Splinter's Encounters With the Horrors of Nature

Photo: Getty

Nature is horrifying. Indeed, one of humanity’s greatest triumphs is the progress we have made to insulate ourselves from the most gruesome parts of the natural world; you may catch a fleeting glance of a snake or a cute lil’ moose on a particularly adventurous hike, but for most people and for most of the time, you won’t have to see scary creatures. For those of us in urban areas—and that’s most Americans—the worst you might regularly come across is a rat, and even then, seeing the odd rat isn’t so bad when there’s millions more around unseen.

Perhaps this is why, in our soft and cosseted lives, our encounters with God’s most monstrous beasts stick out in our minds so clearly, and why they make such satisfyingly horrid stories to hear and share. Since it’s Friday, please enjoy these nightmares that have haunted Splinter staffers for years, and perhaps always will.

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Me, Staff Writer:

I grew up in England, where the creatures are extremely lame; there are zero wild animals that could kill you, whereas it seems that in America there’s a bear around every corner waiting to eat my face. Still: When I was about 3, I went to put my little Wellington boot on for a session of toddler tramping around the garden, putting my foot in confidently, as you do. But I withdrew it immediately in horror when I discovered my foot had come into contact with a writhing mess o’ maggots. Our cat Wylie (a good lad otherwise) had left a dead mouse in there, which had rotted into many, many maggots. I still remember withdrawing my foot and seeing this black and white wriggling mass; it looked like static on a ‘90s TV, to my dumb child brain. Wylie lived to be 21 and never apologized.

Also one time I saw two live frogs trying to fuck a dead frog.

Nick Martin, Staff Writer:

My (Grandma’s) Critter Story: My granddad was taking a nap on the couch and somehow a snake had gotten into their house and slithered on top of him while he was sleeping. My grandma was in the bedroom and had recently had surgery and was on pain meds and had been laying down in the bed. So he screams and she just walks in there calm as hell, grabs a broom, and beat the thing to death, threw it outside, then went back to sleep. When she woke up, she had no memory of the entire event.

Sam Grasso, Staff Writer:

My family lived in a two story in the Austin suburbs growing up. It was a developing area but still really fucking woodsy with just acres of farmland for sale. I remember when I was around 5 years old, I was playing upstairs with my sister and our friends and I went into my bedroom, which is also upstairs, to get some magazines out of a desk drawer. I opened the drawer, locked eyes with a whole ass snake coiled up tight, and slowly shut the drawer before running downstairs and screaming to my mom that, holy shit, there’s a snake in my room!!!

Us girls stayed downstairs until my very Texan dad, who I called just now to confirm the details of this harrowing tale, came home, though he remembers already being home and thinking at the time that I was “full of B.S.” In a very anti-climactic fashion, he somehow scooped the snake into an empty metal coffee can and released it in a wooded area nearby that would soon become the site of my future middle school, where it slithered up a tree. In my recollection, this thing was Very Huge and scaly and almost looked like a wooden toy that my cousins had. To my dad, it was a harmless garden snake. When he told me the snake was just a foot and a half long, I audibly pouted over the phone. “Trust me,” he said, “if you had seen it compared to a five-foot-long rattler, you’d have thought it was small.”

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Jack Crosbie, Contributing Writer:

I accidentally brought a scorpion with me from California when I moved to New York. I’d packed all of my stuff into a couple of big suitcases. One of them had been in the back of my closet for a while at my parents’ house, and where they live there are lots of these little brown scorpions that get in your shoes and stuff. I cleaned out the suitcase before I packed but I guess I missed this guy. I got in to my new apartment really late, like 1:30 or 2 a.m., but my new roommates were waiting up for me, sitting around drinking beer, so I changed into a pair of shorts real quick from my suitcase, and sat down on the couch with my legs crossed, ankle on my knee. After a while, I uncrossed my legs, and felt something move on my knee, looked down, and saw a scorpion that I’d had smushed flat under my leg. I thought it was dead but still freaked out, knocking it on the floor… but it wasn’t dead. It scurried off somewhere and we lost it. My roommates, at this point, were pretty concerned about the dude who was bringing bugs into the house, but we forgot about it for an hour or so until it turned up *again*, this time on my roommate John’s pants. John knocked it off and I grabbed a stack of post-it notes from the coffee table and smashed it. We ended up naming our WiFi network ScorpionDen.

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Crosbie has provided the following photo evidence:

RIP
Photo: Jack Crosbie
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Paul Blest, News Editor:

One day when I was in elementary school I was standing outside on the playground and had to blow my nose, so I pulled a tissue out of my pocket. As soon as I blew my nose I started feeling this super sharp pain, and when I looked in the tissue it was covered in blood and some kind of bee thing was wriggling around. It hurt like a motherfucker, but that was the day I learned I wasn’t allergic to bees.

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Katherine Krueger, Managing Editor:

When I moved into my first Brooklyn apartment, I started seriously buying the nice, new home goods that I thought would make me feel very adult. The only one that was entirely worth it was also the most senselessly expensive: a simplehuman trash can with stainless siding. I LOVED this fucking trash can, I talked about this trash can to people in social situations. Each time I used it, my brain released a little dose of dopamine. I knew in my soul that it was worth every penny of the $99 I paid for it. (Sorry, Mom.)

The next apartment was in an old building, so there were roaches. Nothing crazy, but this is New York, so I hated finding them ever, but it wasn’t some infestation. MY CURRENT APARTMENT: brand new place with a random, very neat roommate. All of a sudden there are roaches—still just a couple, mind you, but the roommate was freaked because there’d never been any before. One day while taking the trash bag out of my beautiful simplehuman, I notice one in the bottom on the can, which kind of scurried into the internal ‘works’ of the thing. I got the Raid spray and went to town, but I suspected I wasn’t getting the whole story. I pop open the botton of the trash can. EVERYTHING IS MOVING, EVERYTHING IS WRITHING ROACHES, ROACHES, EVERYWHERE. I make the absolutely panicked snap decision that this cannot be saved, immediately carting out my prized trash can to the curb. We never saw another roach, and I replaced the can with a more modestly priced version. I miss her still.

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Rafi Schwartz, Senior Staff Writer:

Living in North Carolina, I unfortunately deal with a lot of snakes. Some of them are the sort of nice, non-poisonous devil reptiles that keep your yard free of rats and mice and other vermin. And then there’s the other kind.

A few years ago, a girl living down the street from me was bit by a copperhead while running around barefoot in her yard (she’s fine, although I understand she spent the next few hours having an absolute fucking meltdown in her parents’ shower, which, honestly, duh). Later that same night, my wife ran and grabbed me from the living room, and explained that there was “something” outside our front door, and I needed to “just fucking deal with it.” So, out I went, looking, literally, for trouble. Which I found in the form of a copperhead, lounging nonchalantly on the concrete of our front walk—presumably waiting for someone dumb (me) to accidentally get close enough that it could kill me, devour my carcass whole, and brag to all the other snakes about the dumbass human it just bagged.

I did the only thing I could think to do: I picked up a softball-sized rock from my yard, and, uh, dropped it on the snake. And then I picked it up again, and dropped it again. And kept doing that for about 5 minutes. I might have been screaming. I might have been sobbing. I think I went into a sort of fugue during the whole thing.

When it was all done, the snake was dead, I was alive, and now live in perpetual fear that somewhere out there an orphaned copperhead baby is sharpening its fangs and waiting for the day when I walk outside barefoot. Honestly, I probably deserve it.

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Jack Mirkinson, Deputy Editor:

Warning: This one is not for the faint of heart, or any of you people who think birds are good.

Last summer, I got back from a weekend trip to find both that my living room air conditioner had stopped working, and that a pigeon appeared to have decided to make the air conditioner its new home. At the time, the first problem seemed like the biggest one. As the air conditioner was both old and non-functioning, I ordered a replacement and prepared to shoo the bird away. It was then that I noticed that it wasn’t alone. There was a baby nestled underneath it—one that, by all available evidence, couldn’t fly. I now began to think that this, not the air conditioner’s death, was the bigger issue. I had family coming to stay with me in a couple of weeks, and I needed an air conditioner in my living room. I didn’t have time to wait for a baby to learn how to leave the nest. But I also didn’t want to kill a baby bird, or incite a mother bird’s wrath.

For about a week, I camped out in my bedroom, where there was a functioning air conditioner, and hoped for the best. The birds didn’t leave. In fact, it became clear that there was a father bird in the picture as well.

One morning, I was looking at the family (their lack of desire to leave had become an obsession of mine) when the mother bird shifted her body and I made a horrifying discovery: she was lying on top of the corpse of another baby bird. The fact that I now had to deal with a presumably grieving pigeon, its infant bird, and the dead body of its other infant bird, all on top of my air conditioner, was rather problematic to me. I didn’t know what the fuck to do, so I started googling “pigeon mourning rituals” and contemplating whether the mother would attack me if I tried to move her and her family.

A day or so later, though, I looked out at the air conditioner and noticed that there didn’t appear to be any birds on it. I was deeply relieved that the problem had been solved for me. Then I looked again.

The problem had not been solved. The mother was definitely gone, and the father too. But the other baby bird wasn’t. It was dead, just like its sibling, and both corpses were lying on my air conditioner.

I will spare you the details of what I had to do to dispose of the bodies of two dead baby birds—one of which had, thanks to time and heat, virtually fused with the air conditioner. Suffice to say that it was one of the most disgusting things I have ever experienced in my life. But I did it, and replaced the air conditioner. Weirdly, birds mostly stay away from the new one. I’m convinced the space is haunted.

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Happy weekend!

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About the author

Libby Watson

Splinter politics writer. libby.watson@splinternews.com