Ode to the House Centipede

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.

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26 Responses to Ode to the House Centipede

  1. M says:

    This is a “Jonah and the Gourd” moment…BRAVO!

  2. shotgunwildatheart says:

    …as hard a lesson for me as it was for Jonah, no doubt.

  3. Jenai Carolina says:

    Shot, great story-telling!

    Cute story, but it’s time to get that Great Dane or Dalmatian! Or, perhaps your agrarian desires could be at least partially fulfilled by obtaining some hens or cows — or any farm creature that would require daily care. In the mean time, go see Voyage of the Dawn Treader – you know you want to! :-)

    Remember, Shot, our spiritual enemy only attacks those who are a threat to him. You are a HUGE threat to him and an even greater force of reclaiming our Lord’s creation. He has mighty plans for you! So, yes, you can rest in your bed for a while, but He will get you out of it, even if it means dropping a surprise on you!

    Bless you for your transparency! Your current battle is a normal temporary condition of mankind.

    Be strong and courageous for the Lord our God IS with you, my brother! Aslan is on the move — and He WILL guide you and use you! For now, try to enjoy the R&R. Even the strongest warriors/Seals need their rest – in Him. Stop me before I start singing Twila Paris’ song. :-)

    Prayers & blessings,

  4. Frank says:

    Your tale is exceptionally well-written.

    If it happens to be true, you might want to get a dog or a project. Life is a gift really, and someone with the ability to write a tale like this must be especially blessed.

    Ah btw, have you seen this site: http://faithandheritage.com/

    I figured you’d like it. Cheers!

  5. Frank says:

    Lewis in TSL:

    For we must never forget what is the most repellent and inexplicable trait in our Enemy; He really loves the hairless bipeds He has created and always gives back to them with His right hand what He has taken away with His left.

  6. Frank says:

    I didn’t actually find this in my reading (yet), only at a quotes page, Chesterton of course (the style is unmistakable):

    “A detective story generally describes six living men discussing how it is that a man is dead. A modern philosophic story generally describes six dead men discussing how any man can possible be alive.” – A Miscellany of Men

  7. shotgunwildatheart says:

    HAHA!! I LOVE that Chesterton quote! How true!

    Thanks for the kind words guys. This story is true, every word of it.

    To Jen, I’m thinking a great dane! I’d love to have two of them trotting along beside me as I milk cows in the morning.

  8. shingabis says:

    According to Hugh Everett, you may have had a counterpart living in a parallel universe who was asleep on their back and snoring with their mouth wide open!
    Or still have, assuming the other you was not killed by the parallel centipede, that also according to Everett’s calculations could be extra poisonous and bad tempered. But heck, who believes Everett’s theory anyways?

  9. Shotgun says:

    Yeah. Sounds like ol’ Mr. Everett needs to stick to writing realistic fiction…maybe try imitating Jane Austin for awhile.

  10. Brandy says:

    Trust me, those suckers are back in North Carolina too!

  11. shotgunwildatheart says:

    ….ohhhh don’t say that!

  12. Heather says:


    I enjoyed your story a lot about the house centipede. I have only seen one in person and it frightened me so bad that I had nightmares about it…your story, however, has allowed me to appreciate them a little more. Thanks.

  13. shotgunwildatheart says:

    Thanks Heather!

    I don’t have very good luck with bugs — I think God uses them to smack me around (literally, sometimes)!

    I was walking along, lecturing my friend on the importance of being aware of ones surroundings in a machine shop. “You never see me losing focus!” I said arrogantly. “I’m a master of my surroundings at all times!”

    …soon as the words left my mouth, a giant june bug (or something like it) slammed into the side of my face at full speed. *WACK*

    We laugh about it to this day. Talk about irony.

  14. cugel says:

    Do they really bother you that much? Remember that they are, as you said, insectivores. They eat insects. So they are doing some good around the house. A few years ago, I was working two jobs, and by the time I got home to my place in Brooklyn, NY, I had typically been up for 19 hours. Came in one night, saw a big centipede strolling across my coffee table, ignored it, went into the kitchen to start dinner, went into the bathroom to take a shower, and when I came out, the centipede had decided to make himself scarce. Problem solved!

  15. shotgunwildatheart says:

    I guess they’re not that bad once you get used to them.

  16. Sara says:

    love this story i am terribly petrified of centipedes they look like blonde hair running across the floor at the speed of light i dont think i’ve ever been quick enough to kill one mostly because i freeze up in fear then when they’re gone i think how silly i am to be so afraid of something so tiny

  17. Woah, i really like your story. I google imaged “House Centipede” beacuse i have them in my building. But my intentions were to find facts about them, i wanted to learn how to kill and exterminate them. Your story caught me off gaurd because of ur first factual paragraph. (Thier running speed and proper name) To be honest your story really caught me off guard and made me feel very unplesant. As i thought thed be crawling on me beacuse fo my bodyheat. (and i dont doubt that happens). But i was stangly amused by this story.

    “Ode to the house centipede
    Who gave his life for mine…
    Can such a man as I
    Be no less divine?

    Check out my website :)

  18. Kay V V says:

    I found one of these on the wall a short distance above my headboard when I got home from work yesterday afternoon, hence my Google search and finding this great tale. After a minor freak-out I went and got the only bug spray I had (for flying insects) and just barely sprayed a whiff on the ugly thing. He fell off the wall behind my bed and I haven’t seen him since. Needless to say, I slept in the guest room last night and will continue to do so until I think he is dead dead dead. I have a phobia of insects and this one sent me over the edge!! I live in Southeastern VA not too far from NC, so I am sure y’all have your fair share down there. Anyway, thanks for the story, Shot. I admire you. If that thing had fallen on me I would’ve had a stroke or heart attack and wouldn’t ever have to worry about house centipedes or anything else.

  19. Nakita Knudson says:

    I find your story to be perfectly compelling. Having moved into a 100 year old brick building in Spokane,WA- I freaked out at the first sight of the house centepede. The first one was caught and after a little research, realized this wonderful little creature is certainly a messenger of sorts, a bug-house cleaner if you will.

    My most recent citing was today. And, just as your slightly morbid yet ironic encounter, I have found myself clinging to a softer side of irony every time I see one of these guys.

    After I found one in the midst of my bed sheets however, I decided to escort him outside my door. Needless to say they are certainly a curiosity sparker, but I don’t think their presence in my blankets is quite necessary.

    Glad to have these ‘creature- comforts’ though, brings me back to nature.

    Take Care

  20. I am PETRIFIED of house centipedes, I mean, really, really phobic. I have no idea why, other than their appearance, but other bugs don’t bother me at all. And I cannot, and do not, kill anything, so what a moral dilemma I’m faced with when I find one. (not that you can ever catch them, they do move at light speed) While I can approach other bugs with my trusty bug catcher, and deposit them outside, I lack the courage to even get near a centipede. I read little stories like yours to gain some insight, and try to overcome this. If, like you, one ever dropped onto me, I would be meeting the Lord, because that would be the end of me, lol. btw, if they don’t meet with an accident, they are long-lived bugs, they can live for seven years! (I know waayyyy too much about them) Peace.

  21. shotgunwildatheart says:

    I’ve since moved to a new location, and at my new house, I’ve built a greenhouse.

    Greenhouses have a way of turning bug-o-phobes like myself into amateur entomologists. I’ve even lost my revulsion to most spiders (not all, though).

    If I see a house centipede now, I realize how valuable he is, and would try capturing it for re-release into my greenhouse.

    Anyway – I’m glad you found something useful in my story. I wish you many long and bug-free nights, lol.

  22. Bloomie says:

    All those stupid legs! Centipods… I HATE THEM!

  23. Asya says:

    Omg I am sitting here googling these scary creatures and I stumble across your scary but beautiful story almost made me cry. I know they’re helping us by killing other bugs but I’m just too freaking scared of them and I just saw one on my wall but I couldn’t kill it because as I got closer the scarier it looked but it got away and now imextremely scared 😖 I also notice you said undesirable city I also live in DC what part of the city do you live in?

    • I moved away about five years ago, back to good ol’ North Carolina. I’ve been centipede-free ever since, although I’m told they populate Carolina in various places.

      I hope I’ve helped you enjoy the creatures a bit more than you would have otherwise. :)

  24. Melinda Aston Pa. says:

    O my i just watched this alien like insect make its way two x around my bedroom wall where it meets the ceiling. I the entire time sat in the middle of my bed only taking my eyes off this little alien life form long enough to Google a more earthly explanation for what i was witnessing. Needless to say im very happy to see this little guy isnt so uncommon and we are not being invaded by extraterrestrial big mutants. Whoo that was a close one….lol thanks you all for your comments and making it a pretty easy mystery to put to rest. Till the next time peace out and keep up the good work on keeping our bug invasion under control.


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