October Challenge: Fear Factor
Full disclosure: This post contains one very disturbing photo.
There was a time when the Gnomies maintained a regular feature on this blog, the Challenge of the Month, in which we would all write about a common theme. That tradition has lapsed of late. We decided to take a break under the premise that it's healthy to shake things up once in awhile, both in blogging and in life. (Actually, we forgot about the COM for like, three months in a row, and then decided to act like we'd done it on purpose.)
But with our break taken, our writer's brains refreshed (we hope), and the month of Halloween full of possible topics, we decided to once again take up our Challenge of the Month. This time, we're talking about our worst fears.
So here's mine: grasshoppers.
For as long as I can remember, I've been afraid of grasshoppers. My mom is the same way, so maybe it's genetic. Crickets are okay. They're kind of cute. Praying mantises have an elegance about them. They're like the zen masters of the insect world. If Yoda was a bug, he'd be a miniature, wrinkly praying mantis.
Grasshoppers? They're different. In my high school biology class, we dissected earth worms, crayfish, oysters, and frogs. That was all fine and good. I rather enjoyed it, until we got to the grasshoppers. Oh, yes. But they weren't regular grasshoppers. The teacher mentioned these had come from somewhere in Texas. If that was true, Texas was breeding a race of mutant, bio-weaponized super-grasshoppers: brown, rubbery, and big enough to actually see what was going on inside them. Did you know that the ovaries of a female grasshopper take up her entire body cavity? I do, because I saw it, from a distance. My lab partner was a lot braver about doing the actual dissecting. I had to sit on a stool a few feet away, trembling, but I survived.
I thought I'd never have to see a bigger grasshopper, until college, when I went to South Africa. I should have known everything would be bigger in Africa. My class was out for a hike one day and had stopped for a rest, when this thing came crawling across the path:
That's real, folks. She was at least AS BIG AS MY HAND. I say "she" because one of my classmates apparently knew a lot about giant African grasshoppers. According to him, this was a mating pair. The male is the smaller one hitching a ride. This little bit of trivia must have made an impression on me, because I still remember it almost ten years later. I'm still kind of astounded at how calm I was that day. It was like watching a train wreck - I was too fascinated to be scared, although I don't know what I would have done if this happy couple had decided to start hopping around. They probably would've had to airlift me back to Johannesburg.
Sooo, now that I've traumatized you all (or at least myself), what are you afraid of? Feel free to share in the comments.