The caramel-brown insect rears its front section to address him directly.
– Juh are nozz fffeeeeling whell, of coarse. Zzzooo much cheynsch izzz no guhd eizzzher. Bezzzer zsu go zsu work, bezzt medicazion.
The bug splatters almost all the way across the desktop. Cockroach to be precise, Periplaneta Americana to be an exacting Entomologist about it. They can supposedly survive a nuclear blast under a rock but not this: The Infected One’s fist of wrath coming down fast&hard from on high.
He considers the mess. It seems as though the entire insect is just filled with some indefinable brown slime that is supposed to make it disgusting to squash, an evolutionary ingenuity that humankind, once again, has chosen to ignore. Or perhaps not entirely. After all most of the time The Infected One goes after the buggers with his huge spray-can of raid. There is something horrifyingly appealing about a cockroach twitching and dying within a few seconds before one’s own eyes. The Infected One has no illusions about this: it makes him feel like the fearsome God of Cucarachas. And at times he catches himself wildly screaming “Die! Die you six-legged fuckers!” But why this irrational rage against insects in the home? They are, after all, literally just trying to live off of the crumbs of humanity’s richly decked table, he tells himself. They have no ill intentions, no imperial ambitions, no devious designs other than species survival and even this only at an instinctual, unthinking level. Yet, with such basic genetic means at their disposal, they have been thriving for millions of years.
Considering this, The Infected One scratches his slightly balding scalp. He has just terminated a perfectly functional member of the big family and there’s disgusting evidence squirted all across his desk. Not sad but just pointless. Plus anyway, he is using them in his story as characters so he shouldn’t be running around killing them if he is hoping for some good karma vibes on this one. The Infected One would mock somebody mocking him as The Superstitious One but there is no good reason to go asking for it in the worst way.
The Infected One reads a random sentence on the tablet screen of his Cherry. He does this sometimes as a proto-scientific way of assessing his stories, the standard being that each sentence, each paragraph must make the impression of being relevant and well-polished. He remembers this procedure as “random sampling”:
He gestures down the length of his pale, slightly haired body. It’s only now that the Infected One sees that he’s wearing nothing other than skivvies, below and above which his sinewy physique is showing. He hadn’t realized not just because of the fetor but also because it is warm, very warm and humid too.
Shit! The three sentences are more or less o.k. but the concept itself, DAMNIT. In the echo-chamber of his head The Infected One can already hear what he doesn’t want to hear: Ripping off from the Greats, nice try! Please tell me you are not trying to do a more clever version of K because you’re not. You can’t. Being clever is putting stunt before substance, you said that yourself, remember? Then he would have to ask them, these anonymous imagined critics [the truth is, he rarely ever has any interrogators to begin with] if they read “The Metamorphosis”, that that novella had nothing at all to do with the story he is writing here if one were paying the slightest attention, that both narratives happen to have both bugs and human beings in it but that that was not such a grand coincidence once one got hip to the fact that there are seven billion human beings, roughly seventyseven gazillion insects and that metamorphosis is like a prime, archetypal, narrative go-to move, which will be permissible to writers until kingdom come or judgment day or whatever-your-preferred-apocalyptic-scenario, thanks. And The Infected One will have to bite his tongue not to tell them that he honest-2-god thinks that the esteemed “T.M.” simply was not all that at all.
Hmmmmmmm, The Infected One thinks, too many trees in my mental forest. He wipes off the table, swabs it with polishing liquids and re-focuses. It is indeed tropical, there are beads of sweat forming on his temples. He re-adjusts the head-set. Perhaps that is the problem, just talking into the Cherry’s mic instead of typing it all out by hand. The digital effort used to mediate the thinking in a beneficially biological way, didn’t it? Everything took longer, one needed to think things through instead of blurting them out. He takes off the H.S. and goes rummaging for his wireless keyboard, which he finds on a deserted top shelf of a forlorn cupboard.
An ancient excitement splashes through his system. How about doing something META for a change? Perhaps not even for a change but simply for the hell of it. Again the Infected One hears alien voices howl in his head, accusing him of necro-mancing postmodernism. His first impulse would be to yell back “We have never been post-modern!” but then instead The Infected One just shuts them out.
And begins, somewhat rustily, typing in primordial QWERTY, smiling at the words forming on the screen.
The Infected One follows his comrade out into what must be the hallway according to the obscure architectural logic of the place. It’s still dark, hot and incredibly stinky, your boilerplate hell. He keeps dragging his hands along the cardboard walls in search of a light switch but there is none. Only huge gaping holes now and then beyond or inside which he can discern flitting chitinous exoskeletons, some of the hexapod, others octopod.