So I’ve been working on another sustained (but not sustaining, sigh) project, because Finer Points absolutely needed to be overhauled. (No arguments, it had to be done.) But the other project has been in my head for years, and it felt right to work on it. That doesn’t mean it’s a deep-from-my-soul kind of story, just that I’ve wanted to write about giant bugs for a few years, because I’m a nerdy, nerdy twelve-year-old in my heart of hearts.
Oh, yeah, it’s about giant bugs. Giant roaches, actually, and the frantic efforts the heroes make as they try to escape a hometown that, quite suddenly, has become a nest.
Hope this little peek gives enough of an excuse for why I don’t call so much, baby.
Pete was watching Lyndi sleep, running his fingers through her thick, deep red hair. Allison was watching Pete. He felt her eyes on him, looked up at her. She smiled. Earnest, sweet.
He smiled back.
“You two look good together,” Allison told him.
He grinned, looked at Blake. “Yeah…so do you two.”
She curled a fist, waved it at him. “You get two for lying when we get out of this.” They shared a soft laught, and she looked over her sleeping boyfriend. “Yeah, I guess…I guess things aren’t really that great with us.”
“You and me, or you and him?”
“Do you like him, though?”
She considered or a second. “He’s alright. You know, aside from this.” She wiped an errant snot bubble from his nose. “Provided we don’t have to whether anymore giant bugs, we just might make it.” She gave him a grin, but he just looked back quizzically.
“So, then…like, why are you with him?”
“Why are you with her?”
“Different question, and you already know why.”
She shrugged. “I dunno. He was…there, y’know. Like Lyndi I bet.”
“Someone else was there too, you know.”
She was quiet, looked to the floor. “…I know,” she mumbled.
Pete looked back down to Lyndi, felt a surge of obligation to wrap his arms tighter around her. He knew they weren’t an item, not yet anyway, but it seemed indecent to have this conversation with her so intimately close by.
“So…why then?” he asked after a few breaths. “If you knew I was…there?”
“Maybe you were too close for comfort, Pete.”
“But not so uncomfortable for you to try on once and awhile.”
“…a kiss, that what it was. You don’t just kiss your buddies, not the way you’ve kissed me.”
“You kissed me back.”
“That doesn’t matter, and you know it.”
Another pause. “Yeah. I know,” she said then. She held his gaze for a frightful moment, found her heart beating again when he smiled. Lyndi shifted in his arms, moaned peacefully in her sleep. She’d drawn her bare legs almost in a fetal position, and she curled her arms in her lap.
The moment ended when the truck suddenly jumped.
“Shit! Fuckers bitin’ the tires!” Devon screamed. The truck dropped a foot, quaked. “Goddammit! They’re all goin’ for the tires! Shit, shit!” He fought the wheel, trying to keep them on the road.
The truck jumped a few more times. The clacking of armored bodies outside nearly drowned out the dull explosions of the tires. Devon cursed again: “Goddammit! We’re not gonna make it to the fucking check point! Shit, mother fucker!”
There was a horrible crunching, and everyone in back turned to find the back corner caving in. Through the splintering wood, they could make out the jagged ridges of a roach’s jaws.
Up ahead, Gramps yelled “BOGEY, SON, BOGEY!” Devon followed this with “HOLY MOTHER FUCK!” before everyone was showered with exploding safety glass.
The truck veered left and right, Devon trying to maintain control but failing. He and Gramps both used the butts of the guns to beat at the face of the cockroach that had smashed itself through the windshield.
The bug thrashed itself about, knocking out what was left of the glass. It stretched its jaws wide and made for Gramps.
Before Lyndi could even inhale to scream for the old man, Gnat leapt from Pete’s arms and clamped two dozen needly kitty teeth into the thing’s ropey antenna.
The bug quickly forgot Gramps and gave a warbling scream, shaking its head and slinging Gnat like a furry mace. Finally it was able to dislodge the cat, throwing her back into Pete with enough force to knock to knock him down. Pete had to clamp his arms around his cat like a vice to keep her from charging at the bug anew.
The distraction had given Gramps enough time to pull the slide back on the M1, and the truck bed took on a deafening roar as he unloaded a clip into the insect. Devon followed suit, blasting roach and eardrum with all six rounds from his handheld cannon.
The cockroach went limp when both guns ran dry, and Gramps kicked it back outside with a creaking, arthritic leg. The truck wobbled as it ground the monster’s remains into paste, wobbled harder as more dull pops rippled underneath.
Pete could see sparks in Devon’s mirror. “Shit! We only got the tires in front left,” Devon called back, “but they can’t get to those past the fenders!”
There was a terrifying crack, and daylight poured in through a fresh hole in back. It was quickly obscured by spiky, skittering legs.
A roach’s face shoved through the hole. It promptly exploded as Chris shot it at point blank range.
“Bullseye,” he said, cocking the hammer of the other barrel. He blasted the next set of buggy eyes that peeked through, cracked the double barrel open to reload.
“Shit, shit, goddammit!” Devon kept swearing. “They’re all over the truck! Goddamn fuckmother, I can’t shake ‘em! Damn, damn!”
They could all feel it, the truck weighing heavy on straining axles. They could hear the awful groan of metal on metal, felt the floor heating from the river of sparks.
“Jesus, this thing’s not gonna go up, is it?” Blake yelled. “I mean, fuck, does anyone else smell smoke?!”
“Goddamn! They just keep comin’! Damn it, damn it, fuckin’ shit! I KNEW I WAS TOO BLACK TO MAKE IT OUTTA THIS!”
Pete stuffed Gnat back into her carrier, despite her insistence on charging at the next set of feelers that snaked into the back. Gramps was busy peppering the roof, ignoring Devon’s requests not to shoot it too close to his, quote: “Goddamn mother fuckin’ head!” Unquote.
For every roach they dropped, twenty more seemed to take their place.
Chris stumbled to the front, cleared the windshield of another bug as it tried to clamber through. “Hey man!” he said, smacking Devon on the arm. “That gas station! Go thataway!”
“What? No! Why?”
“Do it, man. We’re gonna have us a little bug fry.”
“The fuck we are! I’m not…”
Chris pointed his shotgun through the windshield, took aim at the closest gas pump, and squeezed the trigger. A chunk was taken out of the pump in a hail of sparks.
“Dammit, that shit don’t even work, bruh!” Devon complained. “Shit ain’t gonna blow up just ‘cause Michael fuckin’ Bay…”
The gas station blew up so huge it almost seemed like some film’s pyrotechnic engineer had been drinking on the job.
“Go for it man!” Chris said emphatically, pointing at the flaming orb of death and slapping Devon’s shoulder some more. “Go go go!”
“Fuck you, no way I…!”
Chris grabbed the wheel and turned it for him, sending the truck hurtling to the inferno.
“GODDAMN YOU, CHRIS!” Devon shouted as the truck leapt the sidewalk. “I HATE YOU AND ALL THE CHILDREN YOU EVER WOULD HAVE HAAAAADDD!!!”
“Hold on, boys and girls!” Chris yelled back, a mad glint in his eye that told Pete he was probably flashing back to every Bruce Willis movie he’d ever seen. “This party’s about to get HOT!”
Pete didn’t even have time to roll his eyes before the truck wiped out the blackening remains of a Geo that someone had left at the station.
Outside, everything sounded like screams and fire.
The fire was visible for miles.
They made it through the other side, shedding roasted and sizzling bugs by the dozen. Those that remained didn’t hold on for long, as they madly scratched at themselves, desperate to scrape the burning gasoline the ruptured fuel lines had spewed onto them.
The street was clear. The explosion had stabbed deep into the creature’s insectoid instincts, and sent nearly every roach within miles skittering for cover. Still, Devon didn’t feel like testing the limits of their current reprieve.
“Alright, I can see the fuckin’ checkpoint!” he called back. “Just two miles down the street! Try not to blow anymore shit up, Chris!”
Chris propped the shotgun against his shoulder. “Just needed to turn up the HEAT is all,” he said with a smirk.
“And stop talking like that. Seriously, man, I’m on the razor’s edge. Don’t know what I’ll do, but I’m reasonably sure it involves violence.”
“I cleared the road for us, didn’t I?” Chris shot back. He turned to Pete. “Got the bugs off our ass, right?”
“Well, yeah…” Pete grudgingly acknowledged.
“Only had to literally throw us in the fire to do it,” Lyndi rebutted.
“But I got the bugs to back off.”
“Not sure that validates lighting us on fire,” Pete told him. “Maybe nullifies it. At best.”
“Look, boys and girls, I did what needed to be done.” Chris walked to the windshield with a swagger he didn’t have before. “Maybe it wasn’t pretty. Maybe it wasn’t ‘safe.’ Maybe. But it got the job done, and now we’re home clear. I’d call that a good day’s work.” He looked to Allison, gave her a wink she refused to acknowledge took her breath away a little.
“Shit gets ugly sometimes, kids, but you can all relax now.” Chris gave an action hero grin. “I got a feelin’ everything’s gonna be alright from here on out.”
May 12th, 2011
Chris Marsh, 19, of Midwell, passed away Saturday, May 7th at approximately 5:20 p.m. He is survived by his parents, Stephanie and Bill Marsh, and his girlfriend/cousin Regina Hart.
Funeral arrangements for Mr. Marsh are expected to be held relatively quickly, despite extreme backlog at Morningburn Funeral Home in Midwell. “Little preparation is needed for the body,” funeral home director Todd Stevenson says. “Really, it’s just a matter of whether Mr. Marsh’s family would prefer for us to bury his remains in a full-size coffin or in the little Chinese takeout box we’re kind of keeping him in.”
– From They Skitter. Copyright 2011, Sean Ganus