It’s almost impossible to sleep when there’s a cricket in your room. I know. I’ve tried. The constant chirping as the bug seeks out some nonexistent mate is enough to drive you crazy. And I’ll admit: for a time, I may have lapsed into a mental state that wasn’t the healthiest for me. It would happen to anyone under those conditions.
I went a good two weeks without sleeping more than 10 minutes a night. The sound was constant and inescapable. I did some searches online and was told I could buy a lizard who’d eat the thing and end my torment. I let three of them loose before I went to work and never saw them again. The chirping continued unabated.
At the end of the two weeks, at the behest of my boss, who’d noticed my decline in performance, I bit the bullet and hired an exterminator. We talked over the phone for a little while and he seemed sympathetic. He’d been to similar calls in the past and knew how much noise a cricket could make when you’re trying to sleep. We arranged for him to come while I was at work.
I got home the evening after the exterminator was supposed to have finished. His truck was still parked in the driveway. I went inside and called out to him. No reply. I looked around the house, still hearing the chirps of the cricket in my bedroom. I was angry, but also concerned. I dialed his employer and was told he hadn’t checked in since he arrived at my house. Why the truck was still in the driveway was anyone’s guess.
After we’d hung up, I got the wild notion that a ghost had gotten him. See, after not sleeping properly for two weeks, I began to think the ghost who supposedly haunted my home had done something to him. It didn’t matter I didn’t believe in the ghost; that I’d never seen it or discovered any trace of its existence. No, the pernicious idea was born of insomnia and frustration. My mind wanted to put pieces together in a way that made sense to me, and in that sleep-deprived state, it was what I believed.
The chirping cricket and my fear of the ghost ensured that my eyelids did not fall for longer than the duration of a blink. I’d stare at the ceiling and hallucinate, sometimes glancing over and thinking I saw the cricket on the other side of the room. I just laughed until I was sobbing. It felt good to laugh again.
The following day while I was at work, the extermination company sent someone out to pick up the truck. The exterminator still hadn’t been found. When I got home, I could have sworn I saw the ghost peeking out at me from around corners and at the spots where the walls met the ceiling and floor. I was so tired. So, so tired. I collapsed on my bed and listened to the cricket chirp.
By some miracle, I must have fallen asleep. When I opened my eyes, it was daytime. The chirping had stopped. I turned over and saw the cricket. It was staring back at me from its spot on the floor. I didn’t move. I just let it walk toward me. Closer and closer and closer. It stopped right by my bed.
A scrap of the exterminator’s uniform hung from its left mandible. It leaned in and nuzzled against my cheek, then got in bed next to me. Its 6’ long, 300 pound body caused the mattress springs to groan in protest. It was silent.
“Thank you,” I whispered, and closed my eyes, and went back to sleep.