I’m pottering about in the bedroom with a duster when, suddenly, I glimpse movement and look down, and there on my chest sits a scorpion. A moment of blind panic rushes over me. I’ve been bitten before by a scorpion with no lasting damage, but that was on my hand. This one is just inches away from my heart. How it got there I can’t imagine. Somehow, it must have become entangled in the duster and then jumped onto me. Now I must get it off again fast before it can sting me.
An icy coldness settles over me, a sly cunningness as I weigh my options. Then I lean forward, holding my sweater clear of my body, and, with one whoosh of the duster, sweep the scorpion onto the window’s ledge. It proceeds to scuttle for cover in a hole in the stonework from which it quite probably emerged. I’m too sweaty and panic-stricken to think about killing it.
This sudden scorpion visitation comes as quite a surprise to me. It’s not as if I don’t know that there are plenty of them about. After all, the one that stung me 10 years ago seems to have sneaked into bed with me while I was sleeping, then took its revenge when I disturbed it in the morning. But since moving into my current home and building up my family of cats, I have seen only one scorpion, and that was in a position on the wall where it could be easily dispatched with a swift blow from a tin of cat food. Then, last year, I almost stepped on one in the courtyard, and now another has invaded my bedroom.
Maybe it’s not just the pine martens that are getting bolder but the scorpions, too. Maybe they’re becoming Göreme’s cheeky equivalent to the urban foxes that haunt my mother’s garden in London, UK. I looked on the Internet and learned that most local scorpions belong to a genus called Buthidae. They’re small and innocently creamy-colored, not the alarming black of horror-movie scorpions. Few of them kill humans, although they’re the major source of poisoning incidents in Central Anatolia, far outstripping snakes or other creepy-crawlies.
From the Web I read some general advice that seems pretty obvious: Don’t walk barefoot, don’t poke about in scorpion’s nests, blah blah blah. There’s some advice to hospitals about the need to ensure they keep a stock of antivenin ready, and I think back vaguely to what happened in 1999: someone tying a band like a tourniquet around the top of my arm to stop the venom from spreading and the doctor injecting me with something that certainly dulled the pain until someone made the mistake of grabbing my arm whereupon I screamed loudly enough to awaken all the dead victims of previous scorpion stings.
In the back of my mind I seem to remember someone telling me that hanging a goatskin near the door was a good way to discourage scorpions, so maybe it’s time to make my way to Nevşehir and look for one of the traders who used to sell smelly animal skins before shoppers abandoned them in favor of the Forum Shopping Mall.
Pat Yale lives in a restored cave-house in Göreme in Cappadocia.