It was a balmy and breezy evening in the community of Sasle, Jinotega. The chickens were clucking softly as they found their beds for the night and the dogs had not yet taken up their incessant and unnecessary barking. All was relatively calm and sedate; tranquil, as it so often is out there.
There was a small group of foreigners huddled around a makeshift movie screen made of plywood and a white sheet. The film’s topic was the history of Nicaragua – a brief one, but interesting – though it hadn’t yet started.
Mid chat about the day’s events and the film for the evening, everything suddenly went dark. And when the lights go out in the countryside, you know that it is not just dark, but that it is in fact DARK.
A hush fell over the crowd of foreigners, infiltrated only by the leaders saying “ummm, any second they might come back on…or not”. Because one never knows how long the blackout will last here in Northern Nicaragua. One never knows.
Then just like the darkness fell, suddenly and intensely, one of the group leaders (um, me) let out a shriek. She knew what it was before she could see it, but because of the terrifying void of darkness, had no idea what to do or where to turn for safety.
“Oh my god! It’s a scorpion! I know it is! The pain…the pain…!” she gasped. Because let me tell you – a scorpion sting quite literally takes your breath away. The pain is instant, your whole body can feel the jolt of that tail thwacking you, and even in the pitch black of night without lights, your eyes can visualize the creature as it swings it’s tail onto your heel. Your body knows what has happened before your mind and eyes can verify it.
Everyone panicked. People were bumping backwards into their chairs in the dark, others hopping up onto theirs. Only the whimpering girl’s coworker was calm enough to grab his cell phone and use the light to ensure no one was walking into the same path of terror (or worse – the girl herself, again, not being able to say where it was and therefore where it was safe to set her foot back down).
The girl gasped and hobbled over to the kitchen, where she was immediately pushed into a chair and ice pressed to her foot. “What was it?! It doesn’t look like a scorpion sting” – all of the Nicaraguans in the house were gathered around her, trying to suss out just what was making her gasp and shake in pain. It seemed like a scorpion sting, but where was the telling black spot of the poison? And why wasn’t her tongue going numb?
Meanwhile the coworker ran back out to the group, intent on stalking the prey that had harmed his coworker and was still lurking nearby – terrorizing the group of foreigners still cowering all fours on their chairs in the dark.
Minutes (or was it hours?) later, an excited bubble burst forth from the group outside. “Oh my god, it’s so big! I thought they were small!”, “Ew, it’s disgusting”, “Well that was definitely what did it”, “Are they always so black?” and the girl knew she had been right. Your body knows, after all.
They had found it. A giant (3 inches long) black scorpion was cowering beneath the chicken crates, scant inches from where the girl had inadvertently stopped on or too close to it and received the horrid thwack.
Victorious, the girl’s coworker picked off the beast’s tail (don’t ask me how one learns to do that) and released it back into the chicken’s habitat – content that, without stinger to protect it, the chickens would avenge the girl’s pain.
A quick look at the girl’s sock, which she had hastily torn off upon receiving the sting in case the beast lingered inside, informed everyone that the sock had soaked up most of the poison and accounted for why it was not apparent on her skin or in the numbing of her tongue. Thank goodness for small miracles, the girl thought, while she sat rocking and moaning in pain as the group’s cook continued to press the ice to her foot.
It took about 20 minutes for the unrelenting pain to soften into something more manageable, something more akin to 3 or 4 wasp stings in the same place. Another 20 minutes later it felt more like one wasp sting. And to the girl’s delight, upon waking the next morning, it was as though it had never happened. Except in her mind, which will forever be terrified of a repeat.
At least now she knows she can take it. Like any proper Nicaraguan.
And that, friends, is how I came to be afraid of both scorpions and the dark. For you see, the very next night when the lights blinked out, I lost my breath and started to panic, frozen in spot (nearly the very one where I had first been traumatized) until they blinked back on. Trauma – it’s REAL.
Wanna know more about the terrifying beasts of this wild country? Read this post.
Have any of you experienced this? For your sakes I hope I am alone, but I also really want to hear your stories so… 😀