and sickening being; it was coated in a dark, grayish fur with five small, black, lustrous eyes.

Its eight legs thudded against the pathway and all of a sudden, it unleashed a scream that petrified my entire body.  I could only gape into its eyes and I knew its only desire was to feast on my flesh and bones.  Thankfully, however, my steed continued at a full gallop and we rushed through the last bit of overgrowth. Onto the flattened meadows we plunged, far away from that valley of terror. Nevermore do I travel through those pernicious lands.  For I know indeed what lingers in the dale’s darkness––the spider of the foothills

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