Registered With The
Writer's Guild of America
Fran opened the door to her
apartment building and heard a phone ringing up the hall, probably hers.
She pulled on her key and as usual it was stuck in the lock. She
grinned menacingly as she yanked and twisted as though she might come
back with a gun and teach the lock a lesson. The phone continued
"I'll kill you you son-of-a
It rang yet again.
Fran completely let go of
the key, placed two fingers on it and gently slid it out. Looking
to heaven and smiling she dashed down the hall and unlocked her apartment
door. This one worked correctly, the door opened and she grabbed
the phone on the seventh ring.
said her Dad.
"Hi, Daddy," she
said happily, a little girl's tone in her voice, "how're you?"
"Fine, just fine.
So what d'you think about that vacation. Your Mother and I are
"I can't go," she
said. "I got a new job today. A legal secretary.
I'm making a lot of money."
Mr. Moyers sounded concerned,
"But what about your acting? You've wanted to be an actress
since you were eight or nine."
Fran's whole body slumped.
"I'll never make it, Daddy."
"But you've always been
said Fran, "and my skills don't impress anyone, including me.
I'm not even a good secretary, but maybe I'll learn to be one.
I'll never be a good actress." She shut her eyes.
"But Franny, you can't
just give up all your dreams like that
Fran did her best to restrain
her tears. "Look, you and Mom have a good time, all right?"
They both sat for a moment
"I'll call you when we
get back," he said and they hung up.
* * *
Frank and Helen Moyers, Fran's
parents, drove their 1965 Falcon station wagon pulling a small, 1958
Airstream trailer up north to a campground near some caves.
Dressed in shorts and hiking
boots, Frank tromped off toward the caves with his archeology book,
a chisel, a hammer and a paint brush in hand. He chose one of
the smaller caves and walked in until it began getting dark, then he
set his stuff down and began hacking away at the rock wall. Within
a few moments he began tiring a little and got down on his bare knees,
but kept pounding and pounding, pebbles building up all around him.
And then, just as he was getting
exasperated, the white edge of a large bone became visible in the cave
wall. With renewed vigor Frank chipped all around it and the piles
of pebbles around his legs built up. One particularly large chunk
of stone hit the ground beside Frank's left leg and split in half revealing
the underbelly of a fossilized insect about an inch long. Frank
kept right on with his work, oblivious to the multitude of little legs
protruding from the rock beside his calf.
One of the insect's little
legs vibrated ever so slightly. The embedded bone became more
pronounced as the rocks around it dropped away. The vibration
of the leg became a distinct movement. Pausing for a moment, frank
wiped his perspiring brow, then went back to his work. All of
the little legs began flexing, getting their mobility and strength back.
Changing tools, he took his paint brush and whisked some sediment from
the bone. The insect pried its back from the stone and crawled
to the ground, its body made up of many flat planes looking almost like
armor, the clampers at its mouth razor-sharp and serrated, the stinger
on its tail like a small drill-bit. Frank grasped the bone and
attempted to yank it from the wall but it wouldn't budge, so with repressed
excitement he went back to his delicate chipping. Moving awkwardly
on legs it hadn't used in thousands of years, the insect crawled up
the edge of Frank's leather hiking boot, over the red and blue stripe
of the protruding sock and on to the hairy flesh of Frank's calf.
Grasping the bone tightly and applying even more pressure it began to
dislodge slowly. The stinger moved down through the hair and poised
over the skin. The bone pulled free sending down a cascade of
rubble, just as the stinger rammed deep into the flesh.
Frank screamed and dropped
his bone and the insect wedged the rest of its body into the small hole,
immediately covered over by several drops of blood. He looked
down at his calf, saw the blood and winced. Collecting his tools,
book and bone together, Frank limped out of the cave.
Back at the campgrounds and
seated in his trailer, Helen scrutinized the wound, wiped off the blood
with a cotton ball and alcohol from the first aid kit, put a small band-aid
on the wound and went back to preparing supper.
"It looks like a wasp
bite," she said.
Frank groaned, "It sure
"From the size of the
lump it looks like you're having an allergic reaction. Remember
when you got stung by that bumble-bee and your hand swoll up like a
Frank massaged the side of
his calf and his face knotted up in pain.
"Yeah, I guess that's
* * *
Prudential Tower; fifty
stories of gold mirrored glass glimmering in the sun. Before it
stood two men gazing up at its towering splendor, one dressed in a cheap
business suit holding a vinyl briefcase, the other in designer jeans,
a silk shirt unbuttoned to just above his navel and gold chains entwined
in his thick chest hair.
"Prudential has themselves
one pretty building here," said Thomas Uto, the man with the briefcase.
"It's my building,"
said Howard York definitively. "Prudential is just leasing."
"All right," conceded
Uto, a sneer playing on his lips, "your building.
Now let's get down to brass tacks here, Mr. York. Just exactly
what kind of security system are you looking for?"
"Well Tom - you don't
mind if I call you Tom, do you? - well Tom, let's go inside, get a drink
and talk this thing out." York put a cigarette in his mouth
and lit it with a gaudy gold lighter. Uto eyed the lighter and
the sneer wafted back across his face.
"Sure thing, Mr. York,
anything you say."
York seated himself behind
his huge, glass-covered, mahogany desk and spread his arms indicating
the expanse of the fiftieth floor office. "So what'd'ya think,
Uto was overwhelmed, but acted
nonplussed, "It's a very nice office, Mr. York, now about that
"Nice office? This
is the goddamned nicest office you've ever seen!" York smiled
and sat back.
Uto's whole body tightened.
"You said there was something you wanted to discuss?"
York leaned forward, his hands
folded on the desktop. "Look Tom, I built this building myself
and it wasn't easy, let me tell you that. I'll admit my Dad's
a pretty big name around this town and that helped, but it was me
that got it built."
"Well that's fine, but
"Let me finish,"
York interjected. "Now I understand that a security system
is a vital thing to any building, particularly one of this size.
I also know that for you to sell me one will be a real feather in your
cap, am I right?"
Uto's eyes were down to slits,
his nostrils enlarged, "well
"Of course it is.
I won't kid you Tom, I've talked with other security companies and I
don't like the numbers they're talking. It doesn't please me to
have to spend one hundred and fifty grand on something that may never
get used, you understand where I'm coming from?
York sat back. "That's
fine. Now, I'm not talking cheap garbage, I'm just talking a low
"Yes, indeed. As
it turns out, we have a brand new, fully-automated security system that
will bolt and lock every door in the entire building at whatever time
you set it, then unlock all the doors at whatever other time you set
it. It's infallible and the finest system of its kind on the market.
That is what I recommend for a building of this size."
York rubbed his chin.
"What about people working overtime?"
Uto produced a pocket calculator
from his briefcase and began computing numbers while he spoke, simultaneously
reading a sheet of paper on his lap.
"Insurance laws demand
that you have at least one security guard in the building all night.
With any other system you would assuredly need more than one.
With our system one is all you will need. He is posted at the
front door with a key - the only key - and he lets anyone out that has
worked late, or lets in anyone with a late delivery."
York quickly became annoyed
with Uto's lack of attention to him and coughed loudly. Uto looked
"And just how much will
this system cost?" asked York.
Uto hit a few more numbers
on the calculator, then equals and got $72,385.50. He cleared
"I can give you that
system - installed - for one hundred and twenty-five thousand."
"You're talking business."
* * *
Frank parked his station
wagon on the street and put a dime in the meter, then limped into the
office of Al-Can Security.
The secretary looked up.
"Hi, Frank, how was your vacation?"
Frank hobbled over to the
bulletin board. "Pretty good."
"What happened to your
The secretary lit a long cigarette,
removed her glasses and let them dangle on the chain around her neck.
"You should put some drawing salve on it, you might still have
the stinger in you."
Frank grumbled and looked
at a paper tacked to the board. "Prudential Town Center?
"It's that big, gold,
shiny building off the Lodge freeway."
Frank turned to leave.
"Hope your leg feels
* * *
Inside of Frank Moyers'
calf the insect had deeply embedded itself and hungrily fed on the surrounding
* * *
In front of the Prudential
Town Center sat several moving vans being unloaded of a vast array of
office furniture and equipment. There were also several telephone
company trucks and one truck with "Al-Can Security Systems"
printed on its side.
In the basement of the building,
in the boiler room, two scraggily men with unkempt, long hair and cover-alls
bearing "Al-Can Security Systems" on the back, lazily installed
the fully-automated security system. While one of the men worked
on the wiring the other man worked on attaching a panel with two digital
clocks in it; the top clock set at 5:00 PM and the bottom one set at
"Hey, Bud," said
Sam, "hand me the eight-gauge solder."
Bud poked around in the toolbox
with a screwdriver. "Sorry, no eight-gauge."
"How about ten?"
nope, no ten-gauge,
either. How about twelve?"
Sam let the circuit board
he was working on dangle from its wires. "You think there's
any eight-gauge up in the truck?"
Bud, who busily rolled a joint.
"You feel like getting
"I don't need it."
"Yeah, but I do."
"Fine," said Bud
lighting up, " then you get it."
"Fuck it," Sam said
accepting the doob, "gimme the twelve."
He handed back the joint and
exchanged it with the twelve-gauge solder. Sam pushed the clocks
back into the box and screwed them in. On the front of the circuit
board, directly below the digital clocks, were a multitude of tiny little
dots of solder. Sam added one tremendously out-of-proportion glob
of twelve-gauge, then sat back down and took another hit on the joint.
"Big deal, no one'll
* * *
In the law office of Steiner
and Schwartz the employees filed in, removed their coats and congregated
around the Mr. Coffee machine. Fran Moyers filled her disposable
plastic cup in its re-usable plastic holder with coffee, then dumped
in half a package of Sweet and Low. Fran looked particularly nice
in her two-piece suit, her lovely legs exposed in the slit in the side
of her skirt. A young, slick-looking, clean-cut law associate
greedily absorbed this view of Fran and approached.
"Hi," he said.
"My name's Don Smith, I'm one of the new associates."
He held out his hand which
"Nice to meet you,"
"And you," Fran
She took her coffee and walked
over to her desk. Don's cup stayed poised at his lips as he watched
Fran's derriere sway as she made her way between the desks. He
turned and saw Mr. Schwartz standing in the doorway to his office watching
the same sight. Mr. Schwartz turned to Don, raised his eyebrows
lewdly and shut his door. Don smirked and sipped his coffee, then
saw an older, stooped man enter the office and his smile fell away.
"Good morning, Mr. Steiner,"
said one of the secretaries. The older man nodded and walked by.
Don turned away, his eyes burning.
* * *
At 4:00 P.M. Frank Moyers
pulled his 1965 Falcon station wagon up to the front entrance of the
Prudential Town Center and with a pained expression limped into the
building. Attired in his security guard uniform, Frank hobbled
up to the receptionist at the front desk.
"Hi, I'm the night guard."
"Speak to the building
manager, room 107," said the receptionist not looking up.
Frank entered room 107 and
was greeted by a big, athletic-looking young man in his early twenties.
"Hi," said the young
man, "My name's Bob Henley." He grasped Frank's hand
and shook it vigorously.
"Frank Moyers, I'm the
Bob smiled. "Nice
to meet you, Frank. What can I do for you?"
Frank blinked back his pain
and lowered himself into a chair. "I need to know where the
keys are to punch the time clock with."
"Right, the man was out
yesterday and put them up. Come on, I'll show you."
Henley stood up and bounded
out the door. Very slowly Frank lifted himself up and dragged
himself to the doorway. As he stepped into the hall he caught
a quick glimpse of Henley's back as he turned a corner. Frank
shook his head, moaned and followed.
* * *
Thomas Uto walked up the
hallway while he scanned a sheaf of papers in his hand. He stopped
and opened a door that led into a storage closet. Lining the walls
were various types of wiring and circuit boxes and a small row of multi-colored
lights, all of which were lit except one. Uto shuffled the papers
in his hand, found the one he was looking for, read it quickly, then
rapped the light with his knuckles. It blinked on and immediately
went out. He left the closet and slammed the door.
"Goddamn it anyway!"
In a storage closet on the
second floor, Uto found the two scraggily installation men busily smoking
a roach held in a needle-nose pliers.
"What the hell is going
on here?" exclaimed Uto.
"We're taking a break."
The directness of the response
befuddled Uto for a moment. "You're what?"
"We're taking a break,
man, be cool."
Uto shook his head.
"The auxiliary power light on the first floor is out, when you
get done taking your break would you check it out?"
"I'll go check the lights
on the other floors." Uto turned and left.
* * *
At 4:30 P.M. the secretaries
in the law office of Steiner and Schwartz all began preparing to leave.
Just as Fran was sliding her arm into her coat sleeve Mr. Schwartz's
voice came through the intercom on her desk.
"Excuse me, Ms. Moyers,
I was wondering if you would come into my office for a moment?"
Several of the other secretaries
who already had their coats on turned to Fran and raised their eyebrows.
Fran removed her arm from her coat sleeve and entered his office.
Mr. Schwartz, a perpetually
grinning, good-looking man in his early fifties, stood and indicated
Fran to be seated.
"There's just a few more
things I'd like to go over concerning the Blockman case before you leave,"
In the large room that was
the offices of the four law associates working for Steiner and Schwartz,
Don Smith busily sat reading a document and jotting notes on a yellow
legal pad as the other three associates left to go home. Once
they were gone, Don stopped what he was doing and looked up. He
set down his pen and lit a cigarette.
* * *
Frank Moyers took his seat
at the desk located at the front door, stretched his aching leg out
and watched the people file out of the building. Every now and
then someone would smile or nod toward Frank or say goodbye, amongst
them Mr. Henley, and Frank strained through his pain to smile back.
Within Frank's calf the
insect had eaten away a sizeable amount of muscle and flesh and now
appeared much healthier. From its rear-end, beneath its stinger,
a white, foamy substance emanated. Amidst there appeared an egg
and through its slightly transparent outer-shell, the embryo of an insect
could be seen.
* * *
At 4:45 P.M. a truck bearing
"Bob's Maintenance Service" on its side pulled up in front
of the building. Bob, a middle-aged black man with a balding head and
a paunch, sat in the driver's seat and two black women sat behind: Kimi,
an immensely fat woman weighing nearly 300 pounds and Lena, an
elderly woman with rotting teeth and a hearing aid in her ear.
"This place seems a little
large for just two people to clean," said Bob staring up at the
"Yup," agreed Kimi,
"a lot of work for two people."
Lena turned to Bob.
"You gonna get some new people? You'll need 'em, this place
is too big for just Kimi and me."
Kimi and Bob exchanged looks,
"Have a nice night,"
"Your pants are on too
tight? Well loosen 'em up."
Kimi and Lena unloaded their
pails, mops, sponges, cleanser and other supplies and bob drove off.
Kimi and Lena entered the
building and stopped at Frank's desk.
"We's the night maintenance
crew," said Kimi."
"You'll have to sign
in," said Frank extending a pen. "You two are supposed
to clean this whole building?"
Kimi signed in. "Seems
Lena also signed in and the
women began lugging in their supplies.
Kimi turned to Lena.
"Where do you want to start?"
"Anytime you are,"
* * *
Up on the fiftieth floor,
Howard York sat gazing out the window at the city below. He glanced
at the clock on his desk: 4:57. From inside his desk drawer he
produced a small mirror, a vial filled with white powder and a razor
blade. Dumping a pile of the powder on the mirror, York separated
it into lines with the razor blade, took a hundred dollar bill from
his wallet and carefully rolled it into a tube. With this accomplished
"No one thought I could
do it and I did it. Me. With no fucking help from my Dad
or anyone else." York grinned maniacally. "Fuck
He put the rolled up bill
to his nose and lowered his head to the coke.
* * *
The face of the top digital
clock on the fully-automated security system lit up reading 5:00 P.M.
The machinery snapped to life; the bolts and locks on all of the doors
and windows shot into place.
* * *
Directly in front of Frank
Moyers' desk, the front door bolted startling him. He glanced
at his portable time clock and it read 5:00 P.M. With searing
needles of pain shooting through his leg, Frank got to his feet, placed
the strap of the time clock around his neck, put the key to the building
in his pocket and began his rounds.
He limped up the ground floor
hallway occasionally checking a doorknob and finding them all locked.
At the end of the hall he pushed the down button on the elevator, got
in and went down to the basement.
* * *
Lena and Kimi were in the
storage closet at the end of the ground floor (across from the elevator)
and were busily filling their pail with water and adding ammonia.
All of a sudden Lena's hearing aid began giving out loud, piercing beeps
which she did not seem to notice.
Kimi rolled her eyes.
"Lena, your hearing aid's up too loud."
"Your hearing aid's too
loud!" yelled Kimi.
"I can't hear ya,"
hollered Lena, "my hearing aid's not loud enough."
"Lena removed it from
her ear and tried to turn it up, but alas it was already up all the
"Guess I better turn
it down 'cause it won't go any louder."
"What's that?" asked
Lena replacing the hearing aid, "Ya been drinking?"
"You start cleaning here,"
bellowed Kimi, "and I'll start at the other end of the hall, okay?"
"Why sure, but there
ain't no need to yell at me."
Kimi dropped her mop in the
bucket and wheeled it up the hall, her immense girth bobbing up and
* * *
As Frank entered the boiler
room his leg was hurting him terribly. Perspiration dotted his
brow and bright yellow dots floated in front of his eyes. Pulling
in deep breaths, he reached down and lifted his pant leg revealing a
huge, black and blue lump. Suddenly he lost his balance and thrust
out his hand against the fully-automated security system, but couldn't
get a grip and his legs buckled beneath him sending him crashing to
the hard, cement floor. His head slammed into an outcropping spigot
on the way down knocking him senseless, wedging his head up against
Ripping upward and out, the
insect in Frank's calf burst out of the black and blue lump in a mass
of bloody foam. It crawled up his leg, over his stomach and chest
to his neck, poised itself backward over the jugular, then injected
Frank's eyes popped open and
he tried to lift his head, but couldn't. He tried to lift his arm and
could just barely get his fingers to twitch. Rolling his eyes
down he attempted to get a look at what was crawling on him. Almost
obliging him, the insect crawled into his field of vision on the center
of his chest. It stopped, wiggled its stinger, then plunged it
into the shirt, through the flesh, twisted its whole body around and
Frank's eyes rolled into the
back of his head, however unconsciousness would not overtake him, just
The insect twisted its way
through the ribs and immediately began spewing white foam from beneath
its stinger, amidst which was another egg. With this accomplished
it burrowed its way back up to the surface of Frank's chest, poked through
the skin, crawled down to his navel and plunged its way in again.
The bloody mess on Frank's
calf began to vibrate and twitch, blood gurgling out of the wound and
forming a pool on the floor. All of a sudden the flesh from his
ankle to his knee erupted and a horrible, primordial, foot-long insectoid
wedged its way out, twisted its body around and bared its multitudinous
fangs. It quickly began devouring the shredded muscle and flesh
from which it emerged.
* * *
Howard York exited the elevator
on the ground floor and walked to the front door, a stupid smile hanging
on his face. He grabbed the handle but the door wouldn't budge.
He looked around for the guard,
but no one was in sight. "Can't get out of my own damn building."
This struck him as being slightly humorous and he chuckled.
Thomas Uto turned the corner
scrutinizing a sheaf of papers in his hand and looked up to find York
standing before him, no longer jovial.
"Where's the goddamn
guard!" York demanded.
"Doing his rounds, I'm
sure," said Uto. He'll be back in just a few moments."
York glowered. "Pretty
stupid system when I can't get out of my own damn building, isn't it?"
"I'll have a key made
up for you tomorrow," said Uto reassuringly.
"Bet your fucking ass
you will. Now where the hell's the guard?!"
Uto began feeling defensive
and checking himself. "He's either on this floor or the basement,
that's where all his check-points are, so I'm sure
"This floor or the basement?"
York shook his head in amazement. "It could be another twenty
minutes before he gets back here. Now that I think about it a
little, this fully-automated system of yours stinks!" York
stomped back to the elevator and hit the down button. "I
want that key on my desk first thing in the morning, you got me?"
"Yes, indeed," said
Uto as the elevator door closed, "And fuck you!"
* * *
Dripping blood from its
razor-sharp fangs, the giant insectoid had completely devoured the whole
lower leg, yet Frank was still both alive and conscious, although entirely
Suddenly his whole body began
to quiver spasmodically, a guttural groan forcing its way though his
frozen throat as another huge insectoid ripped its way through his ribcage,
snapping the bones like kindling, and emerging totally encrusted in
blood and tissue. Along with its brother, the two primeval insectoids
tore into Frank's mid-section while he watched!
The small, Mother insect popped
out of Frank's thigh, having laid yet another egg, crawled past its
two hungry children to Frank's head, inched its way over his face to
his left eye and stopped. Frank blinked as the insect poised its
stinger over his pupil, then plunged
* * *
York stepped out of the
elevator in the basement. Although it was well-lit, it was still
just painted cinder block and linoleum tile and was a few degrees colder
and noticeably damper than the rest of the building.
York stopped. "What
the hell's this guard's name, anyway?" He shook his head
and continued up the long corridor, his footsteps echoing and resounding
hollowly. "Hey, guard!" he hollered and paused.
No response. Sneering now, he kept walking. "Paging
the guard, are you down here?" The boiler-room lay just ahead.
"This is ridiculous, I can't get out of my own building."
He turned the knob on the boiler-room and pushed it open. Stepping
inside, the bloody carnage that had once been Frank Moyers' body came
into view. York winced and turned away just as a giant insectoid
sprang from nowhere and bolted itself onto his face by ramming its muscular,
wiry legs into his eyes. Its long, spiky tail snapped down and
embedded itself deep into York's throat. He immediately collapsed
to the floor, his body shaking.
The small insect crawled out
of Frank Moyers' open, lifeless mouth, over to Howard York and disappeared
in the thick hair on his chest. There were now four huge insectoids
eating Frank's body, although none had touched his head, and they all
left his meatless bones and moved in on York.
* * *
Fran sat at Mr. Schwartz's
desk taking dictation on a steno pad while Schwartz paced around behind
her. Every now and then he would peer over Fran's shoulder at
the pad, bending so far over that his face would be right next to hers.
Finally Schwarz just stood right behind her and put his hand on her
shoulder. Without turning her head, Fran looked up at Mr. Schwartz
and he seemed completely oblivious, so she kept on with her writing.
Suddenly his hand slid down and cupped her left breast. Fran stopped
"Mr. Schwartz, your hand
is on my breast."
He didn't move it. "Why
yes, it certainly is. Why don't we save the rest of this letter
Fran set her pen on top of
the pad and cleared her throat. "In favor of what?"
"Oh now, Ms. Moyers,"
said Schwartz pushing his crotch against her back. "We're
both imaginative people, I'm sure we can think of something."
Fran moved her chair over
so that Mr. Schwartz was no longer touching her. She cleared her
"Mr. Schwartz, I'd really
like to be a good secretary, but
"Good," he said
moving back in, "That's a fine attitude to take."
went on, "I don't see how this has anything to do with it."
"You don't? But
Ms. Moyers, this has everything to do with it."
Fran stood and walked around
to the other side of the desk. Mr. Schwartz seated himself in
"I really can't see that,
He seemed to be nothing but totally reasonable. "But why
do you think I hired you, and at such an extravagant salary no less?"
Fran was having a tad of difficulty
keeping her wits about her. "B-but I thought you needed a
"Oh, Ms. Moyers, I have
a lot of secretaries, all of which, I might add, are far more qualified
that you - in secretarial skills, I mean."
Fran no longer knowing what to do with her hands, "if you would
just give me a chance I could be a good secretary, I know it."
"I'm certain of it,"
he said smiling.
Fran backed toward the door.
"I've got to go now, I'll see you tomorrow."
"That's fine," he
said holding up the pad, "then we can finish up this letter.
See you tomorrow - Fran."
* * *
Don Smith picked up the
telephone at his desk and dialed.
"Hello?" said the
female voice at the other end.
"Hi, Mom, how're you?"
She paused. "Disturbed."
"Oh?" Don said lighting
a cigarette. "What about?"
"You got a letter from
your new employer today - the law firm of Steiner and Schwartz."
She sounded disturbed.
"Did you open it?"
"No, but what does that
make any difference. You didn't tell me you were working for Alexander
Don took a long drag of his
cigarette. "I was going to
"I'm sure you were, now
would you mind telling me why?"
"I needed a job and they
had an opening."
Now she was mad. "Don't
give me that. What are you up to?"
He ground out his smoke.
"Nothing. I just called to tell you I'd be home in about an hour."
"You're not fooling me
one bit, Don, it's no coincidence you're working there. You're
up to something."
"I'll tell you later,
Don hung up.
He opened his Samsonite briefcase, reached into the back behind all
the other manilla files and removed an old, creased, rather thick file
* * *
In the storage closet on
the first floor, Bud, the security installer, had a panel of multi-colored
lights unscrewed from the wall and was testing the wires running to
the back of it. Sam, the other installer, was up the hall a little
way in another storage closet dealing with a steel tube full of wires
that ran from the ceiling to the floor. He was busily screwing
it back and forth trying to loosen it from the hole in the floor.
* * *
In the boiler room, the
giant insects had consumed most of Howard York's head and body.
Frank Moyers' head still sat atop his meatless bones, a small line of
blood running down from his left punctured eye socket, the right eye
wide open and unblinking.
Within Frank's brain matter
an exceptionally large insect egg lay incubating.
Crawling up the wall to the
ceiling, the small mother insect disappeared into the air vent.
Now numbering ten, the large children insectoids followed, but were
too big to get past many of the pipes and obstructions. With their
razor-sharp mandibles they quickly severed the vent gratings, spigots
and tubing of steel and copper in their way. Gas began hissing
out, all the lights on floors five, twelve and thirty-one blinked out
and the insectoids swarmed the air vents.
* * *
As Bud tested the panel
of lights, the mother insect crawled out of the hole the panel attached
to. Bud continued working unaware of the insect's progress down
the wall to his foot, then over his shoe to his sock. The stinger
became erect, pricked into the Achilles tendon and injected its fluid.
Bud reached down to scratch his ankle, go about halfway there, shook
his head and groaned, "Man, I'm fucked-up," then slowly collapsed
on the floor.
* * *
As she slopped the sudsy
water around with her mop, Lena sang religious spirituals and soaked
her ripped tennis shoes.
In an explosion of linoleum
tile splinters, several insectoids burst through the floor directly
behind Lena - yet she kept right on working, entirely unaware.
Several more insectoids climbed out of the hole and they all moved in
on her as she continued singing, slightly off key.
* * *
Sam had the steel tube out
of the hole in the floor exposing a multitude of thin wires in a bunch.
He snipped one of the wires and it dropped through the hole.
He shoved his thumb and index
finger through the hole and tried to grab it, but it was just a little
bit out of his reach.
An insectoid moving through
the space between the floors spotted the fingers and moved in.
Sam removed his fingers from
the hole. "Hey, Bud!" he hollered, "Could you bring
me a pliers?" He waited for a reply, but there was none.
"That lazy bastard!"
The insectoid was about to
turn away when the fingers reappeared. It moved in.
"Come on, Bud, will ya
gimme a hand
The rest of Sam's words became
a gargled, horrible scream as he yanked his hand from the hole, his
thumb and forefinger cleanly severed at the knuckle, a torrent of blood
* * *
Pushing her mop and pail,
Kimi turned a corner and ran right into five insectoids busily ripping
Lena's scrawny body into bite-sized pieces. They all simultaneously
turned to the massive feast that stood before them.
Kimi screamed and turned to
run, but she was just too fat to get up any speed.
The insectoids quickly pursued.
Completely hysterical, she
ran through a doorway that wasn't quite as wide as she, and toppled
backward into the swarm of ravenous monsters.
* * *
Fran left the elevator on
the ground floor and walked past the guard's desk to the front door,
which she found locked. She stood for a moment baffled, not knowing
which way to go or what to do. Thomas Uto came around the corner
frowning and muttering to himself as he glanced at the papers in his
hand. He saw Fran and quickly smiled.
"What's the problem?"
"The door's locked."
Uto's smile faded and he glanced
at his watch. He shook his head. "The guard must be
on his rounds again."
"Well, when can I get
out of here?" asked Fran totally flustered.
scratched his cheek. "Just hang on one minute, I'll go take
a look for him."
Pushing the down button, Uto
stepped into the elevator and the door slid shut behind him. Fran
seated herself at the guard's desk and began leafing through the newspaper
he had left there.
* * *
Thomas Uto left the elevator
and began walking up the long, basement corridor. He put his hand
beside his mouth and called, "Hey, uh
" His stifled
call resounding around him. Quickly he leafed through his stack
of papers, found the one he wanted and tried again.
There was no response.
Uto mumbled and continued
walking, "Hey, Frank!" He stopped and leaned against
the boiler-room door.
"Goddamn it! All
the guards this company hires are deadbeats and drunks," he muttered
Inside the boiler-room only
one insectoid remained and it was busily cleaning Howard York's bones.
Frank Moyers' head sat atop his skeletal remains, the one good eye staring
blindly. Very slightly his head began to quiver.
Uto continued checking through
his papers. "This is insane! I'll have the guard's
head for this!
Angrily he stomped back up
* * *
Mr. Schwartz sat at his
desk looking at Fran's steno pad and flipping the pages. "Not
much of a secretary," he said, tossing the pad and getting down
to work. He began writing, then stopped because a soft clicking
noise was annoying him. He looked around and saw nothing, yet
the clicking persisted. He attempted to write some more, but became
totally bothered and had to stop. This time he looked slowly around
the entire office and finally spotted it; a single strand of shag carpeting
was stuck to the air-vent grating on the floor. As the cool air
blew past it a little chunk of backing connected to it tapped against
Having located its source,
Schwartz now tried once again to ignore it, but couldn't. His
concentration was disturbed. He got up, walked over to the vent,
picked off the strand of carpeting, tossed it in the trash can and sat
back down and tried to work.
And then the clicking began
Schwartz furrowed his brow
and set down his pen. He went back over to the vent and scrutinized
it - there was no carpeting stuck to it, yet there was definitely a
clicking noise, only this time it was emanating from within.
Getting down on his knees,
Schwartz slid his fingers into the grating and began pulling, trying
to remove it.
Inside the air vent Schwartz's
fingers become visible.
His face knotted up and he
pulled with all his might. "Come on you stupid piece of shit!"
The vent gave and Schwartz
toppled backward smacking his head on the trash can with a loud metallic
twang. He quickly scrambled to his knees and looked all around
the empty office as though someone might have seen him.
The clicking persisted.
He crawled back over to the
open vent and peered in.
* * *
A giant insectoid burst
through the floor of the storage closet and moved in on Sam, the fingerless
installer, who sat in a huge pool of his own blood. With the last
of his remaining strength and use of his good hand he tried to slide
himself to the door.
"Bud!" he hollered
weakly, "Help me, Bud!"
In the storage closet next
door half a dozen insectoids diligently shredded Bud apart.
Another insectoid followed
the first through the hole in the floor and they both moved in on the
weakened installer who was hemorrhaging profusely. He pushed himself
to the door and tried desperately to reach up to the knob, but didn't
seem t have the strength.
Another insectoid climbed
out of the hole.
The door-knob seemed a mile
Blood pumped I rhythmic spurts
from his severed fingers.
A fourth insectoid crawled
from the hole.
His eyes began rolling into
the back of his head.
The giant insectoids were
nearly on top of him.
His hand closed on the doorknob.
* * *
Schwartz lowered his face
an inch closer to the vent and a huge insectoid lunged out, its razor-sharp
mandibles deeply embedded in the bridge of his nose. His face
smashed to the floor, his arms and legs flailing helplessly.
* * *
Uto tapped Fran on the shoulder
and she bolted.
"Excuse me," he
Fran shook her head and took
a deep breath, "You startled me."
can't seem to locate the guard and he is the only one with a key."
"But I have to get home,"
"I can well understand,
but there's nothing I can do. Which office do you work in?"
"Steiner and Schwartz."
Uto glanced through his stack
of papers. "Why don't you go back to your office for a few
minutes, I'll find the guard and give you a call."
"Go on," he said.
"It actually might be longer than a few minutes, these damn security
guards are the lowest scum that ever existed, the guy's probably plastered
in a closet somewhere."
"That's not true!"
said Fran emphatically. "My Dad is a security guard and he's
a great person." She pushed the up button on the elevator.
Uto blushed. "I
didn't know. I'm very sorry."
The elevator door opened and
Fran stepped in. She turned around, the door shut and the car
* * *
Sam's arm and head lay outside
the storage closet, the door pushed up against his lower lip.
He shook as a wheezing moan escaped his throat and blood dribbled from
his mouth. His eyes nearly bugged out of his head.
Slowly, his arm and head began
to recede inside. First his head disappeared and then his arm
until only his hand remained. He made one last grasp at hanging
on to the door, but his fingers came loose and slid within.
With a decisive click the
* * *
Don Smith cautiously stepped
out of the associates office and crossed the hall to Alexander Steiner's
office. He stopped and looked up and down the hallway - no one
- then he pushed the door open. From the lock-hole in the door
jamb he removed a wadded up piece of tissue which he put in his pocket.
The door shut and locked behind him.
Don walked over to one of
Steiner's many file cabinets and opened the drawer marked "S."
He quickly fingered his way through the thickly packed files and stopped
at "State vs.Smith." Removing the file from the drawer,
he seated himself at Steiner's desk and began to read.
The document was dated "1966,"
the title "The State of Michigan vs. Edward Smith," the charge
"Manslaughter," the defense attorney "A. Steiner,"
the sentence "15 years." A piece of paper attached to
the top of the document dated 11/7/71 stated: "Edward Smith, convicted
of manslaughter and sentenced to fifteen years in Jackson Prison, committed
suicide in his cell by hanging himself."
Tears welled up in Don's eyes
and one dropped onto the paper before him. He took a notebook
from his briefcase and began to write: "So now I finally know the
whole truth. Dad didn't just die in prison like Mom said - he
hung himself in his cell
While Don wrote, the small,
Mother insect crawled out of the air vent, up the back of his chair
and under the hem of his sport-coat.
Dad was sentenced
to fifteen years in jail for shooting someone I happen to know he didn't
shoot. Now I find out that he killed himself while he was unjustly
imprisoned. There was only one person that could have saved him
from prison, and in turn suicide, and that person was the one that actually
did the shooting. That person is me."
Don heard a noise in Mr. Schwartz's
office next door and looked up. Just then the insect rammed its
stinger into the flesh of Don's lower stomach and wormed its way in.
Don winced and grabbed his
stomach. He quickly snatched up his briefcase, his notebook and
the file and stealthily left Alexander Steiner's office. Closing
the door quietly behind him, he tip-toed past Mr. Schwartz's door.
He stopped for a moment and held his breath and a faint crunching could
be heard from inside. Without letting out his breath he continued
up the hall and just as he was turning the corner Fran stepped out.
* * *
The huge insectoids swarmed
through the airvents, in the space between the floors, above the drop
ceilings - everywhere. Nothing stood in their way. With
their amazingly sharp mandible they severed wired, metal tubes, plumbing
The insectoids were unstoppable.
* * *
As Thomas Uto strolled casually
through the building searching out the security guard, mayhem was going
on above him, below him, and to either side of him, none of which he
was cognizant of. He halted before a panel of multi-colored lights
that were blinking on and off. Uto watched and frowned disgustedly.
Finally, the lights blinked off completely. In a rage, Uto stomped
* * *
Fran and Don sat and talked
in the reception room of the law office.
And then after
'Promises, Promises,'" said Fran, "I was in 'You're a Good
Man, Charlie Brown' and I was Lucy. We didn't have too much money
for sets and stuff, but it was a really good show."
Don winced a little and held
his stomach. "I wish I'd seen it."
"You'd've liked it, it
was a real good show. But anyway, then I tried out for
'West Side Story' and I didn't make it and I tried out for 'A Midsummer
Night's Dream' but I didn't make that either, and there's like fifty
roles in that, so I started getting kind of depressed and everything
Don looked terrible.
The blood had run out of his face and his lips were white and crusty.
"I have to go home,"
he said, "I feel really bad."
"But that man was supposed
to call when he found the guard."
Unsteadily Don rose to his
feet. "I can't wait, I gotta go now."
Fran took Don's arm.
"Well maybe the guard's back and he just forgot to call."
"I hope so," Don
The elevator door opened and
Fran helped Don in. Fran pushed the ground floor button and Don
leaned back against the wall tightly clutching his aching stomach, his
face wrinkled into a knot of pain. They started down.
Don swallowed loud, "Oh
Jesus! I feel real sick!"
"What can I do?"
asked Fran helplessly.
Don just moaned.
* * *
Uto pounded up the hall
waving his papers and screaming. "What the fuck is going
on in this Goddamned place?!!"
* * *
The insectoids continued
to swarm everywhere. They burst through the ceilings, skittered
up the halls and wound their way through the vents. One of them
came to a tremendously thick electrical cable blocking its path.
With one quick snap it severed the cable and in turn sent five thousand
volts through its body disintegrating it to a pile of ash.
* * *
The elevator went into free-fall,
then abruptly stopped throwing Fran and Don up into the air, then plummeting
them down to the floor. The overhead florescent light blinked
out and a red emergency light went on.
Don screamed in gut-wrenching
pain and Fran shook her head, then recoiled as blood began staining
Don's white shirt from the inside out. His whole body began to
buck and shake and blood streamed from his nose and mouth causing his
screams to gargle.
Suddenly Don's whole stomach
ripped wide open and a monstrous, blood-coated insectoid burst out
his chest exploded and another emerged.
His gargled screams immediately
stopped and his open eyes went blank and glassy. Fran pressed
herself into the corner screaming at the top of her lungs, her eyes
bulging out of the sockets. Wasting no time the two creatures
quickly proceeded to rip off hunks of flesh from Don's midsection and
consume it. The little, Mother insect crawled out of Don's pant
leg, and across the floor toward Fran.
Fran smashed at the elevator
buttons and got no response. Wedging her fingers between the doors,
she pulled them slightly apart and saw that the car was between two
floors. She forced her way through the small opening and jumped
down into the basement.
Completely hysterical, Fran
ran up the long hallway, her footsteps resounding and echoing and now
totally out of control she threw herself headlong at the boiler-room
door which flew open sending the remains of Howard York's body cascading
across the floor, then her mouth dropped open and she froze as she recognized
the head sitting atop the mass of bloody bones and shredded flesh -
her Father! A gurgling hiss escaped her mouth as she watched
the lifeless head of her Dad begin to shake and quiver then explode
in a hail of blood and brain matter as a giant insectoid emerged.
Beyond hysteria she ran to the stairwell, bolted the steps two and three
at a time, opened the door to the ground floor and encountered the ravaged
bodies of Kimi and Lena, several insectoids still cleaning their bones,
Fran could no longer even scream as the insectoids spotted her and began
to approach, she simply bolted past and they began to pursue and within
moments they began to appear everywhere, out of all the air vents, through
the ceilings, some bursting through the wall and all joining in the
chase and before Fran had gotten to the end of the first hall there
were nearly a hundred closing in and she wasn't getting enough air to
breathe but she couldn't stop running and then a red exit sign appeared
at the end of the hall and miraculously she found enough energy to fling
her entire body against it, but it just wouldn't budge, so without a
second of thought she started up the next hallway and there were already
a multitude of insectoids there on the floor and on the walls and hanging
from the ceiling and Fran blindly ran past and then another red exit
And the light on the top digital
clock on the fully-automated security system blinked out and the bottom
clock lit up, the bolts snapped back from every window and door in the
building and simultaneously the giant glob of solder in the rows of
small solder began to bubble
And Fran threw herself at
the door and it opened and she kept right on running and the
insectoids got to the door just as it was pulling shut and one of them
crossed the threshold just as the heavy metal door slammed shut crushing
it into a mass of green gooey pulp
And the giant glob of solder
continued to bubble, then drip while the severed gas main on the ceiling
hissed and the dripping solder ran straight down a line of smaller solder
dots connecting them all and the fully-automated security system began
And Thomas Uto stood on the
third floor staring at his papers and angrily shaking his head
While Fran darted across the
street and the fifty-story, gold-mirrored Prudential Tower behind her
began exploding from its bottom floors up and the whole world shook
and dropped out from beneath Fran's feet and sent her headlong to the
pavement while burning shrapnel whizzed by and gold mirrored glass tinkled
The flames engulfed the tower.
Fran opened her eyes and took
a deep breath. She watched as the building burned and brought
her hand to her face to shield her from the incredible heat. She
swallowed deeply and lowered her head back to the pavement, the muscles
loosening in her neck
Her eyes burst open wide!
Her body began shaking and contorting spasmodically and a drop of blood
dribbled down her neck and hit the ground. She abruptly froze.
The little, Mother insect
crawled over her throat, up her chin, across her mouth, past her nose
to her horror-filled eyes. It poised its drill-bit stinger over her
right pupil, took careful aim, then lunged.