Beetles

I remember when it first happened.

I must have been about five. My grandparents’ house, in Bowdon, Cheshire.

At first, I lay with my thoughts. I wasn’t uncomfortable. I wasn’t bored.

But the thoughts ran out, repeated, repeated. Boredom. Frustration. Fuzzing my head.

Still awake. Awake more than daylight hours; tired more than any tiredness I’d known.

Midnight. 1AM. 2AM. 3AM.

My head kept popping.

At 4AM it happened.

My memory says 4AM; who knows? Memory plays tricks.

In my memory: crepuscular light, a grey I’d never seen before.

That’s when I could no more ignore the beetles.

They’d been there a while. They made the fuzz, they made the pops. But dawn’s blue vanguard threw them into contrast.

Blacker than the fading night.

Sharp spindles, dark carapaces. Cluttering my view.

Pierced corneas; chittering. Covering everything.

Always moving, never stopping. Beetles. Embedded in my visual field. Beetles.

Rift in my oculus. A horror movie in my head.

Closed eyes did nothing. That horde kept crawling. On, always, cross everything.

I tried waking parents, sister: they didn’t see them.

No-one could see them but me; feel the scratching. Hours, I suffered alone.

Gradually, dawn came. The beetles receded.

All day a subtler thing replaced them there.

Heightened awareness; unstoppable jittering; brain in perpetual motion.

Restlessness. Seventh sense.

And then, tomorrow, normal again.

Two decades, those tessellating insectoids neglected me.

But now, in adult life, again return to me from time-to-time.

Always follows a sleepless night.

Heralds days of scattergun mind.

New and manic ventures; the start of a mood cycle.

Last night the beetles came again.