“Bedbugs” by Ben H. Winters

by Ben H. Winters
Published by Quirk Books (2011)
256 Pages

Being a fan of horror, it shouldn’t be surprising that every once in a while I find a book or movie that creeps me out. Stephen King did that a lot for me, after all who didn’t look closer at St. Bernards checking for rabies after reading “Cujo,” or getting worried about the superflu when  sneezed after reading “The Stand,” or even stepping on to the sidewalk whenever a ’57 Plymouth Fury would cruise by after reading “Christine?” Okay, maybe not so much on that last one, but I did look for a Fury to have as my first car back in the day, hoping mine would be possessed. Anyhow, Ben H. Winters has written a novel that has creeped me out just as bad if not worse, than anything Stephen King has done, so far. (Yes, Mr. King, you will now have to one-up Mr. Winters. I’m waiting.)

So how did Ben H. Winters creep me out? Well first of all creating a book about the parasitic pests, bedbugs, is a good start. All throughout the reading of this book I would find myself itching all over and check to make sure I had none of the vermin on or near me. To make matters worse, “Bedbugs” is not about a simple infestation, but rather an infestation in which only one person can see and is the victim of these attacks.

Susan and Alex are a couple in New York who are getting by in their small apartment with their daughter Emma, Susan decides the apartment is getting too small and talks Alex into helping her hunt for a bigger place. After numerous listings and showings Susan is beginning to think she won’t find anything until she runs across this:

FOR RENT: Top two floors of beautifully renovated brownstone, 1300 sq. ft., 2BR 2BA, eat-in kitchen, one block to parks and playgrounds. No broker’s fee.

Susan and Alex Wendt have found their dream apartment. When they go to see tha apartment they fall in love with the place, even if the landlady is a bit eccentric the rent seems low enough and there is even a bonus room in which Susan can set up as a studio and return to her love of painting.

Soon after an expensive move they begin life on Cranberry St. and the mysteries and horrors begin. First, Susan sets up her studio in the bonus room but due to the bad smell in the room cannot continue, when she brings it up with the landlady, Andrea, she tells her of how the previous tenants left in such a hurry that they forgot about their cat and the cat died in that locked room. After another cleanup and chemical assault from the handyman Louis, Susan begins to paint again. Susan finds a bloody photo of the previous owners and paints a portrait of the woman who used to live in the apartment.

When Susan wakes to find a spot of blood on her pillow she becomes concerned, and later when three bites that appear to be bedbug bites appear on her arm, it’s time to call in an exterminator. The exterminator finds no sign of the vermin and tells Susan she has no bedbugs, and that the bites may be spider-beetles. When the portrait of the previous tenant suddenly appears with bedbug bites on the face Susan realizes that these are not your normal bedbugs.

Susan loses sleep and begins sleeping on the couch completely sealed into pajamas, socks, gloves and hats to keep the critters from biting but when one crawls into her mouth she and her husband pay a trip to the doctor. The doctor tells her the bugs are in her head but Susan knows better, these are not your normal bedbugs, these not only feed off your blood but off your soul. And that’s when the story really gets creepy.

So check out this super creepy book and be prepared to scratch that itch that shouldn’t be there.

Sleep tight and don’t let the “Bedbugs” bite.