Horror story without an endingPosted on September 13, 2015
I found it just after lunch, a seemingly insignificant brownish shape on the floor behind the table, right next to the baseboard. It was a leaf, I assumed, blown in from outside. Possibly a scrap of dark paper. I swooped down to pick up and dispose of it, then stopped. Something was wrong. This was not a leaf. This was rather three-dimensional, more defined, more… leggy.
This was a scorpion. There was a scorpion in my apartment.
There was a short pause, maybe two seconds, although it felt much longer, during which my brain processed this discovery: First, a fleeting feeling of fascination while I stared at it, mouth open, pre-scream – and then disgust and terror crashed in. A scorpion. My shriek brought Alessandro running into the living room where he found me standing on one of our wobbly chairs, the classic caricature of a woman scared by something small and many-legged.
We quickly discovered that the scorpion was – or at least appeared to be – dead. This was a relief, but not as much of a relief as I would have expected. As Alessandro nudged its immobile body onto a sheet of paper and carried off it to the toilet, I began to worry about where, exactly, it had come from.
Given that apartment had been tightly shut for the past ten days (we had just come back from Sicily), it seemed unlikely that the scorpion had found a way in during that time. This meant that it had either been inside the apartment beforehand – possibly lurking around the potted plants in the corner of the room, near where we found it – or, more worryingly, that it had climbed into one of our suitcases in Sicily, survived the airport and the plane and the taxi on the way home, then climbed out as I was unpacking, scuttled halfway across the room, and died. The idea that I could have been reaching into a suitcase in close proximity to something with a venom-loaded stinger on one end and a set of sizeable claws on the other was terrifying; I imagined it curled up between folded t-shirts or lounging in a bag of bikinis as my fingers grazed by just millimetres away.
That night, as I lay in bed, I couldn’t stop thinking about the scorpion. So, naturally, I did the only thing that could make the situation worse: I grabbed my phone and Googled “scorpion”.
This is obviously inadvisable before attempting to go to sleep.
Here is what I discovered, each fact more horrifying than the one before it: Scorpions live all over Italy. Scorpions can live for a year without food and water. They can slip through spaces the size of a credit card. They can survive underwater for two hours. They enjoy small spaces like corners and baseboards and old spaces like my several-hundred-year-old apartment and damp spaces like the bathroom by the toilet and dark spaces like the bathroom in my apartment beside the toilet in the middle of the night and… I was, by this point, traumatized.
Still, there was no reason to believe that there would be another scorpion in the apartment… until I continued to read, against my best judgement, the section about scorpions molting and leaving behind their skins as they outgrew them. Their skins, which, depending on the type of scorpion, could either look clearly empty, or… almost indiscernible from the actual scorpion itself. Their skins, which, in several photos, looked identical to our supposedly dead scorpion.
Therefore, one of two things could be true: Either we did in fact find a dead scorpion and dispose of it in the toilet, therefore ending this horror story… or, we simply found and flushed its discarded skin, leaving the actual scorpion undisturbed – and larger than before – in the apartment, free to roam around in the baseboards and hide under the bed and lurk beside the toilet at night.
I am never walking barefoot again.