I don't know the exact age I was when I was almost murdered by insects, but I was probably somewhere around 10 years old when this all went down, because that's when KILLER BEES were really big in the news. If you weren't around back in the mid-'80s, there was a period of time when the media basically spent several minutes every evening warning everyone that swarms of homicidal rage bees were bearing down on us, and that we were all very likely to die any minute.

That happened a lot in the '80s. If I wasn't abducted from the shopping mall and murdered, I was probably going to end up taking candy from a stranger and then get murdered. Or I'd fall in with a Satanic cult and murder some other kid who we offered candy to before I was murdered myself by the high goat priest or whatever. Or, of course, the bees would get me.

Picture the movie Jaws, but with thousands of tiny sharks that fly. That's how I imagined killer bees, only slightly worse because I assumed that they could actually kill me. Just one of them, I mean. Not an entire hive. A killer bee was a killer bee, and I figured that one was just as deadly as a thousand. You know, truth in advertising, sort of thing. They said it on the news, after all. Had to be true.

I imagined they did this by way of poison stingers that would paralyze, then kill you in some terrible way. But all it took was JUST ONE STING.

Because that's how everything worked in the '80s:

  • Fool around with your girlfriend on prom night JUST ONE TIME, and you'd either get AIDS or a baby. Or both, and you'd also quite possibly wake up in a motel bathroom with one of your kidneys missing.
  • Fail to say no to drugs JUST ONE TIME, and you'd either die instantly, or develop a crippling addiction to the crack rock that you'd sell your body on the street to support, which would likely lead to waking up in a motel bathroom with one of your kidneys missing.
  • Play Dungeons and Dragons JUST ONE TIME, and you'd eventually start sacrificing kittens to dark gods while listening to Heavy Metal and doing drugs in dirty alleyways with kids who had been abducted by Satanists, and you'd probably wake up in a motel bathroom with one of your kidneys missing.
  • Everyone wanted your kidneys.
Kristian Bland

Back to the bees, though. As an impressionable kid, I just assumed that if one stung you, that was it. Card punched. Ticket taken. Death would show up on a pale horse, I'd try to win my life back by beating him at a game of chess, but I'd lose because I was still struggling to master Connect Four, and off I'd go into the undiscovered country.

It was pretty terrifying.

One night, I was asleep in my bed with Star Wars sheets when I had a nightmare that I was being chased by a swarm of homicidal bees. I don't remember when or where they started coming after me in my dream, but I do know that I somehow managed to outrun them just enough to barely escape inside my house. I slammed the front door behind me, and could hear them buzzing and crashing against it. And, being somewhere around 10 years old, I ran to my room and hid under the protective barrier of Luke Skywalker bed linens until they went away.

Or, more specifically, I hid under an afghan my grandmother knitted for me, because my mom had already made my bed, and unmaking it before bedtime was every bit as dangerous as being chased by killer bees. And I wasn't willing to risk it.

So I hopped on my bed and pulled the red and black afghan my grandmother had knitted for me over my head. The one with tassels on the ends.

Of course, as with any good horror movie, my dream didn't end there. Not before I discovered that one lone killer bee had made it inside the house.

And it had found me.

That's when I woke up. In some kind of crazy Inception moment, I'd awoken from a nightmare where I'd hidden from killer bees under the exact same afghan I was currently sleeping under. And one of the bees had landed on my chin.

Kristian Bland

It was just sitting there, waiting to pierce its terrible stinger into my tender flesh, rendering me helpless and immobile and very, very dead. I was terrified. But I couldn't move. I could barely even breathe, not that I really wanted to. I was scared that any tiny hint of movement would provoke the bee to sting, and that would be it for me.

So I was just lying there, silent and still and screaming inside.

It wasn't quite sleep paralysis, because I don't remember ever thinking I couldn't actually move if I'd wanted to. I just really didn't want to, because I wasn't all that eager to annoy the tiny murderer standing on my chin.

I don't know how long I lied there, but it seemed like forever. Every now and then, I'd feel the bee move - just the slightest twitch, maybe one of its legs (but probably its stinger), and I'd panic. Eventually, I tried to call out to my sister across the hall.

Which was mostly just like that almost-silent whimper a dog makes when you haven't given it any of your cheeseburger and it knows you're about to eat the last bite. So she didn't hear it.

I tried calling out to my parents. Same result.

So I just stayed still in the bed, terrified and sweating until something snapped inside me. At some point, I just gave in. I accepted my fate and started coming to grips with my own mortality.

Yes, when I was somewhere around 10 years old and in otherwise perfect health, I was saying my goodbyes to friends and loved ones there in that bed, that very night. Apologizing for all my secret wrongs and asking for forgiveness. Admitting that I did not, in fact, think my sister was a trollbeast, and that I actually kind of loved her. Wondering what would happen after I died...

That sort of thing.

Once I'd finished my little existential reckoning with the Powers That Be, I was ready to go. And I knew what I had to do.

Kristian Bland

I might be walking into death's door, but I'd do it on my own two feet. And maybe - just maybe - I'd defy the odds and live another day. Maybe I'd even manage to trap or kill the bee, after which I'd be a hero to my family and then probably be on the local news or something, and maybe even get invited to appear on Donahue. It could happen.

I spent the next several minutes contemplating my pending fame, the end result of which would probably end with me and Tiffany trying to get away into the night, then I'd put my arms around her and we'd tumble to the ground, and then I'd say, "I think we're alone now."

Or something. I had a crush. Shut up.

Either way - death or fortune - I was ready to end it. Mustering up all my courage, my body tensed. I took a deep breath, slowly, and held it. I let it build up in me until I was ready to gasp for oxygen, then I shot violently from the bed and swung around in mid-air to, I dunno, roundhouse the bee into oblivion or something. I was making it up as I went along.

Except that never happened.

What actually happened was that I screamed like a wet cat as I threw off the afghan and more fell out of the bed than leapt like a ninja. I scurried backward, away from my bed, dragging my backside on the ground as my heels dug into the carpet and pushed. All the while, screaming.


My parents remained asleep. As did my sister. Maybe I screamed a lot in my sleep and they were used to it, or maybe they just figured times was hard, and if a killer bee wanted to lessen my family's financial burden by eliminating one nerdy child, then far be it from them to get in the way of nature's wrath. It could've gone either way, really.

When no one came to my rescue and the bee never dive-bombed my skull to deliver a death sting, I figured it out.

It was those dang tassels.

I'd been dreaming about killer bees, one landed on my chin, and then I woke up. In bed. With one of the tassels from my grandmother's afghan resting against my chin, which I then just naturally assumed was a murder insect come to kill me. It was an honest mistake really. Could've happened to anyone.

I think that was the first time I laughed at myself. Properly, I mean. In that self-aware, slightly lunatic way of an adult after you realize just how stupid whatever it was you just did was.

It wouldn't be the last time, either...