It was a quarter past midnight when Phil, working on his novel before his deadline, heard a noise coming from his kitchen. At first he dismissed it but then the noise came again and he knew that ignoring it wouldn’t work this time. Wearing his sleeping robe, Phil got up from his seat, stretching himself out and cracking his knuckles, as the computer screen glowed on his desk.
Phil Barnes had just come out of a lousy relationship with a lousy girl but he still lived in the lousy apartment, in a lousy neighberhood in the lousy city, that they both rented. The break-up had been a long day coming and the signs were always there, yet Phil persisted in ignoring them until it was too late. It had started when Suzie (A lousy name! Phil never met a Suzie he liked. Especially the Suzie in the fifth grade who gave him noogies that damn near tore off his scalp!) took him to dinner with friends, a couple, self-proclaimed pseudo intellectuals; one a bearded, muscular fellow with a penchant for Ray Bans whose name Phil couldn’t be bothered to remember so he gave him the sobriquet Ray (due to those insufferable sunglasses) who worked as a photographer of “Urban Life in its Natural Habitat” as he so eloquently put it. His girlfriend was an airhead brunette, horn rimmed glasses resting on her forehead, with the face of a mouse and a laugh that would shame a horse, worked as a graphic artist; Phil called her Beezlebub in his mind for no reason at all, he was just feeling that grumpy. They both preferred to use typewriters and write letters to their penpal in Japan and go hiking and rock climbing and all the sort of things that they claimed made life worth living and the rest was tuned out by him, as he nodded in agreement while sipping his glass of wine. They lived in a nice, cushy place in a much nicer neighborhood and they waxed on about how it such a great place and damn them, Phil was starting to lose patience with their infuriating parade of autofellatio. Until they asked The Question, fired like a cannon shot across the table.
“So Philip (Ray kept insisting on calling him Philip for the entire night), what do you do for a living?”
Suzie answered for him, and Phil had the realization that Suzie never let him answer any question directed at him, and it was with that tittering noise she always made.
“Oh, he works at this bank as an accountant but on the side, he’s a ‘novelist’, and he’s writing this Young Adult novel. Something about two kids going into outer space and giant robots fighting aliens from another dimension or something. Still hasn’t finished it yet. And in the mean time, I gotta keep working at that restaurant, keeping the lights and the heat on,” Suzie said, tittering and she took a big gulp from her wine glass. Beezlebub brayed that laugh of hers and Ray adjusted his Ray Bans.
Phil coughed and then said, “Well, I figure the YA market is the place to be, making money, so, y’know, I thought what have I got to lose?”
“Oh, just your integrity, Phil,” said Suzie, framing the barb as a light hearted joke between them, as she reached the wine bottle for a refill. Beezlebub laughed at this too, grating on Phil more.
“Interesting. So you’re writing not for the sake of art then, Philip?” Ray said, pushing his Ray Bans up the bridge of his nose. He had asked that question in a tone that implied the whole thing was funny but Phil didn’t feel like laughing. Beezlebub’s laughter, more annoying than Quint’s nails on the chalkboard scene from Jaws, echoed in the dining room.
It’s always gotta be for art’s sake, doesn’t it, you self-entitled twit, but it can never be both, Phil thought as he swirled his wine glass.
“Well obviously I’m doing it for art but, uh, I, uh, feel that it would be nice to get paid for it, no?” Phil sipped his wine again. He was fumbling his words again and Suzie knew it and that lousy girl relished it.
“It sure would be nice to get money but you haven’t really gotten back to writing it, Phil, cause you’re such a lazy fuddy duddy,” Suzie said as she tittered some more.
She doesn’t even care about appearances anymore, she’s just openly attacking me.
Phil remembered he made a lame excuse to that he and Suzie had to go because it was starting to get late. The drive back was just as pleasant as the dinner. Suzie was wasted and talking a storm. “You know, Bill (Phil had just remembered Ray’s real name as soon as she said mentioned it) is kinda handsome, dontcha think? Not like the fuddy duddy you are.”
Phil felt that this is the part where the main character in a movie would bristle if his girlfriend just made a crass statement like that but strangely he couldn’t find himself to give a shit. He just kept driving in silence.
“Did choo hear me? No, you don’t because you’re too busy sucking at everything.” Suzie’s head wobbled as she tried to keep herself awake while making little burps.
“I wonder what Bill is like in bed. Probably more lively than you are.”
Phil couldn’t help himself. He let out a chuckle. Suzie was one to talk about liveliness in bed but whenever they fucked, she was a dead fish.
Suzie goggled at Phil, asking him, “Whas so funny?”
“Bitch, tall me.”
Phil didn’t reply because he felt Suzie didn’t deserve it. He wasn’t going to let her win any-
“You couldn’t write even somebody held a gun to your fucking cock. Hope you know that.” And then she puked all over the dashboard. Not too long afterwards, they broke up.
Phil switched on the light for the kitchen. The floor had a lime green floral pattern against white. The dishes, unwashed, cluttered together in the sink as the faucet dripped.
It had been two weeks since the break-up and Phil had let himself and the place go. The freedom had felt so good at first but now he felt pathetic that he couldn’t even keep his apartment clean. He had called in sick for a week and spent that much time in his place, watching movies on Netflix, masturbating to porn on the computer with the volume turned up, and reading whatever was on the bookshelf. He checked the fridge, to see if the leftover Chinese food was still there. Nope and the date on the carton of milk showed that it was way past the expiration date.
Suddenly, Phil heard the clattering again, this time coming from under the sink. Great, so I got rats now?
He knelt down in front of the kitchen sink, almost about to open the cabinet when he stopped himself. If its rats then he should call the exterminator. But he remembered how Suzie would make another one of those barbs about he couldn’t do anything by himself. Ray would have taken care of this nonsense in a heartbeat, Phil, he could hear her say in his mind.
You can’t do shit on your own, Phil, you never could! Suzie’s voice crowed through the air and Phil most definitely didn’t hear it in his mind, no sir, he heard THAT VOICE right fucking next to him. He flinched, turning around to see if that harpy was standing right next to him but he saw nothing. All by his lonesome self. He realized that he was holding his breath and let it go. He also realized that his heart was beating at, oh maybe, one hundred miles per hour.
Phil breathed deeply until his heart slowed down for a bit. Either she was standing there or I’m losing my Goddamn mind.
That’s how it starts, the hearing of voices and next thing you know, Ol’ Phil is wearing a straitjacket while babbling about the famous purple stuffed worm in flap-jaw space with the tuning fork doing raw blinks on Hari Kiri Rock. Well, not me, Goddammit, not me.
He stood up, went to the drawer, opened it and took out a kitchen knife. Then he knelt down in front of the kitchen sink again, knife in hand and the other hand on the handle of the cabinet door. His heart starts pounding again. He yanks it open and his heart nearly stops beating at the sight of the thing that’s been making the racket.
A quivering black cocoon, dripping with a viscous fluid and the size of a football, lay behind all of the dishwashing liquids, bleach, and sponges. It pulsed with life, or a horrific parody of it, and Phil immediately closed the cabinet doors. He stood up, placed the knife on the counter, left the kitchen and into his bedroom. Phil slipped on shoes, forgoing the socks, took his wallet out, checked it to see if he had his credit cards, and left the apartment. He walked to his car and drove to the local hardware store, in his sleeping robe and PJ’s. Two hours later, Phil came back with the stuff he bought from the store. A gas lighter, a carburetor cleaner spray can, nail gun, and a box filled with strips of nails for the nail gun. He set them on his desk, the computer monitor having gone into sleep mode, sat down in his folding chair, and stared at the tools. Then he began to load a strip of nail into the nail gun.
Thirty minutes later, after working up the nerve to go back into the kitchen, Phil was on his knees again with the loaded nail gun aimed at the cabinet doors. There was an awful stench coming from it now. It was a combination of rotten fruit and used band-aids and it had him gagging. Still, he reached for the cabinet doors, the nail gun shaky. Phil forced himself to stop shaking because he didn’t want to accidentally shoot his own hand. Wait, why am I doing this? Am I this stupid? Just call the exterminator and go back to your room, hiding under the bedsheets.
JUST LIKE A PANSY, WETTING THE BED! YOU’RE NO SON OF MINE!
Phil whirled around and was surprised that he didn’t fire off the nail gun. But not as surprised that he heard his father’s voice. It definitely wasn’t in his mind. Phil wished it was because his father had been dead for six years. The cancer made sure of that. Even now, the image of his dad, stricken with pain and looking skeletal, lying down on his bed had been burned into his mind. He was a terrible father who always smacked him upside the head for even the littlest slights. Phil remembered the time his father beat him within an inch of his life for wetting the bed. He hated him right until the day he died. Even when dying, his dad had acted shitty. Maybe even shittier since the old fuck knew his days were numbered and felt that he had get all of the shit out of his body so that everyone would never forget him. And it worked because Phil would always wake up screaming in the night, waking up Suzie, from that nightmare where his dad got up from his bed, the cancerous tumors popping up all over his body, his face, like one of those time-lapse photography videos he used to watch in school, and his dad would grab him and open his mouth because the tumors had swollen up in his cheeks which forced his mouth open, his eyes literally bugging out as one of em popped out, a tumor forcing it out and the eye hanging by its optic nerve, and he somehow managed to talk with that swollen face full of tumors and say, WHY ARE YOU PISSING YOURSELF, BOY, I JES WANT YOUR EYES. And his dad would use his thumbs to gouge out Phil’s eyes which is the part where he woke up screaming into the night.
Now there was a trilling noise coming from under the sink. Phil had enough of this shit. So he yanked the door open and squeezed the trigger of the nail gun.
Nothing. The nail gun didn’t fire.
Phil panicked as he squeezed the trigger several times but no dice. The thing under the kitchen sink burst out towards him and Phil backed away as one of the thing’s legs brushing against his own. The thing was an unholy combination of a spider and crab, the size of a small dachshund, making a noise like 50 year old chain smoker’s wheezing breaths. Its carapace glistened with that awful black slime and it had too many heads with too many eyes and there was too many legs. It scrambled towards him, claws ready to
GET YOUR EYES, BOY! I NEED EM!
gouge his eyes out.
Phil, having fallen on his ass and back against the fridge, screamed as he jabbed the nail gun down on the spidery crab thing, pressing the barrel down on it and remembering that’s how you get the damn thing to fire the nails and squeezed the trigger.
The spider thing screamed, the scream sounding too human, as the nail went through the abdomen or what Phil thought was the abdomen. But it didn’t die, no sir, it kept on struggling, so Phil kept firing more nails into it until he ran out of em. The fucking thing still wouldn’t die. The blood, clear and viscous flowing from its pierced body was foul smelling that Phil threw up on the floor. He crawled away from the thing as it still screamed in that voice that sounded all too human. When he came back into the kitchen, it was still pinned to the floor in a puddle of its blood as screamed, the carburetor spray can in one hand and the gas lighter in the other. The gas lighter finally turned on after the eleventh flick and Phil held it outstretched from the spray can, making sure that the spray can nozzle aimed squarely at the spider crab thing.
He pressed down on the spray button and the spray hit the little flame shooting up from the gas lighter; the results were instantaneous.
A massive stream of fire hit the spider crab thing with too many heads, too many eyes, too many legs, and fried the fucker. The screams were even more high pitched, sounding more like a child screaming, but Phil kept on spraying the now lifeless body with his makeshift flamethrower.
After he burned it to nothing more than a husk, Phil checked the cabinet again. The remains of the cocoon were still in the back corner.
There was movement inside the cocoon. It quivered, and Phil could see the millions of-
eggs, the whole thing is covered in eggs.
So he aimed his makeshift flamethrower at the nest and set it ablaze.
Phil sat on the couch, eating a bag of potato chips, as he watched Sonny Crockett and Rico Tubbs take down another drug dealer. A week had passed, after he had scooped out the burnt remains of the spider crab thing and its nest and put it in a heavy duty garbage bag, having chucked the bag down the incinerator in the complex. Phil had quit his old job, gotten a new one that was much less constricting, and it seemed the girl who worked at the hardware store had eyes for him. Most importantly, Phil adopted a tabby and named it Proust, because why the hell not. Lucky for him, the super let him keep the cat.
An argument could be heard from the floor above him, increasing in loudness. Phil thought about going upstairs and tell his neighbors to keep it down but he decided it would be a waste of time.
Phil checked his watch and remembered that it was feeding time for Proust, so he got the can of cat food, a different brand, and put a small amount in the cat bowl in the kitchen. He looked up that various websites on how to feed cats and the thing he needed to do was to get Proust gradually accustomed to new food because cats tend to be picky about what they eat.
“Proust, its lunch time, come on out,” Phil said as he had a niggling sensation in the back of his mind. Proust usually greeted him whenever he came home but this time he didn’t. Phil chalked it up to Proust behaving like any other cat but he realized that he hadn’t seen Proust all day. And then a thought ran through his head. What if that cocoon wasn’t the only one in my apartment? What if the whole building is infested with those things…
There was a noise coming from under the kitchen sink and Phil noticed its door was ajar.
“Proust, you there?” Phil said as he opened the cabinet door. Something furry leapt out at Phil and mewled. Proust was in his arms, unharmed and curious. Phil relaxed as he carried his cat over to his bowl to feed him.
“All right, buddy, play time’s over. Now eat your-”
Phil noticed that the argument had abruptly ceased. And then he heard a woman’s shriek peal through the apartment.