Prompt Day #326: The memorial home has called the pest company. It is infested with something typical, yet the population of this pest is abnormal. What does the exterminator discover during his work?
Don’t Let The Bed Bugs Bite
“Oh, thank goodness you’re here. We have a viewing tonight, is there any way you can eradicate the things before six?” The man, Dan Kimball if Hank’s memory served correctly, asked him. He rubbed his hands together worriedly. His tailored three piece suit spoke volumes about the man’s attention to appearance. Any talk of bugs infesting this funeral home would be devastating.
“Well, I can’t say for sure until I get a good look at things.” Hank said. He wasn’t about to laugh at the man and tell there was no way in Hell he’d be able to get the place clear by evening, but he needed the money, he’d play the game.
“Of course, come with me.” The man headed off towards the back of the large, labyrinthine building. Hank suppressed the morbid urge to gawk in to each room. The man was doing a walk that Hank often called ‘stick up the ass waddle’. “Now, two weeks ago, we had a body in here, from a…how should I put it…less fortunate family, and I suspect the bed bugs were in the man’s clothes. Now, they’ve spread to every coffin in our showroom and I fear they’ll end up feeding off the dead or jumping on guests.” He stopped and turned to Hank. “Tonight’s viewing is a man from a very prominent family, we simply cannot have bugs crawling on anything. We’ll be ruined.”
Hank held a hand up to the man. “Well, let me assure you that these bugs feed on blood. They won’t have any interest in an embalmed body. So I can’t imagine them staying too long in an occupied coffin.” The man gave Hank a strange half smile, turned on his heels and continued on to the back of the house.
Hank walked over to the coffin display. Six hefty coffins sat opened. Each a different color with different colored satin cushioning for a dead body who would never appreciate it. Hank never quite understood the point of paying for one of these upscale boxes to hold a dead body that’s just gonna rot it up. But hey, to each his own. He wasn’t gonna fault anyone for the way they made their money.
He bent over into the first box and began looking in all the creases. There they were. Hank hitched his breath and sighed. He looked at the next one and the next. Yep. Infested alright. They just had an odd coloration. One he’d never seen before. After a bed bug feeds, their stomachs turn a rosy red for a bit before fading away. These all had a red color to them. Almost as if they were albino bugs that had just fed. But these coffins were empty and it was safe to assume no one slept in them.
“So, no one actually gets into these coffins, do they?” Hank asked. Mr. Kimball gave him a strange look before shaking his head.
“Strange. Bed bugs are usually found in people’s beds because it’s a good place to feed. There’s no reason for them to be in here.” He reached out to pick one up.
“Dan!” A woman came running in shouting. They both jumped. Hank pulled his hand back from the strange red bugs. “You both better get up here. I just saw one of those bugs feeding on Mr. Carver.” She was in a panic.
“Can’t be.” Hank said but followed Dan Kimball back upstairs to the front room. The corpse lay in a sleek black coffin with thick cream color cushion. The body was vaguely familiar to Hank. Someone on the town administration board or some big wig like that. He wore a black suit with a dark blue dress shirt beneath. The crimson colored bugs stood out like blood droplets on the dark fabrics. Hank bent over and pulled open the creases, there they were, a bunch of them.
“This makes no sense.” He said and looked back at Kimball. “This body is embalmed, right? There’s no blood in it.” Hank touched the corpse; cold. “I don’t understand.”
“Can you get rid of them?” Kimball asked through clenched teeth. That stick up his ass wasn’t in danger of falling out anytime soon.
“I don’t know. I’ve never seen anything like this. What are they feeding on?” He leaned into the coffin, practically lying across the body.
“Well, I suppose there might still be a little blood in the fluid.” Kimball said.
“Kids are getting high on embalming fluid these days.” The woman chimed in. Her bag of make-up had been left spilled open when she went running for Dan. She obviously worked on the bodies before the viewing.
“What? Are you serious?” Hank asked, forgetting the demonic coffin bugs for a moment.
“Oh yes, the police have warned us about possible break-ins and robberies. They’ve asked us to keep it in a separate container under lock and key.” Kimball nodded solemnly.
“They get crazy!” The woman gossiped. “Hallucinations and violence. You know I read a story about a man who got high on embalming fluid and tried to put his baby in the oven and cook it! Thank God its mother came home in time.” Kimball continued his head bobbing.
“But bugs aren’t trying to get high.” Hank said more confused than he’d been before. “Plus, they’re getting blood from somewhere. Look at this red coloration.
“The fluid is red. It’s tinted so the body maintains a life-like glow.” Kimball said.
“But, there’s…I don’t…I need my bag.” Hank said. He needed some specimen jars. Those bug scientists at the museum would have a field day with these things. Hank had been in extermination for twenty years and he’d never seen anything like this. He always took strange bugs to those guys and he’d learned a lot about his job from them. They’d certainly get a kick out of this.
“Please hurry.” Kimball looked at his watch. Hank mimicked the gesture. Four. He had about an hour and a half to get this coffin cleared. He’d have to come back for the others. But he couldn’t promise that there wouldn’t be a residual smell. He decided to keep quiet about it. Kimball could deal with the after math. Hank would still get paid.
He returned from the trunk with his specimen containers. He would need to catch a couple of those things to show the entomologists. The woman and Kimball both stood by the coffin, wringing their hands. Brother and Sister, Hank decided. It had to be. He approached the coffin again. The bugs were literally everywhere. They covered the body, some attached, siphoning the hallucinogenic fluid from the corpse, some crawling about, looking for a free patch of skin.
He reached a hand in, hoping to snag a couple between his fore-finger and thumb when the ruddy devils leaped onto his arm, quickly burrowing beneath his skin. Hank watched in horror, as his arm rippled with the multitude of bodies crawling subcuticularly up towards his chest. He flailed backwards screaming. Kimball and his sister ran towards him. Kimball made the mistake of stopping and peeking into the coffin, a mass of bugs leaped onto his face and quickly dove beneath his cheeks. The last thing Hank saw before succumbing to the masses was Kimball’s face, bubbling and crawling away from his skull, his screams the soundtrack to the end of both their journeys.