? 1999 by Jerry J. Davis
Brad Anderson awoke suddenly, sitting straight up in bed and
staring forward into the dark with wide, horrified eyes. He'd
dreamed that he'd killed and eaten his wife. Throwing the sheet
off, he stumbled out of bed and into the bathroom, turning on the
light and looking at his pale, shaken face. What is wrong with me?
he wondered. He stared into his own eyes through the mirror,
searching for some sort of answer. Instead of seeing himself he
was reliving the horrible dream, seeing the shock and dumb terror
on his wife's face as he plunged the knife in, cutting her flesh
like he would a deer or some poor farm animal, feeling a dark
hunger as he bit into it like a rabid carnivore. She screamed and
screamed as he ate, dying a little bit at a time. The sound of her
screaming still seemed to ring in his ears.
His heart was hammering in his chest, and there was sweat
beaded up all over his forehead. For God's sake, he thought, what
is the meaning of this dream? Brad splashed water in his face,
dried with a towel, and paused to give himself a once-over in the
mirror – short blond hair, trim mustache, sloping shoulders, baggy
eyes – then walked back into the bedroom, turning on the light and
looking at the bed. The bed was empty, his wife gone. He stared at
it, trying to sort out his thoughts. It must be anger. He did feel
anger, a lot of it – that and shock. Shock that it happened. Shock
at the nerve of Dale McKinney, who lured her away. Shock that
she'd fallen for such a phony, a sleaze.
Brad turned off the light and – against his will – he walked
across the room to the north window and pulled the curtains aside.
Dale lived five houses down and on the other side of the street.
The windows were dark. His wife, presumably, inside. Sometimes he
wished he had the nerve to borrow one of Randy's hunting rifles,
the kind with the big fat 'scope, and just pick the jackass off as
he walked by a window. Or – better yet – out at the golf course
while Dale was giving lessons. Blam! Right through the chest.
He could deal with his anger towards Dale. It was an easy
emotion to understand, especially considering the situation. But
the dream about his wife – it disturbed him. It made him wonder
about his mental health.
Brad rolled back onto bed but was not able to sleep. He
shifted from his right to left side and back, over and over every
few minutes. Finally he gave up, and went downstairs to the living
room and turned on the television. A John Wayne movie was on one
of the cable channels, and he sat and stared at the images and
sounds, letting the television turn off his mind and the ugly
Later, with the sun shining through the windows and across
his polished hardwood floor, Brad awoke to the distant sound of
his alarm clock going off upstairs. The coffee was on automatic,
brewing away in the kitchen. The smell made him feel better, and
he got up and walked stiff-legged into the bathroom to take a pee.
He dimly remembered the nightmare, but was able to shrug it off.
Things like that didn't matter much in the daylight.
Brad stepped through his weekend morning routine. Shower,
shave, dress, then retrieve the Saturday paper and scan the
headlines while he sipped his coffee. The house around him was so
quiet. It was their dream house, one that Janice was thrilled
with, that made their relocation from Concord, California much
less traumatic. Brad had been an outstanding supervisor and his
company needed a manager for their new huge shipping depot in
Arizona – this was their chance, with his doubled income and
prestigious job, and this new big house that he and Janice were
supposed to fill with children. That didn't happen, and now she
was gone and it was only him, the cat and the dust motes that swam
in the shafts of morning sunlight. The cat didn't like him, and
avoided him at all times unless the food dish was empty. He hadn't
even seen it for the past few days – for all he knew Janice had
come and confiscated it.
Opening the paper, Brad found the headlines held bad news.
Two more people were missing. This time it was Bob and Dana
Mueller. Like so many people in this small community, Brad had met
and was familiar with these people. Bob was a big, beefy,
country-western type who worked down at the local hardware store,
and Dana was a little redhead with a big attitude who worked with
some computer firm over in Phoenix. That brought the total to six
missing people in two weeks. The Dickson police were appealing to
the state for help, and even thought the paper didn't say it, it
was obvious the authorities thought it was a serial killer.
Brad put the paper down and finished his coffee. He was
hungry this morning, much more than usual. His stomach felt
hollow, empty, and it was making noises. Normally Janice would be
preparing breakfast. A dark thought crossed him – she probably was
making breakfast right at that very moment, five houses down the
He stood, and picking the coffee cup up, he threw it. It
bounced off the wall and the carpet but didn't break. There was no
satisfaction in it. Still feeling dark and hateful, Brad exited
the house through the back door and out the back gate, walking out
onto the golf course path toward the clubhouse.
Along the way he came across several balls of ants. He
kicked at one, and they scattered. They were large, frightening
ants, all black and orange. The locals called them "Halloween
ants." The town's claim to fame was that they'd been overrun by
them. The ants were desert natives, and all the new unnatural
plants – the lawns, the trees, the hedges and flowerbeds – were a
boon to them. It was all food, more than nature had intended, and
their population had exploded. Being that Dickson was an upscale
bedroom community for Phoenix, some important people had been
angry at the ants for eating their grass and flowers. A company
called Nupoint Chemical was invited out to test some of their
experimental pesticides on the hapless bugs, which prompted them
to form in these large, disgusting balls. Brad had tried once to
step on one, but he only killed half of them and the other half
crawled onto his shoe and up his ankle. Like wasps or bees they
had stingers, and several of them got him before he could brush
them off. His leg was swollen for hours, and he never tried it
He reached the clubhouse and walked into the small coffee
shop, and heard half the conversations come to a sudden halt. He
looked around at the familiar faces and none would make eye
contact. It was because his wife, Janice, was sitting with Dale
McKinney in a booth toward the back. Everyone there knew what was
Janice, her long blond hair pinned back, was dressed in
shorts and a nice blouse. She had a sharp nose and long eyelashes,
and a solid muscular build. Even though she was aware her husband
was standing several feet away she pointedly ignored him. Dale,
who was a tall, lanky man with a stylish three-day beard, had the
balls to smile and wave. Brad felt himself flush. His face and
neck burned. He walked quickly over to the table, and Dale stood
up and faced him.
"I have nothing to say to you," Brad said, and turned to his
"I'm the only person you get to talk to," Dale said,
stepping in front of Janice.
Brad lunged, swinging, but the others around them quickly
grabbed the two and pulled them apart. The club manager hurried in
and took Brad by the arm, leading him toward the door. "What are
you doing?" Brad demanded.
"I'm kicking you out."
"You're kicking me out?"
"You have no business coming in here and causing trouble!"
"I'm causing trouble? It's your goddamn golf pro sitting
there with my wife."
"I don't think she's your wife anymore. You should go out
and find another one." The burley old guy pushed him out the door.
"You don't come back until you're calmed down."
Brad cursed at him and then walked angrily away. He couldn't
believe it – the club manager was on Dale's side! Like Dale had a
right to anyone's wife, anyone he chose. Brad felt they were all
against him, all of them, everyone who was sitting in the coffee
shop. He wished he had a machine gun. He wished he could mentally
snap like some disgruntled postal worker and step in there and mow
them down. Then he'd cut them up into little pieces, fry them in a
big pan and eat them. Just eat them. Gobble them down like a good
steak, with eggs on the side.
As he walked down the path back toward his house, he heard a
group of kids signing in their backyard. It was to the tune of a
Christmas song, but the words were oddly changed:
Joy to the world, my teacher is dead
I bar-be-cued her head
Where is the body?
I flushed it down the potty
Round and round it goes
Oh round and round it goes…
Oh round, and round, and round it goes…
The children's song disturbed him, just like his own
thoughts disturbed him. He wasn't merely angry with those people.
He wanted to eat them. It was a genuine desire, not just a
fleeting thought. He wanted to butcher them like cattle and chop
them into steaks, especially Dale and Janice.
Jesus Christ, he thought. Where is this coming from? He
stepped over a ball of black and orange ants and passed his back
gate without stopping. Abruptly he changed direction and headed
across the fairway, walking over to Randy's shack. He needed to
talk, and Randy was the closest thing he had to a friend out here.
In the back of his mind, a niggling little thought persisted:
Randy had a gun collection. Randy had let him borrow guns in the
past. Try as he might, Brad couldn’t get this thought to leave him
Halfway to Randy's shack, Brad stumbled upon the oddest
thing he'd ever seen. There were two snakes right in the middle of
the fairway, both mottled brown and looking to be of the same
species, and they were eating each other. They had swallowed a
good portion of each other's tail. As he stood staring at it,
there was the sound of an automobile horn, and Brad looked up to
see a van driving right down the fairway at him. Brad took several
steps out of the way and the van drove past, running over the
snakes. It was a white van with a government seal on the door
panel: The Environmental Protection Agency. Brad continued on his
way, wondering what that was all about, wondering why the hell
they were driving all over the golf course. Randy would be pissed.
Randy, the greenskeeper, had a shack on the back nine, right
beside a pond and a large sand trap. As Brad approached the pond
he felt an overwhelming wall of humidity. They community was
pumping a lot of water into all the lawns, ponds, and swimming
pools, and the Arizona sun did it's best to dry them out. Phoenix
and the surrounding suburbs could no longer brag about the
benefits of their "dry heat." Brad walked around the shack to the
door and found it closed and locked. Feeling let down and
disappointed, he walked around the shack, looking up and down the
greens for a sign of Randy, and he spotted the man walking out
from the trees, heading toward him.
"There was a van running around on your grass!" Brad called
Randy nodded and waved. He was in his fifties, with long
black hair that he kept in a ponytail, and a ruddy, weatherworn
face. He was dressed in his usual faded jeans and a tee shirt. "I
know!" he called back. As came closer, Brad noticed the man had an
unhappy expression and a haunted look in his eyes. He also looked
a bit pale.
"What's going on?" Brad asked him.
"They confiscated the Nupoint stuff. You know, that
experimental stuff for the ants?"
"Yeah, they took it all." Randy wasn't looking at him. He
was looking off to the side, his eyes unfocused.
"Why did they take it?" Brad asked.
"Didn't say," Randy said. His voice had a soft, faraway
quality to it. "I suspect they discovered the stuff wasn't as
harmless as Nupoint said it was."
"Was it killing the birds or something?"
"It's not a poison. It's an enzyme. It made the ants turn on
each other." He finally looked up at Brad, his eyes suddenly
focused. "How are you feeling?"
"Depressed. Pissed off."
"Janice hasn't come home yet?"
"I don't think she ever will. I got into a fight with Dale a
few minutes ago." He related what happened at the clubhouse coffee
shop, omitting his bizarre cannibalistic urges.
"How does that make you feel?" Randy asked.
"It makes me feel like … like borrowing one of your guns and
blowing the bastard's head off!"
"And then what?"
"Well, blow her head off, too."
"And then what?"
Brad gave Randy a strange look. "And then have myself
committed, I guess."
Randy nodded slowly, his eyes going unfocused again. "I know
what you mean."
"The really crappy part is I still haven't had any
breakfast, and I'm starving. You wouldn't happen to have any of
your rabbit jerky around, would you?"
Randy gave him a sharp look. "No!" He saw that Brad was
taken aback, and he softened his voice. "No. I'm not going to make
any more. I think the rabbit is … tainted."
"Oh, come on! Everyone in town eats your jerked jackrabbit.
Randy shook his head, looking down. "I'm sorry. I don't have
any." He took a few steps away, then paused and turned around.
"I'll talk to you later," he said. "I have things I gotta do."
"Do you need some help?" Brad asked.
"No." Randy's tone was flat. Final. He turned around and
Brad watched him go, then wandered off in the opposite
direction. He had no destination in mind. Not wanting to go home,
and unable to go to the clubhouse, Brad roamed the golf course at
random and tried to ignore his empty stomach. Maybe, he thought, I
should have brought my clubs. He watched other golfers as they
drove and putted. One particular couple caught his attention – a
slightly overweight blond woman and her husband, people he'd met
but forgotten their names. They looked to be in their late
thirties, and healthy. The woman looked good. She was wearing
shorts and a half-shirt, and he could see her belly button. She
had some meat on her, and a little padding – not much, really –
and nice, full breasts. Watching her, his mouth began to water.
His stomach growled.
They drove their balls down the fairway and then took their
clubs and walked. Brad followed, keeping to the side by the trees.
They noticed him following, and kept glancing back at him
nervously. Brad thought about approaching them, maybe asking to
see an interesting club. He could use it on their heads, and once
down, pull her half shirt up and—
Brad realized what he was thinking, and he turned away in
horror. But he was so hungry. She looked so good! He could imagine
biting down hard, then pull away, ripping the flesh. It would be
so hot and succulent in his mouth, so alive, so … Brad looked down
at his hands, which were shaking. He made fists of them and put
them to his face, pressing hard. His hunger was a knot in his
midsection that was twisting tighter.
He turned back toward the couple, who was openly staring at
him now. He started toward them and he saw the woman back away.
The man looked startled, and he fumbled in his golf bag, reaching
deep, and yanked out a large black pistol. Brad paused,
hesitating. The man pointed the gun at him and fired. Brad turned
around and ran, and the man kept firing.
Brad heard the bullets – they made whistling sounds as they
passed him. When they hit the trees they made a sound that was a
cross between a whack and a sharp crunch and bark would fly off.
He ran blindly, leaping over fallen limbs and punching his way
through underbrush. He broke out into another fairway and kept
running, continuing on far after the gunshots had stopped.
At the end of the fairway was the south boundary of the golf
course. Brad stopped his running, and chanced a look back. People
were scattered all over the place, standing still with clubs in
their hands, and they were all staring at him. Just standing and
staring. Then the man with the gun broke through the underbrush
and out onto the grass. He began firing the gun again, but not at
Brad – he was firing at people at random. They scattered, running
in every direction, and the man with the gun picked the people he
was closest to and chased them. More gunshots sounded.
Brad took the main road and walked quickly away from the
golf course. A few blocks down was Dickson's only shopping center,
with a post office, a grocery store, a salon and a gas station.
There had been a bookstore but it had closed down, as no one
seemed to read anymore. Brad made his way to the phone booth at
the gas station and called 911. He was still panting from his run.
Gunshots were still booming through the air from the golf course.
A tone sounded in his ear. The telephone said, "All circuits
are busy. Please try your call again later." Exasperated, Brad
dialed again and got the same response.
The gas station attendant stepped out and looked down the
street toward the golf course. She was a short, slight woman with
a squinty look in her eyes. "What's goin' on down there?" she
"Some maniac shooting the golf course up," Brad said. His
third try on the phone failed and he gave up.
"Who is it?" the attendant asked.
"Don't know his name, but he's from around here." Brad
looked at her, and she looked good. His mouth began to water, but
he caught himself and turned away. "I can't get a hold of the
She didn't answer – she went trotting off toward the golf
course. He watched her go, eyeing her thighs in her tight jeans.
His mouth wouldn't stop watering. He abandoned the phone booth,
taking several steps after her, but he heard another gunshot and
stopped. Turning around, he saw two cats racing across the parking
lot, and one caught the other one and it erupted in a fight.
Beyond the fighting cats was the grocery store.
He walked toward it, feeling desperate, hoping to God that
if he would just eat something – something other than human – that
these insane impulses would go away. He had to walk around the cat
fight. It was vicious; one had the other by the throat, and they
were rending each other with their hind claws. There were little
droplets of blood all over the pavement. He hardly even glanced at
them, as his main purpose in life at that point was to get though
those doors and find some food.
Inside the store it was quiet. There were several customers
in the store, along with the employees and the management. He
caught eye contact with one of the cashiers, a tall buxom brunette
with big hair, and she didn't look away. She didn't say anything,
either, just stared at him with glassy eyes and no expression. She
didn't look good to him, but he had the impression that he looked
good to her. As he took a cart and walked down an aisle she
silently abandoned her register and stalked him. Brad passed a man
with an empty grocery cart whom stood motionless, moving only his
eyes. His hands had a death's grip on the cart handle, his whole
body tense. Brad watched him warily as he passed, feeling the man
was ready to pounce. The man's gaze shifted from Brad to the
checkout woman and back, keeping perfectly still, acting like he
was camouflaged and that no one could see him as long as he didn't
Brad made it around a corner only to be faced by the
butcher, who stood on the outside of his counter and sharpened a
huge knife. He looked up at Brad and locked eyes with him, never
pausing in his knife sharpening. Brad edged past him, and passing
the meat section. The butcher followed. Forgetting about food,
Brad decided he'd better get out of there. It was an
eat-or-be-eaten situation and he was outnumbered.
Ahead was a big guy – he was huge! – who had a demented
expression and appeared to be drooling. He turned his cart so that
he blocked Brad's way, and just stood and stared at him with
bugged-out eyes. His mouth was open and he was biting his tongue.
He grinned at Brad.
Brad made a quick left down the junk food aisle only to find
two women had their carts side by side at the far end, blocking
him in. He continued down the aisle until it was apparent that the
ladies were not going to move. Turning around, Tom found the big
guy and the butcher had him blocked at the other end, and behind
them was the checkout woman.
Brad continued toward the two women at the far end, gaining
speed until he was trotting. Either they were going to move their
carts or he was going to ram them. Their expressions became
alarmed, and they moved to one side but left their carts where
they were. Brad rammed their carts with his, making a loud crash
and sending the carts and the groceries tumbling. The women hissed
and snarled at him as he scrambled past. He leaped over a chain
and past a register, but slipped and landed hard on the worn
linoleum. As he got to his feet, he saw people running toward him.
The manager, the other checkers, the women with the carts. The big
guy. They were coming for him, all with grim faces and a dead-eyed
look, and Brad turned and sprinted for the door, banging into it
and shoving it open. He was out before they could reach him, and
his feet pounded the pavement across the parking lot. The cats, he
saw, were no longer fighting. One was dead and being fed upon by
Just before he rounded the corner he looked back, seeing a
few of them standing in the parking lot staring back at him, but
none were pursuing. As he passed the gas station and headed down
the street where he lived, his running slowed to a jog and then he
abruptly stopped. He bent forward, hands on trembling knees, and
fought to catch his breath.
As he stood there panting, his thoughts became clear. The
whole town seemed to be going nuts, but how could that be? How
could the town be going crazy? He thought about it, trying to
reason it through. First the dream, and then the insane thoughts.
Then everyone seemed crazy to him – predatory – as if they were
sharing his sudden cravings for human flesh. Brad decided that at
some point his mind had snapped. The emotional strain of losing
his wife to that bastard, that self-important, smug, swaggering
jerk … his brain couldn't deal with it, his subconscious rebelling
against his conscious mind, because his conscious refused to allow
himself to commit murder no matter how justified he felt.
Brad straightened and resumed walking up the street, feeling
the insanity, seeing through it like a filter. No one had actually
chased him at the store. They may have been staring at him, but it
was probably because he was acting so crazy. It's me, he thought.
It's all me. It's in my head. I probably scared the shit out of
that poor guy and his wife. He was firing at me in self-defense.
Even now, looking around the sunny neighborhood around him,
things looked strange. He felt like he was viewing the world
through glasses that were the wrong prescription – angles were
distorted, and people's faces – their expressions – he perceived
them wrong. A mother and her children washing their car peered at
him through beady, hostile eyes. The little girl, staring at him,
licked her lips. An old man with his small white dog on a leash
smiled as Brad passed, and the smile was full of menace. This
isn't real, Brad told himself. It can't be. But his knowing this
didn't change what he saw. Knowing he was sick didn't cure him.
Brad picked up his pace. He had to get to a phone and call
the police, have himself put away. He wanted them to put him in a
place where he could get well again. I can get better, he told
himself. I can start over again.
A few yards away from his house he came across three large
brown birds, cactus wrens with long sharp beaks, and they were in
a little group on the grass picking at another of their kind. The
other bird lay on its back, wings spread, legs still twitching.
They were eating it alive.
He stared at it a few moments. This can't be happening, he
thought. I'm hallucinating. Birds don't eat each other, do they?
He watched them pulling out organs and ripping off shreds of
feather-covered flesh. The birds glanced at him warily, but stood
their ground. Brad felt the hollowness in his own stomach, felt
his need to eat. The birds were acting so wrong, he decided it had
to be a hallucination.
If I'm so crazy I'm seeing things that aren't really there,
he thought, then I'm crazy enough to do anything. He looked over
at Dale's house, and felt the full weight of his stockpile of
hatred and anger. There are dozens of witnesses who'll testify how
crazy I've been acting. Even Janice would agree to that in front
of a jury.
Brad passed his house, continuing down to Dale's. He
approached the front door, stepping over a pair of lizards that