Short Story
                             Pest Friends
                                          
By Michael Lizarraga             


  With two of his tentacles stuck to the red brick wall, Cockroach Carl did pull
ups while two other hands lifted small toothpicks with square erasers on each
ends.  He was a big eyed, muscular roach having large forearms and a
buffed chest.

  “Ron should spend less time eating and sleeping and more time getting into
shape,” said Carl.

  Snoozing beneath him under a candy wrapper was Ron the Rodent, a
lovable, yet lethargic long-tailed rat who slept and ate too much.  He had
eyes that always seemed shut, partially covered by a rainbow-striped beanie
with holes for his pointy, back-jutted ears.  Had long thin limbs, pinkish-beige
hands and feet, a tall gray furry body and a round pot belly.  Ron was the
quiet one, never talking, communicating only through action.

  “An 'egg plant' is a shape, isn't it?” smirked Wendy.

  Wendy Widow dangled upside down, the black, round-bodied spider
attached to a single web strand.  Using four of her tentacles, she held two
needles to crochet a handmade lady bug from her webbing.  Wendy had big,
thick horn rim glasses, eyes unseen through the lenses.  Her hair was in a tall
bun, and wore a necklace with small round ornaments.  She reached down
and replaced the rat's bottle cap "pillow" with the cozy lady bug web-cushion.

  Suddenly, a loud sound outside struck the creatures' attention.  Wendy,
Carl and Ron scampered over thimbles and chewed up no. 2 pencils to the
window ceil, peering out.  A common practice for the trio, the basement a
lonely place.

  Outside in the driveway, a uniformed man stepped out of a white van. On
the side of the vehicle were black silhouetted depictions of a rat, a Black
Widow and a cockroach.

  "Look!" said Wendy. "That's us."

  Ron motioned as though holding a camera.

  "You're right," said Carl. "It's a reality show!"

  Carl and Ron had delighted faces, running to an empty Coke bottle and
examining themselves in their "mirror".  Ron combed his hair, Carl
straightened his antennas, both brushing dust off each other.

  Wendy Widow, however, had a perplexed face, holding a tentacle to her
mouth.  Thinking...
  

                                                   #    #    #


  Amanda set the 8 by 10 picture book on her lap, facing her attentive
audience with an exaggerated gape.

  One hundred children, parents and fans packed the entire first floor of the
New York City bookstore, gathered for a public reading of Amanda's latest
picture book, Pest Friends.

  Amanda Basin was a short, petite thirty-four-year-old with frizzy brunette
hair and gold rectangular glasses, wearing an off-white sleeveless blouse
and blue jeans.  Unassuming as a New York Times bestselling children's
author.  Yet it was this approach Amanda loved, as if she was someone her
young readers knew and was just hanging out with them.

  She held the picture book up again, showing Wendy Widow, Cockroach
Carl and Ron the Rodent, creatures normally thought of as vile and
disgusting.

  "Uh oh!" gasped Amanda, animated, pointing to the man in the uniform.  
"Does anyone know who this man really is?"

  Parents peered down at their children.  A four-year-old sucking his fingers
raised his hand, and Amanda gave him a warm, affectionate smile as she
pointed to him.

  "He's...he's - umm..."  He glanced back and forth at his mother, who
whispered something in his ear.  "He's...he's, umm, the 'Terminator."

  Children laughed.

  "That's right, he's an exterminator," said Amanda, making eye contact with
as many children as she could find.  "Does anyone know what an
exterminator is?"

  "They kill bed bugs and fleas and lice," blurted another little boy, scratching
his head profusely, his embarrassed mother taking him out of the room.

  "That's right, they kill these creatures we see here," said Amanda, pointing
to Wendy, Ron and Carl.

  "Noooooo," a little girl sadly moaned.

  Amanda gave the girl a reassuring, cheerful face.  "Well, that's okay in real
life, because Black Widows and mice and cockroaches and other creatures
that crawl around your house are not as nice and cute as Ron the Rodent.  In
fact, some of these kinds of bugs and mice can be a little nasty and ugly and
have things inside them that can make you sick.

  "Sometimes, we meet things or people that may hurt us, or can be a little
mean.  Or even ugly, like big hairy monsters."

  Children smirked, watching Amanda raise her arms in a bear-like
impression.

  "But you know, no matter what we see or what kind of people or creatures
or monsters we meet, we should always love them.  Love them and
appreciate them, no matter what."

  There was a silence amongst the crowd.

  "Let's continue," said Amanda, turning the page.

                                                          ***

  Amanda sat in her regal Westchester home, in her elegant pink nightgown,
at her Cambridge office desk, pouring her guest a glass of Apricot Brandy.

  Wearing a black leather jacket, a blue silk shirt and black slacks, he walked
toward Amanda with an easy gait, the tall well-built man slapping the beige,
bulky crinkled envelope on the desk along with an old photograph, placing his
cigarette in his mouth while retrieving his drink.

  He was a distinguished man in his forties, dark haired, a no-nonsense face
and a jutting chin.  He had a pronounced scar on his right eye, remnants of a
severe burn, a portion of skin slightly overlapping the eye socket’s corner.  A
battle wound received in 1990 during Bush Sr.’s Gulf War.

  His alias – Cannon Green.

  Amanda examined the red-stained package with a raised brow, a familiar
name and address handwritten across the center:

          Rebecca Tamburro
          Columbia University
          Carmen Hall
          16th Street and Broadway, Room #201
          New York, NY 10027

  The same name and address was at the top left corner.  At the top right
corner was a Certified Mail sticker, dated May 7, 1999.

  Sipping his warm drink, Cannon stepped to the wall, curiously observing
several of Amanda’s framed, famed book covers.  One read "Teen Lizard",
featuring an Iguana wearing a baseball cap.  Another read "Frankenpet",
showing a white coated fifth grader having just created a dog/cat creature,
stitched up and zombie-like.

  Amanda, meanwhile, opened the envelope, sliding out an 8 by 11-size white
page manuscript.  It read in the middle of the page, Pest Friends, by Rebecca
Tamburro.

  Amanda gently stroked the thirteen-year-old cover page.  She closed her
eyes, taken back to that day Rebecca first showed her the manuscript.  
“Weird tales that'll teach kids how to control their fears and appreciate life’s
unloved”, as Rebecca put it.  Her eyes still closed, Amanda lightly grinned,
remembering how she initially regarded Rebecca’s story concepts as “lame”
and “nonsensical”.  Opening her eyes, turning to the wall, gazing at her
framed best sellers “Diary of a Snake” and “I was a First Grade Werewolf”,
the irony made Amanda smirk.

  As she pulled open the desk’s middle drawer, she said to Cannon, “You’re
good.”

  Cannon kept staring at the pictured wall, blowing smoke on a framed book
cover called “Doc Scorpious”, displaying a trenchcoated man with thick
glasses, huge scorpion claws and a large scorpion tale.  With a deep gruff
voice, almost a Southern accent, he replied, “Did you think you hired a 7-11
stick-up man with prison tats and a wife beater?”

  "I take it there were no problems," said Amanda, ignoring both the sarcasm
and offensive menthol smell.  

  Cannon turned from the wall.  Finishing his drink, glancing at his wrist, he
said, "Not really."

  Amanda pulled out a small white envelope.  "What does 'not really' mean?"
she asked casually.

  Cannon gave Amanda an icy stare.  "It means... not really."

  His changed demeanor startled Amanda, her smile fading, and they locked
glances.  She warned herself of this fellow when she hired him a week ago.

  "O-okay, y-yes,” stammered Amanda.  “I'm...sorry.” With a shaky hand, she
handed the stoic-face man his pay.

  Cannon snatched it, his cold eyes kept on hers. He glanced at the Pest
Friends book (published version) on the desk, his icy stare dissolving.  "May
I?" he asked, picking up the book.

  Amanda made no reply.

  Cannon returned to the couch, marveling at the colorful front cover.  
Wendy Widow
dangling upside down; Cockroach Carl sticking to a wall; Ron the Rodent
laying on the floor.  He flipped through the well-drawn pictures, chuckling at
Carl warning Ron of a "giant" mousetrap.  A health guru, Carl snatched the
cheese from the trap.

  “Cute," Cannon commented.  

  The next panel showed Ron warning Carl of a roach hotel - then snagging
a piece of chocolate placed inside.

  "Real cute," he said again.

  Amanda grinned disingenuously.  Wondered when the man would leave.

  "Now the sixty-four thousand dollar question," said Cannon.  "Why would a
successful author steal another's idea?"

  Amanda, caught off guard by the question and staring at the man with
slightly furrowed brows, took a moment to answer.

  She exhaled, resting a set of clammy fingers along the edge of the cool
desk, studying its beige wooden design.  “I spent these last five years
dazzling publishers.  This year, I had a writer’s block the size of the GW
Bridge.”  

  She folded her hands beneath her chin, looking Cannon in the eyes,
seeming more confident.  “But I remembered Rebecca's story.  Everything,
from start to finish.  What stood out most was the catchy title.”  Amanda
peered down at Rebecca's manuscript.  "Rebecca got married right after
college.  Then she moved to New Jersey with her husband.  We stayed in
touch by phone a year or so, but she never again mentioned the story idea.  I
assumed she tossed it, like a lot of would-be writers who get caught up in life."

  She flipped through the manuscript.  There were sketch drawings between
paragraphs, done by Rebecca herself, sharply resembling the pictures in
Amanda's book.  One of both Ron and Carl warning Wendy of a giant broom;
a “vacuum” in Amanda's version.  While there were various changes, such as
the “reality show” line and other elements to make it more current, the
manuscript and book were for the most part identical.

  "After I published the story this year, it was an instant success.  Actually did
better than all my other books.”  Amanda smiled faintly.  "Then she shows up
two weeks ago at a book signing.  Waves the envelope right in front of me
and says, 'I'll see you in court'.  Never even asked how I was doing all these
years."

  Amanda glanced at the photograph Cannon had returned to her, and held
it, observing herself at age twenty-one, her arm around a tall woman, equally
pretty, also twenty-one.  

  The author tucked in her lips, looking at the photo. “Truthfully, she would
have never
published this thing.”

  Resting an index and mid finger on his temple, Cannon said, "I seriously
doubt her little 'Poor Man's Copyright' would’ve ever held up in court."

  "Probably not," Amanda replied, still eyeing the photo.  "But the fact that we
were roommates near the time she self addressed the story could build a
case, and I'm not leaving my career to chance."  Amanda half grinned.  
"Funny thing is, I remember telling her, 'You really should register your idea...
there's lots of thieves out there.'  She never did, apparently.”

  Looking back at Cannon, she said "I suppose someone as negligent as her
deserves to have someone like you break into her home, don't you agree,
Mr. Green?"

  Cannon shot her a heated glare. "Someone...like me?"

  The woman's heart throbbed in her ears.  "Oh...no.  No, I didn't mean it that
way..."

  "No, it's quite alright," Cannon retorted.  "After dealing with twits like you all
these years, I'm used to it."

  Cannon brushed his rough palm over the cover picture of Ron, Carl and
Wendy.  "It makes sense, you making Kermit the Frog out of a Widow, roach
and rodent."

  Amanda gave the man a perplexed stare.

  Cannon set the book down, faced Amanda squarely.  "You remind me of
the little Indian boy who found the wounded snake.  'Friend, I'm hurt.' says the
snake.  'Please help me down this mountain.  I promise I won't bite you'.  Boy
says, 'You're a snake - of course you'll bite me'.  After much pleading, the
snake convinces the boy he wouldn't bite him, carries the reptile down the
mountain, keeping the snake warm in his shirt, cuddling him softly."

  Amanda interjected.  "The boy suddenly squeals in agony, feeling a sharp,
venomous bite,
drops the snake and says, 'You promised'.  The snake says to him, 'Friend -
I'M A SNAKE!'

  “Your point, Mr. Green."

  Maintaining his ample grin, smirking, Cannon replied, "Don't ever interrupt
me again,"
his wolf-like eyes searching hers.
             
  Amanda eyed him, unblinking, clenching her jaw.
     
  "My point,” Cannon proceeded. “is that we can make snakes, roaches, rats
and other toxic creatures into the nicest, cutest, cuddliest things on the
planet.  But in the end, they're toxic.  And is that not the way we treat our
poisonous, secret sins?  Keep them warm in our shirt.  Fondle them.  Cradle
them."

  Amanda checked her watch.  "I see.  Well, it's getting late..."

  Ignoring Amanda, Cannon continued. "Stealing someone else's idea.  Hiring
someone...like me...to clean the mess.  Protecting a precious career at any
price, without realizing the cost.  All the while, wearing your cheap, cordial
smile, painted just like the faces on these three characters.  Forgetting what
they truly are."

  The author felt her face flush with anger.

  Forming a coy grin, arising from the couch, Cannon said, "Then again -
who am I to
judge?"

  Amanda also got up from her seat, beginning to walk around her desk.  
“Okay, Mr. Green, it was a pleasure…”        
  
  She was suddenly cut off by Cannon.
  
  “Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na… sit back down, please,” he said sternly,
pointing an index finger at the bewildered woman, making it clear that it was
an order he expected her to follow.

  Amanda froze where she was, unsure what to think, reluctant to take orders
in her own home.

  She spotted a black leather side holster beneath his jacket as Cannon lifted
his hand, a reminder of who this man was and what he was capable of.  
Promptly and soberly, she returned to her chair, the scar along his eye ever
uglier.  As she slowly sat down, Cannon’s pointed index finger followed and
descended with her.  The man and woman stayed in the quiet for a moment,
Amanda’s nerves pounding relentlessly.   

  “Good,” Cannon said, his face friendlier.  “Nothing personal… just an extra
precaution I have with clients before I leave.”

  Amanda blinked and nodded once in acknowledgment, watching as Cannon
winked while his mouth did a “tisk” sound, exiting the office.  Hearing him walk
across her driveway, Amanda deflated like a balloon, relieved from both the
man's erratic behavior and overwhelming cigarette odor.

  She picked up the manuscript and entered her living room, a luxurious
setting resembling an exquisite hotel lobby, complete with Italian style
furniture and a marble coffee table.  Amanda walked to a fire place at the
head of the room, the pit encased within a burgundy brick wall.  Rebecca's
manuscript in hand, Amanda grabbed a lighter off the fireplace mantel, lit the
pages on fire, and tossed it into the pit.  Watching the manuscript burn,
Amanda said smugly, "See you in court."

                                                       ***

  Cannon drove the BMW rental along the dark Long Island highway, lighting
a Dominican cigar, checking his watch.  Two hours before his flight.

  He looked at his small envelope of cash, folding it into his shirt pocket.  
Compared to the hundreds of jobs within his ten-year profession, taking a
document within the home of a New Jersey gated community was an amateur
assignment for Cannon.  But he couldn't resist the wealthy, desperate
author's bid.

  He thought about the morning's events, how a week of preparation all came
together nicely - until Rebecca and her husband returned home
unexpectedly, forgetting a sleeping bag.

  He glanced at the wound on his wrist, where Rebecca had dug her nails
into his skin.

                                                    ***

  A thought entered Amanda's mind like a searing needle.  Cannon Green.  
His persona.  His behavior, especially when asked what had happened at
Rebecca's house.  The man sat in her gut like a sour pill.

  She picked up her cell phone.  She had to be certain.

                                                    ***

  Cannon felt the lump on the back of his head, where Rebecca's husband
had struck him with a flashlight.

                                                   ***

  "Hello," said Amanda. "is this the guard at the front booth?  Yes, this is...
Arlene Buckley with the Hillsdale Chronicle.  Has anything – unusual -
happened in your gated community today?"

  Amanda froze at the guard's response.

  "Two...murders?  Would...you happen to know - w-who?  Yes, I
understand.  But I really need this information.  I'll pay you."

  There was a pause, then the guard spoke.

  When he did, Amanda covered her mouth, muzzling a shriek.  Her eyes
welled, her mind swam.  Her stomach was in knots, and she could almost
taste her breakfast.

  "Both Mr. and Mrs. Travis?" she asked.  She spoke brokenly, struggling to
keep her composure.  "What about... their... boy?”  She froze, stiff.  “With his
grandmother?"  She breathed easier, though she was still dazed.  "I see. I'll
send a camera crew soon."

  Amanda dropped her phone and closed her fingers to still a bad tremble.  A
tear strand trickled down her pale face.  She stared straight ahead, trance-
like, as if unplugged and completely drained of everything.

  "That...snake."

                                                        ***

  Chiseling dry blood off his thumb nail, Cannon stared straight ahead at the
highway, feeling neither joy, nor sorrow.  It was all business to him.  Simply
business.   

  Cigar in mouth, Cannon turned to the passenger window, his brows
trenching as he saw a
cockroach the size of a ripe prune, crawling across the glass.  He reached
over and grabbed the insect, bringing it to him, holding the creature in his
palm.  Cannon grinned, observing its striped brown-black crustacean-like
back, its long wiry antennas, its skinny hairy segmented limbs.  He tightened
his hand to a fist, squashing the bug, green substance oozing out his grip.  
Cannon clicked the door control panel and opened his window, sticking out
his right hand, letting the rapid wind zap away the crushed roach and its
innards from his palm, rubbing the remains on the car door outside.  Closing
his window, taking another cigar puff, Cannon heard a high-pitch squeal from
under his seat.  Then he felt something nudge against his ankle.  Something
- furry. He turned on the visor light, peered at the floor, and with a wince,
looked into the bright red eyes of a white rodent, sitting completely still by his
feet.  A good size rodent, thick, with super long sporadic whiskers.

  Staring at the animal, Cannon couldn't help thinking about his client.  First a
roach, now a rat, and the whole idea brought a slow lopsided grin to his face.

  "Clever girl," sneered Cannon.

  The rat released another squeak, Cannon lifting his left leg to stomp the
unwelcomed guest.  The rodent dashed to the side, Cannon stomping the
floor, causing him to swerve the car sharply, veering into the oncoming lane.  
An approaching vehicle swerved out of the BMW's way, the other driver
honking his horn.  Cannon regained control of the wheel, glancing back down
at the rodent, crouched low with its long thick tail flapping about.  It scurried to
Cannon’s right foot, the one at the accelerator, and gave him a ferocious bite
to his ankle.  He wailed, caught between anger and pain, scowling as he
again stomped at the floor, a few times, wanting like mad to crush the beast's
brains out.  As before, the agitated man was unsuccessful, the frisky fellow
evading the driver's suede shoes with precision.  Cannon regained control of
the wheel, listening to the rodent's high-pitch screech, watching it gaze up at
him as if in taunt.  Watching as the rodent scurried under the driver seat, and
glancing around, heard it scuttle into the back of the car.

  Pursing his lips, Cannon opened the glove compartment on the passenger
side, pulling out his .38 revolver.  He clicked on the ceiling light, and with a
firm hand on the steering wheel, turned to the backseat, spotted the rat on
the opposite far corner, perched on the sofa.

  To the rodent, Cannon said, "Say hello" and aimed at its head.  "Blam!"  
Portions of the car’s interior flailed in the air, along with rat brains and blood,
some splattering on Cannon.

  As the grinning, satisfied man refaced the road, his eyes bulged when he
saw a diesel truck approaching head on, his nerves jolted by its blaring horn,
eyes blinded by its beaming lights.

  He swerved, barely evading the oncoming truck - yet swerved left.  Drove
straight off the highway, bolted down a steep dirt hill.  The car dipped down
and up along trenches and gravel, teetering side-to-side, its momentum
taking it to the bottom of the hill.  Charging, until finally stopped by a wide,
thick cedar tree catching the car at its front grill. "Ka-bash!"

  The BMW sat nestled against the tree trunk, almost hugging it, amongst
smoke, steam and dust.  Accept for engine sounds and crickets’ chirps, there
was complete silence, the desolate hillside clearing miles from anyone or
anywhere.

  Cannon awoke from his unconsciousness, overwhelmed with pain.  Blood
trickled down his forehead, mixed with sweat and dirt.  He opened his eyes,
the ceiling light (still on) illuminating what was before him.  He stared out of
the broken windshield, almost completely without glass, looking at the cedar
tree in front of him, the frigid night air chilling his aching
bones.  His chin hovered just over the cracked dashboard that occupied
pieces of glass, bits of his money and his revolver.

  He surveyed his position, finding himself crushed between the car's control
console and his seat, the powerful impact having moved the car's front end
forward, pushing the console almost entirely up to Cannon while his seat had
moved forward and locked.

  Pinned up to his chest, both arms unable to move, Cannon felt each broken
rib as he exhaled.  He made several attempts to get out from between the
console and seat, shifting and moving his torso in multiple directions, but was
unsuccessful.  He was trapped good, and soon found that one of  his arms
was broken, making it all the more difficult to free himself.  He tried using his
legs, but it also proved useless, one leg trapped under the seat, the other
broken.  He shouted for help, gazing out of the windshield in different
directions.  But all he heard were crickets; all he saw was the thick amber tree
before him.

  “Quite a gag, this woman,” he smirked, contemplating the different ways he
would handle her.  “Quite a gag.”

  He suddenly heard a faint sound within the vehicle, as if tiny drops of water
pelting padded leather.  He dismissed it as fragments of broken car parts, but
as the noises continued and got closer, he realized it was the movement of
some sort of small creature, its little legs crawling on upholstery; toward him.  

  Cannon pondered his two recent "visitors", and grimaced when he imagined
the third.  “Oh no,” he said in a low tone, shaking his head.  “Please-please-
please-please no!”  He jerked and jostled his torso from its trapped position,
desperate to free his hands and arms, but to no avail.  He tried several more
times, shifting and squirming, his face turning bright red, spit flying out his
mouth.  The little legs getting closer, louder.

  Cannon shut his eyes, ceased all squirming and shaking, breathed slowly.
  
  It took him back to that moment in the Gulf, pinned against a wall by an
enemy soldier, rifle barrel wedged in his chest.  He could have reacted, tried
defending himself against that soldier, though in a completely vulnerable
position.  Instead, he remained still, calm, merely stared at the young man,
who eventually went away.    

  He hoped this new, smaller enemy would do the same.

  Then he felt it.  The little creature’s thin, wiry tentacles inching up his moist
chin, toward his chattering mouth, each leg an electric shock jolting his jumpy
nerves.  His eyes still shut, he fought hard to keep his vibrating mouth as
closed as possible so that the “thing” could not enter, feeling it tread across
his moist, twitching lips.

  Cannon, nevertheless, maintained a feigned grin, kept his eyes closed.   
"You...are...cute..." he muttered, expelling an odd bit of laughter, almost like a
lunatic’s.

  Sweat streamed down his cheeks, the man now shaking uncontrollably.  He
let out an animalistic whimpering sound as the encroacher walked over his
runny, whistling nostrils and up the bridge of his nose, its fat body feeling like
a big grape hauled by ants.

  The crawler stopped, resting between Cannon’s well-sealed eyes, and after
a few moments, Cannon realized his visitor was going nowhere, doing nothing.

  Finally, Cannon opened his fluttering lids, gently, gazing upon the
encroacher.  It was as big as a large cherry, its black little head oval and
lumpy, its thin legs sprouted behind it in an “M” formation.  Its tiny face was
distorted and alien-like, its black round eyes resembling a toy’s or stuffed
animal’s.

  Cannon’s head vibrated nonstop as he stuttered, his mind retreating from
sanity.  "N-n-n-n-nothing... t-t-t-t-to be... f-f-f-frightened about...  You j-j-just
want to ... S-s-say HI...!"

                                                             ***

  Amanda lay in bed, finishing her third glass of Brandy.  She examined the
picture of her and Rebecca, her eyes swimming.  The pang of sorrow still
knifed her chest.

  "Becky," whispered Amanda, rubbing fingers along the image.

  She looked at a framed cartoon on the wall: Cockroach Carl hoisted up
Wendy Widow and Ron the Rodent in his buffed arms, all staring at Amanda
with ear-to-ear smiles.  She studied the picture, and for the first time, chills
rode up her spine as she looked at them.     

  Amanda put the picture of her and Rebecca on the nightstand.  She got out
of bed, threw on her pink robe, and went downstairs.  The living room was
incredibly dim, dungeon-like, the gray atmosphere lit only by a front lawn
light.  Amanda walked to the fireplace, stood before it, observed the black
and gray ashes of Rebecca’s manuscript, clumped in the center of the
fireplace pit.  Grabbing a black steel stoker, Amanda jabbed and batted the
ash pile, scattering the debris throughout the pit.
                                                                                      
  Amanda narrowed her eyes in curiosity, adjusting her glasses as she
noticed a small piece of white paper amidst the ashes; a last bit of the
manuscript, unburned.  In a kind of playful way, she scooted it amongst the
rest of the dirt with the stoker.   

  Setting the stoker back in place, she made her way across the living room,
to her office, entering the darkened room without turning on the light.  She
sauntered to the couch, yawning from 3 a.m. fatigue, picking up the Pest
Friends book left by Cannon.

  As she headed for the door, she did a double-take toward her desk across
the dark room.  Her brows lowered and eyes blinked a few times, noticing a
peculiar round object the size of a bowling ball perched on top of the table,
silhouetted against moonlight from the window behind it.  She slowly walked
toward the desk, eyes fastened on the object.

  Turning on the desk lamp, she was aghast, finding a head - a man's head -
sitting before her, face staring directly into hers.
                                                                                
  The face was purple, red and black, incredibly swollen, having an awfully
agape mouth.  One eye (that had a burn scar on the side) was swollen shut,
the other droopy, with a lazy eyeball cocked upward.  There were multiple bite
marks throughout the entire face, twenty of them, round puffy wounds with
the shape and diameter of a dime.   
                                                                                           
  Amanda covered her opened mouth with a trembling hand, eyes bulging at
the monstrosity.  Turning around, she grimaced in shock as she stared into
the face of Rebecca Tamburro, standing before her.

  Rebecca's mouth was opened wide, as if laughing without sound.  Her eyes,
too, were super wide, colored red and yellow.  Her skin was grayish-white,
and she wore a brown and black dress over her incredibly pale body.  There
was a ghastly wound in the middle of her forehead, a crude hole, as big as a .
38 caliber bullet.      

  Amanda’s heart threatened to explode in her chest as she took an
involuntary step back, hoping this was all some sort of a bizarre, surrealistic
nightmare that she would soon snap out of, or that this figure before her was
a delusion, an image that would simply fade away.

  But the wide eyed, wide mouthed pale woman didn’t fade away, no matter
how many times Amanda blinked her eyes.

  Amanda’s mouth tried to form startled words, yet all she could do was
shake her head, and pleadingly repeat a soundless utterance. “No-no-no-no-
no-no-no-no-no!”

  Rebecca released a hideous gasp, similar to a viper’s hiss.  She shut her
dark yellow eyes, her mouth expanding, bigger than it already was,
abnormally, as if some outlandish cartoon character.  Then, as water
explodes from a cracked dam, a flood of cockroaches, Black Widows and rats
stormed out her enormous mouth, full speed, scuttling down Rebecca's body
or hopping directly onto the floor.  King-size roaches with crustacean-like
backs; Widows having buttocks the size of olives; black and white rodents as
big as kittens.  Multitudes of creatures fumbling over each other, resembling
colorful candy with legs, and between their crawl-scurry noises and rat
squeals, it was the sound of a beautifully orchestrated vermin symphony.

  As bees swarming a hive, the creatures charged Amanda in unison,
trampling over the Pest Friends book that was dropped on the floor.  A
platoon of rats pounced on the screaming woman from all angles, gnawing
and clawing relentlessly at her flesh.  Smothering her entire face, feasting,
clawing out her eyes.  She fell to her knees, howling as Black Widows latched
onto her skin with fangs.  Fell to the floor as an army of roaches piled and
packed into her wide opened mouth like race cars entering a tunnel, jutting
violently down her gagging throat.

  In the living room, within the fireplace, the last remaining piece of the
manuscript lit up in a single flame, becoming ashes.       


                                                   ~Fin~

             
To read other short stories,
click one of the titles below.
About Michael
Lizarraga

A horror junkie since
Jason first donned his
hockey mask, Michael
Lizarraga was born
and raised in
illustrious Los
Angeles and studied
Journalism at
California State
University,
Northridge. He
currently writes for
publishing houses
Scarlett River Press,
Static Movement and
Schlock!, and print
and online magazines
Blood Moon Rising,
Bete Noire, Dark
Gothic Resurrected,
Drunk Monkeys and
Death Head Grin.

He credits Rod Serling
and H.P. Lovecraft for
his weirdness.