At first they were just bug bites. Simple bug bites. They were a part of urban lore. Something that would happen to a friend of a friend of yours and finish stories that began with "So I know this guy who went home a girl and..."
But then they started to appear.
My first experience with bedbugs was three years ago when a coworker curiously noticed itchy bites on the back of his neck. It was the dead of January. "That's odd," I thought "what kind of bug bites in the winter" and continued typing. How funny not to think anything of them then. It only dawns on me now that's that what those bites were. The beginning of it all.
Over the years the stories grew more frequent. They seemed to heighten during the summer. The friend of a friend became your friend and the consequence for drunken one night stands now included the only STD you could get without actually having sex.
Soho was the first to be hit. A giant warehouse sized clothing store shuttered for business because of these "little critters." They were nothing at the time. A minor inconvenience. But then South Street Seaport became infested. The expensive clothing stores were quick to act. They covered all stock clothing in plastic garment bags. Their newspaper ads touted "plastic encased clothing" in the same sunny manner as things like "free range chicken" or anti-bacterial soap. But then the New York Times and The New York Post reported stories of people leaving movie theaters with bites. Soon it was less about where you were shopping, and more about where you were going, and who you were seeing.
The bites continued. People stopped riding the subway. They stopped getting in cabs. The risk was potentially everywhere. People began wearing garbage bags over their clothing. Some even went as far as putting surgical masks over their mouths. The paranoia was setting in. And then, as if it were ordained, they began to appear. They flooded the city.
The laundromats and supermarkets were the first to be looted. Food and water was ironically much less of a commodity than containers and anything plastic. People started running for the exits with such haste they forgot about Manhattan being an island. The subways stopped running. The traffic clogged the tunnels. Ferries capsized due to overcrowding. People jumped into the Hudson. The power went out.
That was four days ago.
Through the crackled reception on my radio I can hear scientists trying to blame the outbreak on the heat: This summer has been (crackle) heat indexes in decades. The bugs are a species (crackle) they (crackle) respond to heat. Due to large underground (crackle) probable infestation (crackle) gross multiplication. After that there's nothing but static. I turn my radio off. Then on again. I leave it on.
I've been waiting for another emergency broadcast but one hasn't come for over a day now. I'm on my own. It's alright, really. I have resolve over it. Life sucks. Nature is nature. Bugs are born and if the planet says so, they'll take over. I just never imagined it would be this. What with all the trouble in the world, it just seems so easy and comical that I'd be taken out by humanity's break under a bug no bigger than a chocolate chip.
The gun shots echo up from the street and the screaming of women is endless but what kills me even more is that you guys are in Fire Island right now! Of course you are! Of course you're away from all this! But, what can I say? Work's work. Who knew this would happen? You lucky fucking queens, I swear...
I suppose I do have the last laugh though. I TOLD you this building in Murray Hill was worth something. I'm the only guy alive on my block! This, as you guys say, "dingy" post-war apartment of mine is so well built and tight that the bugs are at a minimum. I'm diet-bedbug here while the city has gone super sized. And, while we're at it, let's just call a spade a spade: You know David's Bagel is the best in the city. Can I get an amen?! Thank you. I'll tell the owner you guys say hi. Last I checked his body was still crumpled beneath the street light.
I can see you now. Speedo clad, mixed drink in hand huddled around the pool listening for the next radio update. The rescue boats from Maryland and Boston should be arriving any minute now. Hell, if they get there soon enough you can get toPtown in time for Tea. If that's the case, which going by your luck, probably is, please tell Tommy I always had an eye for him and if I wasn't being attacked by bedbugs, in a city bursting with chaos, I'd have asked him out.
I knew I shouldn't have picked up that call. You guys begged me not to, but it was just an ordinary day. Had I known I was going to be maggot-food in a week I wouldn't have taken the work call, but it was Saturday afternoon and I already had my fill of booze and boys. Now you guys are soaking it all up. Your own isle of male. I suppose Fire Island is now the literal Never-Never Land we've all been searching for. The place where you never have to grow up. Where you stay young and beautiful forever. Let me know some years down the road whether that legend actually proves to be true or not. That island, that glistening sliver of land. A swimmer on his back drifting at the edge of the ocean. Damn you lucky bastards.
The terror in the streets is growing. The glass is breaking all around me. My radio has been silent for more hours than I'd like to admit. This city, the high rent, the heat, the hustle and bustle and the creepy-crawlies which only exist in the shadows have finally taken me under. The city has officially caved in.
But hey, look on the bright side, at least they don't have to debate building that fucking mosque anymore.