Just as you’re about to sleep, you hear a rustling. You look over your shoulder but nothing’s there. A shadow moves across the corner of your left eye, your head turns, but again you find yourself alone in the night. Shrugging it off, you close your eyes and try to sleep, but you can’t pretend you didn’t hear it again. You shiver and cuddle yourself tight, muttering that ghosts aren’t real, trying to remember if you locked all your doors and windows.
Another phantom rustle and you’re out of bed, convinced you need a glass of water or one last trip to the bathroom. The air around you feels somehow colder now so you anxiously rub your arms, reminding yourself that it’s just the wind, there’s nothing to be afraid of, nothing is there and everything will be okay. But as fear gets the better of your senses you fling your head this way and that searching in vain for the presence you know must be watching you, and when again your eyes return with nothing, your whole body shivers, an autonomic attempt to shake off these willies that can’t find a cause. But you’re not crazy and you’re not wrong— there is something there, something hiding in the dark— the Banshee Beetle.
The Banshee Beetle makes its living in the corners of perception: just over there, just out of sight. You see, beetles of all sorts live on the dross we pretend we’ve scrubbed, mopped, and vacuumed away— their dinner’s our dirt. But every time you turn, every rub of your arms, every wring of your hands, with every nervous jitter and every anxious jump of your frail mortal shell—as you frantically spin to look in the just-missed-it dim of night—comes a hail of dander, loose hair, and dead skin raining down upon the beetle in a heavenly feast of death and decay. The Banshee Beetle doesn’t eat your fear, exactly, only the flotsam floating down from it.
I’ve spotted—or not spotted, rather—the Banshee everywhere from Deming NM to Blytheville AR, in fleabag roadside motels the same as five-star urban Hiltons, from private homes to communal campsites. Wherever the blue black night gives way to yellow-spined cowardice and white shocks of fear, you’ll find the Banshee Beetle, its larder stocked with old bits of you, the bits too scared to hang on. Just be glad it waits for those bits to fall… usually.
Chapter Four from my collection of monster stories, Terrible Travelogue, Part 1: The Southwest. You can find the collection here.