Ms. Gaw has a description of a silverfish-induced homicidal rage that very much strikes home for me.
I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a silverfish in the flesh. But I get the same overwhelming feeling of disgust from Scutigera coleoptrata, the house centipede. I hate those nasty little fast motherfuckers. Shriek aloud and kill kill kill when I see them.
For some reason, I learnt from a college dormmate that the house centipedes were called silverfish, and continued to call them by that name for years. Miranda’s story taps into this primal disgust, even though I know she’s talking about a different critter.
They are poisonous. Apparently they’re not much given to biting people, but when they do it can cause pain and swelling, similar to a bee sting. Nor are they, I think, good to eat — whenever my cat has eaten one, he has followed up by running from room to room at top speed, yowling piteously. Trying to outrun his own stomach, I reckon. Serves him right for having such awful taste in food.
And I’ve seen their bite at work, too, back when I thought they were fast the better to run away.
Desultor is supine on his dorm bed, looking benevolently up at the ceiling. All alone. Outside, the day has been darkening into evening — the light in the east-facing room is gray and flat. He notices an enormous big-bellied spider in the inch-wide crack between the ceiling and the molding. He gazes upon it placidly, contentedly; at peace with death’s place in the universe and his room.
Desi: Spider, thou art hideous to behold. And yet I call thee friend, yea, even brother. Thou slayest insects which vex me. Lo, why should I live, and not thee? Did not the same God make us both?
A blur of motion in the channel between the molding and the ceiling. Velocity probably over a meter per second.
Desi: Oi, what’s this then?
It is a large house centipede, certainly over an inch long, and it is bearing down on the spider, which calmly awaits it.
Desi: You finna get yours now, nasty-ass silverfish motherfucker! I hope you get some spider eggs laid in your paralyzed ass or some shit. Punk-ass silverfish bout to get busted! Aw shit!
The centipede closes on the spider, and they’re together, and then they part by a few centimeters’ space. The spider gives three or four convulsive jerks, smaller and weaker each time, and is still. The centipede picks it up and carries it along the molding, disappearing out the transom.
Desi: Whoa. Heavy.
Incidentally, that wolfish centipede is the only one of its kind ever to enter my sight without my at least attempting to kill it.