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A Scary (TRUE!) Story from Hālawa Valley: Things that Bite in the Night

Monday, October 31, 2011

Here’s a TRUE scary story about things that bite in the night!

In NYC, I struggle with insomnia.  I think it’s because I’m afraid I might miss out on something.  But when I stay with Mom and Pops Solatorio in the one room house in Hālawa Valley, sleep comes easily and I don’t stir until morning.  Well, at least that’s what happens most nights…

This story takes place on June 29, 2011.

We’d had a busy day.

Pops and I had worked since the sun came up–we’d even hiked up to Moʻoʻula Falls with some guests that had come into the Valley.   Once the day’s work was finished, we took turns bathing and cleaning up.  Mom had fixed a delicious dinner that we ate on the lānai of their one room house–I call it Hālawa Hale, Hālawa House.

After we’d eaten and we’d washed the dishes, we sat together in the house and talked-story until late in the evening.  It’s a lot more fun than sitting around, mindlessly watching television.  We shared funny stories and Pops, of course, shared a cultural lesson or two.  (It’s the best!  The “classroom” never closes!)

Hālawa Hale doesn’t have electricity. (No telephone, either!)  There’s a small generator that we run for a short while some evenings.  It provides enough electricity to run an overhead light and charge a camera battery or two.  Mostly we use oil lamps that burn with citronella oil.  It smells awesome–and it helps to keep the bugs away.

Mom and Pops sleep in the back of the house, each in their own bed.  I usually sleep in the front of the house.  I rearrange the furniture to carve out a little space on the floor.  A futon mattress, a pillow and a sheet makes a cozy bed.

Once we turn off the generator and lower the flame in the oil lamps, the house takes on an almost “enchanted” feel.  It makes me think of those little houses you’d read about in a fairy tale.  Our little cottage in the woods

That night, we had a wonderful period of rain.  (In fact, we’d had rain almost every night for a week.)  I was lying in my spot, listening to the winds through the windows and the sound of the rain pelting the metal roof.  I’d taken off my eyeglasses and laid them beside my flashlight on the floor.   With heavy eyelids, I watched shadows dance on the walls.

Sleep came quickly.  But it didn’t last long.

At 3:48 AM, Mom cries out from her bed.  ”Ouch!  It bit me!  It bit me!”

“Mom!  What is it?” Pops calls to her.

“The centipede!  It bit me!”  I hear her moving around quickly–shuffling as she puts on her rubber slippers.

I struggle to open my eyes.  I’m completely disoriented as I reach for my glasses beside me.  We have no lights except for the dim lamps.  I frantically search for a flashlight, patting my hands along the floor.

“There it is!” she yells.

Pops calls out, “Step on it, Mom!  Step on it!”

WHAM!  She smacks her foot down on the wooden floor.

“Aarrggh!  ’Da buggah wen’ bit me, again!” she yelps.  And then I see a rubber slipper flying right towards me.  Mom has kicked it off as she tries to get away from the nighttime invader.

Ok.  Now I’m REALLY awake!

I dodge the flying shoe (and the centipede?!) and I jump onto the couch.  ”Pops!  Mom!  Are you guys ok?”

“Son!  Get off of the floor!  There’s a centipede in the house!” Pops calls out to me.  ”And Mom just kicked it toward YOU!”

I find my flashlight and put on a pair of rubber slippers and move quickly to help turn the flames up in the oil lamps.  Pops makes his way out in the rain to the generator.  A loud mechanical roar rips through the quiet and the house is flooded with light as the generator brings the overhead light to life.

I look over at Mom who is rubbing the bite areas on her neck and her ankle.  ”In all the years I’ve lived here,” she said, “I’ve never been bitten.  And now TWICE in one night.”  I take her hand and lead her over to her chair in the front of the house and she sits.  She applies a topical medicine she keeps in a box by the door.

“Mom, how are you feeling?” Pops asks her.

I see the look of concern in his eyes.  Not only because she’s been hurt, but also because we don’t know how she’ll react to the sting.  For some people, the reaction is not too bad–just pain and swelling.  But for others, the reaction to a centipede sting can be severe–even fatal if their throat swells shut.  And we are in Hālawa Valley–without a telephone.  And about an hour’s drive from town and the nearest hospital.

“I’m ok–but we need to spray, ” she tells him.

“We are really good at spraying [insecticide] to prevent this kind of thing,” he explains.  ”But with all of the rain we’ve been having, the centipedes must be trying to come inside and stay dry.”

I head outside with a flashlight and make my way to the storage unit where they keep their insect spray.  Bringing it back inside to Pops, I ask how I can help.  He takes the canister from my hands and begins to work immediately–like an expert.  ”Just stay with Mom.”

She had been bitten on the neck.

“It must have crawled up the wall behind my bed and onto my neck.  I felt something moving, so I moved and then it bit me,” she says.  That’s when she jumped out of bed and instinctively put on her shoes.   And then she saw the centipede making a run for it so she stomped on it.  But… she’d only managed to stomp on half of it.  ”The thing must have crawled up the back of my slipper and bitten me, again, here on my ankle!”  She rubs medicine where she’d been stung the second time.

I sit, staring at her with my mouth open–completely blown away by the strength and tenacity of that little creature.  And completely CREEPED OUT by the thought of having one of ‘em crawling on me!  Yikes!  To think I’d been sharing the floor with it only minutes before!  Not to mention having it flung at my sleeping space along with Mom’s shoe when it attacked a second time!

Pops sprays the perimeter of the house–inside and out–and then joins Mom and I in the front room.  We make breakfast.  Pancakes and eggs.  Pops and I watch watched Mom to make sure she is ok.  And we talk.  And we talk.  And we talk.

Finally, the sun breaks through the clouds with a pink light.  The rain disappears.  Morning has arrived.

Thankfully, pain and some mild swelling are the worst of Mom’s reaction to the stings.

We never did find the centipede that night.  Maybe it managed to escape when we opened one of the doors.

Or maybe it’s still there.


Happy Halloween, gang.

*Please click HERE to see some (really scary!) images of the centipedes found in Hawaiʻi.

*And please click HERE to read a great post about centipede bites.  I found it while I was doing an internet search for images.

6 Responses to “A Scary (TRUE!) Story from Hālawa Valley: Things that Bite in the Night”

  1. carol says:

    friend of mine was camping with her new husband, on their honeymoon, on Kaua’i. When he got bit. In a really really sensitive place. Use your imagination. He ended up in hospital, honeymoon postponed until the swelling and pain subsided.
    In all my time in Hawaii I have rarely seen and never been bitten by either a scorpion or centipede… and count myself lucky!

  2. NoHo says:

    I love this story. LOVE it. Thanks for a good share.

  3. Jason Poole says:

    @ Aunty Carol: Auē! Yikes! Wow! I have sympathy pains for him. I won’t lie–the incident with centipede has gotten me to check the bed almost every night before getting under the covers. I can’t imagine what your friend must do!

  4. Maliana says:

    I hate centipedes and scorpions — one big reason why I moved away from Hawaii!

  5. Jason Poole says:

    @ Marian: I KNOW! Those creepy-crawlies make it kind of challenging, right? But I still think it’s a small price to pay for living in Hawai’i–especially considering the size (and abundance!) of the subway rats here in NYC. Ha!