GRAND IMPERIAL THRONE ROOM, CASTLE ROACH—His Royal Highness, King Leopold Blattodea IV, undisputed lord and ruler of the cockroaches, expressed dismay and concern Monday that the recent rise in bedbug populations could threaten his sovereignty over the realm of human squalor.

Bedbug

Gathered in His Majesty's begrimed throne room behind the bathroom sink, a solemn coterie of royal advisers and nobleroaches received the king's proclamation in tense silence, awaiting his word on precisely how the cockroach kingdom would respond to the bedbug scourge.

"Many hours have I spent in my chambers contemplating this worrisome development," King Leopold declared from atop his throne of toilet-paper scraps and human hair. "For centuries, the woodwork and drainpipes of the world have been the unassailed domain of we roaches. Exterminators were powerless to stop us. Humans shrieked at the sight of us. But now this meddlesome bedbug has inspired tenfold the terror."

"We must not allow this ignoble parasite to usurp our rightful place as the most feared and reviled pest in all the land," continued Leopold, raising four of his six legs to the sky and shaking his scepter. "Scurry forth, my countrymen, and let our unmatched ability to repel be known!"

Citing the bedbugs' ability to infest home furnishings, their rumored biting prowess, and their seizure of prized territories such as hotels and office buildings, greatly vexed sources within Castle Roach confirmed the king had perhaps underestimated his smaller but remarkably tenacious enemy.

Prognosticators and soothsayers from areas as far-flung as underneath the stove and behind the trash compactor have begun to speculate in private that the fierce battle between the pests for control of mankind's paranoia and repugnance may already be lost.

According to members of the royal court, King Leopold—whose uncontested reign began when he emerged from his pupal encasement two weeks ago—has continually refused to admit the bedbug advancement is cause for any long-term distress.

"Though the situation may appear dire, this is but a fleeting matter to be dealt with in good time," Leopold proclaimed before devouring a morsel of wallpaper paste. "Do we not still probe through pantries with filthy antennae? Are our shiny, flightless wings not still a source of revulsion? Will we not always dart out from under dirty dishes with uncanny speed?"

Added Leopold, "When the bedbugs have been eradicated, we will still be here, still forcing people to strongly consider breaking their lease to move to another apartment."

Sources from the king's inner circle said that efforts to assess the extent of the bedbugs' encroachment have so far failed: Last week a reconnaissance mission ended abruptly when scouts were redeployed to investigate a cache of congealed pizza grease found in a cardboard box on the counter.

While some close to the monarch have suggested stemming the bedbug tide by forming an alliance with the silverfish kingdom, or perhaps even the dreaded mice, King Leopold himself dismissed such advisements as "cowardly" and "utterly beneath our station."

"Fie on your suggestions! Silence!" the king commanded unto a cowering counselor, who was then accused of collaboration with the bedbugs and executed forthwith before the entire throne room. "We shall use every resource at our disposal—including that revolting hissing sound we make—and we shall emerge victorious."

"Now away, all of you!" he added. "Come, my courtesans! Fetch me to a warm, damp place!"

At press time, King Leopold was reportedly planning to amass a battalion of 1,200 hardy foot soldiers, including 50 mighty water bugs, to seek out the location of the bedbug stronghold. As the forces prepared to march, a missive from a general in the bedbug army arrived via termite courier at the castle gates.

"Your petty machinations are useless," read the message scrawled in human blood. "Soon our numbers will grow so vast that mankind will be too terrified to step into a movie theater, sit on a friend's sofa, or check out books from the library. Forget not, we can survive without food for up to 18 months! Surrender now and return to the tropical, woody areas that birthed you. The future of the cities is now, my friends. We are the future."