A quest to make sense of it all. Or a sense to make a quest of it all.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Wonder why they do that.

It was nearly time to go. Schaefer slowly rose to his full height, taking as deep a breath as he could manage. He looked around the small room, scanning over the faces of the clan. His children, his brothers and sisters, cousins, friends, and even a few rivals. His weak eyes fell on his wife, Denise, standing tall next to the exit. Her face was unreadable, and it crossed his mind to speak to her, and he almost did, but it wasn't quite time for that yet. First he had to walk. He took a step, hoping nobody saw the trembling in his skinny legs. Another step, and another. He looked straight ahead, passing the faces, not wanting to see their pity. Without a word, he continued down the narrow aisle his clan had formed, until he reached the doorway. He stopped, and looked at Denise, suddenly at a loss for words. She spoke first, breaking tradition and drawing gasps from the room.

"It's been a good run, Schaefer. I suppose I may even miss you."

He smiled. It was a shadow of a smile, but his eyes twinkled for just a moment.
"You're still very young," he replied. "You will forget me in time, and find someone new. Our children will forget me."

"Never, my love. Your children will know who their father was."

"These ones will. I'm sure I have others scattered across this region with no understanding of their lineage. I was a little reckless before I met you."

Denise laughed softly, and Schaefer managed a chuckle that quickly turned into a deep, racking cough. It finally passed, and he grew somber as the room suddenly grew brighter, as light flooded in through the narrow crack in the wall that served as a door. Behind him, he heard the quick shuffling of many feet, his companions backing away farther into the shadows. Someone whispered and was quickly hushed. He saw none of this. He had been in that formation many times. He looked down at his old, tired feet, and then up at Denise again, longing to touch her one last time...but that could not be. Her speaking first was one thing, and forgivable. To touch a loved one at the end would be too much. He could not bring shame upon his family, now, at the end of his walk. Denise nodded, understanding without speaking. He turned and faced the doorway, and forced his feet to move. It was the only time he had ever known real fear, and it took all of his strength and will. Taking a last breath from his home, he slipped through the exit and into the blinding light. Staggering across the floor, he began coughing again. Still he continued. He could not see at all now. He clutched at his chest and stumbled, falling to his knees. The pain was growing, and he could not get a full breath. At last the coughing stopped, but he still could not get enough air in. He crawled forward a few more steps, and fell onto his back, unable to go on. He stared upward into the white light, gasping shallow breaths. He was vaguely aware of a heavy rhythmic vibration and pounding, and knew The Tall Ones were nearby. His legs and arms slowly and involuntarily drew inward, curling and stiffening. He closed his eyes, and it was over.

Jake was startled out of his doze by his wife's shrieks. He jumped out of the recliner, tripping and almost falling over his startled terrier. He followed the sound into the kitchen, where Sheila stood, pointing at the floor.

"Ew! Oh, ew! Get him out of here!"

Jake looked where she was pointing, and heaved a sigh of combined relief and annoyance.

"My Lord, Sheila. I thought you'd cut one of your fingers off. You really needed to wake me up to come pick up a dead cockroach?" He grabbed a roll of paper towels off the counter and squatted down, examining the corpse for a moment. "Big one, ain't he? Bet he was old."

Sheila shuddered in revulsion. "Get him out. I didn't know we had roaches. I hadn't seen any til now!"

Jake shrugged and picked up the carcass with a paper towel. "I'll get some poison traps." He wadded up the paper towel and tossed it in the trash. "Weird, though, ain't it? They stay hid, but they come out into the light to die in the middle of the floor... wonder why they do that."


dorothy said...

Love it! I was trying to figure it out. So glad you gave meaning. hate endings you can't figure out.

Foz the Hook said...

I didn't know they were monogamous.

Kafka would be pleased:-).

Very good.

sarah saint said...

Thanks, guys!

B, I don't think most cockroaches are monogamous. But I like the idea that they love intensely, if briefly.

Anonymous said...

I like the idea of a cockroach named Denise.

I thought it was great.

Why DO they do that? I would enjoy seeing that written into your next revision. It would give the statement at the end a lot more gravity.

But without changing a thing it is excellent. A great story idea. It was a delight.

sarah saint said...

Thank you!

I have no idea why they do that. Haven't looked it up yet. I just saw a dead bug (not a cockroach) on the floor at the gym this morning and I got to thinking about the secret lives of insects. I like the idea that they have these death rituals where the dying bug is sent out alone at the end. I'm thinking of fleshing out the rule about not touching. Like, maybe they have a terrible fear of communicative diseases since so many of them suddenly get sick and die. They don't know it's that they ingested some Raid.