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I Witnessed a Murder Today

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It wasn’t a drive-by or a gruesome stabbing in a fit of passion, it wasn’t even a crime by most standards. Nevertheless, it was cold-blooded and merciless. Quite instructive and grounding I suppose you could say, in particular to those of us who adhere to a vegetarian lifestyle.

I was doing something not terribly important when I heard the buzz of an insect, navigating the airspace around my head rather erratically. I thought absentmindedly of drunken airline pilots and whether flies could be retrofitted with proper ailerons when the buzzing hit the window in front of me and stopped, abruptly. Perhaps retrofit them with radar as well?

After a moment of silence, the buzzing started up again, but with a very different quality to it. It sounded nothing so much as urgent and panicky, enough so that I looked up from my reveries and sought out the source of the sound. It was coming from the bottom corner of the window.


The tiny fly, at least I suppose it was a fly—I failed to introduce myself and interrogate it on this point in its sudden predicament—was caught in a spiderweb I had long assumed to be abandoned. I’d never seen a spider anywhere near it, and it had a certain disused and disheveled quality to it, much like a neglected house in a run-down neighborhood. Now, though, it soon became abundantly clear that it was very much in use.

I don’t really mind spiders much, I think they are fascinating creatures. I will tolerate them as long as they adhere to my one absolute rule: No biting of me. That said, I do enjoy my private space and will evict them on short notice if they invade it. Such as my bed or my bathtub. After all, there are certain unspoken rules about a man’s bed and tub; ignore them at your peril, is all I say. Oh, and don’t mess with my car, ever. You guys out there know what I mean.

This spider was surprisingly large, in fact worryingly so, and compared to the doomed fly it was huge. For a moment there I considered attempting to rescue the fly, but before I could react the spider had already moved in and the poor fly was toast, or at least lunch. Fascinated, I watched the spider envelop it in silk thread with a skill that can only be described as chillingly effective. I see now where the inspiration for countless science fiction movies has come from.

Minutes later there were no traces of the fly or the spider, and the web was repaired and returned to its state of fashionable disorder. I suppose perhaps it is with spiderwebs as it is with human hairdos: the more expensive they are, the more haphazard they look. It was almost as if the whole thing had never happened, but I knew different, so I offered a few thoughts and a moment of silence over the unfortunate pilot.

You were seen, you were heard, you were contemplated upon, so you existed and you mattered, despite your lack of navigational skills. So here’s to you, may you rest in peace.

(Image credit: Oliver Wolters / Wikimedia Commons)

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About Gunnar Helliesen

  • How exactly was that a crime by any standards?

  • Irene Athena

    Go ask a vegetarian spider, LB.

    Probably as fly deaths go, Gunnar, it was probably not as awful as it sounds. It reminds me of the technique Temple Grandin developed to humanely put animals down in a slaughterhouse. As an autistic person, she had learned that being tightly wrapped up helped calm her when she was terrified. She wanted to find a way to make it easier for the animals before they gave their lives to become food, so she devised this contraption that held them tightly, too, where the animals practically died in their sleep, instead of in terror.

    I’m not saying that to be insensitive to your vegetarianism–but it make you feel less sad about the fly

  • It’s really interesting to read your comments, thank you.

    @El Bicho: Better yet, ask the fly. 🙂 But no, it wasn’t a crime in the legal or even moral sense by any standards, a spider killing a fly is just nature. However, in the context of the opening of my piece, “murder”, “drive-by”, “stabbing”, things that we humans do to each other, it was a morally reprehensible act. Therein lies my point, more about that below..

    @Irene Athena: We humans tend to anthropomorphize nature and apply our own value systems to everything and everyone else, including other humans. As a vegetarian, regardless of a person’s view on the morality of eating other living beings, seeing nature in action at the very least serves as an interesting reminder that we ourselves are the products of nature, not the other way around. I may choose to not eat other animals, even spiders, but the spider doesn’t know and wouldn’t care if it did, because the very issue would be meaningless to it.

    So there you have it. The human observer, himself a part of nature, observing the cruelty of nature while applying human values to an arachnid simply trying to survive. Even, in an effort to push the point to an absurd degree, attempting to apply human technology to an insect.

    Or, as I prefer, random philosophical musings on the demise of a housefly, presented for your enjoyment.