Lady and the Bug: Chapter 1

One morning I woke up and felt something was amiss. My skin was much harder than usual, my legs were super-skinny and had grown tiny spines, my antennas were waving around like a pair of whips attached to my head. “Holy crap!” I thought to myself, “I have antennas now?!” I turned my head to look at myself in the mirror, and instantly jumped out of bed. What I saw was so frightening I hyperventilated for the next five minutes. Where my usual pasty face should be there now lie two huge eyes as black as the darkness of the eternal void, a pair of sharp mandibles that open and close sideways, and a neck covered with stiff hairs. I tried to scream, but all that came out were a bunch of buzzing and hissing noises.

I wanted to crawl back into bed and lie there forever, but then I thought to myself, “No, you have to defeat this type of Negative Thinking with Positive Thinking, the way those hundreds of self-help books always said! This isn’t the worst thing to happen to you, you aren’t dying or paralyzed, all your six legs still work and you can still get around. You can do this, you can get up and go to work.” Slowly I calmed down and crawled in front of the mirror. But looking at my own reflection still sent chills down my central nerve cord. “Confidence,” I thought to myself, “Confidence is the key. If you can show that you are Confident about yourself, other people will follow you to the ends of the earth.” I stood up straight on my two longest legs and tried to strut a striking pose, but I was still too weirded out seeing my six legs to feel any confidence.

“Harness the Power of Imagination!” I thought to myself, “Imagine you are your favorite hero at the top of his power.” I tried to imagine I was a rock star. I imagine the sound of thousands of fans packing the completely full arena, and as I arrived on stage the crowd burst into cheers. The women at the front row were completely hysterical, while the men were screaming my name. After a few minutes the crowd calmed down, and I burst open with a few rapid-fire notes on my guitar. With my extra legs I could really shred, and the crowd goes wild. As I was imagining all of this I was playing air guitar in front of the mirror. Seeing myself as a rock star but also a bug at the same time definitely boosted my self-confidence. My antennas waved back and forth in sleek motion instead of frantically, and I stopped strumming on my imaginary guitar and started to prepare myself for work.

I slicked back the few hairs on my head with hair gel, then looked in my wardrobe for something to wear. Unfortunately none of my suits fit anymore, and even if they did I didn’t have the hands to put them on. It didn’t matter since my exoskeleton already covered my nakedness, in fact I found it looked quite handsome because it was incredibly shiny and smooth. But I still grabbed a tie and threw it on.

The next problem was that I couldn’t speak normally anymore. My physiology changed and all that came out of my mouth were insect noises. But I found that with practice, I could make sounds that approximated English. I kept repeatedly enunciating certain phrases like “A, E, I, O, U” “She sells see shells by the sea shore” and “How now brown cow” over and over again until they sounded decently intelligible. But this took a long time, and before I could finish mom knocked on the door and said, “Greg? Are you up yet? You’re going to be late for work.” She opened the door, saw me sitting on the bed, screamed and ran away.

I followed her into the living room where she forced herself up against a corner of the room, her chest heaving and eyes bulging. I lifted my front right leg and waved at her, saying, “Hi mom.”

She loosened her grip on the walls, walked toward me and asked, “Greg, is that you?”

“Yes,” I hissed.

Her jaw hung open for a long time, like she couldn’t find the words to express how she felt. But she finally asked, “What happened to you?”

“I don’t know, I’m not a doctor or an entomologist.”

I went to the kitchen and mom followed me.

“What do you think you’re doing?”

“Getting breakfast.”

“That’s the least of your problems right now, you should go to the doctor.”

I sat at the kitchen table on my usual seat, grabbed a plate of pancakes and said, “Why? What is the doctor going to do? Does he have a serum that turns insects into humans?”

“No, but he might be able to…my point is, you can’t go to work like this!”

“Why not?”

“Your boss is going to freak out once she sees you’re a giant bug!”

“My boss is going to freak out more if I don’t show up to work today.”

Her eyes widened in disbelief. “Fine! If that’s the way you want to be then I’ll let you be. Can’t help you if you’re stupid enough to jump off a bridge,” she said, then angrily walked out of the room.

I started eating the pancakes but something was wrong about them. They didn’t taste very good, kind of bland and unappetizing. Then I caught a whiff of rotting apples. I crawled over to the garbage bin, lifted the lid and gorged myself on the cornucopia of rotting fruit, vegetable peels and putrid meat. I found my appetite changed, and things that were once disgusting are now delicious. As I was enjoying my meal mom walked in, saw me chewing on a half-fermented orange, screamed and ran out of the room. I wouldn’t see her for an entire week.

The commute to work was very uneventful, other people didn’t even bat an eye as I traveled along with them. That was probably because the people on the subway were paying too much attention to their phones to notice a giant bug was sitting next to them. I arrived at the headquarters of my company on-time, to my relief. “Old Joe” was standing by the door in his security guard uniform. I crawled up the stairs to greet him, but instead of nodding and smiling he grabbed an iron pipe and ran toward me.

“Stop!” I hissed, then flashed my badge, “It’s me, Greg!”

He was flabbergasted, dropped his iron pipe and said, “Is it really you, Greg?”

“Yes, remember your daughter Nina? She made me a good-luck charm.” I showed him the Eye of Horus pin on my tie.

“Oh my god, I’m so sorry. What happened to you?”

“I don’t know, I must have looked at a Gypsy fortune teller the wrong way.”

“But how are you going to work now that you’re a giant bug?”

“I will ask the company for accommodations. Right now there are certain things I can’t do, like use my cell phone. They’ll have to provide me with something that will help me do that. If tech companies can come up with ten food delivery apps, they can certainly make a cell phone that doesn’t require fingers to operate.”

“No, that’s not what I meant, I mean…won’t people be freaked out to see that you’ve turned into a giant bug?”

“Yeah, even I was a little freaked out when I turned into a giant bug, but with time they’ll get used to it.”

Joe shrugged his shoulders and said, “I don’t think that’s how things work, but if you insist…”

I had to open the door of the building with my mouth because my legs couldn’t grab onto and turn the doorknob. As I walked through the office floor people were finally paying attention to my presence, unfortunately it was not in the good way. When they saw me approaching they cleared a path in front of me, keeping a distance of about three yards between them and me. Some of them even gawked at me, until I looked them in the eye, then they recoiled in fear. The odd thing was some people started to avoid me even before they saw me. “God,” I thought to myself, “am I so repulsive that people don’t even have to see me before they feel disgusted by my appearance?” Seeing all this made me feel dispirited, but then I said to myself, “No, positive thinking, positive thinking. People might not like my new appearance, but they’ll come around eventually. Maybe I’m being too self-conscious, it’s impossible that they were walking away from me despite not having seen me. I must be so nervous that my mind is making stuff up. Yeah, that must be it.”