Katsaridaphobia suffers might want to steer clear of this short story about madness brought to you by Adrianna Villasenor on her NITH debut. For everyone else, strap yourself in for a truly insane spectacle as Adrianna takes us deep into the mind of madness.
So deep, in fact, that Villasenor took out first place for the JUST A POE BOY Short Story Contest, a writing award that asked authors to give psychological horror their best shot.
You Bring Poison
by Adrianna Villasenor
I wait for you to bring the poison that will kill it. The poison that will flush it from the cracks in the walls and into the light where I can crush it with my foot. I hear it scurry under the wallpaper, squeezing its exoskeleton through the glue. The sound crawls up my spine and I try to wait patiently. When will you get here? Where is the poison?
It is a cockroach. With two inch long antennae and a spiked bottom. It is merely a bug, smaller than my foot is wide, but it is threatening to evict me. It eats my food and chews the wires to the point where the darkness reigns when the blinds are shut. While I shower it watches from the ceiling, and when I need to use the restroom it sits on the toilet, daring me to exert my superior strength. But I cannot.
I squished it once before. It was only the size of a penny then. What I did not know was that it has an inhuman resilience to life. That is why I need you to bring the poison; my foot cannot stomp it out of existence alone. It needs to be poisoned and squished, then burned and whisked away by a broom. I know this because I squished it once and it did not die.
No, it lived on. Its baby shell rebounded and it scurried away injured. It lived and swore vengeance. Do you see my predicament now? The little bug does not multiply just because it wants to be the sole cause of my impatience—of my anxiety. It wants me to feel the weight of it pushing in from all sides, crushing me until I too scurry away injured. Or does it want the final word?
The poison will be the golden goblet, the Holy Grail that I need. Its wondrous elixir will banish this malignant creature from my heart and I will be able to sleep, to eat, to pee without anxiety. The poison will let me live again. So I wait for you while I hear it wedging its body above my head, in the cracks of the roof, chittering to itself.
I had hoped we could live in peace, the roach and I, but I know the truth now. It did not want to coexist because it already claimed the house. It chewed into the fridge and used it as a bathroom. It carved tunnels into the mattress. It even ate cockroach-shaped patterns into my clothes. We started as roommates and I dealt with its antics for a time, but then it became unbearable.
It became more personal. It chewed my hair while I slept. Misplaced my Teddy bear. Slept in my underwear drawer. Ate my toothbrush. I needed space. That was all, but I overreacted and squished it. I am done paying for my mistake and with that bug. I need the poison now.
Like clockwork, I hear you at the door. Strangely enough, I cannot help but feel guilty at this deciding hour. The roach was here before I moved in. Did that mean I was the one who invaded? And that I had no right to punish it? I look around me and notice that it is deadly quiet. Does it know what is about to happen? Does it know that I am ending the game? Is it angry? What will happen if this does not kill it?
I open the door and greet you with a nervous smile. You do not have the proper equipment advertised. You are not carrying the poison nozzle and you do not wear the typical jumpsuit required for this messy business. No, instead you are wearing all white and look at me suspiciously. I tell you about the roach and lead you to the most hideous spots it created.
I show you the chewed wires, the defecation in the fridge, the network of tunnels in the mattress, the bald spots in my scalp, and the patterns in my clothes. Tears spring in my eyes as I sincerely thank you for saving me from the roach. You are stolid the entire time.
After the excitement boils over inside me, I wait for your response. When all you do is look at me with a blank, disbelieving face, it is the roach that replies. It chuckles from inside the wallpaper in its familiar way that tells me it recognizes victory. The anxiety steams up again and I point to the sound, then to you. Can you hear it? Kill it! Kill it! Get the poison! Flush it out!
You look at me and take me by the arm. You begin to pull me outside, away from the roach’s laughter. No! Just listen to it! Listen to it mock us! No, please! You have the wrong man! It’s in the walls! Get the poison! Get the magical potion and spray it in between the wallpaper and glue. Let its nozzle pump the liquid mixture through the passageways like a heart does to blood. Let it present itself to you. Let there be proof of what I am saying! Let me bring my foot down upon it and light it ablaze.
You do not reason. Or even listen to what I say. I go quiet, knowing that it outsmarted me—that it won.