Ode to the house centipede
Who gave his life for mine…
Can such a man as I
Be no less divine?
Also known as the Scutigera Coleoptrata, the house centipede is an insectivore originating from the Mediterranean region (but has since migrated elsewhere as you’ll soon discover) consisting of a long, yellowish body with 15 pairs of legs that allow it to reach the remarkable running speed of .4 meters per second. Its unusual speed combined with a striking appearance make the house-centipede a formidable guest in any home.
My long (and, er…tentative…) relationship with the creatures began when I moved to Washington D.C. As mutually infuriating as our dealings were, in the end I learned that God Almighty has even the interests of the house centipede close to His heart and teaches lessons with an ironic sense of humor.
Yes, a house centipede saved my life (in a manner of speaking).
Being alone in an unwelcoming place is something the house centipede and the North Carolinian have in common at times. Unfortunate circumstances found me living in an undesirable city. The long-arm of depression began massaging my shoulders (though characteristically apathetic in its ministrations). It wasn’t long before I was questioning life and wondering if there was a rational reason to live.
My mind reached dark places where things less-valiant than house centipedes lurk. “Why live?” I would ask the Lord. “What’s the point?” I didn’t see any reason to go to work, eat, drink, or even get out of bed.
I lay there one morning staring at the ceiling and crying out my usual (and depressing) mantra to the Lord. “Why, why why? What rational reason is there for me to get out of bed this morning?”
By this time, I had met the house centipede, though not formally. I had no idea what it was called. Never having seen them as I was growing up in North Carolina, they remained alien to me. Would it bite? Would it sting? Does it crawl all over me at night and lay eggs in my pillows? (Uuggghhhh) The most disturbing observation about these animals was the way they seemed attracted to my body (presumably my body-heat.) In my apartment, this particular bug was damned on sight.
Well…damned on sight most of the time, anyway. While laying in bed, seeped in depression, I noticed one of my many-legged companions crawling along the wall.
“Lord, at this point why even bother keeping a clean house? Let the thing crawl around.”
It made its way to the corner, pressed into the fold of the two walls and began running upwards. I kept a watchful eye as it reached the ceiling, focus on my prayer vying with a sort of morbid curiosity.
Once hitting the ceiling, it paused for a moment (along with my prayers: “Hold up for a second God…”) Then, like lightening, it sped towards me! “What is that fool thing doing” I thought? It reached the point directly over my bed, and I began to panic. My prayers forgotten, I watched helplessly.
With an alien speed, it crept over my feet, then over my knees, my chest and then my face.
It paused there, looking at me and I at him for a brief instant.
Then, of course, he dropped.
Yes, dear readers…I got out of bed that day (with a yelp!) though it cost the centipede his life.