“As I walked through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place, and as I slept I dreamed a dream” John Bunyan ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’
I find myself shrinking, losing my human form, falling down on all fours and looking up into infinite space which before was only my room.
What odd hands I have! Long, slender with wide tips and a kind of sucker, almost. I can grip anything. And my legs push out to the side: Now, that’s odd - it makes me walk almost with a waddle. But I can go anywhere. Up: Down: across the ceiling. Upside down. Amazing.
What the heck is that? I do not like the way that spider is looking at me. I could step on it when I am human but here it’s nearly as big as me and it hisses and grins and slobbers as it eyes me up and down.
Time to scoot.
I run, headfirst, down the smooth walls of my room, hitting the floor running and racing across the cold tiles, under the door, up the passageway and under the door. The bright, blinding sun hits me and I feel my blood boiling in me. I turn to go back but here comes the spider, eight legs pumping, venom dripping. I see the gigantic shape of my car. I run like the wind and find myself clinging to the underside of my own car with the dirty metal running away in all directions and the smell of oil overwhelming my senses.
It’s cool and dark and feels safe. The spider has not come out of the house into the bright sunlight. My breathing starts to slow and I relax and let out a long breath.
“Never relax,” says a voice and I spin around. Another Gecko is looking at me with a wry grin. (How do I know it’s a grin? A human could not have said but I know)
“Who are you?” I ask. The other lizard is larger than I, but I do not feel afraid. If anything, I feel safer for his company. He has the usual green colouring but there is a roughness to his skin that speaks of adventures and age and perhaps wisdom gained by survival.
“Just another traveler through this strange land,” The other says, “You can call me Ferd.”
“Don’t you mean, Fred?”
“No: Ferd - short for Ferdinand. A name I was once known by. What were you running from?”
“A very large spider.”
“Yes, they can be very dangerous. Almost as bad as the birds. What is your name?”
“Call me Wes. Short for Wessex - a place I used to live in.”
Ferd laughs and nods in an almost human way. “Very good, Wes it is. I was going to find some food. Want to come?”
My stomach is rumbling so I nod back and we climb down the wheels to the concrete below. Out of the shade of the car, the sun is beating the ground into a boiling desert. In the distance I can make out my front lawn. It needs cutting or is it just that I am now so small? Ferd dashes in front of me and across the concrete to the grass.
“Come on: quickly! Before a bird sees us!” he yells back over his shoulder. I chase after him.
In among the sharp stalks of my lawn Ferd and I rush onward. The blades tower over my head and then I hear the sound of many feet. Ahead. “What is that?” I call out but Ferd says nothing.
Stopping dead in his tracks I nearly barrel into him and he clicks his tongue at me to be silent.
“Sorry,” I whisper. He points ahead.
Just a little way ahead is an awesome sight. Hundreds, no, thousands of black ants running to and fro, waving their antennae in the air, clicking their forelegs, carrying small pieces of fruit, or dismembered grubs up a small hill and down into the darkness. A smell of decay and heat and a bitter taste of acid finds its way to my tongue as I continually lick the air.
Ferd points to one side with his head and I see a group of ants in a semicircle around a cricket or locust or something like that. I decide it is a locust. It seems to be hurt and the ants are trying to shepherd it towards the main body of the nest. The locust is trying to jump away but its leg seems damaged.
“Can we help it?” I ask Ferd, suddenly sorry for the stricken creature. It is many times the size of the ants but the enormous numbers must surely overwhelm it. Ferd shakes his head.
“Not possible. If they see us, we will be dinner, too. Let’s get out of here.” He turns around but there is a sudden noise like a thousand small clicks and we are seen by the main body of the ants. They run towards us and we take to our heels.
“Back to the car,” Ferd cries as we dash for our very lives through the cutting grass, onto the concrete and I cry out in fear for the car is slowing backing down the drive towards the road.
“Jump!” Ferd screams as he takes a mighty leap and grabs hold of the bumper and begins to scramble up. Behind me the ants are too, too close. I can feel their greed, their energy, their unstoppable, relentless power. But I feel my speed. I jump.
The wind sings across my outstretched body and I flail madly at the car and one leg connects as I begin to slide back to the ground.
Ferd snatches at me and pulls. We climb up and then are holding on to the grill at the front of the car as it pulls right out into the street and changes gear. The wind becomes a gust, a storm, a cyclone a screaming madness that tears at every limb and sinew in my body and threatens to throw me to the road rushing below me.
The pads of my feet grip the metal. Should I fall I will die under the wheels of the car my wife is driving completely unaware of my presence or my present state.
“Hold on!” Ferd yells above the maelstrom, “That’s what Geckos do - we hold on better than anyone in the universe.”
And I hold the smooth metal. My legs molded to the grill, my face flattened against the painted surface. The car pulls around corners, it slows and then speeds up. It jerks as gears change and I despair of life but all the time Ferd is there calling out to me, “Hold on! Hold on tight. Geckos hold on.”
And I hold on.
Finally the car pulls into the supermarket carpark and stops. Ferd and I drop to the hot ground and bound away to the edge, where the small bushes shade the soil and the grubs are plentiful. There is a pool of water from a late rain last night and we drink our fill and wash the wind and dust away.
Ferd looks at me with wise eyes. “You did well, Wes. For a beginner.” I laugh and a fit of the giggles hits me as the adrenaline falls away.
“Thanks to you,” I say at last, “You knew I didn’t know what to do, didn’t you?” Ferd says nothing but smiles that secret grin of his. Then he nods.
“It’s all about holding on tight,” He says, “Whatever the situation if you can hold on tight the wild ride will eventually end and all will be well.”
He looks around. “This bush seems secure,” he mutters almost to himself, “Come on up,” he calls over his shoulder as he quickly climbs the short trunk and finds a purchase in the crook of a branch.
“It’s all about holding on tight,” He repeats, “Find yourself a nice, solid branch, surrounded by leaves to hide you and thorns to protect you and Hold On Tight until morning.”
By the time I climb up past him into another branch the sun is leaving the sky and the night sounds are starting. I lodge myself as securely as I can.
“Who are you, Ferd?” I ask after a moment. He turns his head upward so I can see his eye glinting red in the light of the nearby street lamp.
“Just another lizard, junior. Same as you.” He laughs softly and then turns away again and falls silent. After a while I hear his gentle, rhythmic breathing as he sleeps. I push myself further back into the crook of the branch and clamp tight to the rough bark. I am so tired after the escape from the spider and the ants and from the car.
I drift away, knowing that morning will find me human and in my own bed.
But as I pass over into dream (or was it a dream?) I can hear Ferd telling me to "Hold On Tight". To persevere till I find the safe place after the wild ride.