A dead centipede at least eight inches long lies crumpled in the grass, square body sections at jumbled angles, dark red-brown like a carob pod. Orange legs like fat whiskers splay out. It looks headless, faceless, a strange object, too intricate to be crafted by man, alien, foreign, and yet here it is on my own grass.
How many times have I crossed this patch of grass at night, in bare feet, not remembering what lives here after dark? At one end of that beastie there are invisible fangs that sting.
I’ve seen it move like a train, legs rolling it over the ground. It swims like a snake, undulating in the water. It comes into my house and hides under blankets left on the floor.
I shake out my boots every day when I go gardening. Most often there’s nothing in there. If there is something, it’s a lizard or a toad. This is the first giant centipede I’ve seen in years.
And it’s dead. Harmless. Only a warning.
Once when I was a teenager I spent a day collecting glass bottles at the beach. Clear ones, brown ones, blue ones, green ones, a rainbow of glass. I found one black with mud on the inside, and took it to wash it out at an outdoor sink at the beach park campground. The moment I turned on the tap and sent water shooting down the bottle’s neck, a giant centipede burst out like a firecracker. I screamed, dropped the bottle, and jumped back as the centipede fell into the sink. The centipede swam in the rising water, weaving back and forth like a snake, while I watched from a safe distance. Finally it crawled up the side of the sink and ran away through the jungle.
That was the last muddy bottle I picked up, ever.