The crickets seemed louder than usual my last night in Memphis. I’ve heard them all my life, growing up in the south, and I’ve always found their chirping to be more of a peaceful lullaby than an annoying distraction. But last night was somehow different. It was almost as if the chatter of their hastily rubbed appendages was coming from inside my room, and it had an distinctly menacing quality that I cannot describe now but which seemed very serious in the surrounding darkness. Each chirp seemed to embody a threat, the insect equivalent of a chimp bearing its teeth, and there was suddenly nothing soothing about their song at all.
I lay in bed contemplating this, reminded of a short story I read as a kid called ‘The Veldt’. It was about how a simulated African landscape came to life in a couple’s living room, allowing them to be devoured by lions, to the satisfaction of their incredibly spoiled children. It was the kind of story that stuck with you when you had an over-active imagination, and last night I found myself lying there, hyper-aware of my surroundings and contemplating this bit of science fiction as though it were a cautionary tale about the hazards of letting down one’s guard. This, coupled with the knowledge that a friend’s lizard was one’s eaten by crickets when he put too many in at feeding time, made for a decidedly restless situation.
As silly as it sounds, my next line of reasoning will likely come as little surprise to those of you who know me well. My thought process was as follows: Here we go. The walls of the room have clearly faded away into nothing, and the crickets have begun to take notice. It will not be long now before they are upon me, thousands of tiny jaws working in unison to feast. If I get up immediately, I might be able to outrun them before they swarm.
Imagine, if you please, the chorus of horrors that serenaded me. Picture, you cynics, a room filled with hungry, horny crickets (that is a mating call, after all) who want nothing more to strip you of your delicious flesh and then have sex on your corpse. ‘The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out, the worms play pinnacle on your snout’ takes on a very real meaning here, make no mistake. It was precisely this grueling scenario that faced me that night, albeit in my mind, and a brush with so horrifying a death, be it real or imaginary, is hardly a thing to scoff about.
Fortunately, upon examination of the walls (I didn’t actually get up to touch them, thank you very much; it was enough that my eyes had adjusted so that I could see them), I was reassured that they were still intact. It was nevertheless with some reluctance that I turned back over and let sleep arrive. I am, however, happy to report that upon waking I discovered myself to be entirely without cricket bites and found no evidence of nightly visitors of any kind…this time.