It stood there looking at me, antennae twitching, sensing something that was invisible to my feeble human senses. I was startled to see it, neither of us moved. It was a big one, though I couldn’t see any eyes on it I was sure it was looking at me as intently as I was looking at it, though perhaps not as fearfully. One of us had to break first and it was me, my decision was made, I was going to kill it and I was going to kill it now. The weapon of choice was the broom. Without making any sudden moves I began reaching for it without breaking eye contact. My subterfuge was short lived, the game was up as it scurried off in the direction of the couch, no doubt hoping to hide underneath its bulk making it harder for me to get to it.
I raced for the corner of my studio apartment where the weapon was stowed and brought the massive tool to bare on the evil invader. It scuttled with all its’ might but it simply wasn’t enough to escape my wrath. I brought down the bristles and wood with all my might and when I raised it once again I saw that I had hit my target, the cockroach was dead. I allowed my eyes to rest on its lifeless carcass as I held the broom high, I was triumphant. No, there was yet movement in the beast, the legs wriggled, the thing was moving once again. The broom fell again and again until the life was surely gone from the evil thing at which point the broom served the purpose for which it was designed as I swept the dead insect from my the one room palace that is, was and shall ever be the place I called home.
The door was opened, the remains of the cockroach swept out and the door closed and locked. I returned to the couch but before I could get there I saw a pair of antennae twitch. I stood unmoving once again, weapon in hand and utterly transfixed by the new enemy before me. The broom was already in my hand and it was as nothing to bring it crashing down once again on another foe. It sensed what was happening and like its brother attempted to dart for the couch and like its brother it was destroyed on the way. Once again I swept the remains from my flat and once again I headed for the couch to rest my head in front of the television.
The movie channels had a romantic comedy and the documentary channels had on programmes about ants. The programme about ants won the contest between the 2. A monotonous voice explained the strength of the common ant and went on to describe the power of an almost infinite number of insects working in conjunction. I pictured these mighty midgets wandering around their nest carrying several times their own bodyweight. I spiralled down into the soft fibres of my couch, body still, soul falling ever further down. There were no ants anymore, just a cockroach standing there in my living room looking at me. Antennae twitching.
I moved for the broom the electric current went from my brain throughout my limbs. The electricity reached my arms and my legs but they refused to obey the commands sent to them. I was frozen in place before the beast only able to move my eyes, I could see the broom, my instrument of death in its regular place in the corner next to the bathroom. The thing was only a meter away yet it was utterly out of reach. Movement attracted my eyes back to my nemesis, it had darted forward and then stopped again. Denied even the smallest of movements I dared open my mouth to attempt to communicate with him. “You’re dead! I killed you get out!” was what I would have said had I been able to speak. Alas even this small attack was denied me by the same paralysis that prevented me from staging a full frontal assault.
The fight or flight reflex began in earnest and the waves of adrenaline flowed freely throughout my body providing me with greater focus and power that I couldn’t use. The cockroach darted forward again. It sensed my weakness, somehow it knew that the tables had been turned, that I wasn’t going to kill it again. The insect darted forward in a sudden surge of movement to arrive in front of my naked foot. Waves and waves of adrenaline surged over my static frame yet had nowhere to go, I couldn’t have taken my eyes off the inexplicably living cockroach even if I wanted yet it was so close that it was a struggle to see without being able to move my head down. My back was soaking wet with sweat, seemingly my only reaction to the beast before me.
The antennae twitched, it could sense my fear. It darted forward once more and I could no longer see where it had gone. There was an instant of pure panic as it disappeared from my field of vision only to be replaced by another crescendo of adrenaline that threatened to overpower me completely as I felt the touch of the insect upon my big toe. It came suddenly as though part of a new dart of movement forward and onto my body. The creature was on me and I was powerless to remove it. The movement continued on beneath my jeans and up my leg before stopping at my knee. Tears filled my eyes as I strained every muscle in a vain attempt to move and prevent the invasion of my very being.
Nothing could prevent the cockroach for moving around at will and it continued it’s relentless adventure up my leg, past my knee and towards my groin. Each individual leg made a specific imprint on my skin and I could feel every detail of its body as it continued its journey ever higher towards my groin. I tried to divorce myself from the situation, tried to think of something else. “It’s only a cockroach, it’s only a cockroach, IT’S ONLY A COCKROACH!” Were the words that went through my mind over and over nullifying my attempts to think of something else entirely and utterly failing to neutralise my fear.
Leg after leg rose and fell back on my skin as the beast crawled ever further up my leg. Sweat streaming from every pore I strained at my paralysis desperate to move, desperate to smash my fist down onto my leg and destroy the 6 legged monster that was on top of me. I opened my eyes but I didn’t move. It had not been a dream, it had been real. I waited for the comfort of knowing that I had been asleep and now was awake in the real world to sooth my anxiety but no comfort came. Slowly I rose from the sweat stained sheets to sit up and take a look around the room. The sweat on my body quickly chilled me and the water on the sheets ensured that they would be impossible to sleep on.
The tiled floor was cold to the touch of my feet, my skin felt clammy and the feeling of paralysis had left a residual effect on my now stiff legs. Light wasn’t streaming in through the small windows but it was visible, morning had arrived and unhappily I was up to greet it. Eventually slumber overtook me on the couch. I dreamed a dream without insects of any kind only to awake and find…none on me or in the apartment.
According to my watch it was 12:00 pm, I had slept way too long. I rose and jumped into the shower, the jets of hot water stripped away the grogginess of a restless night. A couple of minutes was enough to leave me feeling refreshed, I turned off the jets of water and grabbed my yellow towel from the railing and was in the middle of drying off when a sudden movement caught my eye. The familiar fear returned when I was greeted by those twitching antennae and the cold beady eyes of a monster who would not die. I stared and he stared back as we fought a fresh battle of nerves with one another. “You’re not going to paralyse me again” I whispered to him through clenched teeth. Even as I said it I felt the strength leave my body. Perhaps this time it would be better to just leave for a while, perhaps I would kill him later. The thought descended upon me like a breath of fresh air. He was just a cockroach I could kill him at my leisure, perhaps he would even have crawled away somewhere while I was out.
While maintaining eye contact as much as possible I finished drying myself and threw on some clothes before leaving the basement apartment I called home. He didn’t move the entire time, just started at me as though reading my thoughts. He simply stood there on all those legs of his and waited for me to vacate the apartment. I left without shaving or brushing my teeth, just threw on what I needed, grabbed my wallet and phone and was gone.
It felt good to be in the fresh air and away from my new found enemy. The fresh air cleared my head and tempted me to walk back into the apartment and kill the beast, immediately, after standing in contemplation for more than a couple of minutes the cockroach received a reprieve. Already out of the place it was time to wander around and feel the sunshine on my face. I could deal with the cockroach in my own time. The memory of the paralysis remained firmly rooted in my mind and I needed to destroy the enemy before he got the best of me. The broom wasn’t up to the task so after forcing myself to wander around for a long while ostensibly thinking about the scenery, the people around me, work and anything other than cockroaches I entered into the supermarket and made straight for the bug sprays.
There were many different cans on display, the sheer number of them gave me confidence that there were any number of nasty chemical concoctions put together by people far smarter than I to kill the evil little things. After perusing the cans on display I opted for a short, wide one that was coloured black and had an orange graphic of a bolt of lightning hitting a cockroach on it. It looked like strong stuff and I was already excited to return home and take my revenge on the beast that had been haunting me with its refusal to die and leave me in peace. No, it wasn’t the same cockroach, it couldn’t be. They all looked the same and the sinking feeling in my stomach that somehow the same little bug was haunting me was a nonsense. Sweat trickled down the back of my neck at the possibility that there was something going on that was entirely beyond my comprehension. A ball of fear sat in my gut telling me that the spray would be as effective as the broom had been in ridding myself of the occupier of my home. I shook my head and moved to the counter.
I must have picked the correct spray for it was almost twice the price of the others. The man at the till looked at me and said “it that all?” He had black hair slicked heavily with gel, his dark skin was almost completely obscured by the thick hair covering it, he held the spray in a hand that had coarse black hairs emanating from it. He looked at me through dark brown eyes waiting for an answer as if he had asked a question that wasn’t utterly absurd considering the fact that I held nothing else in my hands nor had I placed anything else on the conveyor belt. “Yes” I stated while staring him in the eye, he studied me a moment longer and then shrugged, before asking me for the money. I reached into my jeans for my brown leather wallet and brought it out to extract the necessary notes. His shirt was undone not just at the collar but a full two buttons before seemingly in order to allow more of the thick black hair to protrude. For some reason my sweating was getting worse and I found gripping the wallet hard, fumbling with the cash a movement caught my eye. Looking up while handing the impatient cashier the money it became apparent that the hair on his chest was moving. He took my money impatiently and moved toward the till as he did so, depriving me a closer look. A moment later he turned around to give me my change and the same ripple caught my eye.
Taking the money from his perfectly dry hand in my sweat filled one was more difficult than I had expected. He frowned at my incompetence as I fumbled and fidgeted some more only to raise his bushy eyebrows in disbelief as I dropped everything in front of him and stared at the thousands of lice swarming through the hair on his chest. I looked up to his face to see more in his eyebrows and all through the gloopy gel that he had spread in his hair.