Fun Facts

Originally appeared on Season 11, Episode 14 of the No Sleep Podcast, performed by Addison Peacock, Nichole Goodnight, Corinne Sanders, Erin Lillis, Nikolle Doolin, & Matthew Bradford

I was bored. Correction: I was bored and tired. It was a Monday morning and it was all I could do to stay conscious and thank God that my first-period teacher, Ms. Stanowski, didn’t believe in making students stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. Stanowski did insist on silence until the announcements were over, so I just sat, chin propped on fist, staring into nothing and yawning. All around me, my classmates had adopted similar poses.

It was ridiculous, in my opinion, that my school prided itself on being so modern that every classroom was equipped with a SMARTBoard and every student was issued their own tablet computer, yet the morning announcements were still done over the school’s old PA system. The student announcer’s voice crackled with static over the speaker in the corner of the classroom, her words almost unintelligible. Most of the students simply got the necessary information from the school’s website, so there wasn’t any point straining their brains trying to make out the gibberish after the pledge.

I was resolved to let my own brain completely veg out until Stanowski called us back to attention but I tuned in ever so slightly when the robotics, or it might have been the athletics, department announced a pizza fundraiser at lunch. Therefore I was one of the only ones paying attention when, after a slight pause, a nervous voice came over the loudspeaker. It was quiet and kind of mumbly. It sounded like a little girl, like a kindergartner or something. Despite the speaker’s lack of confidence, the quality of the audio seemed to have improved dramatically so it was actually quite easy to hear what she said.

Cockroaches can live for weeks without their heads, and the head can live on its own for days if refrigerated.

I could feel my face twist involuntarily with disgust.

Another pause, longer this time. The voice of the regular announcer girl came back on.

“Everyone have a great day! Go Falcons!”

Freed from the no-talking rule, the classroom quickly filled up with noise. I stared at Mayra, the girl sitting across from me.  

“Was that some kind of joke?” I asked.

“What?” Mayra looked confused, “Savana, I didn’t say anything.”

“The weird announcement!” I gestured vaguely at the ceiling, “The cockroach thing.”

Mayra looked even more lost.

“I didn’t hear anything about a cockroach. Are you messing with me?”

“Nevermind,” I felt wrong-footed, like someone was playing a joke on me but I hadn’t caught on. Mayra was still looking at me as I pulled out my tablet.

“Are you okay?”

“I’m fine. Forget it.” I said. I blushed a bit, and turned my attention to the day’s assignment. Although my hair, falling in tightly spiralled curls, blocked Mayra’s view of my face, I could still feel the other girl glancing over through the whole class period. No one else mentioned hearing anything strange, and I had no desire to draw any more attention to myself. I did my best not to think about it for the rest of the day.

I would have done very well, except for what happened in Chemistry class.

Ms. Gregory, the Chem teacher, was notorious for two things- being constantly mistaken for one of the freshmen, and having an enormous stash of Diet Cokes in the mini-fridge under her desk.

That day, when she went for another can mid-lecture, she didn’t even look away from her PowerPoint. Why would she? It was as natural a movement as scratching her head. None of the students even took note, not even me.

Until there was a clatter, and a scream.

Ms. Gregory had tipped over a plate that she later insisted had not been in the fridge the last time she had opened it. When it had fallen, it scattered dismembered cockroach heads all across the classroom floor, their antennae still twitching.

That night while I lay in bed, I couldn’t stop thinking about the announcement. About the plate next to Gregory’s Diet Cokes, which the teacher had piled next to the trash can, refusing to open a single one. I grabbed my phone off the nightstand and opened a browser. It only took moments to find out that the weird fact from that morning was true. I assumed that meant it was unlikely that I had misheard the voice, or imagined it. I couldn’t imagine why someone would pull such a strange prank, especially when I seemed to be the only one aware of both parts. When I finally fell asleep, it was fitful, tossing and turning, and I dreamt of itchy, hairy legs crawling across my bare arms, legs connected to bodies with no heads.

The next morning I listened more carefully to the announcements. It put a little strain on my ears but I could just about make them out: bake sale, choir practice, senior retreat, blah blah blah. Then a pause.

I reached out and poked Mayra with my pencil. The other girl looked slightly annoyed, but I simply raised my eyebrows and pointed to the speaker. The same shaky, meek little voice came on, as clear as if she was standing in the classroom.

An average bed contains up to six million dust mites. They feed on the dead skin cells humans shed when they sleep.

“Ew,” Mayra said softly.

There was another long pause and then the announcements continued as if there had been no interruption. Chess club meeting, student council elections, volleyball tournament, and; 

“Have a great day! Go Falcons!”

As the class broke out in soft conversations, I looked at Mayra triumphantly.


Mayra scrunched up her nose. 

“That was weird. Maybe it’s some kind of prank.”

“Maybe.” I said. I felt a little more settled since someone else had heard the voice, too. “Did you hear about what happened in Chemistry yesterday?”

“The cockroach thing? Soooo gross.” Mayra shivered. Then her eyes widened. “Yesterday, when you said-”

“Yeah!” I leaned forward. “It’s too weird right? They have to be connected.”

Mayra looked uncomfortable.

“Does that mean- does that mean that something is going to happen today?”

My excitement faded. I really hadn’t considered that.

Mayra and I saw each other in the halls a few times that day, and the looks we exchanged were more and more tense. Nothing seemed to happen. 

I was at my locker gathering my things after my last class when Mayra ran up.

“Did you hear anything?” I asked.

“No! Did you?”

“No,” I turned almost dejectedly back to my locker. Mayra visibly relaxed.

“So it was just a dumb prank? Nothing’s going to happen?”

Down the hall, only a few yards away, the locker room doors burst open. The entire boys’ basketball team tore down the hall screaming at the top of their lungs, tearing their uniforms off as they went.

Before Mayra and I could register what was happening, the hall was quiet again, nothing left but a trail of discarded shorts, jerseys, and socks.

I picked up the closest jersey.

“What the heck?” I looked closely at the white fabric. Barely visible, I could see tiny arthropodic creatures swarming over the entire thing. I yelped and dropped it.

“What is it?!” Mayra asked, her voice pitched octaves higher than it had been.

I slammer my locker shut, grabbed Mayra’s arm, and ran for the nearest exit.

I changed my bedsheets twice before I was able to fall asleep that night.

According to FDA regulations, canned fruit juices can contain one maggot for every 250 milliliters

By Wednesday I heard quite a few other people in the classroom whispering about the strange addition to the morning announcements and its real-world counterparts. Stanowski, still oblivious I guessed, got onto everyone about talking at inappropriate times. 

I was slightly relieved to see that it wasn’t just our class, either. Although the cafeteria ran out of milk cartons and water bottles almost immediately, their supply of juice remained untouched. Kids were simply going without a drink.

Mrs. Peters, one of the Vice Principals and an impossible battle-ax of a woman, was on lunch duty and seemed to think that everyone was being ridiculous.

She stormed over to the kids in the lunchline and demanded to know why they weren’t drinking juice. 

“Don’t you know” she lectured the cafeteria at large, “that if you do not drink this juice, we must throw it out! And if we throw it out, it will be reflected in our budget as waste! And if we have waste in our budget, we will not get that money back next year!”

I privately wondered if that was, indeed, how things worked.

The student at the front of the line mumbled something no one could hear. Mrs. Peters laughed derisively. 

“There is absolutely nothing wrong with the juice.” She took a bottle from the cooler.

Every single person in the cafeteria stopped moving.

Mrs. Peters handed the lunch lady a dollar.

“I’ll prove it.” she said loudly. She could have whispered, everyone would have heard her it was so quiet.

She opened the bottle.

No one breathed.

She drank.

“See?” she said. “Perfectly fine-”

The lunch lady grabbed Mrs. Peters’s shoulder and whispered in her ear. Mrs. Peters turned white and ran out of the room, dropping the bottle of juice on the ground.

It spilled all over the floor. Even where I was sitting, maybe ten yards away, I could see that floating in the puddle were wiggling, brown maggots.

I sat at the kitchen table long after my mom and brothers had finished dinner, picking at the food on my plate. I had no appetite.

I wondered if this was the kind of thing that would be classified as a senior prank… but as I made a face at the quinoa salad my mother insisted I would like, despite its vague resemblance to something else I had seen that day, I thought that senior pranks were the kinds of things that people took credit for. Or at the very least, they were funny, instead of creepy.

On Thursday, even Stanowski heard the voice.

Assassin bugs inject their toxic saliva into their prey, turning the insides into liquid which can then be sucked out through their straw-like mouths.

She stared at the speaker with her eyebrows knitted together, her mouth twisted and puckered like she had just sucked on a lemon. For a minute, I thought she was going to say something, but she turned and refused to acknowledge it, plunging ahead with her lecture on Ancient Egyptian artwork. I did notice that she skipped each photograph that included a depiction of a scarab.

In most of my classes, someone brought up the strange voice and the gross bug facts, and the teachers in turn airily proclaimed it to be “not relevant to our work today.” But eventually I talked with Jorge Martinez, whose younger brother had algebra with Hana Kobayashi, whose boyfriend was best friends with Seth Ruti, who sometimes filled in for the announcements girl. Apparently, the announcements girl had no idea that anything weird had been happening at all. Hana also told Jorge (who told me) that all the teachers had emailed the principal and the vice principal and no one could figure out how someone would hack into the PA system without the announcement girl realizing. The system should have been essentially unhackable, unless one of the students had a lot of experience with electronics from the eighties.

Strangely, no bugs were spotted at all that day, not in anyone’s food or in any of the classrooms or halls or anywhere in the school. There weren’t any pranks.

While I was waiting for my mom to pick me up that afternoon, I could tell that almost every person hanging around the school parking lot was talking about the announcements. I saw Mayra over by the tennis courts, sitting on the hood of her boyfriend’s car, surrounded by her girlfriends. They were shrieking so loudly, flapping their hands and giving exaggerated shivers, that I barely heard my mom honking the car’s horn as she pulled up.

I barely slept that night. My curiosity ate at me as I wondered why whoever was behind this campaign of creepy had chosen to take a break today. Why would they wait until they had the whole school’s attention to call it all off? Did the teachers know more than we suspected? I shifted uncomfortably under the covers, trying not to think of everything that had happened. Before this week, I hadn’t counted insects among my particular set of phobias, but I wasn’t so sure I’d be able to sit, lay, or eat comfortably anymore. 

I was walking into the school Friday morning when Jorge grabbed me by the arm.

“Did you hear?!” His face pale. I shook my head, trying not to feel resentful that once again I was hearing information secondhand.

“One of the girls from the tennis team is dead. They found her on the court this morning before practice.”

“Oh my god.” I covered my mouth with my hand. My petty feelings about not being the school’s Veronica Mars didn’t fade so much as evaporate. I couldn’t believe that this had escalated from some dumb pranks to… murder. Jorge’s grip on my arm tightened.

“Savana,” he leaned in close, “They’re saying she didn’t have anything inside her.”


“No blood. No organs. They had all been drained away.”

The first bell rang and Jorge let go of me and hurried away without another word. I felt nauseous. I leaned against the wall for a moment, trying to process what Jorge had said. It could have been a dumb rumor, or he could have been messing with me. I glanced to my right, through the glass doors into the front office. The receptionist and the secretary had their heads together and were talking seriously. Mrs. Peters’s office door, just down the hall, was slightly open. Was that a police officer inside?

I had only moments to decide whether my curiosity was strong enough for me to do the unthinkable – skip class and start sneaking around, looking for answers. 

Mrs. Peters and an honest-to-God police officer walked out of the office, through the glass doors, and walked quickly toward the tennis courts.

Apparently that Veronica Mars wannabe detective streak hadn’t disappeared completely.

I hid in the bathroom by the front office and waited to hear the pledge start. Then slowly, carefully, I snuck past the reception desk and into the maze of hallways that housed the faculty offices: principal, vice principals, the counselors, and the attendance clerk. There was a conference room where the announcement girl sat with the PA mic in a dead-end in the very back, hidden conveniently around a blind corner. If I was going to look for answers, I should start there. Kneeling just outside, I cracked the door and peeked in. 

There was the girl. She looked young enough to be a freshman, but I assumed she was at least a sophomore since the faculty had left her completely alone in the room. She sat reading from a sheet of paper on the desk in front of her into an old-fashioned microphone. There didn’t seem to be anything else in the windowless room aside from the desk and a few chairs. So, no weird bug kid in here. I was about to sneak back out when the girl froze. Her head fell forward, hair falling like a curtain, obscuring her face. A long pause. From her throat rasped that frightened, whispery voice.

Insects are the most abundant complex organism on the planet. At this very moment, legions in the quadrillions hatch below your very feet, above your heads, and in your walls. No matter how far you run, they will find you. They will already be there.”

Her head suddenly snapped up, and she stared directly at me with blank, white eyes.

“They are coming for you.”

I scrambled backward and, forgetting my stealth completely, ran out of the office and straight to Ms. Stanowski’s room. By the time I got there, everyone was chattering, some enthusiastically, some rolling their eyes in exasperation. Stanowski looked completely out of her depth trying to get everyone to quiet down. She whirled on me, zeroing in on a problem she could solve more easily.

“Savana! You had better have a hall pass, or I’ll have to-”

At the same time, I began to shout.

“We have to call an ambulance, there’s something really wrong with the girl who does the announcements!”

I was so loud that the rest of the class finally stopped talking to stare at me. If there was a bet for which kid would end up in a screaming match with a teacher, none of them would have put a dime on me. They sat on the edge of their seats, eyes practically falling out of their heads as they pieced together exactly what I had been doing.

Stanowski hurried closer, placing her hands on my shoulders and looking me over. In a fleeting moment of clarity, I wondered if the teachers had been given some kind of warning about the girl on the courts.

“Are you all right? Did someone try to hurt you?”

“No, no, listen to me! It’s that announcement girl that needs help, I think she’s having some kind of nervous breakdown or she’s schizophrenic or something and if someone really was hurt out on the tennis courts-”

“Okay, okay,” Stanowski tried to shush me and glanced nervously at the other kids in the class, “I’ll call Mrs. Peters, and you can-”

She was cut short. Across the room, Mayra screamed, pointing to the speaker. Ms. Stanowski’s gentle hands on my shoulders became vice-like pincers as she instinctively drew us both back toward the door.

From the ceiling tiles around the speaker, many-legged creatures emerged, crawling, wriggling, creeping, until the whole of the ceiling was a black, writhing mass. Without waiting for direction or permission, the entire class ran for the door, some holding their laptops over their heads like shields as bugs began dropping onto the desks and the floor.

No one got very far. At the end of the hall, a black puddle seemed to be inching its way forward – one that was made of exoskeletons, hairy skittering legs, and compound eyes.

The speaker crackled to life behind us one last time:

“They are coming for you.”

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