I like to turn on the morning news in the morning before I head out to work. The first words out of the newscaster’s mouth this morning incited my inner panic. They were “Authorities are searching for a cottonmouth in DuPage County.” Most people living in DuPage County probably went about their morning routine. Not me. I pictured that snake everywhere. I have an abnormal, irrational fear of snakes and because of this I see them everywhere.
I stepped out to the garage to my car and pictured that snake, hanging upside down from the overhead door, crawling into my car via the muffler, hiding under the bushes by the front door. I hear myself and know it is not rational, but it still doesn’t prevent me from checking under the covers or inside the dryer when at home. And the interesting thing is, we don’t have many venomous or poisonous snakes in Illinois. Or, I should say that I know of.
I’m not sure when this fear started. I’ve had it as far back as I can remember. Perhaps it originated when I was four, and my well-meaning older brother gave me a shoebox full of “kittens” he had found in the woods. When I opened it, it was full of writhing garter snakes. Was that enough?
This fear hasn’t stopped me completely. I traveled to Sudan for work but spent the entire time there in fear that I would encounter a pit viper, momba, or python or other slithering creature. My experience there provides the background for Alexander, the lead character in my science fiction novel, the Lexicon. Alexander shares my fear of snakes.
Before I travel anywhere I research snakes to learn about the native species. To date, I’ve never encountered any live ones but live in dread that I will. I’ve researched snakes in Arkansas after seeing signs in the subdivision where my parents lived briefly announcing the high population that spring. I’ve researched snakes in North Carolina before traveling there to go to the emerald mine. I’ve researched rattlesnakes in Arizona and California. It hasn’t stopped me from visiting any of these places.
I know it is completely irrational but I cannot get past it. And, thanks to today’s news, I will have to look more diligently everywhere I step in Illinois.