Infestation, a short story by William Beeker

It was tax season, and I was rifling through papers on my desk looking for an important receipt, when I remembered that I had recently thrown it away. I stood over the wastebasket in my bedroom, internally debating the importance of the receipt. There were crumpled napkins, rotting banana peels, and clumps of wet coffee grounds lying on top of the collected trash heap. As I peered into it, I noticed little things shifting around in there like grains of sand sliding and falling. One of the grains suddenly leapt to the rim, then the wall, and drifted lazily up to my face. It was a fruit fly. The bin was filled with them, and the longer I looked, the more I saw. I recoiled, stepping backwards toward my closet and noticed them in my hanging shirts.

I immediately drew the red bands around the rim of the trash bag to cinch it shut and carried it to the street. The flies seemed to disappear, but after a few days the trash can was filled up once again, and once again the tiny, slow flies descended. It occurred to me that they had never left; they had only hid in wait for more food. Perhaps hid is too much. They had probably scattered into the carpet and the curtains, making them difficult to spot, me having not expected them to survive anywhere but a trash heap.

Killing them individually was easy but tedious. They were slow, gorged on my offerings, and I could extend an open hand and snatch them out of the air. But there were too many, and they were too difficult to see to exterminate absolutely. Always, it seemed, there remained at least one male and one female who immediately repopulated the flock, and so no matter how many I killed, they would reappear in greater numbers, more evolved, learning my ways through legends from their elders, communicated in silent buzzing and the rubbing of legs together. I realized there was no way for me to get rid of them as long as there was trash for them to eat, so I stopped feeding them.

In general I starved myself, but when I did splurge my appetite on an apple or banana, I made sure not to leave any waste. I ate the cores and chewed the peels. Initially I would gag on the rubbery peels, tart from pesticides, but I started grilling them with salt. I’d coat peach pits in oil and suck on them like jawbreakers until they were soft enough to chew. I’d crush up eggshells and sprinkle them in my coffee. I ate like an Indian, leaving absolutely nothing to waste. This way of eating was disgusting to me, so more often than not I would eat foods that left no edible waste: packaged foods, artificial foods. But I grew sick of these substitutes and opted more and more for starving myself.

They started dropping like flies do, and I swept their corpses from my desk with a light flick of my wrist. Dozens, then hundreds died off in starvation. I towered over their bodies, my lean frame and angular face swaying slightly under the dizzying influence of malnourishment. Eventually they all died off, and I brushed their many bodies into the trashcan they had once lived in. But I couldn’t collect all of them. There were too many, and they were too small to get every last one.

A day or two after I started eating again, cockroaches crawled out of the walls and up from under the carpet to feast on the dead fruit flies. They’d crawl in groups out of corners where the walling didn’t quite come together or out from drains or simply from under the carpet, beneath which I now realized lived an entire colony of scuttling black roaches busy with the tasks of survival. By killing off the flies, I had supplied them with a week’s worth of food. Their colony could grow and expand because of this unexpected surplus, and they grew comfortable in my room. There were no overhead lights, only a feeble lamp at the corner of my desk. They grew audacious, crawling freely over my bare feet, burrowing in my dirty clothes, and biting me in my sleep. They brought in disease and made me sick. I went to work with red bumps all over my face and hands. My boss told me to stop coming to work until I could properly maintain my hygiene. I stopped paying my rent, furious at the landlord for allowing such an infestation to persist. He sent someone to spray my apartment with roach-killer, but the man insisted that I rearrange my entire apartment for his sake. He demanded that every piece of furniture be moved three feet from every wall. Every utensil in the kitchen should be saran-wrapped and placed on a table at least three feet from every wall. All blankets, sheets, clothes should be placed in sealed boxes and the boxes placed at least three feet from every wall. I had neither saran-wrap nor sealable boxes, and I threw up my hands in exasperation at the exterminator. He told me to reschedule the appointment when this was done. I slammed the door in his face and fumed over his demands. I would never reschedule with him. Never. What kind of world is this, I asked myself, where so many petty conditions and rules can prevent someone from being pulled up out of the shit? I refused to pay rent but could not communicate to the landlord why the exterminator was of no help. He threatened me with eviction, so I grew used to the cockroaches. I no longer panicked in the shower when they’d come up from the drain. I casually shook them out of my dirty clothes when I‘d get dressed. If they crawled over my food, I no longer threw it out. I resigned to my fate. At around this time I had started eating again and leaving food waste in the trashcan, which allowed the fruit flies to return. The more flies that came, the more the roaches proliferated. The flies fed on my waste, and the roaches fed on my flies. There was no way out of this loop, I assure you.

Then the IRS audited me for failing to provide an important receipt. I didn’t fight them. Before they could seize my belongings, I was evicted by that tetchy landlord and sent out on the street. I left my belongings for the IRS to take. Let them see the conditions I survived under. Let them take my roaches and my flies. Let them be caught in my horrible loop. I’ll be laughing outside their windows, a vagrant, no longer defending humanity from infestation. I am on the streets now, but I will survive here because I learned to eat trash when I still had a home.

 

 

Will Beeker is a screenwriter from Michigan now living in Los Angeles. Formerly a contributing editor at VVV Magazine, he is a Columbia College of Chicago alumnus where he graduated with a B.A. in Film & Video. He was a finalist for the Nicholl’s Fellowship and reads scripts for the BlueCat Screenplay Competition. He currently works in the comedy department at Brillstein Entertainment Partners.

Heroin by Kevin Martin

by Kevin Martin

 

never could
hit between
my
fingers
used to
dwell in
other sacred places

dreams gaunt after stars
in veins i think of you
always

live like i might be a
good man
with thunder in my ear
lightning
smooth as ever
she never wanted
to be bad
neither did i

kissed her squarely
on the mouth

both accustomed
to consumption

devour each other
every chance we get
don’t fuck around
as the sun
shines overhead

there is a star on her halo

by Kevin Martin

 

isn’t me i trust my lady
looks out for good intentions
tonight near railroad tracks
and good music drank
cider and IPAs
wicked weed
this year very little snowfall
complimentary coffee
last time i took two
hits of acid danced around
nightfall fires that
feed dreams cathartic eyes
which force you to be yourself
stylish all the time got a scar
on my calf one above my
left eye neither afraid or sad
empires that are miles apart
from each other since you no longer
get the real thing as discreet
as it used to be catch a
bolt of lightning be alone
with my head spinning sometimes
you gotta go slow never deny
heart wishes that she never leaves
me again as the mosquitoes bit
twice behind the knee which might
be okay with modern psychology
my pen is drunk eyes tiny slants
that see you in the dark with
open arms

High Point

 

by Kevin Martin

 

i
was in NC
High Point jail
six floors up
right below the women’s
floor and at night

could talk to them through
air ducts as everyone promises
something

i was waiting for my transfer to
the neuce which was the next step
an introduction to honor grade
prison camps

i was not waiting there for bond
knowing your time is better than
not knowing

for two weeks i was there

always saved up
milk cartons
to make a deck
of cards

after they were dry
an old crackhead named
tight shirt

would make you the nicest
deck of cards you’ve ever
seen for some canteen

you could shuffle them
like you would a regular deck

stay up all night
playing cards and talking shit
i would listen to their lies as
we all would laugh at each other

Traveling

by Matthew Wilson

 

I’ve seen so many places and heard so many tongues. I’ve marked my adventures on this map and have seemed to run out of pins. But I’m not done. I haven’t seen the world. I’ve only seen what’s close to me. But that’s not enough for me. That couldn’t be enough for anyone. Who could or would be satisfied with exploring only their own backyard? I won’t be one of those people.

I want to walk where giants once stood. In my dreams, I’ve followed the paths of Alexander and Caesar. I’ve grazed the fields where Romans camped while preparing for their conquests. I want to see the world. Every grain of sand and every blade of grass. I envision freezing my ass off atop the cliffs of Mt. Everest. To sit where the Greeks believed their Gods would rest. I’ll walk atop Mount Olympus and yell for Zeus to chase me down.

I’ll see the world and hear all tongues, I’ll be Matthew of the Path and retrace all routes. Maybe. But I’ll tell you where I won’t go. And it’s not on any map. It’s nowhere. I’ll not go nowhere. I’ll take these feet and both of these lungs and breathe the air of old Pompeii. I’ll pay respects for all the dead and traverse Vesuvius. And my legends and stories of my adventures will rain like fire from above. You’ll see.

You’ll read about me. Matthew of the Path, that’s who I’ll be. You’ll see.

Love

by Matthew Wilson

 

I read about this once. A chemical reaction inside of my brain. The clashing of compounds and the physical response inside my core. But there’s more to this. There’s so much more to love than that of science. I know this to be my personal truth. Because I’ve felt your touch sending lightning through my flesh. I’ve smelled your scent lingering on my sweatshirts through the dead of winter.

We’ve got a connection here, you know it too. We have a metaphysical melding of mortal coils. You were meant for me, and I was meant for you. Your soul’s heat has melted the cascading casket of encircling ice. You’ve fueled a fire white hot to experience all this chemical concoction has to offer. Love, a gift you’ve granted me.

Your voice sends chills from skull to ankles. My pupils dilate and those around believe I’ve done more cocaine than Tony Montana. I’m purely addicted to your body’s effects on mine. I’ve trembled at the thought of you walking away. I fear the day you grow bored of me. You’ve sparked this reaction and I’ll let it consume me for as long as I live.

Love. Life’s true killer.

Animus

by Matthew Wilson

 

This was my time,
as much as it was yours.
You held my hand
as I held your waist.

We danced among an hourglass.
Time has carried us away.
You created inspiration.
I created because of you.

Yet now you’ve vanished,
and I am broken.
I am longing
and I am needing.

Your touch of faith
was my saving grace.
You were the architect
of my heart’s desires.

Yet I’ve saved the best for last.
As you once did with my hands.
You kissed my knuckles
and from your lipstick
a universe was born.

My creations are now immortal.
Ink bound to page.
Living thoughts in hearts and minds.
Living as your memory.

Gone
But never forgotten.
My inspiration.
I am an imitation.