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Davis, Jerry - Halloween Ants

By Benjamin Flores,2014-06-11 23:22
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Davis, Jerry - Halloween Ants

     Halloween Ants

     ? 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

     thoughts within.

     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

     street.

     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

     again.

     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

     going on.

     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

     wife.

     "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

     alone.

     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

     out.

     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?"

     "Really?"

     "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."