Thu, 12 March 2009 - 8:20 pm

Nature’s survivors

The rain came early today, sneaking up the road until it spilt a shadow over us from behind. We dove into the first available building – what was once a convenience store, before it was looted. It hissed in denial while we checked ourselves and each other for burns and splashes. I think I even heard a rumble of thunder overhead; I don’t remember it storming since the bomb went off, as if the sky had had enough of booming and shaking.

As we were settling down, there was an odd, skittering sound coming closer and closer, like nails sneaking up on a blackboard. Then a grate in the street starting boiling, festering and spewing indigestinal lava out onto the concrete. It took me a moment to realise what it was.

Cockroaches. Goddamn cockroaches, swarming up out of the ground, fleeing some insect anti-Christ.

At first, I thought that they were immune to the rain that slicked their shiny backs. Typical, huh? Everyone says that if all else fails, there will always be cockroaches, nature’s hardiest survivors, hardy little carapaced bastards. But they weren’t heedless of the hissing falling upon them. Far from it.

They were screaming. Tiny, high-pitched screeches of pain that built in volume as more and more of them poured out into the rain’s kiss. Maybe it was the pressure in their shells escaping, I don’t know, but it set my teeth on edge. It was primordial pain given voice and sounded like nothing I’ve heard before outside of a movie.

The shells didn’t seem to be melting; the acid must have worked its way in between the joints and melted them from the inside out. Those who came behind didn’t seem to notice; they boiled up and spilt over, pushing their dead brethren out of the way in their hurry to scream in painful fury at the sky. They built a mountain of carapaced corpses in the street, a sad, gleaming monument to creatures caught between hell below and fire above.

 

No-one said anything. We just watched them come, and come, and listened to them die. When the mound finally stopped moving, someone swore softly.

I almost felt sorry for them. There’s something in me that wishes they had survived, that something could survive all of this unscathed. If even the cockroaches are dying, what chance do the rest of us have?

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