Coming from the States, you tend to picture these creatures as benign, sub-rock dwelling critters like salamanders, not the ferocious, thick-bodied nightmares that Thais use to spice their whiskey and whose bites can kill cats. Over breakfast of rice soup with squid, the bastard dropped on my leg from underneath the table, scooted up my bathing suit, and waited patiently for me to notice.
When the Thais saw me yelping, they rushed over, saw the insect dashing from my leg into the brush, and freaked out. I'd seen centipedes only once before, in Australia, where a bush guide had warned they were poisonous--could kill infants, in fact. Watching three guys rush screaming into shrubs after the beast did little to calm me. Though they failed to find the centipede, they did uncover a poisonous black snake, which they beat to death with bamboo sticks.
If you've never been been bitten by a centipede, I'll tell you what it's like: first a sharp sting sets in, the area turns red and swells, burning like a match head. Your loved one asks you to describe the pain on a scale of 1 to 10, and then you become an island celebrity: other tourists drop by to wonder why everyone else is staring at you; someone remembers someone else who got bitten by a spider some years ago, or the time they saw a snake in their bungalow, or a deer they saw on the hill. You struggle to pronounce the Thai word of the animal that got you: mak ue?
No, that's banana. Tak auw.
No. Tak auwww.
And on and on. Days later, people you'd never seen before are still asking about the leg. The attention starts to wear like the residual pain of the bite, two red puncture wounds that fade day by day, your war story sounding less impressive every time you tell it.
Mark and Juliah