A tickle on your nostril makes you subconsciously snort and sniffle, rousing you from your unconscious slumber, but just enough for you to reach for your blanket, or the black satin sheet, anything to cozy yourself back to sleep. Another tickle, you wipe your nose, you reach again.
Your fingers close, but not on down, nor pillow, nor sheet. Your fingers close on a clump of cold beads, smaller than ball bearings, the size of rounded grains of sand.
What? What is this? You pick up the pile, but it holds its shape in your hand, conforming slowly to the curvature of your grip. You drop a few, tighten your grasp, but lose more through your fingers.
With your other hand, you grope for the lamp. Some beads roll down your wrist and remind you of the way an insect crawls, pinballing between the hairs on your arm that are now standing on end, pulled taught between rippling goosebumps.
Where is that lamp? You look. There’s the light. You hit the switch. You look back.
What IS it?
In your hand you hold a black pile of tiny glittering jewels that are trickling down your arm, like sap from a tree. The trails leading from your palm to your elbow look wet, but your arm feels dry. You pull your hand close for inspection (no need to find the glasses just yet.)
You’re holding ants.
You lunge for your glasses. Now you can see that your hand is a black sequined glove, teeming with the psychedelic undulations of thousands of ants. The glove reaches halfway up your forearm like bejeweled formalwear, then splinters into sickening black veins, snaking toward your bicep.
Expletives fly as you smack the flat of your hand against your mattress, flicking your wrist on the upswing before low-fiving the bed again, *crunch*. Some of the ants fall off and the glove starts to deteriorate.
Oh God, I can feel them everywhere! But you know you’re overreacting. It’s understandable, you have a handful of ants. Now less. A few more whacks and your hand is clean, excepting a few stragglers that you can brush off with the other hand.
Better make sure they’re out of the bed.
You reach for the black satin sheet that has slipped down to your hips, but when you grab it a part breaks free, crumbling like moist sand between your fingertips, tickling your belly as it falls.
The bedsheet is ants.
This time you scream, no words to express the terror of being trapped under a blanket of ants. You scramble to your knees, slapping your legs. The ants are everywhere, fat tendrils creeping up your thighs.
Thank God I wore underwear, but you didn’t, you went to bed naked tonight because the low was only 79 and it was fucking scorching all day and your fucking box fan stopped working. It was a temporary solution, but the weather was supposed to break tomorrow, so you thought fuck it, I’ll live a little.
You’re not wearing underwear, it’s more ants, they’re traversing your genitals through the crevice of your buttocks.
All composure is now a long-forgotten dream. You’re stamping your feet, smacking your knees into your chest and rubbing every inch you can reach with your hands, but every pass just sweeps ants with more ants. You’re making progress, but it’s slow, and the ants keep finding interesting places to tickle you.
An ant crawls into your ear so you send a finger in after it, but your finger is covered with more ants so they’re going in too.
You stamp your feet on the bed, hoping to crush the ants you’ve thus far divested, but retch when you see the bed is ants.
You jump down onto the floor, but the floor is ants.
The room is ants.
Everything is ants.