From the Diary of Garret John McEwan
October 4, 1879
In the Vicinity of Scully, California. Weather continued fair but turning to chill.
[The following entry is written in a CSA military code Garret once used to pass scouting messages. Translatable by anyone with the knowledge of that particular cipher, but not readable at a glance.]
If I never in my natural life see another tarantula it will be too soon. We bedded down for the night at the inn above Scully’s main saloon, myself and Marcus taking one room, and leaving the other to Mr. LeFeau and Carter. Ben betook himself to sleep in the scrub outside town as he usually does. Marcus being a snorer, and myself not being ready to retire, I went to ease my boredom with Ben under the stars for a bit.
We passed the time in our usual manner, and then made to sleep, as it was a nice night and I saw no need to disturb Marcus by returning to the saloon. We had shut our eyes when Ben suddenly lit up, alarmed, for something was creeping on his leg. Before he had reckoned what it was, a spider nearly a hand-span big sank its poisonous fangs into Ben’s flesh, which pained him greatly and made him writhe and twitch. My first effort to knock it loose were useless, but after a scuffle I managed to dash it away into the recesses of Ben’s tent.
I pulled him free of the tent so the vermin could not reattach, but in the cold air a dreadful sensation took us both, as hundreds of the spider’s deadly offspring swarmed over our skins. Before I could protest, Ben took hold of me like I was no more than a sack of wheat and slung me over his shoulder. He then raced into town with a speed to rival a steam engine. It took my breath clean away, but it also freed us of the pestilence , as the spiderlets were flung off us by the rushing of the wind from his running.
He didn’t stop until we were through the saloon doors, this being a bit of a consternation, for in plain fact neither Ben nor myself had on one stitch of clothing between us. My boots, my gun, my knives, and all my garments, and Ben’s as well, were still within his tent, and likely spider-riddled.
There seemed to be some dust up in progress at the saloon, which our untimely arrival interrupted, possibly to the benefit of the peace of the town of Scully. Carter and Mr. LeFeau were standing either side of the saloon doors, and there was a man inside bleeding from a shot arm, and another several showing fresh blood and bruises where fists and smellers had collided.
The saloon’s denizens took a long look at Ben and myself, and turned back to happier pursuits. Carter, too, seemed to take no more than casual notice of our state. He asked what was the reason for our haste and undress, but seemed satisfied when I said we’d shed our things in an effort to rid ourselves of the spiders.
LeFeau, however, is another matter. He gave me a shrewd look, remarked we seemed unusually sweaty from such little exercise, and made some comment about a mark he could see where Ben’s hand had been upon my hip. I returned his interest with as cold and threatening a stare as I could muster under the circumstances, and he let it drop, but my unease with the man, which was already considerable, has jumped a hundred fold.
We beat haste up to Marcus’s room, and Marcus, bless him, seemed to take it as nothing out of the ordinary that Ben and I were naked as the day we were born. He was far more interested in returning to sleep than in probing the reasons for our undress. We both slept the rest of the night in his room, and went out at dawn to retrieve our things.
The spiders were gone, leaving no trace.