Frank and Francine
rating: +11+x

I woke up today to find a friend on my nightstand.

This statement may seem insane to some, but I know Frank. It's been in my house for years. Sometimes they get stuck in the sink, thirty long legs struggling to escape, and I let them climb onto my hand, penti-digited and meaty, and place them back on the floor. They scurry away, antennae writhing, body morphing. My eyes follow them with a kind of clouded disgust masked by my affection for his usefulness and eternal companionship.

The only time I know the direction Frank is facing is when it runs away from my presence. In all other moments it is stone, basking in the dark of my midnight linoleum kitchen like a gargoyle of modern times. Within its minuscule body, hemolymph pumps, circulating nutrients throughout its hollow-boned structure. Compared to me, four-limbed and towering, blood pumping constantly, digestive system working constantly, Frank is a mystery. Many times I have been frightened by them, their proboscis gently lapping and digesting an ant they captured. Now that the blooms in the city are unfurling their petals, I see Frank more often- the complex inner ecology of my household has begun to bleed out into the realm of my sight.

Frank is unable to regulate the temperature of its body. For that reason it hides within the small danknesses in our human abode. The cracks in the woodwork, the gaps in the insulation, the spaces where the heating elements aren't snug. They exist in those liminal spaces outside our reach, alien eyes and alien lives and alien spies.

I do not know how many things live in my home. No one ever does.

Some may find that disturbing.

I find it fascinating.

We live in so many bubbles of perception. You'd think this would give us some vestment of sensibility, some understanding of the natural world. You'd think humans would understand never to kill an ant. But we are cretins in our despicable ways. I try to live the values I project.

In my house there are two spiders, Antigony and Deadulus. There is at least one mouse, Algernon. How the three have never met baffles me. I toss the spiders pests and watch them do their sacred duty. I leave food out for the mouse on the porch- she has a taste for sharp cheddar and peanut butter.

There is Frank the house centipede and their progeny, Francine. I see them together occasionally. I leave them tiny chunks of meat their cyclopean limbs grasp and their bifurcated jaws dismantle.

I treasure all of these lives. But Frank and Francine have found my love even more. Perhaps more than my dog Evelyn, in some sick way. Her loping strides and petulant stare as I dole out her food might be the cause of this. Perhaps it is the old adage of absence and the heart. That being said, Evelyn, my electric dog, is always happy to cuddle.

As such, I know quite a bit about centipedes. Thus, a bit more about Frank and Francine. Studies show they are capable of visually differentiating between the mutations of the common house fly, and hunt the mutations they prefer. This is evidence they have an immense amount of intelligence in that small body. Simply put, they are picky buggers.

Their genome has been fully sequenced, to some interesting results. Based on the study, we can trace the genetics of our good friend Frank (or Scutigera coleoptrata as it's known to the scientific world) back to aquatic insects of massive size that used to dominate the oceans. I stare at Frank and Francine sometimes, and remember that in the prime of their ancestral life, they were the terrors of the earth. They could swim through water like they were flying through the air. I remember they once held all of life in their gaze. I hope I am half as fair to them as their ancestors were to the minnow.

The mythology around centipedes is complex and interwoven. No one (except me) is worshiping Frank specifically, but in almost all cultures, centipedes are seen as symbols of good luck and prosperity. In many Asian mythos, the centipede is seen as a symbol of rebirth and renewal, with seeing one a sign of good fortune. That is exactly how I feel when I see Frank- that I am blessed to have a creature of such mythological power as a guest in my home. In Nordic lore, the centipede is a sign of rebirth and change. I hope as I begin my transition, Frank and Francine will bless these changes in any way they can.

Simply put, I respect Frank and Francine. I give them food. I save them from the traps humans create. I worship them in my way.

When I was a child, I wanted to be an entomologist, despite a crippling fear of insects of all kinds. If I found or saw a funny bug, I would observe it, mostly from afar. My eyes would focus in on them, my ADHD halted for a brief moment. But if they moved even slightly toward me, I would run away in outright fear. A function of this interest is a spider that lived in the garden in front of my house. It made a web almost two square feet in size, and lived in a birdcage. No one touched this beast. It was left alone for the entire season, and left of its own accord. Once, I managed to find a small, half-dead frog in the yard outside the swamp. In my adolescent curiosity, I tossed the still-struggling frog into the web. What happened next caused me to run into the house screaming. The spider was bigger than my hand.

I will never lose my love of bugs. That incident caused me to appreciate not just their mechanics, but the very necessity of their existence.

Insects are an integral part of our ecology, and the idea of wiping them out because it's tidier depresses me. I believe anyone who thinks this way should be educated on proper maintenance of ecological systems rather than live in frights of the helpful beings we share the world with.

That is why Frank, Francine, Algernon, Deadulus, and Antigony will always have a place in my home, including all the small creatures that exist within cracks so small I can barely see them. And more often than not, be protected from Evelyn.

Remember to never let your legs stand still.

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