by Mark Mattison
I hate cockroaches. Honest to God, I just hate ‘em.
They seem to like me, or at least, my house. Maybe they’re just biding their time ‘til I get evicted so they can take over the place. Seems like they thrive in this damn Louisiana heat. I think they’re, like, the state mascot or something.
They come from every damn crack in the house. They skitter ‘cross the floor every time I turn on a light; doesn’t matter which room I’m in. I put out the traps an’ all but they seem to like my bed better. I swear to God, last week I woke up to find one of them buggers jumpin’ out of my shorts. Still creeps me out just thinkin’ about it.
But that wasn’t nothin’ compared to what happened last night.
I was flippin’ the channels, lookin’ for that new reality show, when I come across this documentary on PBS about – yeah, you guessed it – cockroaches. Of course. Close-up camera shots, dopey narrative about reproductive cycles, that sort of thing. I finished off the last of my Jack Daniels and set it down by the foot of my recliner when I heard the most annoying high-pitched laughter you ever heard.
That’s right – laughter. I sat up and must’ve been gawking at that piece of crap ‘cause he was laughin’ his creepy little head off at me.
He was standin’ straight up on hind legs, of all things. I’d never, ever seen a roach do that, and believe you me, I’ve seen a lot of roaches. I rubbed my eyes and he just laughed all the harder.
“What the hell you laughin’ at, boy?” I asked him. I couldn’t believe I was talkin’ to one of ‘em. I looked down at the Jack Daniels again and wondered if maybe I’d overdone it.
“Cockroaches have long been depicted in art and literature,” the documentary droned in the background.
“I’m laughing at you, Steve,” the roach squeaked.
I squinted and stared. He nearly fell over laughin’ again.
“Um – why?” I asked. Kinda dumb, maybe, but what d’you say in a case like that? I was just glad nobody else was around. I wondered if it was some kind of prank.
“Because this time tomorrow, ‘Boom!’ – Your pitiful little life is going to come to a mercifully abrupt end. You won’t be able to push us around anymore. No more poison gasses or roach traps, no more squashing us and all that. Your time is up, monkey man.”
“Hardy and resourceful, the cockroach can live for weeks without any food at all,” the documentary continued in the background. Another close-up, like the bug was gettin’ interviewed or somethin’.
“What are you talkin’ about?” I asked. I scratched my head.
“Oh, five thousand years of civilization and you think you’re hot stuff,” the roach went on. “Well, we’ve been here two hundred and fifty million years. We got here long before you ever started rubbing sticks together to make fire, you big fat twerp!”
Normally I’d slug somebody for callin’ me that, but I couldn’t’ve been more offended just by the fact that he was a talkin’ bug to start off with. I ignored the cheap dig. “What d’you mean, you ‘got here’?”
The little roach planted his front legs on what I guess would’ve been his hips, if he had had ‘em. “You think we evolved here like you did, monkey man? Think again. We migrated to this rock from outside your galaxy. Our sun was going nova so we had to go somewhere. We started out on that rock you call Mars – wasn’t too bad at first – but ended up here. And we plan to stay.”
He chirped. The TV showed pictures of hundreds of roaches swarming on some kind of dirt hill while goofy music played in the background.
“Oh, believe you me, we tried to live in peace at first.” He began to pace. “But you wouldn’t have any of that. No, it’s always ‘Ew, get that dirty bug’ and all that. And now you’re overpopulating this whole place and killing it with all your pollution. Well, no longer. We’ve been working on a plan to get you monkeys to nuke each other so we can have the place to ourselves again. We can survive a bit of radiation, you know.” He stopped pacing and I think he smiled at me.
“And you’re confessin’ all of that now?” What a bonehead.
“Why not? You don’t have that much longer to live. And rubbing it in makes it all the more fun. You’ve had your fun with us, mister, but now the table’s turned. I’ve memorized the codes I’ll need to start your global thermonuclear war.”
“Get outta here,” I told the little snot. “Like you’ve been plotting the destruction of the whole human race from my crappy house?” I did look out the window, though. Barksdale Air Force Base wasn’t that far away.
He laughed again. “Of course! Who would’ve thought to look here for the instrument of your race’s demise? It’s the perfect hiding place!” He chirped again.
I stood up and placed my hands on my hips to match his stance. “And you’re the only one who knows these codes?”
His smile vanished quicker’n a Yankee politician’s campaign promises. “Um –” was all he said.
“Thought so,” I said as he made a most satisfying crunch beneath my heel.
I wiped off my boot with a nearby Kleenex and threw it in the trash, ‘long with my bottle of Jack D. Maybe I’d had enough of that stuff for awhile.
“The cockroach is remarkably resilient,” blared the TV. I plopped back down into my recliner, reached for my remote, and kept lookin’ for that new reality show.
I hate cockroaches.
Mark Mattison is an independent scholar, writer, and author of fantasy and science fiction. He lives in West Michigan with his wife, son, and laptop computer. Mattison is the author of “Commander Chris and the Mystical Orb,” published in 2010, and “The Goblin Gambit,” published in 2015.