The creatures children are taught to fear – spiders, scorpions and snakes – seldom fail to make an appearance on walks through the woods in the dark, when the city is almost out of earshot and the trails brim with freshly spun webs, awakening moths and the songs of crickets and katydids. Treading quietly, without the din of small talk or dull banter, we'd cross paths with the lithe of the jungle: a python with gleaming coils, the sunbeams of a rainbow serpent, a bronzeback's bright-eyed glare, a young whip's narrow gaze. These encounters are always one-sided; the snake typically launches itself into a hole, a hedge or high up a tree, giving the lie to malicious whispers and modern-day myths of savage garters and spiteful beasts.
Far worse than the cursed worms in feats of misplaced valour are the scorpions, which seem to have no inkling of their reputation as the bane of tropical boots. Though armed to the tips with a pair of claws and a terminal sting, these ancient arachnids are ferociously reluctant to make a play of their potency, as if they are bent on saving their venom for truly dangerous prey and only the most dire of corners. Much more often than not, the animals prefer to wedge themselves under loose bark or plunge into the forest's lower layers than to press their emotional advantage over onlookers with soft skin and little sense of how creatures who prize touch over sight navigate the tiers and terraces of a garden writ large.
The most frequently seen local member of the order is a slim, brown buthid with arboreal habits; small individuals can be found in low vegetation and are wont to run afoul of fellow killers, while adults appear to favour trees with deep cracks and tight hollows, from which they venture to pursue roaches, hoppers and even mygalomorph spiders. Other than Lychas scutilis, nocturnal explorers might come across Heterometrus longimanus, a large, black scorpion at home in earthen mounds and decaying logs, and a tiny ischnurid with a flattened body and skewed proportions. Probably a Liocheles, this little bruiser appears gregarious, occupying trees of unknown persuasion in numbers that startle under a beam of black light.
Much less tethered to vertical retreats are huntsmen: leggy, free-ranging spiders that run riot over tree stumps, tangled brush and overgrown banks. The robust, mouse-grey heteropodids that spill over onto domestic plumbing are just as abundant in the wild as they are in houses, and even medium-sized specimens lacking their full assembly of limbs have the wherewithal to overpower small frogs and lizards, turning the tables, as it were, on the terrors of their youth. Other sparassids make a living on softer surfaces, scurrying up soft stems and skimming over the crowns of weeds that proliferate in the gaps carved by jogging tracks. A tawny species, of middling girth and often with missing appendages, is quite regularly spotted on wayside shrubs in thick, secondary habitats.
In slightly more mature country, the dimmest hours draw out a crew of hairy huntsmen with a chestnut-red stripe bisecting the carapace and pale jaws accentuated by dark trimmings. Tentatively placed in the genus Rhityma, despite their resemblance to a rarity named after a rock star, these imposing spiders are usually found sitting on broad-leafed foliage, with their bristly legs splayed flat in a manner that obscures their profile from afar. But even when their flimsy cover is blown, these huntsmen seldom go amuck as their duller kin do; instead, they try a different gait, adopt ungainly poses and steadfastly refuse to bite, lest word get out that the urban jungle is no longer safe and the lion city, in a bid to protect its children from fear and fact, find cause to gird its loins and go on the offensive to keep its wilder gardens well at bay.