FOR THE PRESERVATION OF THE SPECIES
This is an excerpt from a novelette that is now available on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/For-Preservation-Species-ebook/dp/B009YQ8K3K/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1351661277&sr=8-1&keywords=for+the+preservation+of+the+species.
Where the hell did she go?
Taking the keys from the ignition, Barry leaned against the car, annoyed that Amy couldn’t wait the few minutes it had taken him to pee and come back before wandering off on her own. She couldn’t have gone far, and looking both ways along the stretch of roadway told him she hadn’t gotten out to just stretch her legs; more than likely she needed to pee as well, although he thought it was surprising that she would venture into the woods by herself, especially knowing how squeamish she was about bugs. If anything, he thought she would have gone by the side of the car. He folded his arms across this chest, crossed his legs at the ankles, and waited. Any minute now he expected her to come tiptoeing out of the woods, jumping with a frightened squeak at every brush of a branch as if she’d been poked with a cattle prod. What he wasn’t expected was the blood-curdling scream that ripped through the silence of the countryside.
“Amy!” He pushed away from the car and ran across the road. He didn’t stop to look for the path of least resistance, but waded through the thick foliage, tearing at the branches and vines as they sought to slow his progress. “Amy! Where are you?”
Another scream echoed through the forest, bouncing off the trees, but he was close enough to be able to pinpoint her whereabouts. Changing direction, he pushed through a pricker bush and he spotted her a few yards away. He hurried over, but was brought up short at the sight of his wife sitting on the ground, kicking and crying like a child throwing a temper tantrum. There wasn’t any immediate danger, so he didn’t know what she was carrying on about.
He approached slowly, and as her screams subsided, he was able to make out her frantic rantings—“Get it off. Get off. Please get them off me.”—and a malicious grin broke out across his face as he realized what must have happened. Crouched down to answer her call of nature, one of Mother Nature’s natural pest exterminators must have crawled up her leg. The sight alone of any bug was enough to send her into a panic, but to have one crawling on her? Full-blown hysteria. He knew it was wrong to laugh, but he couldn’t help it, especially as he drew upon her and saw that she was sitting bare-assed on the forest floor with her pants tangled around her ankles, brushing frantically at her hands, exposed legs, and everywhere in between.
She turned her head slowly to look at him, her terror changing quickly to anger when she saw the grin plastered to his face and heard the light-hearted tone in his voice. “It’s not funny.” Despite the expression on her face, there was no anger in her words, only a pathetic quality that made him want to laugh harder than he was.
“If you could see yourself, you’d think differently,” he told her, but all the same, he moved closer and held out his hands to help her up. The grin he sported evaporated as quickly as a drop of water on an overheated skillet when he got an up-close-and-personal look at the severity of her situation. It wasn’t just a spider that had sent her into hysterics, or a single bug; the ground around her was teeming with life. Species that would normally be fighting with or feeding off the other seemed to be working in conjunction with each other—spiders, ants, beetles, earwigs, centipedes, and scores of others he wasn’t familiar with. Her hands and legs were covered in tiny pink welts, some of which were dotted with beads of blood, where the little buggers had bitten her. If he didn’t know any better, he would have sworn they’d been trying to eat her alive.
Gripping her hands firmly, he hauled her to her feet, and together they tried to brush off the insects that were still crawling all over her. As she continued to brush at the bugs, he bent down to pull up her pants and noticed the little shits were crawling all over his sneakers and trying to make their way under the legs of his pants. He stamped his feet, trying to dislodge them as he worked Amy’s pant up her legs. When they were at a point where she could take over, he looked past her, his eyes widening in disbelief as his jaw dropped.
The ground for as far as he could see was a crawling sea of bugs.
Where the hell did they all come from? Every bug in the fuckin’ world has to be here.
Afraid to take his eyes from the approaching ground swarm, he reached out blindly to take Amy’s hand. When she failed to take it, he glanced in her direction and saw she was still swatting at the bugs that were no longer on her. Behind her, the tree was alive with insect activity, their little brown and black bodies making it look like the bark of the tree was alive. “C’mon,” he said, grabbing her hand a little more harshly than he intended and pulling her away from the tree. Then he started to back away from the approaching menace. Amy followed like a dazed child, still brushing at the bugs with her free hand. He wished she would snap out of it, but it would probably take being within the safety of the car before she was able to focus on anything else but the bugs. That meant he needed to keep an eye in all directions until they reached the car.
Something brushed against the back of his neck and he reached behind time to wipe it away. Whatever it was rolled under his fingers, and when he brought his hand back around, he looked down. A small brown spider was trying to right itself, but it had been partially crushed. Barry finished the job, pinching the life out of the little bastard before wiping the spider guts on his jeans. He chanced a look up and he saw that there was a whole army of spiders descending from the branches overhead.
“Oh shit!” He turned tail and ran for the road, dragging Amy behind. Her stumbling progress slowed him down, and he urged her onward. “C’mon, Amy. They’re coming. Snap out of it.”
She stumbled over an exposed root and he stopped abruptly in his tracks to grab her and keep her from falling face first into the dirt. He could see her lips were still moving, and while he couldn’t hear what she was saying, he knew that in her mind the bugs were still crawling all over her and she wanted them off. Focusing on her lips, he could make out, Get ‘em off me, please get ‘em off me, over and over again. He cupped her face in his hands and tried to get her to see him, “Amy. C’mon, Amy. We gotta get out of her.” A spider touched down in her hair and it started to crawl immediately toward her face. He brushed it away before grabbing her hand again and pulling her the rest of the way through the woods until they reached the road.
Without looking either way for oncoming traffic, he hurried across the road and opened the passenger’s side door. Amy allowed herself to be guided downward until she was sitting in the seat, and she didn’t offer up any fuss as he lifted her legs and placed them safely within the vehicle. He slammed the door then rushed around to the other side. Throwing himself behind the wheel, he pulled the door closed and immediately started rolling up his window. Before turning his attention to his wife and buckling her seatbelt, he twisted the key in the ignition, praying the car would start.
A sigh of relief escaped his lips when the engine turned over and roared to life. Before pulling away, he glanced across the road. It was like watching a tsunami as wave after wave of bugs rolled out of the forest, seeming to consume the blacktop. Their forward progressing was so fluid, it was like watching molasses slowly and steadily spread out across a plate.
Barry shifted his attention to the road ahead. The path forward was clear, although he could see a gathering of insects at the side of the road, building up and ready to spill out like water from an opened floodgate. A check in the rearview mirror confirmed his worst fears. The road was awash in a sea of brown and black squirming, crawling bodies. It was as if they were a pack of cattle dogs and he and Amy the cattle. The bugs obviously wanted them to go forward, which in and of itself was all the motivation he needed to head back the way they came. He sat there, torn as to which way he should go. There was no way of knowing how far he would have to go before hitting the next town. If he headed back the way they came, it would be about three hours before arriving at the closest populated area. It was a no brainer, but if he needed anymore help in making up his mind, Amy’s next words were the clincher.
“Oh God! They’re inside me. I can feel them inside. Get them out. Barry, get them out.”
He shifted his attention to his wife and was alarmed by what he saw. Her eyes were closed and she was soaked through with sweat. Her breathing was ragged, and she kept tossing her head slowly from side to side, as if denying the horrors of the past few minutes. Her condition sent needles of panic into his gut. With all those bites from God only knew what, what kind of reaction was she having? What kind of toxins were coursing through her bloodstream, slowly poisoning her and the baby. The baby!
Moments ago he’d been griping about how the baby was already ruining everything, but now all he wanted was to get Amy and his unborn child to a doctor and make sure nothing was going to happen to them. Without giving it a second thought, he stepped on the gas pedal and swung into a U-turn, rolling right through the sea of bugs. There were so many of them that, even over the roar of the car’s engine, Barry could hear the crunch and crackle of their bodies being crushed beneath the tires, a macabre version of Rice Krispies. Listening to it, Barry’s gorge rose and he fought to keep from spewing all over the dashboard.
The road ahead was so thick with insects and spiders Barry had a hard time keep the car in a straight line. The gore from the crushed bugs made it difficult for the tires to gain any traction and the car was fishtailing left and right. It was almost as bad as driving on black ice. He needed to slow the car to a crawl in order to keep control of the vehicle.
Amy let out a moan. Barry risked taking his eyes off the road for a second to check on his wife.
Her lips were moving nonstop, but no words were spoken. Her skin was a fiery red and he knew if he touched her she would be burning up with fever. His gazed dropped to where her hands rested in her lap and he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
“Hun,” he said gently. “Don’t do that.”
But she didn’t hear him. She continued to scratch at her forearm, short, quick movement of her fingers, back and forth, and she had already scratched herself raw. Blood trickled in rivulets over her arm to be absorbed in the material of her pants. If she didn’t stop, and if he couldn’t find some way to restrain her, he was afraid she would reach bone by the time they reached town.
“Hun,” he said again. “Stop that.” She continued to dig at the raw flesh of her arm. “Quit doing that, Amy.”
Her eyelids fluttered and she turned her head to look at him, although he had a feeling she didn’t see him at all. There was a fevered gleam in her eyes that scared him. They looked like lifeless marbles gleaming under the sun’s rays.
He turned his attention back to the road. Never in his life did he feel as helpless as he felt right now. “They’re not inside, Babe.”
What she said next chilled him to the core of his being.
“Eating me. The babies.”
A buzzing filled the air, drowning out the sound of the engine.
Looking ahead, he couldn’t see what was making the noise. Checking left and right didn’t provide any clues either. When he looked in the rearview mirror, the color drained from his face. “Jesus Christ.”
A storm was moving in. The sky had darkened, but this storm wouldn’t be bringing a deluge of water to wash the roads clear; no, this storm was bringing death, a painful death should the swarm of flying insects manage to find their way into the car.
Hoping to be able to outrun the swarm, Barry stepped on the gas, but immediately had to let up on the pedal when the car started to slew to the right. “God dammit,” he cried out in frustration.
The Heavens opened and the swarm descended. The sound of their bodies hitting the roof of the car sounded like hail stones. The windshield was covered with bees, wasps, hornets, and flies, the winged demons crawling over each other, totally obliterating Barry’s view of the road. It was terrifying to behold, and Barry was thankful for the protection the car offered. Even though he knew he was better off in the car, the incessant buzzing was already beginning to grate on his nerves and it was all he could do to keep from throwing open the car door and making a mad dash for safety. He knew the moment he opened the door, the car would be filled in a matter of seconds, and if he managed to get out of the car, he knew he wouldn’t get that far before he was brought down by the sting of thousands of winged insects. Instead, he gritted his teeth and held on to the steering wheel with his left hand in a knuckle-whitening grip while his right hand closed the distance to where Amy sat and grabbed hold of her hand. He wasn’t the praying type, but if there was ever a time to talk to The Man Upstairs, it was now. Bringing the car to a stop, he closed his eyes and began to pray.
Something buzzed in his ear.
With a start his eyes flew open and he looked around frantically. How the hell did it get in? It went by again, this time behind him. He let go of Amy’s hand and took a blind swing at it. Something flew across his field of vision, then another. How the hell are they getting in? None of the windows were open. Then his eyes dropped to the vents. A dozen yellow jackets were crawling over the dashboard, and more were coming in. He didn’t dare reach for the vents to close them because he didn’t want to rile them up. As if knowing they’d been spotted, the yellow jackets took flight, going straight for Barry’s face. He jerked back in his seat, pressing his feet down to push away from the aerial attack, and the car leaped forward. He tried to grab the wheel, but it was crawling with yellow jackets. He tried to brush them off, but the moment his hand made contact, they swarmed over it. The pain was unbearable as dozen of stingers penetrated his hand simultaneously, and at the same time those buzzing around his face launched their attached. Without meaning to, he floored the gas pedal, propelling the car forward. Amy screamed as the car began to spin. With nothing left to lose, Barry grabbed the wheel, but he wasn’t able to get control of the car. Somehow, in his panic, he managed to bring his foot down on the brake, but nothing happened.
Then all hell broke loose.
It was all happening so fast. There was a rending of metal and the side window shattered, sending a shower of glass fragments raining down over Barry. There was a burning sensation in his chest and he had a moment to wonder how a tree ended up in the car before the pain registered. The scream ripped from his throat and his hands flew to his side. A tree branch had pierced the door and ripped into his side, just below the ribs. By the time the car stopped moving and the point of the branch broke through the skin on his other side, stopping inches away from Amy’s swollen belly, Barry was already unconscious.