I’m not the bravest person, I’ll admit. I can’t sit through a horror movie without covering my eyes and ears. Anything related to ghosts and demons scares the bejesus out of me. But my lack of bravery can be hidden by just not seeing Paranormal Activity or telling ghosts to piss off… respectfully.
There is one particular fear however- nay, phobia- that I can’t brush off. My cause for hysteria… CENTIPEDES.
If you are thinking this is a girlish fear of bugs –like spiders or cockroaches- you are severely mistaken. Centipedes are creatures from the underworld that have crawled out of the earth in order to stab us with poison and kill us. This is a completely rational fear. It’s self preservation.
In case you think centipedes look like Mr. Centipede from James and the Giant Peach because you live in away from the tropics, let me demonstrate what actually crawls into my house.
I told you.
I abhor centipedes. They are pure evil wrapped in primitive wriggly carcasses. I can’t look at them, I can’t even think of them without feeling like they’re crawling up my leg. I don’t know if I had a traumatic incident as a child or if someone told me they are deadly poisonous in order to stay away from them. I don’t care!
Basically, if a centipede is in my peripheral vision, I break down into a fit of tears and shrieks while assuming the fetal position in the tallest chair and shouting “Kill it, kill it kill it kill it please!” because I am incapable of going within ten feet of it. All of this while shutting my eyes to spare myself from its horrific appearance.
My basic instinct of survival demands their brutal death so I can go back to walking barefoot in my house and sleeping soundly without my imagination conjuring up how they will crawl through the small gap in my window and land safely on my bed, creeping up towards my fragile exposed neck.
But my fear is stunted when it encounters my humanitarian side that believes all creatures have a right to live. And so the collision between my blood thirst and my hippie beliefs occurred one gruesome night at my house.
It was quiet except for the sound of the TV and the purring of my cat. I was ready to go to bed when my pets informed me they needed to go to the backyard by standing in front of the door and barking (I also have a dog).
The night was cool and rainy so I decided to sit out in the terrace and enjoy the breeze while my cat and dog terrorized the frogs stepping into their territory. A few minutes later, my cat did something so out of character and heart melting that it got in the way of whatever cautionary instincts were being used at that moment. He rubbed his body against my leg and purred loudly.
Affection. From my cat. It was a stepping stone in our relationship.
I still blame him for this traumatizing experience. If he hadn’t chosen this moment to demonstrate his mediocre liking for me, I wouldn’t have been absent minded and I would have realized there was a reason to be very, very afraid. The creature of death was nearby.
But I was too filled with appreciation to notice.
Before I realized, I wasn’t only within ten feet from the menacing arthropod. I was three inches away from it.
The next few seconds are a blur. All I remember is that in one swift move I had managed to make it to the opposite side of the terrace. My cat, sensing that something was wrong but choosing to be defiant, stood in the same spot while giving me the “You are so pathetic” eyes. Now I was forced to physically remove him from the death zone, breaking once again my ten feet rule.
The centipede must have felt alarmed because when I went in to grab my cat he thrashed violently, his actions resulting only in me holding my cat inadequately, his back legs dangling and moving jerkily from side to side. For some reason I redirected my disgust for the centipede towards the cat and I subconsciously held him out arm stretched, only provoking more side to side movement to his fat body. Halfway through, he decided he wasn’t having this shit treatment.
So he ran away.
For a millisecond, I was relieved I no longer had to worry about my cat’s safety. But that was quickly overshadowed as I glanced in the direction of my worst nightmare.
He was horrendously terrifying, menacing, an assassin.
And also quite small. I only detected this meaningless fact in a brief moment of objectivity.
But when fear is the attention seeking whore factor in the equation, things appear more monstrous than they really are.
What appears to be like this …
…Will immediately be registered in my brain like this.
I was forced to listen to two completely different voices in my head. The voice that analyzed the level of danger and concluded it was level zero. I could easily go back into the house and let it roam free into the wild. And the voice that wanted to fight for my survival, even if it meant killing to stay alive.
The latter was louder and more convincing.
When I encounter myself in a situation of life and death against this crawling monster, I run faster than a gazelle towards someone I consider bigger, tougher and much more cold blooded than I’ll every be.
But it was midnight and everyone was asleep. I am the only night owl in my family.
I had no choice but to kill it myself.
“It’s only a baby!” my humanitarian side would say. “Maybe it’s just lost and it’s looking for its mama.”
Evil side: Its mama? There’s more than one centipede around? Oh hell no! It’s got to go!
I wasn’t sure how I was going to overcome my phobia long enough to get close and kill it but I quickly got creative.
First attempt was throwing a rug over it, trapping it underneath its heaviness and possibly suffocating it. No, this wouldn’t be enough. I decided to step on the rug, repeatedly, like some sort of retarded tap dancing. I knew the rug was providing certain protection and cushion so I stepped more vigorously.
Upon seeing this, Cat thought I was playing some kind of awesome game and decided to join.
Shushing a cat while trying to kill something is very difficult.
Once I was convinced I –and the cat’s efforts- had made some kind of damage, I jumped back towards a safe corner. He has to be dead, I thought. That was some serious bad ass stomping.
But I needed to be sure. I needed to see the squished motionless mess I had created. From afar.
Perched from a chair while prodding with a broomstick, I attempted to remove the rug and see the remains. The cat was seriously into this whole poking and discovering, completely indifferent to the danger he was toying with.
I poked and moved the rug slowly, begging please be dead please be dead-
Chaos broke again. Did this cat have a dead wish?! After pushing the cat away with the broom and convincing myself it was for his own good, I proceeded to search for the most damage inducing, blunt weapon I could find. A hammer.
It was in the aftermath of my horror that I realized this weapon of choice probably wasn’t going to be the most effective one. It seemed kind of excessive not to mention counterproductive since the short handle required close proximity and accurate aim –which I was born without-, but the monster was scurrying away and this was the only thing nearby I knew would cause a great deal of pain if you ever encountered it at full speed.
For a moment, I was overwhelmed with the prospect of hammering down a centipede while standing far enough from the gory mess it was going to produce. Nothing rational came to mine so I opted for throwing the heavy tool in its direction and running the opposite way, hoping it would miraculously hit the target. It was not one of my most intelligent moments.
Evil Side: It’s getting away!
Good Side: Just leave him alone!
Evil Side: He will come back and kill you and everything you hold dear!
Good Side: He is incapable of vengeful emotions let alone a plan of attack!
Enough! If I wanted to get this over with, I’d have to steal my nerves and grow a pair. I picked up the hammer with steady hands and glared murderously at my enemy. This… ends…now.
I charged in a swift ninja move, hammer held high. Eyes closed.
I heard an echoing ting! as the hammer met the floor, sparks flying everywhere, my adrenaline going through me like electricity. I hammered away without looking, like some crazy bloodthirsty war machine. My humanitarian side must have been fighting back with full force because as I hammered, I kept yelling I’m sorry! I’m sorry! Oh God, I’m so sorry!!!
After hammering down enough times to have hit it at least once, I slowly opened my teary eyes to glance at the massacre. Turns out, my aim was worse than I thought because I only managed to get it once. Now I was obligated to see him thrash in pain, begging for survival.
I felt like the worst human being that had ever lived. I had wanted to get rid of him but not for him to suffer.
I moved from side to side aimlessly chattering incoherent phrases, unable to figure out how to end the suffering I had caused. Once again I ran to the kitchen in search of my answer.
I rushed back to the scene of the crime, half jittery with self hatred, half relieved because the gore would soon be over.
I shook the can and sprayed away like there was no tomorrow, once again averting my eyes. I sprayed until a glossy puddle had formed on the tiles. Only when the toxic fumes had me on the edge of respiratory failure did I dare look again.
There he was… motionless, dead. The relief and euphoria I had expected to feel from my triumph and survival of this primitive monster was not there. Instead, I felt guilty and miserable. The killer of all that lives, the torturer of smaller creatures.
Still shaken from the discovery of my murderous nature, I felt the need to dispose of the body. With my head down and mentally self flagellating, I grabbed the broom and dragged it over the puddle of bug poison and mutilated insect, spreading the mess even further.
I swept and swept, absentminded from all that was happening, struggling for solace somewhere deep in my head away from the trauma.
Convinced that all evidence of the event-that-must-be-forgotten had been destroyed, I went to bed recognizing nothing had been resolved. I had slain the dragon and yet I was still deadly afraid of it. I was now a ruthless disrupter of nature and life and despite the slaying, I still dream of centipedes attacking. I suppose revenge on their side is in order.
And ... Insomnia…
EDIT: I must admit I lied. No sparks flew when I hammered the floor. That was just special effects writing.
PS: I know. The drawings are less than impressive. But now I have carpal tunnel because of them so you should feel guilted into liking them. Please?