Friday, August 21, 2009

The Demonic Bedbug (for Edward Gorey)

The Demonic Bedbug spent most of his time hanging around inside a mattress.

And sometimes worshipping Satan.


Sometimes the Demonic Bedbug thought about how he was a member of the biological family Cimicidae, and then laughed at the human trait of assigning other life forms to categories.

This reminded the Demonic Bedbug of People magazine.

People was a journal which the Demonic Bedbug sometimes read when he was not engaged in hematophagy.


Hematophagy is "the feeding on the blood of humans and other warm-blooded hosts."

It isn't personal unless the bedbug is Satanic, and this Bedbug was.

So he actually rather enjoyed the personal aspect of drinking the blood of his hosts, and the irritation these bites would later cause his hosts.


The Demonic Bedbug hoped that Satan was aware of the daily rituals of sacrifice the Demonic Bedbug made in His Honor.

Sometimes he would spill a little libation of blood after engaging in hematophagy, and then declaim "Hail Satan--King of Earth and Master of all Cimicadae!"


The Demonic Bedbug waited to see signs that Satan heard his call, but things looked bleak.

Sometimes the people whose mattress he resided in would go on long vacations and kennel their dogs.

These vagaries led to hard times for the Demonic Bedbug.


The Demonic Bedbug would take vacations himself, sometimes visiting nearby chairs, sofas and other furnishings.

Sometimes he would encounter other bedbugs who were either agnostic or atheistic.

He hated the condescension he experienced from these cohabitants, who were often quite snide, because they felt their views were more progressive.


The Demonic Bedbug, like most of his kind, was chiefly nocturnal.

But he suffered from insomnia, so he would sometimes have to listen to daytime television whilst feeding on the blood of a late-rising human.

He particularly abhorred the roundtable talk shows featuring women in pantsuits.


One day, one of his human hosts mentioned that he thought "there might be a bedbug or two around" and Wikipediaed some information on bedbugs.

The Demonic Bedbug prayed fervently to Satan that the human would not decide to proceed with extermination.


Satan must have heard his prayer, because the human ultimately decided it was flea bites he was experiencing and dusted the several dogs owned by the family.

The Demonic Bedbug actually enjoyed the scent of flea powder and was immune to its chemical properties.


One day, as the Demonic Bedbug was feeding on Cheever, one of the host family's Labrador retrievers, he saw the horrible remains of a flea massacre.

Thousands of mothers, fathers and babies lay dead or dying on the field of skin which had been their home.

"Praise Satan!" said the Demonic Bedbug, with no empathy whatsoever.


The Demonic Bedbug was rather literate and liked reading about his kindred around the world.

For instance, he found this interesting:

"The common bedbug (Cimex lectularius) is the species best adapted to human environments. It is found in temperate climates throughout the world and feeds on blood. Other species include Cimex hemipterus, found in tropical regions, which also infests poultry and bats, and Leptocimex boueti, found in the tropics of West Africa and South America, which infests bats and humans. Cimex pilosellus and Cimex pipistrella primarily infest bats, while Haematosiphon inodora, a species of North America, primarily infests poultry."


The Demonic Bedbug was reddish-brown, although he liked to refer to himself as "russet."

He was flattened, oval and wingless, with wee little hairs which rather gave him a banded appearance.

He hated that he was visible to the naked eye, but his human hosts were a family of terrible myopics who refused to wear their glasses out of vanity, so this went in his favor.

The bruises the myopics suffered from regularly walking into furniture also concealed many of the Demonic Bedbug's bitemarks.

So the myopia was a Double Blessing.

From Satan.


The Demonic Bedbug was rather solitary and tried to avoid his kind as much as possible.

Other bedbugs interpreted this avoidance behavior as (variously) hostility, insecurity, neuroticism and/or excessive amour-propre.

The Satan worshipping thing was seen as juvenile by most.


The Demonic Bedbug would reach his host in the usual manner: he would simply crawl towards it, or sometimes he would climb a wall up to the ceiling and wait for a heat wave from a body.

Then he would leap and feed on the blood of his victim, after saying Grace to Satan for this bounty.


The Demonic Bedbug pierced the skin of his host with two hollow tubes.

One tube injected the saliva of the bedbug, whilst the other was withdrawing the blood of the host.

It was a pretty nifty operation, and rather resembled certain procedures one encounters in your modern hospital.

It looked very high-tech and modern when done correctly.


The Demonic Bedbug would then retreat.

There was a "safety window" of minutes or hours in which the host would not yet feel the dermatological reaction to these bites.

The Demonic Bedbug saw the workings of Satan in this natural arrangement and praised Him highly for this.


The Demonic Bedbug (like all his kind) had an aversion to sunlight.

He didn't even like the dim mood lights the humans who inhabited his mattress preferred in their bedroom.

Often, the Demonic Bedbug would wear large dark glasses that he felt made him look rather glamorous.

Sometimes, he would admire his reflection in a sequin on a tacky pillow his hosts kept in their bed.


The Demonic Bedbug knew that most humans would be horrified to learn that he could live for a year or eighteen months without feeding (though he usually fed every week or so).

The Demonic Bedbug felt that Satan had smiled upon his species.

What host animal upon which he fed could brag of such a sturdy constitution?


The Demonic Bedbug knew his natural life expectancy was most likely going to be six to nine months (unless he went dormant for a year or so) but he hoped that by praying regularly to Satan his life expectancy might be extended to three or possibly four years.

Everyone knew the story of "Ole Blood Sal," who was a bedbug who made it to five years.

Some said he had made a compact with Satan.

Those with a more scientific mindset said it was just "good genes."


The Demonic Bedbug was undecided about having children.

All bedbugs mate by a process known as "tramautic insertion."

Whilst this might sound terribly exciting to the uninitiated, the simple facts are that instead of inserting genitalia into the female's love tunnel, the male bedbug pierces his beloved with "hypodermic genitalia" and pops his Cimicidaean top.


There were bedbug pop songs with titles like "Stabbing Love" and "You Hot Sticker."


Female bedbugs can turn out a bumper crop of babies, up to 500.

The Demonic Bedbug was not sure he could find a mate who would be willing to raise these theoretical progeny in The First Church of Satan, Bedbug.

And that's the only way he would want to parent.


Because the Demonic Bedbug had a malignant spirit, he felt great joy (but also pessimism) when he read this passage one day:

"Bedbugs seem to possess all of the necessary prerequisites for being capable of passing diseases from one host to another, but there have been no known cases of bed bugs passing disease from host to host. There are at least twenty-seven known pathogens (some estimates are as high as forty-one) that are capable of living inside a bed bug or on its mouthparts. Extensive testing has been done in laboratory settings that also conclude that bed bugs are unlikely to pass disease from one person to another. Therefore bedbugs are less dangerous than some more common insects such as the flea. However, transmission of Chagas disease or hepatitis B might be possible in appropriate settings."


And the Demonic Bedbug was horrified to learn how close his species had recently come to extinction:

"Bedbugs were originally brought to the United States by early colonists from Europe. Bedbugs thrive in places with high occupancy, such as hotels. Bedbugs were believed to be altogether eradicated 50 years ago in the United States and elsewhere with the widespread use of DDT. One recent theory about bedbug reappearance involves potential geographic epicentres. Investigators have found three apparent United States epicentres at poultry facilities in Arkansas, Texas and Delaware. It was determined that workers in these facilities were the main spreaders of these bedbugs, unknowingly carrying them to their places of residence and elsewhere after leaving work. Bedbug populations in the United States have increased by 500 percent in the past few years..."

"Praise Satan!" said the Demonic Bedbug when he read that last sentence at Wikipedia.


Sometimes, the Demonic Bedbug fantasized about moving to New York City, where it was rumored bedbugs had it great, occupying many hotels, schools and hospitals.

Bedbugs would often sing a song about New York City like that one hoboes sing about the Old Rock Candy Mountain.


The Demonic Bedbug was beginning to age.

He began to think about the future of his species.

He had great pride one day when he read this:

"Bedbugs had nearly been eradicated by the widespread use of potent insecticides such as DDT.However, many of these strong insecticides have been banned from the United States and replaced with weaker insecticides such as pyrethroids. Many bedbugs have grown resistant to the weaker insecticides.In a study at the University of Kentucky bedbugs were randomly collected from across the United States. These “wild” bedbugs were up to several thousands of times more resistant to pyrethroids than were laboratory bedbugs.New York City bed bugs have been found to be 264 times more resistant to deltamethrin than Florida bedbugs due to nerve cell mutations. Another problem with current insecticide use is that the broad-spectrum insecticide sprays for cockroaches and ants that are no longer used had a collateral impact on bedbug infestations. Recently, a switch has been made to bait insecticides that have proven effective against cockroaches but have allowed bedbugs to escape the indirect treatment.

"Praise Satan!" said the Demonic Bedbug.


Sometimes, the Demonic Bedbug fantasized about flying away on an animal vector, such as a wild bird.

But although birds looked in the windows of the bedroom where the Demonic Bedbug resided, they never actually entered the bedroom.

So this remained a pipe dream.

He knew it was likely he would live and die on that mattress.

Unless Satan heard his prayers.


Sometimes the Demonic Bedbug had nightmares in which his hosts realized that steaming is a good way to sterlize their bedding and he imagined himself steamed to death inside the mattress like a lobster at Red Lobster.

He would wake up screaming and calling Satan's name.


The Demonic Bedbug also sometimes had nightmares featuring the Thanatus flavidus spider which is known for hunting bedbugs.

He realized this was a neurotic fear since no Thanatus flavidus had ever been glimpsed by even the grandparents of the bedbugs of his generation.


The end of the Demonic Bedbug came suddenly and unexpectedly one morning.

Death was additionally cruel in that it seasoned the death of the Demonic Bedbug with its favorite spice--the Salt of Irony.


Oh, Fate rubbed the Salt of Irony into the soul of the Demonic Bedbug like nobody's business!


The Demonic Bedbug had just feasted upon the wife of the host couple, Marianne, when she suddenly felt a sense of compunction for something cruel she had said to Consuela, her passive aggressive nanny, on the previous afternoon.

In a fit of contrition, she reached for her very dusty Bible, and as she was drawing it towards her--and The Demonic Bedbug was making his escape (slowed down by his engorgement)--the phone rang.

She saw by the caller i.d. it was someone with whom she decidedly did not wish to speak, but knew it was inevitable...


She slammed down the Bible on the fully-engorged Demonic Bedbug and he exploded like a tiny grenade of blood.


His last words were "Satan, please?..."


But Satan did not appear, as he was otherwise engaged.


Satan's dance card is always full.

(In case you were wondering or thinking about initiating contact.)


Several of the Demonic Bedbug's comrades cleaned up the mess (whilst recycling Marianne's blood, of course) and they entombed him within a dust bunny, after their funereal customs.

A few words were spoken over the shards of his wee corpse and all the bedbugs wondered whither he was bound now, if anywhere.


There was a rather indignant knocking at the bedroom door.

Consuela opened the bedroom door (after hearing "Enter!") to tell Marianna that her rather reprobate son Charles had just sullied a rather geriatric neighbor with yet another rather horrible epithet, and this caused a slight breeze which carried away the dust bunny which held the Demonic Bedbug entombed within it.

Even dead, his face seemed to hold an expression of utter disbelief.


Requiescat in pace, Cimex!


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