Yesterday afternoon my toddler ran out onto the back porch to look for my husband. I was about to turn around and go back inside when I saw some stray toy in his path. I didn’t recognize this long black object with neon red and yellow accents it so I took a closer look. When my son was just about on top of it I realized that it was not in fact a toy, but rather THE BIGGEST FREAKING CENTIPEDE I HAVE EVER SEEN. (I did not use the word “freaking” at the time.)
I’ll just tell you right now that whatever your visualizing is not accurate. In your optimistic naïvete you are probably picturing the type of centipede you may have seen around your own house, that looks like a long worm with a bunch of fuzzy little legs. Though those do exist in our area, that is not, of course, what I saw on my porch yesterday. Because that wouldn’t be terrifying. We only have terrifying bugs at my house. Anyway, if you’d be so kind as to click on this link you’ll see a photo of the type of centipede that inhabits my property: they’re huge, with shiny black bodies; thick, bright yellow legs; a neon red head; and two long, menacing looking stinger things in the back (“stinger things” — hey, I’m not a biologist). The one on my porch was thicker than the one in that photo, and was about seven inches long. I’m not exaggerating. Seven inches.
My husband tried to see the bright side of the situation by suggesting that perhaps they eat scorpions. My glass was still half empty. As much as I would like to have some creature around that eats scorpions, I have to draw the line at giant “I thought this sort of thing only existed in Africa” centipedes. Also, it just gives the whole house a creepy feel to picture these Godzilla vs. Mothra type battles playing out on my back porch, with two freakish creatures attacking and stinging each other to death right next to the kids’ sandbox.
One thing I did take away from this situation, however, was that I am able emit a type of scream even louder and more blood-curdling than I previously thought possible. I actually never even thought of myself of the type of woman who screams about bugs until we moved into this house. I was more of the grumbling profanity type, until I saw my first scorpion inside the house. But after a few months of living in this house that is sort of a suburban freak show of the most horrifying bugs that southern America has to offer, I’ve realized that I’m actually quite a screamer, and that there are distinct levels of screams that vary by type and weirdness of bug. As I have a full thirty minutes of free time in front of me this afternoon, I shall break it down:
SCREAM VOLUME BY TYPE OF BUG
Level 1: I first used this scream when I realized that what I thought was a bird on our porch light at night was actually a massive moth. [Rather than a true “AAAH!” scream, this is more of an “Ah?”]
Level 2: This is for when one of the many little lizards that inhabits our house catches me off guard. [There was probably a time in my life when encountering lizards in my bedroom and the kids’ rooms would have resulted in a Level 4 scream, but now it seems kind of charming.]
Level 3: Used for spiders larger than two inches; for when one of the four types of wasps that inhabit our front and back porches flies within two feet of me; for those times when I think there is a small wasp in the house and it turns out to be a gigantic mosquito, of a size that would probably leave me needing a blood transfusion if it bit me; and for scorpion sightings outside the house.
Level 4: Reserved for scorpion sightings inside the house.
Seeing as how the sound I make when I see scorpions inside the house is almost loud enough to wake the dead (or at least all neighbors within a two block radius), I thought that that was really the best I could do. And then I was introduced to the gigantic red and yellow centipede on my back porch by the fact that my toddler almost walked right into it, and I realized that I am in fact quite capable of a new, Level 5 scream.
If I ever see one of these things inside the house I think I might blow a vocal cord. Also, I think that that might just push me over some sort of mental threshold. I have previously joked about moving because of the scorpion infestation but…dude…if I ever, ever encounter one of these “looks like it escaped from an exhibit at the zoo” centipedes inside my house, I’m out. I don’t even know if I’d pack anything. I might just grab the kids, my laptop and any heirlooms and head for a hotel and post the house for sale on a real estate site: “Fully furnished home – lovely! – great price! – perfect for entomologists!” with a note to any realtors, “Don’t let yourself become paralyzed with terror if you see one of the massive centipedes or scorpions, just make a comment about it having ‘rustic charm’ and move on”.
I’m going to file this in the Scorpions category, because I refuse to think about the fact that our house might be infested by another kind of bug so horrifying as to require its own category on my blog.