Last week, Veronica of Toddled Dredge wrote a succinct list of things that creep her out and then asked that I do the same. O, would that it could be a succinct list! So here is the first part in a series I like to call The Top Ten Very Specific Embarrassing Things That Give Me The Serious Creeps, Thanks For Asking (Although Only One Of You Asked, And The Rest Must Suffer.)
First up: swimming in the open ocean, or more specifically, swimming above all the stuff in the open ocean. Lucky for you and my future psychotherapists, I can pinpoint the exact origin of this fear and, like so many things in my childhood, it came from a book.
The book, an illustrated nature book for children, contains a certain page, a page I pored over a thousand times, a page I studied until I had goosebumps and chills and shortness of breath. This is the page:
Go ahead. Click to enlarge. I dare you. And please be sure to enjoy this single paragraph of copy:
I suppose the phrase "alive with fish" should have intrigued me, piqued my interest, filled me with childlike wonderment, et cetera, et cetera, but it only filled me with primal, white-hot, fishy-scented terror. Perhaps if the fish in question had been, say, beautiful, colorful tropical fish, or fish with friendly little fish faces, or basically anything but this:
Or sweet mother of mercy this:
I'm no marine biologist, but do some of these fish even exist? (If I Google "giant swallower" I only get Native American mythology and porn.) Are these De-Bunked Mythical Fish of The Seventies or something?
And surely you've noticed the serious scale issues with this illustration. Check out the size of those prawns vis-a-vis the giant squid. And doesn't it look like all that stuff is just right there, like five feet from the beach? As far as I could tell, swimming out into the ocean a few yards was going to go something like this:
A murky, teeming mess of teeth, tentacles, scales, and stingers mere inches from my tender, pasty toes? Sharks and hatchet fish and gulper eel and viper fish and something called the freaking giant swallower? Count me out, suckers.
And the saddest part is this: my encounters with the actual ocean were limited to the very occasional family trip to California or Hawaii. Living in land-locked Idaho, I really should have spent my spare time worrying about mountain lions, white supremacists, and Larry Craig. Still, we did go to the lake every summer and don't fool yourself, lakes have their own set of problems.
At any rate, please don't let this put a damper on any of your upcoming vacation plans, OK? I don't want you to think about this story or that illustration or any of my rambling nonsense when you wade into the (briny, dark, vast, unknowable) sea.
But don't take it from me, take it from Ol' Squiddy here: