Vivvi has always had a dark side. When she was a toddler, she loved her fluffy pink hedgehog stuffy with giant sweet eyes. “Look, mom!” she said as she snuggled him under her chin. “His name is sweetie. He likes cupcakes, and sweet things, and he kills people with his spikes!” 

In a study of nature vs. nurture, it’s revealing. WallyBen does not have these instincts at all. Where she is twisty, he is bubbles and joy. We regularly watch nature shows together of the Planet Earth variety. When one animal stalks another, he covers his eyes, plugs his ears, leaves the room, begs us to turn the show off. Vivvi’s eyes sparkle. “Everyone has to eat, Wal,” she tells her teenage brother in her tiny baby voice, as the bloodied chinchilla on the TV takes its final breath. 

So it came as no surprise when, last year, she did a deep dive on a show called “Something Bit Me.” She had worked her way through one season of it when she started telling me about one of the episodes. Like I always do when my kids terribly describe the plot of things they are watching, I tuned out. But not far enough to miss it when she said, “And then, it grabbed him by the scalp and started dragging him by the hair away from the fire.” 

“Wait, what?” I said as I awoke from my dishwashing daydreaming. 

“I said…” And she repeated it all in gruesome detail. 

“What on earth are you watching?” I asked. She went on to describe the show, featured on National Geographic, so, as the case may be, The Disney Channel. On the show, people who have actually been attacked in real life by vicious predators across the world—and survived. They were thrown from boats and bitten through the thigh by hippos. They were pulled underwater by an alligator while swimming with friends and had to use leg leverage to allow the alligator to rip their arm off so they could drag their left-armless body to shore. Or, they were dragged by the scalp from a fire by a rabid wolf. 

I didn’t believe the Disney channel would host this show alongside Bluey and Ducktales, so I sat to watch. It was everything described but in even more gory detail than I imagined. Each show follows the same format—the actual survivor tells the story of what happened. During their heart-pounding tale, actors who resemble the attacked reenact. Experts weigh in on how the person did—what mistakes did they make? How miraculous is it that they survived? What should you do differently when you are attacked by a predator?  

Vivvi watches this with her jaw open, eyes filling with…joy? I asked her how watching made her feel. Her response? “Well, I don’t feel sorrow! I’m like, here is a stranger, and here is how they suffered in the most glorious way and lived to tell the tale.” Who is this little monster I have created? Maybe it is like rubbernecking an accident—she just can’t turn away. Maybe it is schadenfreude—a delicious dose of satisfaction in seeing someone else suffer. Maybe she is just the most honest person on the planet, admitting that a little bad happening to someone else means it isn’t happening to you—and something about that feels like winning. 

And maybe it is a small dose of preparation. And I’m not talking about like, when we were young, seeing shows where people fell into quick sand and learning the best way to escape should it happen to you.  Instead, maybe she’s doing some real planning hikes where we may encounter animals who want to take a bite of us. When we were in the Smokies and Yellowstone and Glacier, the possibility of running into a bear was such a real threat that we had bear spray in the hand and ready. We did, in fact, see 3 bears in close proximity—one popping right out on the trail we were on and walking toward us. 

Before these hikes, a big yellow sign at the trailhead warned of the increased bear activity, with several sightings. When Vivvi saw this, she told us all, “Okay, here is what you do when a bear attacks you,” and then she went through all the steps, from making yourself big and loud to the final straw, curling up into a ball and putting your hands over your neck should the situation get to the point where the bear would really like to see your insides. 

I love her for this darkness so much. It is a mysterious, untouchable piece of her that goes along with her quiet, intense observing of expressions and humans and life (and death, as it turns out). 

When she was heavy into this show, we were in the Smokies and I got viciously attacked. “Something bit me!” I yelled out, without thinking. Hence, we decided we needed to immediately make our own episode of her show. If you have four minutes, I hope you love this dramatic and riveting tale. Without further ado, the Unauthorized Episode of Something Bit Me.

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