Sandra lay in the dark, eyes closed and duvet tucked carefully under her chin and around her body. There would be no gaps, if there was a gap something might crawl in. She could hear them all in the darkness, skittering over the floorboards, writhing in large, squishy masses. She’d tried everything to get rid of them, but nothing seemed to work and to make matters worse they only came at night, so of course everyone thought she was just dreaming or something. She didn’t bother to turn on the light, if she did they’d just scuttle back to the dark crevices of the room, disappearing from view. No, darkness was better, this way she could pretend there was nothing there, that she was safe. So far none had tried to crawl under her blankets or over her skin, but she knew it was only a matter of time. She’d feel it, the gentle tap tap tap of many legs or the cold slime of something else. No. She wouldn’t think about it. If she did she’d get freaked out, then she’d be tempted to turn on the lights. Sure, they’d crawl away, but what if they didn’t? What if she turned the light on and they were there, covering every surface of her room? She wouldn’t be able to stand it. She just had to wait, that was all, they were always gone by the morning, always vanishing to their little hidey holes, she just had to wait it out. She felt something brush across her face. She cringed away, closing her eyes tighter, trying to breathe shallowly. It moved around her cheek, up towards her forehead, down across her eyes, over her nose, her hand lashed out, swiping at her face, instantly she was sitting up, hand reaching out and before she could stop herself light flooded the room.
It was empty.
She brushed across her face, twice, making sure, then she examined her pillows and duvet, no signs of bugs. She tried not to shiver. She was tired, that was all, it was her imagination. The reassurances she tried to give herself weren’t working, she could still feel it crawling on her skin. She wanted to have a shower, but she didn’t want to wake up her roommates, they thought she was weird enough as it was. She swung her legs over the side of the bed and carefully stood up, watching for any signs of the bugs. She crossed the room and bent to examine the spider traps she had laid about the place. There were no spiders stuck to them. Obviously the insects were smart. They knew to avoid it, it was the only explanation. She went back to bed, feet cold from standing on the wood. There used to be carpet in the room, but she removed it. It was too much, the constant fear that she’d squish something into it, that she’d feel it’s body burst beneath her foot. Wood was better. It was easy to see things, there was no fear she’d accidently step on something now. Of course wood came with its own problems, cracks in the floorboards which allowed bugs to hide and thrive. She wasn’t sure where they were getting their food from, after all she never ate in the room and she hoovered once every two days, perhaps there was some other food supply, something she was missing, but she could never seem to quite figure out what it was.
She knew she wasn’t crazy, that it wasn’t just in her head, it wasn’t like this everywhere, just this room. She had lived plenty of other places, big and small, and none of them had these problems. She had tried to get one of her roommates to switch, after all the rooms were all the same size so it wouldn’t make too much of a difference, but they all refused. They’d been here longer than she had, so obviously they knew there was something wrong with the room. They had to, why else would they refuse to switch?
She felt better with the light on, now that it was on she was able to examine her room, watch for anything. There were no other infestations in the house that she knew of, no sign of rats or mice and her roommates refused to split the bill for an exterminator with her, not even to come in and check. She’d asked the landlord about it, but he talked to the roommates and they told him there was nothing wrong, just a spider every now and then. When she first moved in she thought they liked her, they seemed to get along very well, but obviously she was wrong if they were doing so much to sabotage her efforts to get something fixed. There were some nights where she couldn’t take it any more and so she slept on the couch. It didn’t seem like that big of a deal and she had an alarm set so she could go back to her room before anyone else was up, but once or twice her alarm hadn’t gone off and they found her sleeping there. They thought it was odd and she couldn’t explain why she was there. She started talking about bugs, but one rolled her eyes, the other looked away. Then she said she fell asleep watching TV. No one pointed out that the TV hadn’t been on.
They could think she was insane, she didn’t care, she knew she was right. They were in the room with her, just waiting for the darkness to fall again. She closed her eyes and began to breathe deeply, she just needed to calm herself, that was all. They were just bugs, they couldn’t really hurt her. She couldn’t sleep with the light on, so she reached out and turned it off. For a moment there was silence, cool and welcoming, then the noises started again.