Sometime in the early summer of 1996, I had developed an interest in witches after visiting Salem, Massachusetts. While witches’ brews allegedly contain various amphibians and foggy liquids, the cicadas that had taken over the East Coast unfortunately were not cited as ingredients. Thus began my battle with them.
The graveyards and mock trials of Salem all brought history to life in a fun way for me. A while after I had returned, the movie “The Craft” came out in theaters and piqued my interest. While my mother banned me from seeing it, my cohorts and I snuck away to the movie theater to check it out. Days later, my older brother found the ticket stub. “I know you’re planning on putting a spell on me,” I remember him teasing. He then told my mom, who grounded me for a week.
Our lush, green backyard seemed to attract wild life and all of its’ noises. Since the cicadas had taken over, I had spent hours grounded in my room, listening to their petulant shrieks that sounded like humming. One night in particular, I remember lying in bed, praying that they would stop. Even growing up in a big, chaotic family did not prevent the chorus of these bugs from annoying me. Listening to them screeching started to do more than annoy me. It started to freak me out. I don’t know if it was the images of Neve Campbell and her pack of villainous, “Mean Girl”-type friends, or the shadows on my walls that looked like ghosts, or the monotonous buzzing of the cicadas. I started to get claustrophobic. I felt like Edgar Allen Poe’s protagonist hearing the beating heart. Those screaming bugs! I got so scared that I had to leave my room and risk punishment. Moving to the sofa, I thought I had escaped my childish nightmares. I remember sleeping on and off until it started again. I should say they started again. I wound up staying up the entire night, convinced I was going to either be eaten by a cicada, or get killed by a 17-year-old witch.
For the rest of their invasion, my mom allowed me to sleep in the den to avoid intrusion by the swarms. I slept during the day and watched television throughout the night just to drone them out. I have never maintained such a bizarre schedule since then, which makes this episode stand out in my mind so well. I attribute my extreme jitteriness at the time to the bizarre mix of narratives that had been accumulating. If I had to select between being in a Salem graveyard at midnight or in a field amongst a cicada swarm, I know which I would choose. Tombstones can’t make for that bad of pillows.