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King of the Cockroaches
James Selby liked killing cockroaches. He didn’t hate them. It was just that he was in the cockroach extermination business and like probably everywhere else on Earth, New York City had them by the billion.
Cockroaches had been around for three hundred million years, it is said and so had had time to evolve into bad asses that could survive almost anything. Which was where he came in since normal bug spray often did not bother them at all. As the joke went; after a nuclear war all there would be left is cockroaches eating McDonald’s burgers.
Selby had been out spraying that night in an uptown apartment. Night was when the cockroaches came out. He had sealed the area off, sprayed around and then hoovered up the little bugger’s bodies, making sure he searched every crevice and got every one because like others, he was finding that they were becoming immune to his old mixture. He put up signs telling people to stay out of the apartment for twenty four hours. Just a precaution.
Selby looked in his sack and most of the cockroaches were dead but some still had some life in them as he saw their legs and feelers moving about a bit. He resorted to his tried and trusted method. He put the sack on the floor and stamped all over it, listening to the bodies crunch. A pair of heavy work boots with his fourteen stone weight behind them killed one hundred percent of all cockroaches. That is what was needed. ‘Boots in a can’, he thought to himself as he checked for any survivors. There were none. He sealed the bag and put it away for special collection in the morning. It had a mixture of chemicals in so he did not want the normal waste collectors exposed to them.
Selby considered. His old mixture was failing so he needed something stronger, to mix up a new batch of poisons that would kill the cockroaches. It was only one o’clock in the morning so he might as well give it a try now. He had no social life to call him away to other things. When women asked: “What do you do?” his telling them that he killed cockroaches for a living went down like a lead balloon.
Selby donned his working gear and went into his work shop, a small sealed off area which would be closed down if people knew what went on in there. He had had a new jar of chemicals in today, or rather yesterday from a friend who worked for the military. It was said to have been found to be too deadly to use on humans so had been stockpiled away somewhere. He would have to find out how cockroaches responded to it.
It was said to be very concentrated so he added just a few drops to his latest mix, stirred it and poured it into his spray gun. He cursed as he spilt some on himself and quickly washed it off. Even with protective clothing, he did not trust some of the stuff he used. Now he decided to test it outside on the waste bins. There were usually numerous cockroaches there and this time of night they should be feeding.
He looked and the light from a nearby street light showed they were feeding. He crept up on them and gave just one spray and was amazed. All the cockroaches he saw (and presumably the many he did not) almost instantly dropped dead.
He swore. This was strong stuff. But how about people? He had to know if it could harm them too. If it did, he could get some lawsuits against him and be out of business or even in prison.
A mangy old dog wandered towards some other bins nearby and started sniffing at them for something to eat. He wondered, then thought what the hell and gave it a light spray. The dog sniffed the air, sneezed and then walked off at a fast pace. He watched it go. It seemed to be OK. He considered. Since the new mixture worked so well on cockroaches, he could use even less of that new chemical with his old mixture. He wandered back into his work place, not aware that the dog he had treated had dropped dead a little distance away.
He had another place he could treat tonight. He had the keys to the apartment and the couple who owned it were away for a few days. He decided to do the job now as he did not feel like sleep at the moment.
He gathered his gear together, put it in his van and headed across town. He found the place, and parking was easy this time of morning. He was getting his stuff out of the back of his van when a light shone on him.
“Excuse me, sir! What are you doing here this time of night?”
It was the police.
Selby pointed to the pest control advert on the side of his van.
“Getting cockroaches like criminals is a 24/7 job,” he told the officer. “I have an apartment to spray in this block,” he said pointing over his shoulder with a thumb.
The two police officers considered for some seconds, glanced at his equipment and got back into their car.
A key got him into the apartment block, and he rode up in the lift to the tenth floor and found room 1011. He opened the door and immediately heard voices. He listened. It sounded like the owners had returned early and were having sex. He silently cursed as he equally silently locked the door again and went down to his van. He would have to do that one another day, or rather another night.
He now found himself yawning and decided he was a bit tired and that he had had enough for one night. He parked up, unloaded his van, locked up (people would steal anything these days) and headed off to his own apartment to get some sleep.
He had some weird dreams, which was nothing new as he often ate some weird snacks before he went to bed.
And it became much weirder when he woke up.
There were cockroaches everywhere. Floor, furniture, in bed with him, on the ceiling, the door and windows, they were everywhere. Except on him. That was a relief for now.
There was a voice in his head.