Baby boomers often have the luxury of time and sometimes of travel. That’s how Terry Riccardi of Queens, New York, and her sister found themselves on a cross-country driving trip before the pandemic brought almost all travel to a halt. During one stop, they got more than they expected.
My sister and I were in New Mexico on our cross-country trip. Looking at the tourist literature in the motel lobby, something caught my eye.
“Wanna see the bat cave at Carlsbad Caverns tomorrow?” I asked.
“Sure,” she said. “Let’s do it.”
The following afternoon, we headed for the cave. But we didn’t get far.
“See over there?” I pointed. “Those people are holding hands, and whenever they move a little, they always stay in a big, perfect circle.”
My sister looked. “Yeah, that’s weird. Let’s go see what they’re doing.”
I’m not big on joining groups, but she pulled me along and we approached the ring. No one turned around or spoke to us, but the perimeter opened slightly to take our hands. We could now see that something large and black stood in the middle of the ring. We stared in total disbelief: a jet-black tarantula so large that it stood a good foot off the ground. That can’t be real!
My usual reaction to danger is to flee, but despite our shock and fear, we became part of the silent group that moved as one. My sister and I shifted mindlessly when the others did. Time and place had no meaning; we were no longer aware of bright sunlight, heat, sky above us, the very ground we stood on. We were part of the larger whole, a human organism surrounding a horror that it always kept in its exact center. It never occurred to us that we could simply drop hands and walk away.
Keeping his eyes on the creature, the man holding my right hand quietly explained, “It can jump in any direction from a standstill. We don’t know which way it might go, so we move when it does. That way, no one is ever closer to it than anyone else.”
Instantly we understood why we had to maintain the perfect circle. Even as we realized this, the monstrous creature lifted one too-huge-to-be-believed leg. The black appendage was covered with what looked like thorns, but were simply giant hairs. The leg moved slightly to the right. The human ring immediately shifted slightly to the right.
It was only when a large bird flew directly across my line of vision that the spell was broken. I tugged gently on my sister’s hand. She blinked, then returned to awareness of the outside world. Slowly, our sense of individuality returned. We loosened our clasp on the hands we’d been holding and backed away. As if we’d never been there, the circle closed, never wavering in its vigil.
In mutual silence, we walked slowly toward our car. “Well,” I said slowly, “I think that beats anything we’d see at the bat cave.”
“Yeah,” my sister said after another moment of silence.
We looked back at the human ring. It remained exactly as it had been before we joined it.
For all I know, it is still there.