You’re afraid of house centipedes

I found Steve squatting in the middle of the laundry room with wide and teary eyes.

Mat Koehler

I get noticed all the time around campus – but not for being a columnist at this prestigious newspaper. People usually stop me just to complement my intimidating, robust physique and air of competency. A man like this, they might think, isn’t afraid of anything.

Well, those people couldn’t be more slightly wrong.

I have fears like everyone else – three fears, to be exact. The first two are kind of irrational, but creepy nonetheless. That is, I’m horrified of moldy foods and puddles deeper than two inches. Yeah, stupid, I know. But my third and greatest fear, I assure you, is one you share now or soon will.

House centipedes are easily the most terrifying creatures on earth. They have a flurry of spindly legs, a long, meaty thorax, whip-like antennae and the speed and agility of a jet-powered hovercraft. What’s more, now is the time of year they emerge from underneath our beds; I always loathe the month of April because this fear becomes ubiquitously amplified (and also because the protective shell I choose to sleep in is really uncomfortable).

Unfortunately, I had to face my fear last weekend, and things did not go so smoothly. It all started as my roommate was doing laundry in our basement.

“Mat!” he screamed like a hiker being devoured by a puma. “Help! Come here!”

I grabbed a softball bat and ran downstairs to find Steve squatting in the middle of the laundry room with wide, teary eyes and an expression of impending doom. He was staring at the wall to my left, and even before I looked, I realized what we were dealing with. Clinging to the drywall was a hand-sized house centipede. I dropped the bat and ran upstairs, shrieking while stripping off my clothes.

After I regained my wits and undergarments, I headed back downstairs to devise a plan of attack with Steve. We went through the most radical methods of attack, careful not to let the monstrous beast out of our sights. Well, more like his sights, as I refused to look at it for fear that its vicious mug would make my body go into shock.

Anyway, Steve and I concluded that the only way to subdue this monster was to douse it with the bottle of industrial-strength insecticide we bought after Asian lady beetles invaded our kitchen last year. So, with great caution, Steve started sprayed the prehistoric-looking arthropod with poison. As I flailed my arms and screeched, the creature leapt off the wall and landed on the linoleum floor. I watched as its legs propelled it over the pesticide pools like a hydroplane.

“It’s not working!” I yelled. “Run!”

Steve then poured the remainder of the bottle on the brute, and only then did it begin to slow. Finally, it collapsed with a dramatic tumble and let out a bellow (barely audible, but it was there).

No words were exchanged for the next few minutes. Steve and I were breathing exhaustedly, crouched over with our hands on our knees. Then we began coughing, then gagging, then feeling light-headed. It turns out the poisonous solution we had been spraying is extremely toxic if used in enclosed areas. I guess the house centipede had the last laugh.

Let’s just hope the rest of its family doesn’t seek revenge.

Mat Koehler welcomes comments at [email protected]