ION Magazine Editor’s Letter: Skin Crawlers

The last few Halloween editor’s letters have tackled topics like the very real time I experimented with cannibalism, the very real time I waterboarded my friends for a laugh and the very real time I was getting disturbing prank calls from a psychopathic killer (turned out the calls were coming from inside my house). To change things up a bit, this year I will tell you the very fake story about the time I was eaten alive by parasites in my sleep. Imagine the terror of discovering you’re sharing your bed with bugs—gross looking bloodsuckers too. A ladybug’s ear they ain’t. You probably can’t imagine because I’m quite confident I’m the first person in Canada to have experienced bed bugs first hand. But, mark my words, they’re coming for you next!

I went through denial, anger, bargaining, and depression twice before I hit acceptance. And when I hit acceptance after catching one of the parasites, things just got worse. You tell someone and ask for help, but initially no one will believe you. Desperate pleas will be met with brutal skepticism. “There are bugs that only you can see, feasting on your flesh? Sure thing, crazy guy,” is the typical response you’ll get. But once the frightening truth gets out there, your friends and neighbours will be terrified of you. Get ready for a life of solitude, my friend.

Expect to be vilified by your landlord too. In their eyes, the only way you could have got them is if you were hanging out in a heroin den or had a prostitute over. Once they confirm your apartment is infected, you’ve been marked for life—like an itchy scarlet letter. No landlord will ever rent to you again. Sorry, but that’s the truth. You’re going to have to start saving and buy a place—or live on the street, like me.

They’re impossible to find because they’re tiny and only come out at night. They can hide in a tiny crack in the wall, under your mattress or even in the spine of a magazine! The internet won’t kill print. Bed bugs will!

I’ve heard these little buggers are hiding in movies theatres. Yes, that’s right. Go to see a movie and you might bring bed bugs into your dwelling and then you’re screwed. If bed bugs keep spreading, I predict that by the year 2015, we’ll all live in a state of permanent quarantine and never leave our apartments again. Rich or poor. Black or white. None of that will matter anymore in the future. It will all come down to this: those who have the bug and those who don’t.

Well, why don’t we just gas them, you say, or perhaps construct a bed bug-killing neutron bomb? The problem is they’re pretty much impossible to kill and they can live for two years without food. Two years! Kate Moss said nothing tastes as good as skinny feels. I would like to see if her opinion changed after two years with no food whatsoever. Here’s the most horrific part. Bed bugs have an anesthetic in their saliva, so you don’t feel it when they bite. Furthermore, a lot of people don’t react to the bites. Let me break that down for you: they could literally be eating you right now and you wouldn’t be aware of it. OoooOOOoo!

I’m not mad, I tell ya! If you see me, now homeless and itching myself in tattered rags at the bus stop, I’ll happily tell you my story of how invisible bugs are crawling on my skin. You won’t even need to prompt me. I’ll walk right up to you and start ranting. I suspect the government’s to blame.

photo by toby bannister
this article was published in ion magazine on october 2010