The story opens with three "pursuers" trying to track down a group of escaped slaves. They happen upon an eerie and desolate valley. In fact, one of the riders contemplates for a long time that the valley has an unnatural stillness about it. The rider longs to see a beast or tree that seems alive, but for a long time, he only observes the landscape, which seems to be almost painted.
Soon, his wish is granted, as the travelers see a mad dog running away from something, completely ignoring the riders. They then find the source of its panic—a gigantic mass of spiders that completely engulfs the group and disorients their sense of what is real. One of the horses dies in the confusion, and thereafter, the group sees a trail of smoke in the sky that they believe might signal the runaway slaves.