? 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."