Under My Skin

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Under My Skin

I can feel them, creeping, crawling under my skin.

I hadn't believed it, when the news broadcast aired a week ago. Bugs, thousands of tiny, red bugs had escaped a government research laboratory.

A month earlier.

An entire month they'd tried to contain the spread but had been unsuccessful. The first confirmed case of the infestation had been that very week. The 'super bugs' as they were being called had spread, reproduced, multiplied to the thousands.

I remember snorting a laugh and going on with my business, not bothering to think another second about the infestation.

Why hadn't I listened? If I had I would be okay now.

But I hadn't and now my chances were gone, the potential to find safety was lost. I can feel them, just under my skin. It's an itching, a sort of burn, a pain that I never would have anticipated. Impossible, it should be impossible.

I fight the urge to scratch, I need to go to the hospital but every time I make my way to the door something happens. I lose bits of time, I find myself sitting once more in the brown suede chair my father used to love.

My scalp itches and I reach up to scratch it. My hand comes away with tangles of brown hair clinging to it. I can see them, the bugs, the mites, small and red, they are crawling all over the hair, the follicles. I throw the hair into the floor and make to press my foot forward to stomp on them, disgusted.

I snap to attention and I'm sitting back in my seat again. My back itches, my sides, my face, my eyes—they all itch so terribly, so miserably. I whimper at the ridiculous agony of it, the burning, itching, stinging pain. Like a rash that tickles just beneath the skin.

There's a tickle in my ear, my hearing fades for a moment, overwhelmed by the silence I give a cry of shock before the sound returns once more.

There's a banging on the door, a knocking and I'm up, I step over the hair on the floor still crawling with little red bugs. I want to step on them, but my body won't, it won't obey my command.

The look of horror on the face behind a clear mask is the first thing I register of the person at my door. He wears a suit, solid white and gleaming in the bright light of day. The reflection of the sun blinds me for a moment and I blink in surprise.

How long have I been sitting in the dark now? Hours, days, weeks?

"We're here to help you," he says through the mask, I watch his lips form the words, but recognition is far away. So far away.

I feel a gloved hand on my bare upper arm, wrapping around it, tugging me from the darkness of my home. The touch burns and stings and soothes all at once and I can't decide if I'm glad for it or want to writhe away from it.

I can feel myself tugged along, the man is speaking but my ears have gone deaf once more and all I hear is the eerie silence of my own mind. I can feel them skittering angrily, crawling, biting, bidding me to turn around. I don't, I can't, I'm being led by a firm grip that tugs me toward a truck filled with others.

I can see the splotches of red all over their skin, bloodied from scratching until they could no longer feel the pain. Their fingernails are stained with blood. I look down at my own, blood, blood coats my hands, when had I scratched?

Their stares are blank and I wonder if they've gone deaf like me. No one moves, none of them with their hair gone in clumps, their scalps bloody, their eyes bright red, their faces swollen. Women, men, children, the bugs don't discriminate, they only need a warm body. They only need something to keep them alive.

Alive.

What was it like to be alive?

The truck starts to move, jarring all of us, standing like cattle corralled into the back, standing, swaying.

**

The latch of a metal gate locking into place brings my attention back to the moment. The men in the white suits are all around us now. I watch them through blurry eyes as they take the children first, leading them away from the large fenced in area.

A sign reads; ELECTRIC, DO NOT TOUCH

I squint as they take the children out of sight. I itch, I burn.

Under my skin, they're under my skin and all I want, all I need is for the pain to end. Why hadn't I listened?

I reach up to scratch, but my hands won't move, why won't they move? I look down, thick straps hold my hands to my sides. Is this to stop the scratching? Have they come to save us?

The itch intensifies, the burning, the pain. I groan, though I can only hear the action in my head, when had the hearing gone again?

The latch clanks again and this time the women are rounded up, lead like dogs by leads that attach to the thick leather straps that hold our arms at our sides. The latch locks behind us and we're walking. The air is cold on my skin as we exit.

A comforting cold when compared to the burn of the itch. They're under my skin, right there, if I could just scratch them out.

A metal door opens, and we're lead into a room. It smells so strongly that it breaks through my deadened sense of smell, burnt meat. It reeks of burnt meat and fire, smoke. The room is hot, the concrete walls are blackened.

I look down and I see them, the bodies, the children. Blackened, burned, crisp, dead.

"This is it then?" my hearing is back, and I can hear the cries of the other women, some babble madly, others scream for mercy.

I look into the face of one of the men in white suits. The one who'd lead me from my home. He looks sad, he looks resigned.

"I understand," I manage to croak as the door slams shut and the men disappear behind a thick glass wall. I suspect they have something to keep them cool there. I feel bad for them that they have to watch. It isn't fair, none of it is fair.

My skin itches, it burns. I see the blue spark of a flame and my eyes close to the violent heat that surges toward me.

Screams fill my ears, crying women, sobbing, begging for mercy, their voices are drowned out by the roar of flames. The roar of pain as it surges through my body.

Fire, the only way to destroy them is fire. I willingly stand in the flames, the pain is excruciating, I fall. This burn is not so different from their burn, from the itching pain.

Shock, shock takes over and I'm numb. At least when I die they die with me, trapped under my skin.

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