By the time I got to my arachnid adventures, I’d already seen a gigantic wooden elephant, watched a bunch of mechanical sea creatures move in creaking patterns on the Carrousel des Mondes Marins, and ridden a sea serpent. So my day was off to a fantastic start, and to make it better the sky was overcast and sprinkling slightly, and I love rain (and the rain was about to get much more intense). This was several weekends ago during the IES Abroad outing to the Machines de l’Ile, one of Nantes’s main attractions. When my mom was looking up interesting facts about the city before I left, she found the Machines and told me I should go, which I agreed to after seeing a picture of the huge mechanical elephant. But thanks to IES Abroad, I got to go for free!
Our tour of the Machines began with the Carrousel, which was where I saw all the robotic sea creatures. They were made with every attention to detail--the little birds atop a seashell carriage flew, the manta ray’s fins flapped slowly up and down, the sea serpent let out a vicious puff of smoke. Since we got to ride the carousel, I was drawn to that creature instantly, and sat down a little toward the back. Our guides walked around, explaining to my classmates that the levers by their seats could do certain things. My seat had no lever, but I didn’t mind...that and I was secretly terrified of breaking something.
That changed when we went on our tour of the Gallerie, filled with prototype creatures for the Ile’s next project—a huge tree filled with walkways and populated by Machines for visitors to ride. The first we saw was a huge spider, legs splayed in a bowl of dirt. While one of the guides talked, one of the workers came over to me, tapped my shoulder, and asked if I would like to ride the spider.
My first response was no. I hate having to do stuff in front of crowds of people. But she looked so surprised at my answer that I came to my senses and said yes.
She led me over to the back of the spider to wait with a small group of visitors, then opened the little door in the spider’s behind, leading us onto its open back, studded with buttons and levers. I stayed close to the back wall as she assigned my spider-mates buttons and explained what they did: “This one opens its eyes, this one moves two front legs…”
I was the last person to get a button. She pointed towards a nice fat red one, then said, “This button—”
Since she was speaking French, I had no idea what she said after that. As I was about to find out, my vocabulary didn’t exactly over this area.
The spider began to awaken, creaking beneath us in its little dirt pit. I tentatively pressed the button and heard a hissing noise, so I took my finger away quickly.
And I’m just going to pretend that I didn’t just break everything, I told myself. I did not kill the spider, I promise.
Its legs creaked and moved. Someone pressed the button that made it hiss. And then we were rising into the air, drawn upwards by a mess of cables. I stared over the edge as we got higher, then started moving out over the long corridor.
“You can press the button,” the employee told me.
Water shot out of the spider’s behind. It was so sudden and obscene that I almost instantly let go of the button.
What the hell?!
A few moments later, as the spider clawed its way through the air, she said I could press it again if I wanted.
This time I made liberal use of the button, making the spider pee in spurts all the way down the hall. When the spider returned to its resting place, I saw a splotch of wet dirt. I guess it did work the first time, I just couldn’t see it since the spider was still in the pit.
We were lowered down, and I made it pee one last time for good measure. When I rejoined my classmates, I told the girl next to me, in a voice that was ridiculously thrilled,
“I was the one who made it pee.”
“Oh, yeah,” she said. “That was weird.”
Yes. Yes, it was. Who thought to make a giant flying spider with a pee button?
I’d like to give them a hug.
The rest of the machines—flying herons, walking insects, crawling caterpillars—were ridden by other volunteers who operated various buttons and levers. They were all cool…but I mean, I flew in a giant robot spider.
And I'm the only one who gets to say, in all seriousness, that they made it pee.
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<p>Hi! My name is Suzan Frierson and I'm a junior at the University of Redlands. I'm a Creative Writing major and French minor, and the language inspired me to study abroad in Nantes. I love traveling, writing, and going on adventures.</p>