An Infestation

In "An Infestation," Sarah Beth Childers explores the hypnopompic hallucinations she began experiencing after she left Appalachia for Oklahoma, three years after her brother’s Joshua’s suicide. Experienced in a state between waking and sleeping, Sarah Beth’s hallucinations included a snake dropping from the ceiling into her bed and a writhing pile of creatures on her bedsheets that seemed to be a cross between maggots and rats. The essay tells the story of Joshua’s desperation to leave Appalachia for New York City, and it contrasts Sarah Beth’s voluntary displacement with the region’s native population, many of whom arrived via the Trail of Tears. This essay explores displacement and migration as both causes and cures for grief. Originally published in the Colorado Review, this essay is part of Smoo, Sarah Beth’s memoir-in-progress about Joshua’s life and suicide, her own and her family’s grief, and the particularly Appalachian problem of having a family too strong, too independent, and too Christian to seek treatment for mental illness.