Peter Thornton was eighteen years old, a skinny teenager who was returning from a house party. He felt his bones freeze each time the wind touched him, a reminder that he should have stayed where he was until the morning, but his drunken state made him act like a fool. He wanted to impress his friends but ended up getting booted out of the house for puking over the host and fighting with her boyfriend. Now he was all alone and too drunk to know where he was. The wind was so strong that it almost turned him around like a human weathervane, his coat held against his chin as he tried mapping out the direction to his home from within his mind, but it wasn’t working and he was way off course.
The bugs watched him struggle to walk in a straight line, the shadow keeping out of sight as they began to circle him. They moved across the snow like they were floating on it, the circle keeping Peter inside as he kept moving. He swayed across the street as it tightened, wandering away from the houses to end up at an old abandoned play area. He never saw them upon staggering towards a swing, almost slumping to the ground before gripping onto it, but the circle remained tight to close in even more.
He sat on the swing to squash the layer of snow resting on it, his body swaying as his jeans became wet, but Peter didn’t seem bothered by it. He choked upon leaning over to spit on the ground, his vision blurred as he stared at the bugs, giggling because he thought the drugs being passed around at the party were sending him on a strange trip. He laughed out loud and spat at them, but the bugs reformed into the shadow to leave his mind lost with what to think. He knew he was way out of it. He laughed again, watching the shadow change shape, his eyes adjusting as it rocked from side-to-side to hypnotise him.
He stared the shadow up and down, still not taking it seriously, spitting once more before starting to sing. He pushed the swing back-and-forth, his croaking voice slurring out words from a song dated back to the eighties, the noise echoing out of the play area to drift towards a house across the street. Peter coughed up vomit, wiping a hand across his mouth to the sound of someone shouting at him, his head turning to see an elderly man lean out of a window acting furious for being woken up. Peter waved in the man’s direction before singing the song again.
“Hoy! Keep that fucking noise down!” the man bellowed.
Peter stopped singing and rubbed his eyes, the words surprising him as he stared hard at the man.
“Can you see me, you dumb fuck?” the man said, now feeling more annoyed for letting the cold into his home.
“Shut up. You’re just jealous because I can sing.” Peter shouted back.
The man’s face was raging now as he said, “If you don’t stop that awful racket then I’ll come down and make you.”
Peter laughed harder and louder than before as the sound of the window slamming down caught his attention. He noticed the man was gone, his mouth producing a smile because he thought he’d won the battle, but, as he attempted to leave the swing, his smile quickly faded. Peter couldn’t move his legs. He tried and tried but they felt like logs stuck in the ground, his movements coming to nothing as he panted for air. He laughed nervously upon glancing at his feet, his shoes covered with bugs to hide them from him. He felt the insects crawl up his legs, his eyes welling up after he still couldn’t move them. He opened his mouth to produce a silent scream, slobbering before swiftly being dragged off the swing, his hands digging into the snow to slow himself down. But his body tightened to leave him in a state of panic, his scared eyes now watching the bugs pull him along the ground.
Peter’s legs were now covered with bugs, their strength too much for him to fight back. He shed a tear as they reached his stomach, his body disappearing in a flash to leave just a line in the snow.
The elderly man appeared in the distance, his walking stick preventing him from falling over as he neared the swing. He searched for the teenager, noticing he was gone, his stick now held in the air in victory.
“You better run, you fucker,” he said, as he rotated to look around him. “Don’t come back here if you know what’s good for you.”
He smiled, thinking he was Rocky Balboa, the teenager fleeing because he had scared him off. He waved the stick above his head but quickly brought it back to the ground after slipping on the ice, his legs wobbling as he turned to walk home.
My mother used to quote the Bedbug phrase to me and my sister when she had finished tucking us in at night and yes it was more terrifying than comforting and you do wonder why such a farewell ever came into play. I feel I am on safe ground saying it wasn't due to an alien race of creatures which could move in the shadows and make mincemeat of any organic substance for their own sustenance and that of their hive queen but who knows. Using this seemingly innocent phrase as the core of a scifi/horror story may seem a stretch but Lee pulls it off with Bedbugs and his decision to set the story in the non too distance future allows the use of some more advanced technology but retains all the flaws of our own society.
Now don't get me wrong Bedbugs isn't a high concept story nor is it intended to get the reader asking the important questions of life it's an out and out easy to read horror/slash tale of malevolent aliens who slaughter their way through a small English town and the in over their heads police force who have to face the onslaught.
I used to be a big fan of Dean R Koontz's story telling but as he developed his style his writing got more complex and darker and that's not what I really wanted from him and Bedbugs has strong echoes of the early work from Dean which is probably why despite a very visceral reaction to the first killing in the book I kept reading and got my reward via some fun, stupid, daft, brave and unexpected characters in bizarre and over the top situations.
Bedbugs is not a work of classic scifi/horror fiction by any means but come on look at the cover and read the blurb, you will certainly get plenty of what they promise and that is all you can ever ask for in a book or a movie, go in expecting a bit of blood and gore with a dose of humour and you'll be happy.
I downloaded it for free a while back and wasn't expecting much. To my surprise however this was a very fun read. I highly recommend it. The plot is fun and fast-paced with plenty of twists and turns and the characters are likeable.
This is a hard chapter to read, from an emotional sense. I realized something had happened, but the death of her son is still a shock. You have some well-chosen details, and the pace is terrific. Death of children is always hard to deal with in fiction, even though it seems to be a more common theme. I'll want to read more. Ray.
A very scary first chapter you have here. This held me from start to finish.
...The writing is clear and easy to understand. The descriptive is very good at portraying the scene, especially when the dad finds his son."