Creepy Crawlies

The last two months or so have kept me very busy.  This last month we completed our move up to Montana.  My Player 2 and I drove with the dogs and the movers came with our stuff a couple weeks later.  My office is set up now and I am so excited to work out of my office here.  Montana has breathtaking views and I get so much inspiration from spending time outside.

In June, my Player 2 and I went on a medical mission trip to help set up free clinics in small villages in North Africa.  (My Player 2 was the team doctor.)  It was a 10 day trip with 5 clinic days and we were able to see over 600 patients.  None of the villages we went to had any clean water and for many, this was their first time seeing or bringing their child to a doctor.  It was a life changing experience.

At the end of the trip, we had one tourist day where we went to explore sites in Egypt before the trip home.  We saw the pyramids and the Sphinx, went inside of a pyramid and climbed up into a burial chamber, rode camels by the pyramids, went on a boat ride on the Nile, and went to one of the oldest still-running marketplaces in the world.  Here are some photos from our tourist day:

I am grateful for the opportunity that we had to help so many people and forever thankful for the memories that I will always keep with me.

And now, we are back and moved.  My office is set up.  I’m ready to roll.  Work on my book’s cover will start soon and I will post here when it does.  I’m excited to share that phase of my project.

Before leaving New Mexico, I found a sizeable scorpion that got into our laundry room through the garage—a great reminder of the uncomfortable feeling brought on by today’s topic, creepy crawlies.

Of course, there can be protective benefits from not messing with insects or arachnids when we aren’t sure if they’re harmful, but for today’s purposes I am looking more at the shock seeing creepy crawlies can stir up in a person.  You know—the full jump, very humbling high pitch exclamation, one leg scrunched up in the air, and clenched fists brought in near the chest routine that an unexpected large spider can instigate in even the strongest of our friends.  On a superficial level, it can be quite funny when something so large is afraid of something so small.  It’s like the thought of an elephant being afraid of a mouse.  It seems counterintuitive.  For some though, this is a very real and strong fear.

In one of my graduate school classes, a professor was discussing phobias.  We did an exercise where the object of a phobia would be described to a person with their eyes closed.  For example, describing a spider to someone with their eyes closed.  Not a small spider.  A nice, sizeable one.  It was one of the spiders that you couldn’t easily crush.  The body is too large and it’s so round you wonder if it’s hard like a coconut shell, because it sure is round like one.  And its hair looks coarse, even on the legs—the eight large legs.  They’re much thicker than on a garden spider and the amount of hair on its legs you can watch move as it walks around.  Walks isn’t the right word.  It moves too fast to describe it as walking.  The eyes are so large that you could sit there and count them easily if you could make eye contact with it that long.  You swear it has eyelashes.  You know the fangs are there, but the eyes are so big it’s hard to look away.  Or move.  You muster up the courage though and reach out to try and pet the spider.

The description in class didn’t go on quite as long, but the effect was strong.  Moths and spiders were effective in getting people to shudder in the way where they would forcibly and quickly shake their body and head like there was something on them.  For some people, just the thought of one creepy crawly thing is enough to set them on edge.  It’s why the memes about burning down a house when you find a spider are so relatable to so many.

There are different levels of being challenged with creepy crawlies.  It can be as simple as a father asking a child to bait their own hook for fishing with a worm, to the father asking the child to put their hand in the can of worms to get their own worm out, to being dared to stick your hand in a mystery box with creepy crawlies for a challenge.

I think the effect is much more fascinating when the creepy crawlies are in full force.  A few years ago, I went into a haunted house that did this perfectly.  There was a room that you went into where surfaces in the room–the floors, the counters, the table in the room, items in the room, were all a clear plexiglass surfaces that you could see through.  The room was dimmed and the surfaces lit up.  Under the glass, there were roaches. Everywhere.  They must have put thousands of live roaches in the room and you had to walk over the glass and find your way into the next room.  A flood of roaches.  Brilliant.

It was a great example of the feeling creepy crawlies give a person.  Haunted houses tend to have a lot of jump scares and some of the great ones have you search your way through almost like a puzzle room.  My favorite was figuring out that we needed to crawl through a fridge to get to the next room.  Think of this with me in a graph form.  You are at your baseline, which might be a little higher now because you are expecting in a haunted house that you will be scared, so you’re on alert.  Something jumps out or there was a loud crack and a puff of air after a few moments of near silence.  The members in your group scream.  The line on the graph has spiked with fear and quickly people laugh and moved on, bringing the curve down quickly and sharply.  If you put a group of people in a room flooded with roaches, you either have the people in your group who are oddly fascinated and impressed with what they’ve done or you have the people whose line of fear and stress on the graph have not only spiked, but have now stayed at a heightened level of fear while they shout for someone to get them out of this room.

We only have 91 days now until Halloween, so not too long until it is haunted house season again.  I’m excited to see what haunted houses are in this part of the country.  I am always open to suggestions and willing to take a weekend road trip if there is somewhere that I should go visit this fall.  In the meantime, I am very glad to have all my office furniture and supplies back and excited to make some more progress on my book.

Up next, I will be talking about the unique situation that crawling inside of a pyramid presents that I think is portrayed beautifully in some of the best horror games out there—one way in and one way out.

Until next time.

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S.L. Ember

Horror and dark fiction writer.

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