The strange encounter with that spider, my cellmate and only companion, caused me to reconsider my idea of love.

In 1982 I was a 29 year old photojournalist in Central America digging into the dark world of the drug cartel and the sex trade which was helping to fund their operations. I had just finished meeting with my contact in a café and was heading back to my hotel when two thugs grabbed me from behind and tossed me into the back of a van. Once out of the city and in the jungle they stopped the van, dragged me to the ground and beat me unconscious. When I came to I found myself in a filthy eight by eight foot cell.

I drifted in and out of consciousness over the next few days as I was beaten and tortured. My interrogators accused me of working for the CIA and I soon came to realize my chances of survival were slim at best.

As a result of the beatings my conscious and unconscious states of mind were becoming less and less discernable and I was starting to hallucinate as well.

It was during one of these strange twilight zones between reality and fantasy that I noticed the sun shining through an elaborate spider web in my cell window. This web had not been there the day before and as I stood to examine it noticed what appeared to be a word woven into the fabric of the complicated silk matrix. As a consequence of my beatings I often felt faint when first trying to stand and, in my present state of fog, assumed I was imagining something that could not possibly be true. I sat back down and tried to clear my head. The dizziness had subsided when I stood the second time and when I eyed the spider web saw the word “Faith” woven into it. I was certain that I was hallucinating so I walked to the other side of my cell with my back to the spider web and stared at the wall. I told myself to think clearly and then turned back to the spider web. Nothing had changed; the word was still there.

“Are you the one who did this?” I said as I examined a spider that suddenly appeared.

“You really are very beautiful with your yellow abdomen. And apparently rather smart.”

I put my hand on the sill of the cell window and she crawled unto my finger. After a few moments my friend scurried into a crack in the wall just as a guard appeared to take me to the interrogation room.

The beatings were particularly brutal that day and as they were taking me back to my cell I was contemplating suicide. I didn’t see how I could survive much more of this and killing myself seemed like the only way out. I drifted in and out of consciousness for the rest of that day and later that evening I remembered the spider web message from the morning. I crawled over to the window and raising myself to be at eye level with the spider web was able to confirm I had not been hallucinating or, worse yet, going crazy: “Faith” was still there.

Of course; I understood. My spider friend was telling me to keep on; don’t give up. My faith is greater than my broken body; greater than my tormentors.

The next morning I awoke to the sun shining through the spider web – and a new message. This time the word “Hope” appeared.

As my friend appeared from her hiding place I said “You are telling me to find hope in all of this? I’m afraid I don’t see much of that.”

The guards came to take me to my daily interrogation but instead of the usual room I was led into what appeared to be an office. Sitting behind a large desk was a man I had not seen before. He looked up at me and said “We are done with you. Tomorrow you will be taken to a hospital and, when you are well enough to travel, will be put on a plane to the United States. Take the prisoner back to his cell.”

The next day, my last day as a prisoner, I awoke and immediately went to the spider web.
The message from my spider friend was the most poignant of all; it simply read “Love.”

3 thoughts on “A Spider’s Love by William Gilbert

  1. I liked the story William. I’m not sure if the story was a work of fiction or not, but I liked it.
    I have experienced painful challenges in my life, and God who worked with a spider to create hopeful messages, has done similar miracles for me. I am constantly reminded of Gods love towards me, and personally always have hope, even in the uncertain times we are in now.

  2. I liked the story William Gilbert. I don’t know if it was a true story or work of fiction, but I liked it. Faith, Hope and Love are the strongest things we can have in life, they can carry us through the most painful and challenging circumstances in life, I know because the same God that caused a spider to give messages of hope in a hopeless situation…really lives, and He lives in me.
    Thanks for the story.
    Jerry Dallas Manning

    1. Hello Jerry! We have connected in the past. So good to hear from you. This is a work of fiction but based in part on my time in Central America. I am very pleased this story spoke to you about God’s love to us in seemingly impossible situations.

      (My apologies to E.B. White for borrowing from Charolette’s Web!)

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