I was half-asleep the other day and dreamt this. Its basically my insect phobia exaggerated and distilled into one delicious nightmare soup. Parts of it are fresh from the unconscious, and other bits were tweaked to be more disturbing than they actually were.
Something was after me, something patient and hungry. What it was I didn't know, but its influence repelled and said keep going, stay away until it tired of the chase and left me alone.
Running through acres of lush green forest and field as fast as my legs would go, I eventually found myself flinging open an elegant wooden door and bursting into the foyer of a small cabin. The place seemed lonely, as if it wanted someone to come inside. And the door was a marvel all its own; meticulously detailed designs were carved into it with the greatest care. They all depicted many kinds of insects, some familiar and some completely new to me. There seemed to be people there too, but they were hard to make out.
I should have seen this for the warning that it was. With no time to survey it any longer, I hurried into the cabin, shutting the door softly behind me.
Inside, an unlit hearth was at the right, and to the left another room, probably the kitchen. The polished hardwood floors and dull but well-maintained striped wallpaper suggested someone was trying to make the best of what they had. A single overhead lamp cast sour yellow light and my own convulsing shadow. The fact that my shadow was convulsing should have been a red flag as well, but I was apparently in a horror-movie-bimbo mood.
The only furniture was a cozy-looking recliner near the window with curtains drawn, and a rocking chair near the wall ahead where an old woman sat in silence.
She wore a many-layered green skirt, a white sweater, and a throw blanket draped over her lap. Her gaunt face had high, bony cheeks, framed by tufts of wispy white hair.
She put off an aura of calm resignation, just rocking and rocking, head lowered as though she had no idea I was there.
I stood there for a while, regulating my breathing, which had been harsh and fast and only now began to slow down. After a while I said, “Hi. Sorry to just barge in here like this. Something was chasing me.”
She lifted her head and regarded me with a thoughtful frown.
The sense of the benign vanished when I realized she had no eyes. Not even lids or lashes. Just great gaping holes into some ravenous oblivion. Staring into them, I felt lost, intangible.
She seemed to know. A thin smile curved across her face.
“Why won't you come sit down, dearie?” she motioned to the recliner with long-fingered hands whose nails were crooked and untrimmed.
Don't sit down, something said.
The rims of her eyes were raw, lined with a thin coat of dried blood. I shouldn't have been able to see it this clearly from across the room, but my dream-self apparently wasn't nearsighted.
“You're tired, poor thing. Sit.” It seemed more a command than an invitation. I wanted to rest but felt too out of place and vulnerable.
From the other room came a thumping-scratching on the hardwood, and soon a golden retriever with curly, almost rust-colored fur stood at the threshold.
It seemed scrawny, sickly, and like the old woman, had no eyes. Just twin keyholes into...into whatever had been chasing me earlier. Somehow that became clear.
Rejecting their hospitality will get you in trouble. Be good. A voice within quipped.
The dog raised its head to scent the air and then whined miserably. Even the area around its eyes didn't move, as though the muscle was paralyzed.
What had happened to them?
The dog seemed tormented. It paced back and forth, twice bumping into the nearby wall, and I became irritated at this woman for her persistent silence and empty eye sockets.
Despite myself, I fell into the cushy chair and perched on the edge, carefully watching both of them.
After several moments the retriever began to chuff and cough and this soon turned into retching. Startled, I looked down and saw it being literally driven backward by the force of these violent exhalations. It didn't take long to see what was being brought up: a fat black slug that seemed way too large to fit in anyone's throat. It landed on the floor with a sick wet slap and began to wriggle.
The retriever coughed up another. Then another. And finally one more. They all clustered close as though they knew each other, making gross smacking noises like someone chewing with their mouth open.
I could only sit in horrified silence. The woman continued to rock and was humming a discordant tune to herself. It seemed to be an off-key version of a music box song I had heard once. Lot's of high notes, whimsical, ominous.
“Lady, what is wrong with your dog?” I demanded.
“Oh, he's fine, dearie. Just fine. This happens all the time.”
“What the hell?”
“Edgar will be home soon. He's looking forward to meeting you.”
“Edgar, my son. He built this house with his bare hands, and he knows what lives underneath it all. Our great purpose.”
“What's that then?”
She frowned. Her lip quivered. “It...it was supposed to be a surprise, dearie. A big surprise... just for you. I can't tell you until Edgar gets here, but you needn't be afraid, or leave—”
Get out, get out, get out....don't ask anything, just leave, get out... The primal fear of this thought was too urgent to ignore.
“I'm just going to leave now. Sorry for bugging you.” I said, shifting to get up.
Her serenity was broken. Not visually, it wasn't something that could be described with the main senses. The nonchalant humming continued and she was still again, but something stirred and woke.
Beneath the dog's retching was a fluttering sound.
I looked up to see two big brown moths crawling out of the woman's eye sockets. The worst part of it all was the sound: dry, papery shivery bodies rubbing against the edges of those holes, like demons rasping for attention.
“Who ARE you?” I gripped the armchair so tight but at the same time my legs tried to reach the floor, run.
“What's the matter?” she crooned as the left moth made its way down her cheek and the other one twitched on the rim of its home. “You don't like bugs?”
“No, I really don't.”
She laughed. A high, sweet giggle. It held the tone of a little girl's laugh but no where near the innocence.
Something knew I was terrified of insects and was now going to use that fear against me in the worst way possible.
The woman threw her blanket to the floor and out of it came dozens of quick black scarab beetles. The sound of their wingcases clicking sent shivers of revulsion up my spine.
I had to get out of here. They were going to try and trap me here. With sheer numbers, they were going to secure their next victim.
As I got up the slugs, no longer ungainly, shot forward with aggressive speed, their slithery bodies trying to scale my legs.
Their mucus was like glue. I couldn't shake them off and finally had to grab them one by one and fling them away.
I sprinted to the door but someone opened it first. On the other side stood a tall, skinny man in overalls and a long sleeved white dress shirt. He had close-cropped black hair, tanned skin, stubble, a sharp chin...no eyes. Edgar?
“Where are ya going, kiddo?” He blocked my path, tilting his head to one side in a quizzical way. His smile was all teeth, and from between those unnaturally straight white chompers came the front half of an enormous blood-red centipede. Its segments were striking, beguiling, not to mention nauseatingly large.
Two more centipedes—one royal purple, the other vivid green—came out of the holes in his head, antennae questing and seeking. And then millipedes, black and imposing and thicker than thumbs, walked out of his shirt sleeves and onto my wrists. Their touch inspired shockwaves of primordial panic.
“No!” I tried to back up but his large, muscular hands held fast to mine.
“Let me out of here! Who ARE you people?” I tried to shove past him but he pushed harder and came into the room, slamming the door behind him.
The old lady was still humming that dissonant song. That maddening little fairy song. The dog continued to puke up invertebrates. Moth's wings were fluttering, beetle carapaces ticking like a death clock, slugs slapping and squelching. They all seemed to be trying to snuff out every voice but their own dark melody.
Edgar mocked in a velvety, singsong tone, “Aww, why do you want to leave so soon? You don't want to meet all our friends? Its really not so bad, once they get inside. It doesn't hurt like you think it might. It almost feels good.”
I wrenched from his grip with a strangled cry and backed away into the corner, flinging the repulsive insects to the floor.
“Now, now. That wasn't very nice.” the old lady admonished. “Edgar, this girl simply can not come into our home and attack our little friends. Discipline, Edgar! Its high time!”
“Sure thing, mom.” The man took a few steps forward, and his posture seemed almost...puppetlike. His constant, deranged smile spread wider. The crimson centipede jabbed the air like a parody of a tongue. “Sure thing.” He pointed to the wall across from the hearth. "Look, kiddo.
As though some invisible behemoth was sharpening its claws on the wall, the wallpaper began to peel and shred into ribbons. Out of these ribbons came countless darting hornets, cicadas, and bees. From the baseboard hordes of cockroaches emerged as well, then earwigs, silverfish, scorpions, an army of them.
The moths were harassing me now, bumping into my face and whispering mad lullabies in my ears.
You better not step on one! That'll make them REALLY angry!
The centipede in between “Edgar's” closed teeth came flying out into his open hand. He regarded it with a smile, even as it rolled over and sank its tiny fangs into the meaty part of his palm, injecting its venom. I was transfixed by a jewel of blood that welled up as the centipede released and moved away from the wound.
Then Edgar lunged, knocking me backwards into the chair, which gladly accepted with pale wormlike tentacles bursting from slit seams with a monstrous flourish. They curled around my wrists and ankles, living rope, and I could not break free.
Edgar and his mother loomed over at either side, four yawning voids, two bustling cadavers. They couldn't be alive, at least not in the normal sense. They were being used by something profoundly wrong.
I couldn't decide which of their smiles was creepier. The woman's gentle, almost sad grin, or Edgar's demented leer.
"Comfy?" he asked, pinching my cheek with one millipede-riddled hand. I noticed his fingers themselves were changing, lengthening into dark spindly pincers, as though the flesh itself was no longer static, but molded by the insect's desire.
“You should consider yourself so fortunate, dearie.” cooed the old woman. “Very rarely do humans get to become part of our great purpose, to become part of the nest.”
As if on cue, every insect in the cabin swarmed my body. Its impossible to adequately describe the feeling of those thousands of tiny legs and feelers skittering across my skin as they strove to make me their own, all those mandibles and chitinous armor, exploring, feeling and tasting at leisure as scream after scream erupted from my throat.
“Get them off, get them off, get them off please please!”
But I was finally drowned out in the drone of the swarm, becoming one with the Creepy Crawly People as two huge moths reached my eyes, plunging their proboscises deep into them, depriving me of sight and revealing their own insidious vision to my mind.