Right before I woke up this morning, I dreamed I was at a zoo with a naturalist and his daughter (evidentally a friend of mine, since we were both teenagers.) We were looking at the turtles.

“Hey,” I said, “there’s something wrong with that turtle! Its shell is coming loose!” And indeed, the top of the turtle’s shell was flapping, rather like a clamshell hinged on one side, and various other smaller turtles were trying to climb inside the one turtle’s open shell. It was running around the pen (well, “running” is a relative term here–for a turtle, it was bookin’) and appeared both agitated and sort of resigned, with its shell flapping and the other turtles chasing it.

Had the dream ended there, it would have been nicely symbolic and I coulda had a field day if I was the sort of person who went to a therapist, but no, of course it didn’t end there. “We gotta get that turtle to a vet!” we thought, and, since the naturalist (who resembled that big Turkish guy in the Indiana Jones movies) evidentally worked there, we went into the enclosure and grabbed the turtle, which was probably about twenty inches in diamater and weighed maybe forty pounds, and hauled it out of the pen.

“Wait a minute,” I said, looking under the shell, “This can’t be right. It’s not, like, scaly. This turtle has fur! Turtles don’t have fur!” (I’m so astute in my dreams.)

“It can’t have fur,” the other teenager said, “it’s a turtle.”

“I’m telling you, it’s got fur! And…um…hey, why does this turtle have eight eyes?” (Which it did, small black round eyes in rows across the top of it’s turtley head.)

With terrible suspicion, I flipped open the turtle shell and counted…eight legs.


Now, I object to spiders no more strenuously than the next person, (provided the next person isn’t Gryllus) they merit no more than a mild “Ew” and don’t even register on the same scale as, say, house centipedes, but the discovery that I was handling a twenty-inch-across-the-body giant turtle-spider was still a bit much. I recoiled, gibbering. The other teenager scoffed–it couldn’t be a spider, it was a turtle and hoisted its back legs, to reveal giant clicking spinnerets. “Okay,” she said, a bit shakily, setting it down again, “it’s a spider.”

The naturalist charged up, carrying a pair of insect-catching tongs that was never meant for a forty-pound insect, and said “We have to catch it for posterity! It’s a new species!” but by that point, the turtle-spider had shed its shell and glommed onto a nearby ant-hill. The ants went nuts. We studied the situation. “Here,” said the naturalist, injecting me with something, “antibiotics. And it should take the swelling down.” “What swelling?” “From the bite.” “What…is this giant lump on my shin?!”

And then I woke up, with a cramp in my left calf. Which probably explains that.

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