The pain was sharp, excruciating, just below the elbow. This must be the pain that precedes a heart attack says my sleepy mind and if so might as well die in the comfy bed – why get up? Coming out of deep layers of slumber I wait for the heart attack that shows no sign of coming.
Well, my brain is more awake than my body — plodding me get out of the bed. “Switch on a light have a look at your arm you idiot says my inner voice. ” OK, OK but why me? And why at this time? The time on the digital clock is 5:16 am – the light shows there is a pinprick of pink just below the elbow but no blood – no flying insects. Body says get back to the cosy bed, so I do holding the arm but with the light on, trying to think of a rational cause for the pain that was now spreading to my fingers….I snuggle in on the soft soft mountain of four pillows and then . … out comes the villain – a 7 or 8 inch reddish orange centipede. He wriggles across the snowy white sheets, I jump out of bed and grab a shoe to whack him – but he is too fast and disappears into the bedhead.
Mr. or Ms. Centipede is so named because of the 100 legs she/he has but apparently the real number can be any in the region of 15 to 191 says the Wikipaedia. Their first pair of legs are modified to form poison claws which are found underneath the head while the last pair of legs, which turn backward, are used for holding prey and fighting off predators. In Sri Lanka we have the small varieties, and these big ones called “gas paththeya” or tree centipedes that like to live on coconut trees.
Apparently, there are many moist, warm, and dark cavities where phobia-inspiring organisms quietly lurk in our world.
One such example is the Amazonian giant centipedes — Scolopendra gigantea, a venomous, red-maroon centipede with forty-six yellow-tinted legs. Read more http://www.damninteresting.com/?p=605
For these vicious varieties devouring prey watch ( not recommended for the faint hearted)
I didn’t know all this at that time except the searing pain. My brain searches for possible antidotes, and I call room service to get me bicarbonate of soda/baking powder hoping I could neutralize what I was guessing to be an acid sting. The stretch PJ top doubles as a tourniquet and I count the minutes, pace the floor waiting for room service. Time is 5:45 am and I feel it’s OK to wake my sister-in-law Padmini an ayurvedhic doctor. She tells me to rub a red onion on the bite point — the traditional treatment on the fast swelling arm.
So its back to room service for onions but no one picks up and as I hang up I hear the door bell. Three guys from the hotel are outside — one in a chef’s hat holding 3 or 4 unpeeled red onions. These are peeled and I send one guy down to get a stick of cinnamon. I remember something I heard from my yoga teacher in Brunei — that a cinnamon infusion removes toxins.
The bed is stripped but we can’t find the villain. I change rooms, drink my cinnamon tree and try not to scratch my skin out.
At breakfast I growl at the manager that I didn’t come to a posh hotel to be bitten by a centipede. I hear nothing more from the hotel till my loud complaints reach the manager and a doctor is summoned in the afternoon. He can give me only pain killers and an antihistamine ( these have already been taken). The doc tells me that I will be OK in 24 hours and that nothing ever happens to us Sri Lankans. Well, nothing really except the pain and suffering.
I stayed recently at the Cinnamon lodge in Habarana famed for its natural environment Monkeys loped around in the gardens and on the roof; the mongoose came for breakfast running around the dining tables.
Fine, nature at its best and I loved it there
…. but are these hotels ready with their first aid, if anyone is bitten? Lighthouse wasn’t.