Phantom Itches

by Kenneth Stevens

As I walked into my house, I couldn't help but notice how clean everything looked. The mirrors were free of any fingerprints, and the wood floors were smooth and shiny. I bet I could even eat off the toilet seat without fear of germs. I walked around the house, admiring the job the cleaning crew had done. I ran my finger along the door's bumped-out archway, and to my surprise, there wasn't a speck of dust to be found.

After I had explored the main floor, I decided to check out my basement. I scanned the two finished rooms and scrutinized the floors, corners, and every nook and cranny. But even after my thorough inspection, I couldn't find a single dust bunny or cobweb. Next, I headed into the unfinished furnace room, expecting to see cobwebs and dead bugs all over the cold, hard cement floor and around the furnace. But once again, I was surprised to see that there was nothing there.

I should have hired this cleaning company a long time ago. In the past, I used to dread going into the basement and finding insect carcasses piled up on the window sill, dried-up centipedes and millipedes curled up and frozen on the floor, and worst of all, spiders in the corners with their sticky spiderwebs and fuzzy eggs waiting to unleash thousands of eight-legged monsters throughout the house. But now, this place was deserted thanks to the cleaning crew, and I could sleep easy knowing that my house was immaculate and bug-free.

After a refreshing shower, I climbed into bed and drifted off to sleep rather easily that night. Though I did have a few phantom itches on my arms and legs, I was able to drift off and settle into a deep sleep. The next morning, I woke up feeling better rested than I had been in a long time.

I had a quick breakfast and headed outside for some yard work. The weeds were taking over the landscaping around my house, and the bushes were in dire need of a trim. So, I grabbed my gloves, a small shovel, and hedge clippers and began my laborious task.

As I was digging up the weeds, I suddenly felt something crawling up my left arm. I quickly swiped at it with my right hand, knocking the offender to the ground. I grabbed my shovel and slammed it down into the dirt, hoping to kill whatever creepy-crawler crawled up my arm. I lifted up the shovel and gazed at the gooey remains of a quarter-sized spider, two of its legs still twitching. I wiped the shovel in the grass and continued with my work. The rest of the day, I kept feeling a crawling sensation on my arms and neck, but each time I looked or slapped my hand, nothing was there. I knew it was just my mind playing tricks on me, like when you walk into a spiderweb and feel like thousands of spiders are crawling up and down your skin.

After a few more hours of work, I finally decided to call it a day. I walked inside, my muscles screaming in pain, and took a hot shower to wash away the dirt from a hard day's work.

I climbed into bed, ready to fall asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow, but something felt off. My arms and legs began to tingle, followed by my back and head. I scratched, but the sensation moved to a different part of my body each time. I knew it couldn't be bugs because the cleaning company did an excellent job. I tossed and turned for hours, but the tingling and itchiness wouldn't go away. However, I eventually fell into a deep sleep.

The next morning, I woke up feeling groggy and my throat and mouth felt extremely dry. I struggled to open my eyes, and when I finally did, my eyelids seemed to be stuck together. I rubbed my eyes and pulled away a thick white substance that stuck to my fingers. As the fog lifted from my mind, I felt light sensations all over my body. I looked down and saw hundreds of spiders crawling all over me. My arms and legs were covered in thick white spiderwebs, and my sheets were blanketed with arachnids and insects.

I saw movement out of the corner of my eye and looked over to see five or six centipedes crawling across my pillow and onto my face. I screamed and brushed them off, feeling the smashed bugs stick to my skin. I ran to the bathroom as the spiders hung from their webs on my body like marionette strings. My tongue began to tingle, and I coughed dryly as a handful of earwigs fell out of my mouth and scurried across the floor.

I turned on the water and jumped into the shower, not waiting for it to heat up, and scrubbed my body and hair until my skin was raw. I ran water into my mouth and took a couple of huge gulps after spitting some out. After about an hour, I finally felt like I got everything off of me. I dried off and inspected every centimeter of my towel for bugs before walking back into my bedroom to investigate the infestation.

The sheets and floor appeared to be free and clear of any bugs. I walked over and pulled the sheets and blankets off the bed. Just as I began to think that I imagined the whole thing, I saw a solitary spider crawl along the bottom of the mattress and disappear into a hole in the side of it.

On an unrelated note, I have a mattress for sale at a very reasonable price; it is in great condition other than a small sewed-on patch on one side, but that will be covered up by a sheet anyway. Let me know if you are interested.