Content Warning: Domestic Violence. Horror.

Maddie flowed down the hallway towards the bedroom. She had been up for hours enjoying the quiet of her Saturday and the comfort of her baggy pajamas. A room temperature, half-drank mug of coffee journeyed with her. She stopped and leaned on the bedroom door frame.

“Nick? Sweetie? It’s almost eleven. How are you?” She looked up from her coffee. He was lying in the bed, his head propped up on the pillows, no covers, no sheets. His eyes were open staring at her. And his legs, his legs were bent the wrong way with the knees inverted.

“Oh my god, Nick! Are you okay?” She almost dropped her mug.

“I’m fine. I’ve been listening to the crickets in the attic. You know the chirping we’ve been hearing in the evening?” His voice stayed level.

“Yes?”  She didn’t know what else to say.

“I can understand them now. They’ve slipped into the walls and basement. They’re waiting for us to welcome them inwards.”

“Sweetie, what are you talking about?” Maddie didn’t know if she should call 911 and ask for an ambulance or the police. Her fingers pawed at her elastic waistline for the phone she had left on the kitchen table.

“Come and kiss me. I’ve missed you this morning.” Nick’s body didn’t move at all as he spoke.

“I don’t think you’re feeling well.” She was panicking, but couldn’t leave him here. He likely had a fever and would need to be tested immediately. 

Maddie crept along the side of the bed to put a hand on his forehead. She tried to ignore his legs. Nick didn’t even twitch as the back of her hand made contact. He felt normal, dry, fine.

“See?” Nick closed his eyes and pursed his lips.

Maddie leaned in. Then she heard a chirp. Her eyes opened. A cricket head was slipping out of Nick’s mouth. She screamed! As she jerked back, he burst into motion and tried to grab her. She darted backward. His mouth unfurled, and crickets came leaping out. The chirping became a roar. The crickets were massive with tiny spikes all over them.  

“What the fuck? What the fuck? What the fuck?” Maddie screamed as she backed up into the doorway.  

Nick was sitting up after attempting to grab her. Another cricket fell out of his mouth.

“You couldn’t just love me, could you? You couldn’t just give me a kiss? Am I that terrible to you?”

“Why are there fucking crickets coming out of you? I’m calling 911!”

“No! The crickets have been here every day. They were dying outside. So, they’ve slipped into the attic through the cracks into our home. They’re trying to survive. We can become their new home! We owe them that much!”

He was hysteric. Crickets were crawling closer across the bed and floor. Maddie could hear chirping coming from throughout the house. She hurled the mug at him. Tears streamed down her face as she tore herself away from the door and ran down the hallway.

She heard the bed creak. Then it broke, and another crash followed. As she picked up her phone off the kitchen table, she looked back down the hallway. Nick was jumping from wall to wall. His legs scrunched, the knees bent in reverse, feet clawed into the hall to hold him until he burst down the hall again zigzagging his way towards her.

Maddie scurried for the front door. She yanked, but her sweaty hands could barely grip the knob. Her phone slipped as she fumbled to undo the top lock. She ducked down to grab it as Nick tried to tackle her.

He smashed into the door and crumpled next to her. Green goop started leaking from his nose. As his eyes refocused, Maddie got the door open. She screamed as she took the door in both hands and slammed it against him, trapping him between the door and the wall.

Then, she was outside. She was sprinting down the road, gasping and panting, adrenaline had taken over. She couldn’t feel the rough pavement digging into her bare feet.

Trembling, she looked back.

No one was there. The door to her house was closed. She unclenched her phone and dialed 911. As the call was connected, she wondered, would anyone believe her?

A cricket chirped from the yard next to her.