Growing up, I was incredibly close to my grandmother. I was even incredibly close to her as a grown-up, if a punk twentysomething kid counts as a grown up. (It doesn’t.) And I’d still be incredibly close to her today as a 40 year old husband and father, but she passed away many years ago and I can’t even talk about it, so don’t ask me to.
For real, though. I’ve never “dealt” with her…geeze, I can’t even write the word death in context with her without pausing for way too long while trying to think of another synonym that isn’t “passing” and getting weepy. It’s probably not at all healthy, never advancing past the Denial stage of grief, but I fear change. Don’t push me.
This isn’t about my grandmother, though. So don’t worry. I only mention her because this post is tangentially about her, in the sense that she features as only a minor character in this particular embarrassment, but recalling it did make me think of her, and I had to process it before telling you about the night I was almost murdered by insects.
You’ll see. It’ll all make sense in a minute. I promise.
My Other Questionable Decisions
I don’t know my exact age, but I was probably somewhere around 10 years old when this all went down, because that’s when KILLER BEES were really big in the news. If you weren’t around back in the mid-’80s, the media basically spent several minutes every evening warning everyone that swarms of homicidal rage bees were bearing down on us, and that we were all very likely to die any minute.
That happened a lot in the ’80s. If I wasn’t abducted from the shopping mall and murdered, I was probably going to end up taking candy from a stranger and then get murdered. Or I’d fall in with a Satanic cult and murder some other kid who we offered candy to before I was murdered by the high goat priest or whatever. Or, of course, the bees would get us.
Picture the movie Jaws, but with thousands of tiny sharks that fly. That’s how I imagined killer bees, only slightly worse because I assumed that they could actually kill me. Just one of them, I mean. Not an entire hive. A killer bee was a killer bee, and I figured that one was just as deadly as a thousand. You know, truth in advertising, sort of thing. They said it on the news, after all. Had to be true.
I imagined they did this by way of poison stingers that would paralyze, then kill you in some terrible way. But all it took was JUST ONE STING.
Because that’s how everything worked in the ’80s:
- Have unprotected sex JUST ONE TIME, and you’d either get AIDS or a baby. Or both, and you’d also quite possibly wake up in a motel bathroom with your liver hacked out.
- Try crack JUST ONE TIME, and you’d either die instantly, or develop a crippling addiction you’d sell your body on the street to support, which would likely involve unprotected sex. In which case, see above.
- Try marijuana JUST ONE TIME, and then you’d immediately try crack. In which case, see above.
- Play Dungeons and Dragons JUST ONE TIME, and you’d eventually start sacrificing kittens to dark gods while listening to Heavy Metal and smoking weed, which would lead you to crack, then on to bareback sex in dirty alleyways with underage prostitutes who had been abducted by other Satanists, who you’d probably get pregnant, but not before they stole your kidney. Or liver. Whichever.
Back to the bees, though. I just assumed that, if one stung you, that was it. Card punched. Ticket taken. Death would show up on a pale horse, I’d lose at chess because I was still struggling to master Connect Four, and off I’d go into the undiscovered country.
It was pretty terrifying.
I mentioned in another post recently that I’ve experienced only one episode of sleep paralysis – and that was mostly true. And it was a pretty classic (and terrifying) example of the phenomenon. (Click here to read about it.) But it’s not entirely true, because it kind of also happened many, many years before I was a twenty-something and living in a crappy, probably haunted, apartment.
I was somewhere around 10 years old the first and only other time it happened. And killer bees were in the news. And my grandmother had knitted me an afghan.
One night, I was sleeping under that afghan when I had a nightmare that I was being chased by a swarm of the murderous little bastards. I don’t remember when or where they started coming after me, but I do know that I somehow managed to outrun them just enough to barely escape inside my house. I slammed the front door behind me, and could hear them buzzing and crashing against it. And, being somewhere around 10 years old, I ran to my room and hid under my covers until they went away.
Or, more specifically, I hid under the afghan my grandmother knitted for me.
Of course, as with any good horror movie, my dream didn’t end there. Not before I discovered that one lone killer bee had made it inside the house.
And it had found me.
That’s when I woke up. In some kind of crazy Inception moment, I’d awoken from a nightmare where I’d hidden from killer bees under the exact same afghan I was currently sleeping under. And one of them was on my chin.
It was just sitting there, waiting to pierce its terrible stinger into my tender flesh, rendering me helpless and immobile and very, very dead. I was terrified.
But I couldn’t move. I could barely even breathe, not that I really wanted to. I was scared that any tiny hint of movement would provoke the bee to sting, and that would be it for me.
So I was just lying there, silent and still and screaming inside.
It wasn’t quite sleep paralysis, because I don’t remember ever thinking I couldn’t actually move if I’d wanted to. I just really didn’t want to, because I wasn’t all that eager to piss off the tiny murderer standing on my chin.
I don’t know how long I’d lain there, but it seemed like forever. Every now and then, I’d feel the bee move – just the slightest twitch, maybe one of its legs (but probably its stinger), and I’d panic. Eventually, I tried to call out to my sister across the hall.
Which was mostly just like that almost-silent whimper a dog makes when you haven’t given it any of your cheeseburger, and it knows you’re about to eat the last bite. So she didn’t hear it.
I tried calling out to my parents. Same thing.
So I just stayed still in the bed, terrified and sweating until something snapped. At some point, I just gave in. I accepted my fate and started coming to grips with my own mortality.
Yes, when I was somewhere around 10 years old and in otherwise perfect health, I was saying my goodbyes to friends and loved ones there in that bed, that night. Apologizing for all my secret wrongs and asking for forgiveness. Admitting that I did not, in fact, think my sister was a trollbeast, and that I actually kind of loved her. Wondering what would happen after I died…
That sort of thing.
Once I’d finished my little existential reckoning with the Powers That Be, I was ready to go. And I knew what I had to do.
I might be walking into death’s door, but I’d do it on my own two feet. And maybe – just maybe – I’d defy the odds and live another day. Maybe I’d even manage to trap or kill the bee, after which I’d be a hero to my family and then probably be on the local news or something, and maybe even get invited to appear on Donahue. Who knows?
I spent the next several minutes contemplating my pending fame, the end result of which was probably just me and Tiffany trying to get away into the night, then I’d put my arms around her and we’d tumble to the ground, and then I’d say, “I think we’re alone now.”
Or something. I had a crush. Shut up.
Either way – death or fortune – I was ready to end it. Mustering up all my courage, my body tensed. I took a deep breath, slowly, and held it. I let it build up in me until I was ready to gasp for oxygen, then I shot violently from the bed and swung around in mid-air to, I dunno, roundhouse the bee into oblivion.
Except that never happened.
What actually happened was that I screamed like a wet cat as I threw off the afghan and more fell out of the bed than leapt like a ninja. I scurried backward, away from my bed, dragging my ass on the ground as my heels dug into the carpet and pushed. All the while, screaming.
My parents remained asleep. As did my sister. Maybe I screamed a lot in my sleep and they were used to it, or maybe they just figured times was hard, and if a killer bee wanted to lessen their financial burden by one nerdy child, then far be it from them to get in the way of nature’s wrath. It could’ve gone either way, really.
When no one came to my rescue and the bee never dive-bombed my skull to deliver a death sting, I figured it out.
Those damn tassels.
I’d been dreaming about killer bees, one landed on my chin, and then I woke up. In bed. With one of the tassels from my grandmother’s afghan resting against face, which I then just naturally assumed was a murder insect come to kill me.
I think that was the first time I laughed at myself. Properly, I mean. In the self-aware, slightly lunatic, way of an adult after you realize just how stupid whatever it was you just did was.
© 2015 – 2016, Kristian Bland. All rights reserved.