It is hot. Last week, we came home from vacation to find a lazy fly half-dead on our bed. It’s been 100 degrees for days, and the flies aren’t having it. Few flap, and the ones that do will happily land on the first body or table in their path. Their reflexes have quit; It’s too damn hot.
The flies aren’t the only ones. The pedestrians of Baltimore have given up on waiting for walk lights. If you’re walking, then you’re trying to get to wherever you’re going, which will probably be cooler than it is outside, as quick as you can. Those guys in cars have air-conditioning; they’ll stop to let you pass. Anyway, with heat like this, it gets hard to see. Maybe you don’t notice the traffic oncoming, or your eyes are fixed down to the pavement, not up toward the sun. The air moves in dishwater hued waves. It gets to you.
Last night I saw a mouse in our kitchen. He didn’t dash away, but lazily wiggled behind our stove. So vulnerable, his tiny tail waving around as he took a whole minute to ease into hiding. The cat, an extravagant furball, is too hot to chase him away.
None of this matters, though, when you spend most of your time in an air-conditioned oasis, your twelve by seven foot bedroom, at home. Or, that would be the case, at least, if the cold’s contrast to heat didn’t bring out other intruders.
A three-inch centipede crawls from a crevice between our crooked walls. It pauses, adjusting to the room’s dim light, then dashes across the floor. Upon countless legs it ascends wooden paneling, until it is at eye level across from where I sit. It is a deep brown-black the color of my hair.
I turn to science for comfort. Do centipedes bite? Surely not (in fact, they do). Are they short-lived? Of course, and they’ll die off quickly (again, false; they live five to seven years). Being as large as they are, they have to be solitary creatures, right? Lonely, singular, indepedent (Untrue, they nest in hundred strong hoards). As I learn about the creature in front of me, my resolve to kill it grows. Before I find a weapon to do it, he’s outside of my reach. Racing to and fro across my room’s ceiling, directly over the bed in which I sit, he seems to consciously taunt me.
It was late, and I couldn’t help but project malicious intent upon This Thing. When I’m the last one awake, I fall to paranoia. This single specimen stands for a swirling nest of centipedal filth, each member of which must be bent on disturbing my peace. For now, they have been appearing one at time, every night at about the same hour. If this is not a sign of a carefully planned attack, then it is at least a disturbing coincidence. I fear that some night I’ll wake to find my walls alive with them. In a nightmare, my roommate and I hop barefoot across our living room as giant centipedes nip at our toes. We can not escape them. When I wake to find my floor squirming with tiny white larva, it seems my dream has come true.