If there's one thing history (and also that "private" browser tab you think we don't know about) has proven, it's that humans are capable of doing some truly depraved shit to one another. But none of it holds a candle to what the following miniscule creatures sneakily do to you while you're at your most vulnerable.
Warning: If you suffer from some kind of bug-o-phobia, run away. Run away right now. Not that these wee bastards won't still get you after you inevitably tire out. For you see, once you're asleep, it's entirely possible that ...
True to their classification as an intestinal parasite, pinworms live in your intestines. They're all about that shit -- literally living, breathing, and thriving on that shit, to be overly graphic about it. And you probably wouldn't care, as long as they stayed there. All sorts of critters live in your guts, right? But that's the problem ...
Our story begins with Momma Pinworm, who has achieved a comfortable life in your lower intestine. Think of it in terms of the American Dream -- cute little suburban house, white picket fence, all that jazz -- except in this instance, the dream is poo. Entirely poo. Anyway, one day Momma Pinworm decides it's damn well time to live up to her name. So she waits until you're fast asleep, and she wriggles her way out of the only front door she knows: your backdoor. There, where the cooler temperatures are perfect to ensure her eggs' survival, she plops said eggs all over the puckered landscape of your shitbox before retreating to her warm, smelly lair. She'll repeat this process night after night until her life's goal is complete -- namely, squirting out as many as 16,000 young 'uns.
And now, for the piece de resistance of the pinworm life cycle! See, pinworms are the most prolific worm infection in the USA, and in order to uphold an impressive record like that, all those eggs must get from your butthole into some other poor sod's digestive tract. How do they manage to pull off this Loki-level trickery? Well, we'll simply point out that the combination of the jelly sack surrounding the eggs and Momma Pinworm's incessant writhing plagues the sufferer with an unbearable case of butt itch. We're sure your imagination can fill in the rest, but just in case, here's a handy illustration (it's got arrows and everything!):
And in a similar vein ...
Bugs, as a whole, tend to get a bad rap. While we automatically leap straight to the gross-out response, most of our many-legged friends are at worst harmless and, at best, beneficial to our very way of life. Take the lady bug, for example: Not only is it one of the cutest damn things we've seen in our whole damn lives, it has also single-handedly (single-foreleggedly?) provided a natural way for us to control crop pests.
Another example is the kissing bug -- because seriously, how bad could that be? It's called the kissing bug, for crying out loud! That's goddamn adorable!
How bad could something called a kissing bug be? Well, to demonstrate, let's follow one -- we'll call him Don Guano, for reasons that will become disturbingly apparent -- through his nightly routine. It all starts when small Don is attracted to the light given off by your house. Once he sneaks inside like some six-legged mini-stalker, your stank breath (don't worry, mouthwash won't help) attracts him to the one part of your sleeping body that tends to stay above the bedcovers: your face. That's when Don locks on with a -- frankly, overzealous -- French kiss and feeds on the blood from your tender, tender lips.
But wait, we haven't gotten to the worst part yet! You see, Don's physiology gives him a sort of perpetual case of irritable bowel syndrome -- as soon as he eats, he gots to go, son. Now, pop quiz! Where does he eat? Correct, on your lips. So where does he proceed to drop a big ol' bug-deuce? Yep. Hope you're not a mouth breather.
But wait, it gets even worse! Said bug poop also spreads the parasite responsible for Chagas disease, a tropical ailment lethal enough to have been dubbed the "new AIDS." Also, "tropical ailment" is now a bit of a misnomer, seeing as how kissing bugs have proliferated throughout the Southern United States and infected over 300,000 Americans with the disease. Sleep tight, Southerners!
We really don't need to tell you anything you didn't already know about cockroaches to make you hate them, because, ugh, cockroaches. They're quite simply the single most repulsive creature on the entire planet, and if someone argues that point with you, douse him in bug spray immediately. He's almost certainly a giant cockroach in a human skin-suit.
Nevertheless, we're going to tell you about something that cockroaches do while you're fast asleep, and we don't mean in your nightmares. We're not even going to try to come up with a catchy character this time because, again, cockroaches. Instead we shall call them Legion, for they are many. They are truly the unpickiest of eaters, and as such they have no qualms whatsoever about chowing down on the fingernails, foot skin, and eyelids of napping humans.
Once you've finished screaming, you can probably surmise from their normal eating habits (that is, they eat anything -- the rottener, the better) that getting your eyelid munched on by a bacteria-soaked cockroach results in looking like you've just returned from a trip back in time to go a few rounds with Muhammad Ali.
Now, to be fair, cockroaches generally only sway from their strict "garbage, shit, garbage, dead stuff, and more garbage" diet in cases of extreme infestations, or when the colony is unusually isolated -- such as on board a ship. Sailors enduring such infestations have been known to sleep with gloves on so the cockroaches can't nibble on their fingers. So consider this your public service announcement against booking your next vacation on that "bargain" cruise line your stingy aunt recommended. We hear their midnight buffet is not all it's cracked up to be.
And yes -- it gets worse from here ...
So you thought pinworms would be the most disturbing intestinal parasite on this list? Oh, that's ... that's cute. This is your first time reading Cracked, is it? Welcome! Consider Ascaris, the "giant intestinal roundworm," your hazing ceremony.
Ascaris' life cycle is as complex as it is nightmarish. Its eggs hatch in your small intestine, where the tiny wormlings slip through the intestinal wall and journey through the bloodstream to your lungs. That's where the baby worms grow into, like, teenage worms ... and it's also where our story takes a turn that could give a Cenobite PTSD.
Keeping with our theme of giving these tiny abominations cutesy names so as to prevent our brains from flipping the "Turn Off To Protect Sanity" switch, let's call this one Carrie. So, Carrie's been chilling in your lungs for a couple weeks now. She's grown past her awkward adolescent stage and is now ready to venture out on her own, because the lungs are for babies -- all the cool kids hang out in the intestines, swimming free in all that tasty, tasty poo. Problem is, Carrie is now too big -- way too big -- to take the bloodstream bus back to where she started. So what does Carrie do? Why, she slithers up your windpipe and into your throat, forcing you to either choke or swallow her, of course.
But that's not the most horrifying part. No, the most horrifying part is what happens if Carrie takes a wrong turn.
Carrie is just a dumb ol' worm that we've arbitrarily anthropomorphized, after all. And while she'll most likely get to her preferred destination just as Mother Nature intended (sadistic bitch that she is), there's also a good chance that she'll accidentally exit your body through your nose. And this can happen even after she successfully makes her initial migration and grows into an adult in her permanent home (your poop chute) -- infected people have had fully grown (meaning, holy shit, up to a foot long) Ascaris worms slink out of their mouth or nose while they sleep.
It's not quite clear why the worms choose to sneak out while you're sleeping -- we'll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they're just being polite.
Anyone who's ever suffered from scabies (aka, the seven-year itch) knows it's a walk in the park ... if said park is located in the Eighth Circle of Hell and if, rather than neatly manicured grass, it's blanketed in poison motherfucking ivy. The severe nighttime itch associated with the condition is caused by tiny mites burrowing beneath the surface of your skin while you futilely attempt to sleep, carving out tunnels and filling them with eggs, toxins, and heaping (yet microscopic) mounds of mite crap.
But while regular scabies already sounds like some unique torture device dreamed up by the antagonist of a torture porn flick, Norwegian scabies is so, so very much worse. While we wish we could say it's just regular scabies with mites in adorable little Viking helmets, in actuality Norwegian (or crusted) scabies is what happens when scabies launches into a roid rage. Basically, someone with a weak immune system (due to age, disability, or other factors) contracts scabies, and, with no immune response to keep them in check, the mites have an orgy of ... well, still microscopic proportions.
And Norwegian scabies' similarity to greyscale doesn't end with its symptoms. Like the fictional disease, it's also so contagious that a single brief touch is enough to pass the scabies on to another victim. But let's face it: If you've contracted the Viking scabies and you still manage to lay hands on someone as they're screaming and actively running away from you, maybe the scabies mites aren't the biggest assholes around here.
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For more things that aren't new, check out 23 Horrifying Real Insects That Put Science Fiction to Shame and The 5 Most Horrifying Bugs In The World.