Vermin

A surreal short story by Mehi Loveski

Vermin

By Mehi Loveski

 

One morning Sam McGregor woke from his troubled dreams to find the world invaded by horrible vermin. The first shock came when he saw next to him, where his wife had been, a giant insect with a whiskered head. “What on earth has happened?” Sam thought. Where was his Matilda? And why was this abominable monster in bed with him? Could he be dreaming? “Maybe I should sleep a little bit longer and forget all this nonsense,” he thought and turned onto his right side. But sleep was out of question – not with the malodorous company he had, and, besides, it was about time he should get up. Sam was very proud of his job with a trading company and had never been late for work. Warily, he got off the bed and went to the bathroom. In the bathroom mirror he carefully examined his body for any signs of change, but was relieved to find it was still his old flabby hairy self looking back at him.

As Sam stepped out into the street, he was shocked to see it swarming with hideous insects, which looked like beetles in his biology textbook – only bigger and more repulsive. They were crawling along roads and sidewalks, leaving pools of greenish slime where they passed. Some were accompanied by baby beetles trailing obediently in their wake. As there was no transport in sight, Sam had to walk along with the grim procession. Once or twice he nearly stepped on the creatures moving alongside and they hissed at him, bristling their whiskers. The entrance to the office building where Sam worked was jammed. Several beetles were trying to get through the door all at the same time and, on an impulse, Sam gave one of them a kick to free the passage. The creatures rolled inside and after assuming the upright position, turned back, ready to charge at the offender. Sam broke into a trot but as soon as he reached the stairs, the chase stopped: the pursuers couldn’t go up – they slid down and fell on their backs helplessly waving their legs.

Once in his office, Sam made a cup coffee and stood at the window looking into the street. Now it was almost black with the moving shapes. Suddenly the door was pushed open and a huge beetle with an unmistakable air of authority crawled in hissing furiously. Could it be his boss Herr Platt? But how had the old stinker managed to get upstairs? Then Sam remembered about the elevator, which he himself rarely took, – apparently, the beetles could operate things which didn’t require elaborate manipulations. As for Herr Platt, he most probably came about yesterday’s report. The whiskered Leviathan looked at Sam accusingly and picked at his trousers with his pointed mouth. “Please, give me a couple of hours, Herr Platt, I need to check some figures,” begged Sam. Grudgingly, Herr Platt acquiesced – he lowered his whiskers several times and, giving Sam another stern look, turned clumsily back to the door.

The hall in the meantime had been filling with other employees, who milled about without knowing what to do. Sam closed the door and tried to concentrate on the report but his thoughts kept floating away. What were his co-workers going to do? How would they use a typewriter, an adding machine or even a pen? A sudden noise in the hall made him start. Sam opened the door a crack and saw that the beetles crowded at his office: some of them were trying to get hold of the door handle, others were standing by, hissing impatiently, with sheaves of papers in their mouths. Somewhere among them, no doubt, was Herr Platt. Sam pushed the door closed, nearly cutting off the leg of the nearest creature, and hauled a heavy desk to block the entrance. So that was it – now that he was the only able worker in the company, they were going to turn him into a slave to get all the work done. He had to get out of the office and fast. But how? His office was on the fifth floor and as he looked down out of the window he understood that getting down was a suicide. Sam sat down despondently and looked at the clock. It was about lunchtime. He unwrapped a sandwich that he had brought from home, and after a quick snack, dozed off. When he awoke a few minutes later, the hall was silent. Were his colleagues also having a break? If so, it could be his lucky break. He carefully pushed the desk aside, opened the door a bit and saw that there were only a few creatures lounging in the hall. Now or never – it was his chance to escape! He opened the door wider and ran out in big leaps. Immediately the beetles, who had evidently been left as a sentry, sprang into action. They rushed at him all at once, hissing, whistling, their sharp little teeth bared, whiskers bristling. Sam managed to avoid the attackers and was nearing the staircase, when his left foot slipped on the slime covering the floor and he fell down. To his surprise, immediately all movement stopped. The beetles stood motionless, their beady eyes scanning the room. Next to him was a huge stinker who despite the proximity seemed heedless of his presence. In a flash, Sam understood the irony of the situation: now that he was on all fours, he was invisible to the beetles, in fact, it was as if he had become one of them!

He slowly started crawling in the direction of the staircase. Nobody followed: the creatures were still motionless, puzzled by his sudden “disappearance”. He went downstairs and finally found himself in the street filled with the midday throng. Sam had to fight waves of nausea as he crawled in the stinking mess left by hundreds of insects. Besides, his knees hurt after the fall. Despite that, he felt excited and full of eager anticipation: he pictured a plate of steamy goulash on the kitchen table and his beloved Matilda raptly listening to his vivid account of the day’s events. At his door Sam rose on his hind legs and, hissing loudly from the effort, laid his head on the handle of the door to open it. To his surprise, the door yielded without offering much resistance.

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