When the Doktor and I refer to our house as being “lightly haunted,” we are not referencing the fellow pictured above. (Click to view a larger image– I dare you!) His occasional appearance in our basement, or that his colleagues, could no longer be termed a “surprise.” During our years of inhabiting this house, we have witnessed only a handful of creatures from the spectral realm, but these creatures, the common house centipede or Scutigera coleoptrata , have had a larger presence.
When this fellow and I crossed paths in the other night, I steeled myself and attempted to analyze the sensation that threatened to overwhelm my reactions. Let’s just call it fear, for simplicity sake.
My first impulse was to run away, to hurry back upstairs where drier, warmer temperatures and brighter lights seem to discourage visitations from arthropods. However, I made myself stand still and observe the creature and my reactions, a decision made possible by the fact that the insect sat motionless on the basement wall. The cold column of discomfort that settled in my spine, the shivers of repulsion — oh my, what exciting sensations.
Having managed the inclination to flee, I then had to squash the impulse to murder the house centipede. Having attempted such crime in the past, I can assure you that it is usually less successful than one would like. These many-legged critters are swift and acquainted with defensive maneuvers, which can result in an embarrassing miss. At the best of times, it’s difficult to deliver the decisive hit needed to obliterate the entire insect. Leaving half a bug writhing on the floor is truly disgusting.
My final psychological move was to attempt to view the creature as friend. Indeed, this is most difficult step of all, one motivated by knowledge gained in a gardening seminar a few years ago. The house centipede is an insectivore, meaning it kills and eats other insects; his menu is made up of even less desirable household arthropods: bed bugs, termites, cockroaches, silverfish, ants and more. In other words, the household centipede is a good guy, in spite of appearances otherwise.
I held my fears in check long enough to take the picture and then I fled upstairs to a strong cup of tea and a snuggly blanket. I must admit that I was impressed with my own bravery, although I’m not sure the Doktor shared my sentiment.
What makes your spine tingle or your skin crawl? Some people think ghosts are creepy, but I think several creepier things exist, close at hand or under our feet, going about their existences, unaware of our intentions or our emotions.