by Aspen Rains
2nd PLACE winner of the FutureVision short story contest

I’m a big cockroach person. I like myself. I laugh. Why shouldn’t I?

I don’t so much sleep as meditate. I am sensitive to vibration. All the world vibrates, in my mind. I feel it in my legs. Down the corridors of this place, there are always – with some pauses – little yells and their echoes, but no longer so much of panic because there is no time left for panic.

Yesterday I met Little Helene, who is my first companion and who will probably be my girlfriend when she gets bigger. We took only a few minutes together. I looked at her; she looked at me. Ah, we even felt each other a little. I had been cross, over the paucity of my lunch rations, because I know that much more could be available to me, but as soon as Helene came into the yard, I lost thought of it. I showed her the old beer stain in the corner of the yard. I think she thought it was funny to see it, but that’s only because they haven’t been upset with her, as they have been with me, to put me on an irrationally restricted feed set.

The people here are in a terrible condition. Once a day, Maya with her bulging forehead comes over, to look at me and sob.

“Do you see what we have done?” she sobbed once.
“I do,” I said.
“I don’t love you,” she told me.
I looked at her closely. “You want me to have regrets?”

For a few seconds her eyes bulged out. Then she put two fingers to her full mouth, which was the only remaining part of her physical beauty, and her eyes receded into impossible caverns. Her forehead hung over.

I knew that what she wanted to say was that it was her beauty that had been lost forever. In herself, she had become aware of beauty from a young age, and so now in that defunct narcissism she had acquired an ultimate human hate of all ugliness; by me, she had become of aware of the real secret tremblings of lost time and the possible stinks of necessity.

I said, “I am not your creation, Maya. I am the creation of the earth.” I smiled and laughed, before I could consider acting more appropriately.

From that moment, I was put on restricted rations, to my definite upset.

This morning, Maya came in to look at me. She didn’t sit down like she used to, and she didn’t cry. She just drew a breath and let it out. She worked her lips and moved her tongue around her teeth. I saw a gap where a tooth had lived recently, and I felt a hollowness in my intestines. Suddenly I felt angry, but I didn’t move.

She vomited, “Zach has died.” Something grey like a bloodless shadow covered her face and I was amazed that I could see her with that much emotional clarity.

“What does it mean?” I asked factually.

“Of course, you would ask me that,” Maya said. With a stopping kick, she sent Little Helene herding into the room, and that was when I met Helene.

“Does it mean that all the fools are gone, now?” I asked, eyeing Helene.

“The universe is a fool,” Maya spat. By which she meant she would meet death coldly, unwillingly, resentfully, and foolishly, in the many dark spaces of the folds of her body, with her mind giving out much too long before the final gasp of light in her cells.

Somewhere, in locations in North America, in Russia, in Australia, there are yet hidden underworld micro-cities, supporting the lives of the elite jackals who fed too deeply. The jackals have retreated to their safe places. The broader mass of fools is gone. It has been now past 30 years since Africa, South America and Lower Asia tumbled into a nonexistent history, beneath the dual advances of resistant tuberculosis and HIV. Cancer got happy with the rest. Life breathes on the planet now according to a constantly rearranging food chain, more like a food rope now, underneath a raging sun and wild atmospheric storms that mix the indifferent fallout of nuclear madness with the chaotic arguments of surface methane exhausts and carbon dioxide heat traps. Let the dead pity themselves.

I know that my awareness of existence would best extend beyond the will to eat and the desire for sexual pleasure. It would have been comforting to Maya, to have heard from me an attention to the sadness of these times. But, I live, I am, because of terribleness. I do not regret that Life machined me by what some would judge so crass and unjust a road. Of course I recognize that my own narcissism may yet damn me.

Could have been! doesn’t mean anything anymore.

Maya’s eyes have told me, We were so close to perfection! But now we have come to this!

And by this, she means me.

I don’t know what madman suggested that Human DNA be mixed with Cockroach DNA, but it wasn’t the late Zach. It must have been some other genius or fool.

I hang out in the yard, waiting for the people here to die, or to free me to go do what I must hunt and go do, or both. I go over to the beer stain and lick it to get a couple of calories. It’s what I need to do.

Soon, I and my children will eat the flesh of the remaining fools. We will ferret them out, from their weapons-laden hidey-holes. In such matters, cockroaches are masters.

We will be happy even under the now-raging sun; we will laugh beneath the bitter winds crazy with radioactive decay. We will survive, and we will tell stories, about the origins of the Cockroach People, how they came to exist by Nature’s Plan, how they were favored by time and genetic makeup. Rapidly, because we worship no false gods, we will mature, and take up ship and travel out to the stars.

I can see it, even in my fierce little hybrid mind. I love it.

aspen_rains1.jpgAspen is a teacher and writer living in the Republic of China. He’s cute but he doesn’t have a girlfriend. This may be because he doesn’t dance and he gets cold
during long walks on the beach. He doesn’t like cockroaches but he never squashes them because it’s too icky. Lysol spray is much more sanitary. He can be reached at [email protected]