In Hell

by Tom Baker about a year ago in trauma

How a common insect cost me my sleep, my sanity, and my soul!

In Hell
A little darling from the mouth of Hell: Cimex Lectularias: the common bedbug.

My ex-wife, Satan rest her soul, once told me of a very, very strange dream she had (probably after smoking a huge bowl of skunk weed, as she was occasionally wont to do).

In the dream, she was a contestant on a weird "Running Man"-style game show, where she wandered dark halls performing puzzling, inscrutable tasks. She only remembered being chased by a woman with a massive tail of braided, rope-like hair. "Oh," she told me the next morning. "The whole thing was about how long you could go without sleep. You see, we were in Hell, literally Hell... and in Hell, THERE IS NO SLEEP."

For years, I have planned to use that title for a short horror story; maybe even one of my recordings. But, I never have. I may rectify that situation now, though. For, you see, the opportunity has presented itself. The essential truth of the statement is undeniable: IN HELL THERE IS NO SLEEP.

No sleep. No sleep. Lots and lots of coffee. Drive you mad. Like maybe Freddy from those old teenage slasher movies from the 1980s might jump out at you from your dreams, with those razor-sharp claws he wore, and that maniacal laugh.

Compared to Cimex Lecularius, however, Freddy seems like a positively charming gent. Cimex Lectularius is the common BEDBUG, and I acquired this living nightmare in November last year, due to the inscrutable justice of a cold, calculating and thoroughly malicious universe. Or, maybe to punish me for my many, many sins and indiscretions. (I am at a loss here, people, help me out.)

I itched and I scratched. I felt, like, little invisible hairs crawling through my clothing. Three months later, they're still there (but maybe I'm just a little more psychotic than I was before. Parasitosis, the psychiatrist called it. But, there's nothing delusional about the painful BITES on my body.)

I went to the management of my building. I figured they would provide the HEAT OPTION and nuke those little bastards as they had done for me years before. Hadn't had a problem in my apartment in YEARS after that. I was surprised, however, when the (ahem) "management" (we can refer to her, for the sake of anonymity, as "Ilsa Shutzstaffel") said, "Uh-uh. Not gonna do it. No way, Jose." Too expensive, I take it.

So, to that end, they sent in a rather questionable extermination pest "control" duo, one of whom did some steam treatment on my mattress and then left without any further instructions. I laid down that night, expecting GOOD SLEEP. Instead, I found out that the "treatment" did little more than stir the bloodsucking micro-monkeys up. And I got NO SLEEP; but I did start seeing literal visions of Hell.

I work as a (to be charitable) "entertainer" for phone companies specializing in fortune telling, astrology, and psychic stuff. Been doing it for years, and it's the cornerstone of how I and my disabled mother survive. Need that money, badly.

But, you have to be awake and ALERT to keep your customers coming back; keep 'em on the line when the price goes up. My work was usually stellar (I'm one of the best at "reading" Tarot for people), but it began to suffer through sheer exhaustion. And, in this industry, you're only as good as your last week or so. So I started losing work and money, because of bedbugs.

You see, if you lie down, and you start to doze, they wake you up, suddenly, with an itch here, a sting there; here-a-bite, there-a-suck, everywhere-a-suck-suck.

Now, they are as tiny as pinpricks. They go through five various stages to adulthood. They then look like a blood red apple seed with legs. Cold doesn't kill 'em; they hibernate, and adults can go without food for a year and a half or thereabout. They like paper and cloth, to hide, to hitch a ride. No matter if you're clean, or covered in dirt, they'll hitch out and hide, on the tail of your shirt.

I went back to the management. They were not thrilled with being challenged and decided to "stay the course" as far as "treating" my infestation. I started getting the picture (i.e. they don't give a shit if you or anyone else in the building has a chronic bedbug problem.) I was told, "Bedbugs take TIME to get rid of." Which is a lie, of course. If it takes "time" to "get rid of them," you never, in reality, do. Some folks in our building, I found out later, had had them multiple times.

I began to pitch garbage bags of my huge collection of books and art supplies, pictures, etc.; and, generally, I completely cleaned out my living room. I even threw away the rugs and must have committed bedbug mass murder by doing so, as it calmed the problem a little.

I knew I was going to have to move, or I would be tormented with bedbugs forever, over and over again, for years. Also, my mother, who is physically disabled, lived downstairs. I wanted her out of it too, explaining she'd eventually have them, even if they claimed she didn't as of yet. She finally agreed, and we borrowed money against her inheritance to move the both of us, neither of us having moved to a new place in over a decade. And this was during one of the worst, coldest arctic winters on record. While I was not sleeping. And while critters continually infested and re-infested my clothing. (Which must have dropped off, happily, several unexpected presents in the offices of various scum-suckers of the legal and medical variety, who shall remain nameless. Have fun, guys.)

I'm coming off as harsh here, but it's only because I'm working out karma from being literally Genghis Khan in a past incarnation. (Really, I jest, but what else could explain the seeming tidal wave of bad mojo that always seems to come crashing down across the otherwise stark, denuded surface of my personal terminal beach?)

The (ahem) "management" of my building, exemplified (but certainly not limited to) Mrs. Shutzstaffel, seemed oblivious to the raging infestation-in-the making, sending up hair brained pest control duos to spray some toxins (probably end up with lung cancer in ten years), stir the little bastards around, pronounce they had done their "job," and leave. Meanwhile, they could plainly see I was moving out, as my apartment began to resemble a place where the homeless squat.

They said I had 'em. Then they couldn't find any. Then, I was assured by Ilsa that "We found like, only two in your bed." Stupid. Bedbugs aren't loners. They're INSECTS. Where you find a couple of them, there are infernal LEGIONS lurking hidden.

Quite early in the game, being as I like to occasionally read Saul Alinsky, and take his dictum about "using the System against itself," quite literally, I began contacting one, many legal representatives and social service agencies. This may pay off in dividends later, but I'm not going to go into a lot of detail about it here. Suffice it to say, I found that the building, the homey, so-wonderful home I had thought of as home for so many homespun years, was a raging infestation of chronic bedbug invasion. Some tenants claimed to have had them more than once. Many were somewhat upset about the management's completely ineffectual and half-assed attempts to deal with, cover-up, and outright INTIMIDATE poor, elderly residents into SILENCE over the issue. Yeah, you read that last right.

Fraulein Ilsa sent around a missive, explaining that angry residents were not to congregate in the hall, "address directly" pest control, "act in a rude manner," and that, all the so-foolish complaints must be made directly to the commander, Ja? AND THAT, OTHERWISE, THE RESIDENTS MIGHT "JEOPARDIZE THEIR HOUSING."

Which, as the lady from the Indiana Civil Rights Commission told me, is "an implied threat." The Reds over at the Indiana Civil Liberties Union never got back with me. This may all seem as if I'm jumping the gun a bit, but really, I think Saul Alinksy would be proud.

Because the management of low-income, government housing projects such as these are, basically, going to let them go to hell... quietly, because they don't want to spend the requisite funds to correct the situation. So residents will have chronic bedbug infestations, carry them around to their friends and relatives, and launch an epidemic. And, eventually, the pigs will have to deal with the problem, pony up out of their piggy pockets, but, by that time, the cost of dealing with the bedbug epidemic will be exorbitant. Maybe that might make the Orkin man happy, but it's not going to do a lot for Uncle Sam.

Me? I'm seemingly cursed with the afflictions of an Old Testament patriarch (I actually believe in a sort of off-brand, pseudo-spiritualistic Mahayana Buddhism, but that is a digression.), so I moved myself, my physically disabled mother, and did both while trying to keep up the entertainment factor of my jobs, and did both during a record-cold winter, while having bedbugs, fighting with building management, not sleeping, getting legal doors slammed in my face, and generally running off the rails on the proverbial crazy train. Also, spent Christmas in the psychiatric ward suffering from nervous exhaustion. Happy times.

(I did get to watch a lot of bad movies on YouTube. While I was waiting for calls. Also, I read the novel upon which is based This Island Earth. Never say there aren't bright spots.)

Now, four apartments and four thousand dollars later, I am in a new place; and I still have living salt and pepper specks, seemingly, ruining my sleep, crawling through my clothes, and sucking enough blood to make Nosferatu pale by comparison. I have a curious, detached, "damned" feeling now, as if I'd died and already gone to some Hell for my vast sins and indiscretions in this life. The legal and financial fallout from all of this, once it is said and done, remains to be seen. I simply take things one day at a time.

I have two fundraisers I've started, one on GoFundMe, and one on Facebook. A special thanks to all who have been kind enough to donate.

You can get to the Go Fund Me here. All funds will be used to recoup the thousands we, my mother and I, have spent fleeing the last building. Also, if, for some reason, I should have to move, yet again.

I want to thank, truly and sincerely, everyone that has donated so far.

Friends and neighbors, my life is an open book. I'm very honest about who I am. I'm an outsider artist, an obscure writer, a fringe character and experimental musician. An outsider socially, as well as philosophically, spiritually and a "misfit," I suppose. That might be a charitable assessment, actually, I work as a "psychic reader." I have no social life, friends, children, few family members left--I keep on keeping on because I know there are things left to do, tasks left to perform.

But, enough whining. It's tiresome, I know.

I'd give it a rest. But, you see, I can't.

In Hell... well, you see, In Hell There Is No Sleep.


Tom Baker
Tom Baker
Read next: Never In the Cover of Night
Tom Baker

Author of Haunted Indianapolis , Indiana Ghost Folklore, Scary Urban Legends, Midwest Maniacs, Midwest UFOs and Beyond, Scary Urban Legends, 50 Famous Fablesand Folk Tales, Notorious Crimes of the Upper Midwest :

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