Shuffling groggily to and from el baño with my flashlight is a nightly event in our Costa Rican Tico casa. Not wanting any surprises from unknown creatures under my bare feet — cockroaches, geckoes, whatever — I shine it on the floor before stepping out of bed. I had been increasingly aware of a resident gecko or two on the ceiling of our bedroom. Kind of amused, I do not feel unfriendly towards them and their seemingly random chirping. Yet, I had come to consider the possibility of a gecko falling on me in the night while I slept, or — perhaps worse — pooping on me. I have been known to awaken from sleep to find myself snoring lightly with my mouth open — yuch, what a revolting possibility this brings to mind! It was with this thought, as I was on my return trip to bed last night, that I casually shone my light at the ceiling and high on the walls in an attempt to locate a critter.
I was instantly startled awake by the appearance in my beam of a critter! Not a gecko but an enormous scorpion sprawled across the wall above where my sleeping head had lain not minutes before! The scream was out of me and Aaron was on his feet — it seemed in the same millisecond — well before he was awake. When he spotted the intruder, his horror mirrored mine. After all, Aaron is an actual arachnophobe. At that point everything went into a whirl — we decided without words that it would have to die, since there was no safe way to trap such a huge, dangerous beast. In a fluster of brooms and scuttling and tumbling and scrambling-into-hiding scorpion, and prancing and shrieking people — which I am positive lasted at least an hour — the scorpion eventually lost the battle of hide and seek.
In that moment, though relieved to not be wondering if it was on the loose, hiding in our bedroom and no longer having to elude the creature, I felt quite ashamed and sorry. (In our defence, we had never before killed a scorpion but always caught and released them outside. This one was just so huge and daunting — and so near to me asleep in my bed. Somehow it seemed a particular affront to my safety.) The poor thing had no desire to harm us. It was large enough to be a pregnant female; perhaps she was looking for a place to have her babies. I felt sick inside at what we had done. Still I couldn’t truthfully say I was regretful. My stomach knotted with an irrational sense of self defence mixed with guilt, at having taken the life of a creature bent on minding its own business — feeding, procreating, the basic stuff of life.
But still — how will I ever turn off the lights or shut my eyes in my Tico bedroom again?
The above photo is yet another scorpion that was encountered in our front yard, just steps from where we had been bathing the dogs moments before. Great camouflage!
Note: It should be mentioned that we have heard from locals in Central America, that the younger and smaller the scorpion, the more poison, therefore pain and other symptoms, the recipient of the sting is likely to experience. It is explained that a young scorpion has less control over the dose, whereas a more experienced one wants to save the lethal dose for its prey.