The furry millipede crawled out from under the nightstand, curved antennae sensing the two humans before they had a chance to speak. Then, the chaos of sounds began.
"Gross!" Karl said. "I hate bugs!"
"You do?" Laura queried, dark blue eyes observing the creature with joyous intent. She had never seen one like it before.
"Of course! Don't you?"
She looked at him as if he had said the stupidest thing in the history of stupid things, which probably wasn't that far off from the truth.
"No! Why would I? I'm an entomologist for fuck's sake! And this little fellow here is beautiful." She scooped it up and allowed it to walk free on the back of her left hand.
"It's disgusting!" Karl insisted, wondering why his best friend had such a poor taste. Indifferent to two-legged silliness, the insect scurried along her index finger and then...
"Shit!" Laura shouted.
"It bit me!" She waved her hand frantically, tossing the crawler away.
"And that's why I don't like bugs. Are you okay?"
"Yeah. It was just unexpected, that's all! Where did it go?"
"I don't know."
"We need to find it again. Help me look."
"It could be poisonous."
"And you only thought of it now?"
"I didn't expect to be bitten, Karl! Go on, less talking, and more searching."
They scoured the bedroom up and down, leaving no object unturned, but the bug was long gone. Fresh blood dripped from Laura's blue-painted fingernail.
"I'm sure it's nothing."
"I hope so but I'm feeling warm. Am I warm? I think I'm..."
"Overreacting? I think so, too."
"You really think so?"
"Yes. Perhaps you should get some rest and we can hunt for bugs again tomorrow. I have enough spray for us both."
"You wouldn't dare!"
"Relax, I'm joking. Until tomorrow, okay?"
They parted ways with Laura returning to her house and Karl staying alone with all the strange alien creatures he often failed to see. That thing was nasty looking indeed and if he happened to catch a glimpse of it again, it was as good as squished. When the night fell into the world of dreams, so did he, and his dreams were bizarre.
He dreamt Laura had returned and that her eyes glowed green in the darkness of the empty room. She sat on his naked body, a wild smile dripping warm saliva over his hairless chest. Razor-sharp nails played with his ball sac as if they were a fleshy cocoon.
"Laura? What's going on?"
"Shhh... don't talk," she cooed. "You don't need to. You just need to listen. You can do that for me, can't you?"
"I... sure," he muttered, letting the dream unfold according to its own rules. Something wiggled underneath her wavy hair. Something soft, squishy...
A bug. No, not just one. Dozens of them. Miniature versions of the animal they had seen earlier and more. A cockroach danced in her ear lobe, three beetles rolled down her exposed breasts.
"I said don't talk, didn't I? Something wonderful happened, Karl. I'm so happy I had to share the news with you right away."
"You're covered in bugs."
"I know. My subjects long to stay close to their Queen. Isn't that great?"
"What are you talking about?"
"I was chosen. Marked. That bite was a rite of passage. I can understand every single one of them now and, best of all, I can make them do what I want. You will love this."
Centipedes and flies swarmed around his wrists, caterpillars nested on his cock, and bees stung his legs and feet. Paralyzed, Karl watched in horror as the cute girl he had known for more than twenty years licked her lips to say:
"Time to make a drone out of you."
He woke up with cold sweat dripping from his forehead, his hate of bugs intensified by the nightmarish vision. A lonely spider making her web on the wall closest to the bed was the first victim of a terrifying killing spree.
On the next day, Laura came back eager to continue her search. The wound hadn't been deep enough, more of a hypochondriac scare than anything else. She brought a flashlight with her, special gloves, and bottles, certain that a treasure trove of creepy crawlers was waiting for her.
"I'm going to look in the basement, okay?" she smiled.
"Be my guest," he replied, leading the way. As he opened the door to let her pass, a veil of shadows fell on her pristine face. Laura bit her lower lip as her eyes glowed.