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The Year of the Cicada: A Terrifying Short Story

By Kevin Patrick Kenealy Jenny Hammond’s worst fear was when cicada season came around, so when she scrolled through Google News and saw that their 17-year cycle was due this spring, she nearly dropped her phone. Jenny had tried to suppress her memory of that summer in 2012 when a swarm of cicadas flew from a tree and landed in her hair. She was on her first date with her then crush, Todd Caulfield, and she believed her screaming and crying scared him away for a second date. She found dead cicadas in her hair three showers later. 

They're coming for you...


Jenny’s husband, Mike, walked out of the bathroom and found her pouring a glass of wine. 

  “You alright, honey? It’s still morning.”

  “Mike, remember when I told you that I had a fear of cicadas?”

  “Um, yeah, sure.”

  “Well, they’re back. This summer.”

  Mike laughed and waved his hand, disregarding her irrational fear. Jenny dipped her eyebrows and turned away. 

  “Honey. It’s no big deal. It’s a bug. Just a bug.”

  “Just a bug? They’re everywhere, Mike. You can’t walk on the sidewalk without seeing one.”

  “They’re gone in like six weeks. It’s nothing to worry about.”

  “Well, I’ll be staying in for those six weeks.”

  “So, you’re going to spend your summer break from teaching sitting on the couch, drinking wine?”

  “Yes. Do you have a problem with that?”

  Mike chuckled but quickly stifled his laugh as his wife threw him a disgusted look. He made a mental note not to bring up cicadas anymore. As Mike shuffled into the kitchen to make breakfast, Jenny flipped on the TV only to find a news report on the upcoming cicada season.

  “Well, this is going to be the year of the cicada,” reported TV anchor Robert Robertson. Video footage of cicadas clinging to tree trunks flashed as he spoke, and Jenny made a mad dash for the bathroom. Mike could hear her dry heaving. 

  “Are you okay in there?”

  When she came out with her temple covered in sweat, Jenny threw him that disgusted look again. Mike opened his mouth to say something but thought better of it. 

  Mike decided it was a good time to excuse himself and lay out his Scotts fertilizer that he had been procrastinating. It was time for the Two Step-Weed Control. By the time May rolled around, those dandelions had sprouted up, and boy, did he hate picking those. Jenny thought they were just as pretty as any of the flowers they had, but he begged to differ. As he opened the garage and dumped the bag into the spreader, he noticed he wasn’t the only one doing yard work today. The Johnsons across the street had their yard service out, and Barry next door was spraying for weeds. 

  “Seems like we get more weeds every year, doesn’t it, Barry?” Mike asked. 

  “Got that right. I feel like I’ve already gone through a half bottle of Roundup here and just started,” Barry said. 

  Mike shook his head, laughed, and spread the fertilizer evenly along his green lawn. It was coming in full and lush from the constant rain. He felt like he left his Illinois home and moved to Ireland. 

  “Damn weeds,” Mike said with a shake of his head. 

  Their oak tree gave him some relief from the late May heat. It seemed to get hotter every year. He remembered when they had springs and longer, harsher winters with more snow. Their biggest snowstorm this year was a five-inch blast meteorologists had originally forecasted at twelve. That’s how the last few years have been going, though. Tame winters, shorter springs, hotter summers. 

  When Mike finished spreading the front and back lawns, he got a bottle of Weed N’ Feed and began killing every dandelion he saw. He felt like Clint Eastwood or something. 

  “Say your prayers, vile weed.”

  Jenny tiptoed out on the porch, scanning the premises for cicadas. She had a bottle of Gatorade in her hand. 

  “You don’t see any of ’em out yet, do ya?”

  “No, I didn’t see any of them out. Not to worry.”

  Jenny exhaled and then walked off the front porch toward her husband. 

  “Thought you might be thirsty.”

  “Thanks,” he said, wiping his brow. 

  Jenny scanned the yard and noticed the Weed N’ Feed in his right hand. 

  “Mike, you don’t even have gloves on, and you’re spraying that stuff?”

  “Yeah? So? It’s got a wand. I’m careful.”

  “You know those chemicals can cause cancer. Uncle Ted swore that’s how he got it.”

  “Uncle Ted had dementia, honey.”

  “That may be. But he said that before it set in.”

  Mike unscrewed the orange Gatorade cap and took a good swig of the Cool Blue flavor. 

  “Just be careful, is all.”

  “I am.”

  Jenny crossed her arms and glanced around the neighborhood, noticing how the neighbors were busy with yard work, too. 

  “How much longer are you gonna be? I was thinking we could have some lunch.”

  “I’ll be done soon, okay?”

  Jenny smiled and maneuvered her way back inside. Mike smiled and shook his head. 

  “Hey, thanks for the Gatorade!”

  “Welcome!”

  Mike continued cursing under his breath at the vile weeds and sprayed the Weed N’ Feed freely around all lawn areas. He watched the lawn service across the street, and Barry did the same. Mike wondered if they had wives pestering them about safety. But then again, he had a wife who brought him Gatorade because it was hot out. He couldn’t complain. 

  Jenny had chicken salad sandwiches with a side of cottage cheese and fruit prepared for the two of them when he walked in all sweaty a half-hour later. A couple of fruit flies hovered around the bananas in the kitchen island’s red bowl, and Jenny attempted to smack them dead. 

  “Can’t catch these things!” Smack! Another one slipped through her fingers and hovered around the bowl. Mike meanwhile smacked his lips at the sight of his lunch. 

  “They’re only little flies. A fly never hurt anyone. Now, come on. Let’s eat.”

  “I want you to pour some bleach down the drains for the flies, Mike.”

  “Sure, will, do.”

  Jenny frowned as she missed another one and then turned her frown at Mike for starting in on his lunch instead of finding the bleach. 

  “What now? Can’t I eat first?”

  “Fine. I’ll do it,” Jenny said with a heavy sigh. 

  By the time Jenny poured the bleach, Mike had finished his sandwich and moved on to his side dishes. As much as it irritated Jenny, she loved how her husband could be so satisfied from eating one of her sandwiches, and she appreciated his hard work around the house. Jenny threw an arm around him in a half hug and then sat down next to Mike, who patted her hand. 

  “Looks like you enjoyed it,” Jenny said, grinning. 

  He nodded through a large bite of cottage cheese, and Jenny laughed. 

  “Sorry. I should have waited for you.”

  “Well, yeah. It would have been nice, but you were hungry. I get it.”

  Mike smiled, and the two of them turned to watch their neighbor finish spraying fertilizer on his backyard. A housefly flew overhead and onto Jenny’s plate. 

  “Shoo! Get out of here, you stupid fly!”

  Mike grabbed a paper towel wad from the center of the table and cornered it on the kitchen window. He smashed the fly against the pane, making a loud thud just as Jenny took the first bite of her sandwich. 

  “Got it!”

  “Great. You’re my hero.”

  Mike kissed his wife on the forehead, tossed the fly away in its paper towel coffin, and finished his lunch. 

  About an hour after lunch, storm clouds gathered, and rain pounded the concrete and soaked the fertilized grass. The sky lit up, and thunder crashed every few minutes. Mike and Jenny relaxed on the couch watching a rom-com on Netflix but fell asleep halfway as they cuddled next to one another. The two woke up to the orange glow of the evening sun filtering through their windows. Mike rubbed his eyes and saw that his phone read 7 p.m. 

  “Wow. We slept for almost four hours,” Mike said, smiling at his wife. 

  “Yeah. It felt wonderful, didn’t it?”

  “Indeed it did.”

  Mike let out another yawn and looked around the house to see what he was going to do next. 

  “Want to eat dinner?”

  “Sure. What do you want?”

  “Don’t know. I don’t feel much like cooking. How about we just eat that frozen pizza and maybe share a bottle of wine tonight?”

  Jenny smiled at Mike and nodded in agreement. 

  “Sounds like a plan.”

  Mike walked to the kitchen window as Jenny got the pizza going. 

  “Looks like it dried up in a hurry. The patio table looks dry enough to eat on. Want to eat out there tonight? Seems nice out.”

  “Sure, baby. As long as there aren’t any cicadas,” Jenny said. 

  “There aren’t any cicadas yet. There weren’t any this morning.”

  Jenny white-knuckled the bottle of Riesling as she stepped outside, not entirely believing her husband, but once she didn’t see or hear a single Cicada, she breathed a sigh of relief. The two shared their comfort dinner on the deck that night in peace, watching the lightning bugs and listening to the sound of the occasional grasshopper. Meanwhile, the cicadas were ripe for their coming-out party. 

  Mike saw them first. As the couple stepped outside the house that following Sunday morning for church, Mike almost stepped on a cicada shell and then noticed another and another. There must have been ten of them scattered on their front porch. Then, by the time they stepped off the porch, Jenny noticed one, too, except she stepped on the shell. She screamed like a schoolgirl, jumped out of Mike’s grasp, and flew back to the front door. 

  “I...I can’t go to church today, Mike.”

  “Oh, come on. It’s one little bug.”

  “I can’t go.”

  “Jenny…”

  “I. Can’t. Go!”

  Mike sighed, but he knew he could not convince his wife, who now had a flat cicada shell tattooed on the bottom of her loafers. 

  “Fine. I’ll go. But praying would help you get over this. That’s for sure.”

  Jenny knew he was right but shook her head anyway. She couldn’t face the world right now. Mike unlocked the door to let her in, kissed her goodbye, and headed to St. Thomas. Jenny waved to her husband through the screen door and immediately ran through the house, checking that all the windows and doors were closed. She threw her loafers out and took a shower for good measure. She knew that she had to overcome her fear one day, but figured it didn’t have to be this day. Maybe it didn’t even have to be this year. She’d prefer that the buggers came up every year in small numbers than in swarms every thirteen and seventeen. It was like they were just waiting all those years just to torture her again. 

  She thought of the easy-going day she and Mike shared yesterday and how she hated how one little bug could ruin that today. 

  Meanwhile, at St. Thomas, Pastor John took to the pulpit to make his sermon. Mike enjoyed Pastor John’s sermons and always felt spiritually refreshed after hearing them. They were primarily positive, New Testament-based messages, but he talked about the end of times today. 

  “My friends, every culture predicts when the world will end. The Mayans said it would end in 2012. They were, of course, wrong. A man named Harold Camping predicted several dates for the Apocalypse, changing it from May 21, 2011, to Oct. 21, 2011, based upon his incorrect math taken from Biblical events. Religious leader William Miller said that the end of the world would occur with the second coming of Jesus Christ in 1843. Well, it’s 2024, and we’re still alive and kicking. Jesus tells us in Matthew 25:13, ‘Therefore keep watch because you do not know the day or the hour.’ 

  The end of the world is foreshadowed first for us actually in Genesis when God destroys the world with the great flood because people had grown too sinful. The book of Timothy tells us, ‘In the last days, there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.’

    Have we reached such a sinful world? Are we in the end times? We don’t know. But what we do know is that attendance at churches everywhere is declining. Churches everywhere are closing. Churches everywhere are struggling to recruit new members. This all occurs while plagues seen in our recent history have hit society: the desert locusts that have torn apart large portions of Africa, dangerous hail storms that have caused devastation to our crops, and the power outage we had earlier this summer that left large portions of residents in the dark for a week or longer. If any of these plagues sound familiar, it’s because all you have to do is turn to the book of Exodus to remember the ten plagues that God used to torture Pharoah and the Egyptians until he let the Jews go. The UN estimated that the locust swarm in Africa can threaten up to ten percent of the world population. In Exodus it tells us, ‘They covered the face of the whole land so that the land was darkened, and they ate all the plants in the land and all the fruit of the trees that the hail had left. Not a green thing remained, neither tree nor plant of the field, through all the land of Egypt.’ Strangely enough, the hail storms came before the locusts in the news, even if they appeared in different locations. 

  Now, I won’t predict when the world will end, but I do look to the good book for guidance. Revelation 9:3-10 mentions locusts again, ‘Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth. They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They were allowed to torment them for five months but not to kill them, and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings someone.’ The locust famine in Africa has been occurring for roughly four months. It’s a strange timeline, wouldn’t you say? We know not the time nor the hour. But when Christ does return, he will take the righteous, for the righteous will triumph over the wicked. There are signs out there, not just in nature, but in our human nature of changing times. We must urge people to stay close to God now more than ever. Is God trying to tell us something with these plagues? Probably. Is it the end of times? I don’t know. But I would want to be prepared if it were. Grace, mercy, and peace to God our Father. Amen.” 

  Mike crossed himself and felt a pang in his stomach following the sermon. He had wondered if they were at the end of times, and now, after listening to the pastor’s sermon, he was almost sure of it. 

  When Mike came home, he noticed about double the amount of cicada shells littered around the sidewalk since he left. He tiptoed around the brown carcasses and carefully entered the house without letting a live cicada buzz through the door. The last thing he wanted was for Jenny to see one in her sanctuary. 

  “Jenny! Where are you, hon?” 

  “Jen?”

  When Mike opened the door to their bedroom, he found his wife sound asleep at 12:30 in the afternoon. He closed the door behind him and tiptoed down the squeaky staircase as he had over the cicada shells. 

  “She’s gotta get over it,” he said, shaking his head. 

  Mike threw on the White Sox game and grabbed a beer from the fridge. The only thing that could distract him from Pastor John’s doomsday sermon was America’s pastime. His White Sox had struggled every year the last few years, but he was a die-hard, and die-hards stick with their team through thick and thin. 

  As the game wore on, Mike still noticed no sign of Jenny, but what he had noticed was the incessant cicada buzzing that only seemed to get louder with each inning. He took a swig of beer and turned off the TV sound altogether. Mike didn’t want to compete with the cicadas and risk waking Jen. He already had the sound up to level twenty, the highest level he felt comfortable with someone sleeping in the house. But the cicadas definitely sounded louder than a level twenty. If he had to guess, they would be a level fifty now in terms of TV noise. 

  Eloy Jimenez doubled for the Sox, and Mike nodded approvingly while finishing beer number two. He usually didn’t go past two, but he had tomorrow off, and that whole end-of-the-world sermon kind of freaked him out. As he passed the living room to get a beer, he stopped and looked out the back window toward their patio table - the very same one they had the quiet dinner on last night. The cicadas had littered the deck. It was impossible to tell there was even a deck there. The brown shells and ill-flying buggers tripped over each other, entirely covering the red wooden boards. 

  Mike suspended his empty beer bottle in his hand. He remembered the last 17-year cicada season, but it wasn’t like this. It wasn’t like this at all. He dumped the bottle in the recycle bin and reached for two beers instead of one. 

  “It feels like a double fisting kinda night.”

  The buzzing persisted, reaching such a crescendo that Jenny finally waltzed down the stairs. But she didn’t look relieved from the sleep. Her eyes were beat red, and she looked like she had seen death. 

  “Mike. It’s so loud out there.”

  “Yeah. I know.”

  Jenny helped herself to another bottle of Riesling and watched the rest of the game with her husband. She didn’t even like sports, but she watched anyway to take her mind off the many winged warriors outside. By the game’s end, Jenny had downed the entire bottle, and Mike had crushed three more beers. 

  They needed to sleep with earplugs that night, but it was the copious amount of alcohol that allowed them to forget about it. 

  Jenny awoke to what sounded like someone chopping down a tree. She tossed a strand of hair out of her face, threw the covers over to Mike’s side, and made a bolt for their window facing the street. Their oak was indeed being cut down, but not by public works officials. Jenny squinted through the bright morning sun and cupped her mouth at seeing hundreds of cicadas chopping away at each branch and limb. Leaves fell in piles on the grass underneath, and the infestation had decimated the flower bed surrounding their mailbox. Jenny rubbed her eyes, thinking she must be sleeping, but upon hearing the crack of another branch, she shook Mike awake. 

  “Mike...you have to come to the window. Come, quick!”

  “Huh? What? What time is it?”

  “Never mind that! Come to the window!”

  Mike rolled out of bed like a sloth out of a tree, but he woke up after seeing the cicadas devour the old oak. 

  “What the?!” Mike started, flabbergasted. 

  “See?!”

  “They’re not supposed to do that... that’s what locusts do, and even then….”

  “Well? They are! What do we do, Mike?”

  Mike stood there for a second, scratching his head. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. As they feasted, it appeared the buzzing grew louder. 

  “I’ll call Orkin...tell them there’s an emergency. I don’t know who else to contact for this.”

  “Okay.”

  Mike dialed the local Orkin number he had stored in his phone (they used their service a couple of years prior when they had mice), but a voicemail greeted him on the other end. 

  “If you are calling about the local cicada infestation, please be aware that Orkin is currently in communities trying to eradicate them with necessary chemical treatment. If you need to, you can deter them by spraying water at them or protecting your trees or gardens with foil and barrier tape or netting. If you are calling for any other reason, please leave a message, and we will be sure to get back to you promptly.”

  Before Mike could hang up, the mighty oak that stood there for years came crashing into the middle of the road, nearly hitting a coming car. The cicadas swarmed what was left of the tree and flew onto the car’s windshield. The driver performed a quick three-point turn and drove away in a hurry. 

  Jenny’s eyes shifted from the nightmare on their street to across the block to notice an Orkin truck spraying smoke in the air, much like mosquito trucks do on summer nights. As the white truck left the block and the smoke cleared, it didn’t seem to have much effect, as neighbors’ trees underwent the same painful death as their oak. Leaves flew like confetti as the cicadas turned summer trees into their naked counterparts. 

  “What is going on, Mike? Mike?”

  Mike recalled the sermon yesterday. The last time the world made sense was also the first time he realized it was going to hell. Now, he was living it.

  “Um, maybe the news can tell us something about what’s happening,” he said. 

  He grabbed his laptop and searched “cicadas” in Google News. Several articles from several news and blog channels had already popped up with headlines such as “Cicadas turned locusts devour America,” “The end of the world is here,” and “What happened to the cicada?”

  Mike clicked on that last one. He wasn’t interested in reading about the cicadas destroying America. Mike already could see that for himself. He needed to know why and if there was anything he could do about it. 

  He found a piece by a reporter in the Washington Post. He interviewed a member of the CDC, local pest control experts, an entomologist, and a local politician in Africa dealing with the locust issue. He said their behavior is changing due to climatic changes brought on by human involvement. The entomologist said that it isn’t unusual for insects to adapt to the environment and can even inbreed. “Grasshoppers can inbreed with their mistaken cousin the locust, for example,” he was quoted as saying. The pest control expert pointed to their new behavioral change as increased fertilizer use and climate change since the last seventeen-year cycle. 

  “Cicadas are meant to help trees by dying and releasing many nutrients back into the soil. But now they are acting more like locusts. We aren’t sure why, but we understand that the amount of fertilizer used in the US has tripled since the last cicada season, according to our records.”

  The only comfort Mike found in the story was that they said the cicadas should be dead in four to six weeks if their cycle stays the same. He thought the whole fertilizer and climate change thing might be a little far-fetched, but he also thought it might be as good an idea as any. He had never seen anything like this. 

  Mike handed the story over to Jenny, who nodded with conviction. She seemed to take the ideas much more seriously than her husband. 

   “I told you!”

  “Told me what?”

  “I told you not to use that fertilizer!” 

  “How was I to know I would help create a massive cicada plague?”

  Jenny breathed out and hid her face in her hands. 

  “I just can’t do this, Mike. This is more than my worst nightmares. I could never have even dreamed this.”

  “Yeah, I know. I don’t think I could have either.” 

  He pulled his wife close and squeezed her in a bear hug. 

  Jenny released from his grasp and continued to scroll down the stories. She saw articles about cicadas destroying crops, acres of forestland chewed up, and even car crashes due to swarms of cicadas blocking visibility. 

 “They’re all over. We can’t go out. We’re stuck in here.”

  “Looks that way.”

  “Mike?”

  “Uh-huh?”

  “Are all the windows sealed up?”

  “I believe so, but they wouldn’t come in here anyway. From the looks of things, they only want plant life and whatnot.”

  Jenny nodded with a hint of relief. 

  “So, we just hoard up here until they die next month?”

  “Well, some of us will probably still have to go to work. But you, Ms. Teacher, sure.”

  “Can’t you call off Mike?”

  “For the month?”

  Jenny bit her nails as she stared toward the window once more. Mike drew the curtain. 

  “Listen. Listen to me,” Mike said, giving her a light shake. 

  “It’s going to be okay. These devil bugs won’t be around forever; they’re not lions, tigers, or bears. I’ll get to work.”

  Jenny begged her husband not to go to work the following day. She was on her knees with her hands at his feet. Mike rolled his eyes, dropped his briefcase, and removed his cell phone from his front pocket. 

  “Hello? Hi Sara. Yeah, I won’t be in today. Jenny’s under the weather, and I must be here to care for her.”

  “Alright. Alright, yes, I know. Thanks, Sara.”

  Jenny breathed a sigh of relief, rose to her feet, and threw her arms around her husband in a loving embrace. 

  “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” she exclaimed between kissing him on each cheek. 

  “You know that I can’t do this every day? I’ll have to go back tomorrow.”

  Jenny nodded through a thin smile. She didn’t want to think about tomorrow. She didn’t like to be left alone in a house surrounded by mutated superbugs. Mike loosened his tie and sat on the bed next to her. 

 “So, what do you want to do today?”

  “Well, we could nap, eat a nice lunch, then watch a movie, and…”

  “You know Jenny, you can’t hide from the outside world forever.”

  “I know that Mike. But I can hide from it until those things are gone.”

  The sun had just risen, and they had already heard the caterwauling chirps from just outside their window. Within a half-hour, the chirps would be even louder. 

  “I can’t take it anymore! Do we still have ear muffs around here?” Jenny asked. 

  “I think they’re in the coat closet downstairs. That’s where they’d be if we still had them.”

  Jenny jumped off the bed and ran downstairs, covering her ears as she went. Mike fell backward on the bed, still in his work clothes. He stared up at the fan, thinking how it imitated the cicada wings. 

  So this is the beginning of PTSD - I’m turning into Charlie Sheen looking at fans like in Apocalypse Now.

  Mike heard the close of the coat closet, but what he heard next was the type of scream reserved for teen girls in B-rated horror flicks. Now Mike rushed downstairs to find his wife frozen outside the coat closet, staring out at the back window on the deck. Mike’s jaw dropped as the cicadas covered the window - cicadas who appeared to be looking for a way in. 

  The window vibrated, making a bass tone off their wings and chirps. It was Mike’s turn to hold his wife in a loving embrace, but she just pushed him away and made a run for the basement. Mike stole one more unbelieving look at the back window and followed her. The young couple walked around in circles in their unfinished basement. Jenny threw her hands behind her head as if she had just finished running a 5K. Then, they both plopped on an old rug and sighed. 

  “That’s not normal, Mike. There have been a lot of disasters in this world. I haven’t seen anything like that.”

  “I know.”

  Mike grew pensive and turned inward, thinking of the sermon once more. 

  “What’s wrong? What are you thinking about?”

  At first, he shook his head and stared at the old rug. He played with the frayed tips and held her hand. But after about a minute, he delved into the gist of Pastor John’s sermon. 

  “What he said surprised me then, but now it scares me. It scares me on a whole new level. I just wasn’t trying to show it. I needed to stay strong for you.”

  Jenny tightened her grip on her husband’s hand. 

  “It’s okay to be scared. I was scared of the things before they turned into this.”

  “I know, but….”

  “But?”

  “You hear that?”

  “The buzzing? Yeah, I still hear it.”

  Mike shushed his wife and strained his eyes around the basement. There wasn’t much light down there, but their eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness. From the top of the stairs, Mike spotted a lone cicada flying haphazardly down the steps. And then another, and another. His eyes bulged, and then he grabbed Jenny’s hand over to the basement’s egress window. 

  “We need to move. Now!”

  “What? I’m not going out there!”

  “Well, it’s either go out there or stay in here with them. Look!”

  Mike pointed toward the stairs, where about a dozen people were already congregating. Jenny shot up like an amateur rocket and made a mad dash toward an escape. 

  “Never thought we’d be using this,” Mike said. 

  Jenny looked at Mike and then turned once more toward the stairs. More filtered down into the basement. They were starting to make their way toward them now. 

  “Look, you go first. I’ll give you a boost.”

  “How will you get out?”

  “I’m a pretty good climber. I can handle my own.”

  Jenny hesitated but then nodded. 

  “Okay, be careful.”

  Jenny’s foot slipped over Mike’s right hand on the first try. The buzzing downstairs echoed off the walls now. 

  “Come on! Concentrate! You can do this!”

  Jenny steadied herself, and Mike pushed with everything he had. She unlocked the latch and pushed herself through to a cicada-free patch outside. She paused to look in and saw the superbugs congregating around her husband. 

  “Okay! Hurry up, Mike!”

  Mike jumped to grab the window ledge, and his sweaty fingers missed. His ankle twisted, and he swore in pain. 

  “Mike! Come on!”

  That’s when he got his first couple of bug bites. They were sharp, like the sting of an angry hornet. 

  He swatted at them and winced at the pain in his right leg, but he jumped again. Jenny held her breath, and as he jumped, she tried to reach her hand down the window to pull him up, but she was just too far out of reach. This time, though, Mike held onto the ledge. All he had to do now was hoist himself up. 

  A few more cicadas bit him, and a couple more snapped at his sore ankle. He tried kicking at them. More cicadas filled the basement, and their cry was deafening now. He could no longer hear Jenny, and with each sting, it was getting harder to feel anything. The mutant bugs swarmed him like bees disturbed from their hive. Jenny picked up stones and began throwing them every which way at the cicadas, but that only made some of them fly Jenny’s way. She swatted at them the best she could and shouted down at her husband, who was now dangling on the window with a few fingers on his right hand. 

  More bugs continued to pursue Jenny as the rest stayed back to take down Mike. Like the tree, they fed on him limb by limb until each finger fell from the ledge onto the concrete basement floor. The cicadas surrounded Mike as he screamed out in agony. Their chirping chorus began to drown out his cries as they continued to eat his flesh and throw skin around like pieces of lunch meat. Jenny broke down for a second with tears until she got stung. But with the chorus of cicadas following, she ran back into the house, grabbed the car keys, and jumped into the Ford Escape so fast she felt like she was on fire. The engine stalled for a second as the bugs attacked her windows. She threw on the wipers and backed out of the driveway with such anger and fury she felt like she could kill anyone at any moment. 

  As Jenny drove down her once peaceful neighborhood, she gasped at the number of trees fallen, the flower beds eaten, the grass pulled up, and even the windows in the houses broken in. She sped through the twenty miles an hour subdivision and onto the main street, only to encounter a traffic jam. Jenny had enough. She turned off to the side of the road and found the highway. In the rearview mirror, thousands upon thousands of the buggers filled the sky. They had taken over. Another traffic jam slowed things down on the highway, so she floored it and rode the shoulder until she got pulled over by a highway cop some five miles in. 

  “I just lost my husband to those...those things,” she cried. “I need to get out of here.”

  The cop let her go but said she had to return to the main road. She did, for a second, then turned again for the shoulder. When another cop followed her, she didn’t stop this time. She was not going to stop until she ran out of gas. She would just assume go to jail. Maybe there she would be safe. Perhaps there she could forget about her old life. 



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