Tim stood within a storm of wings and teeth, unaware of the tears and snot leaving dirty trails down his face. The settling dust in the garage stuck to the wet mess, like mascara tracks on a sad heroine in a romantic comedy. His mind shut down. Outside his house rose screams, sirens, crashing cars and a buzzing that vibrated his fillings, but it just couldn’t affect him. It was distant to him, a crazy soundtrack to an action movie, humming white noise. In the garage, the bugs completed their feast and laying of eggs, then left in groups to search out other prey.
A quick glimpse inside the car didn’t break him out of his stasis. Surreal, his mind refused to pull in the images his eyes fell upon. Bugs crawled out of his mother’s mouth, nose and ears, her unresponsive eyes fixed upon the steering wheel. The middle child, Greg, nestled Sean in his arms. Greg must have been trying to protect the younger one, putting his body in between the bugs’ and Sean’s. They never got along. They were always fighting and yet, in the end, Greg tried to save him. A moan escaped Tim’s lips. With robotic stiffness, he turned back to the house to fulfill his father’s last commands.
Hours passed, the death and noise from outside growing and receding, like the ocean’s tide while Tim worked inside the house, incapable of understanding the magnitude of the events occurring worldwide. He shouldered the plywood over the windows. He used his dad’s Dewalt drill to screw them in place. He squeezed caulking all along the gaps, tongue sticking out of the side of his mouth signifying intense concentration. The image of bugs crawling out of his mother’s mouth tried to intrude, but he pushed it away with a few rapid blinks and continued with his work. It was a long time lugging all the food downstairs. The hardest part was choosing what to bring. He couldn’t bring eggs or sandwich meat could he? How long would the storm outside last for? In the end he brought crackers, chips, hardy fruit, Alpha-Ghetti, canned corn, and boxes of cereal. Then, wanting to be comfortable in the new living space, he brought down mattresses and blankets. The last items he brought were soda and water. He spent some time arranging things in a somewhat ordered manner, keeping his hands and mind busy.
Tim’s brain battled against reality. The Tim bordering on adulthood knew his family was dead. The other Tim, the one needing his mother’s love and his father’s approval, the Tim who remembered sitting on his father’s shoulders and marveling at how different the world looked from such a height, that Tim, wouldn’t accept it. He avoided the fact, erasing the images from his mind every time they popped up as if to say, Look at me kid. You need to deal with this. This is a big deal. Scanning the basement, he glanced at the four beds he’d set up on the floor, neatly made. Each mattress had something on or near it indicating who Tim thought should sleep on it. One mattress bore a collection of comic books placed on the pillow and Tim thought, Sean. Another mattress had sports magazines and a Playstation Vita handheld gaming system on it and Tim knew that bed was for Greg while the bed with the collection of Danielle Steele hardcovers on it was definitely for his mother. He was cold inside. His teeth chattered and he thought, I should let mom know the basement is ready.
His steps on the wooden stairs reverberated in the echoing basement. His hand kissed the railing and his legs climbed like robotic pistons. His feet scratched the floor, feeling so heavy, his mind filled with cotton as he neared the car in the garage.
He tapped at the window, “Mom. It’s ready. We gotta go.”
His mother’s eyes remained fixed on the steering wheel.
“Hey, Mom? We gotta go. Dad wants us in the basement.”
Pulses of pain flowed over the surface of his brain.
His voice cracked, “I did real good Mom. You gotta see it. I brought your favorite books and everything.”
He pulled on the door handle. It was locked. The inside of his skull felt swollen, like his mind was trying to push its way out. He clamped his hands over his ears. Waves of lightning pain ran around his head and poked at the back of his eyes. He slammed a hand on the window.
“C’mon mom! Why won’t you come? I did real good! You’d be proud! I worked hard on it Mom! It’s time to go! Please!”
He lay his head against the car. It was cool. His shoulders bounced, cries tasting like ashes in his mouth.
“Mom! Let’s go! It’s safe down there! I made it real safe! Please Mom! Let’s be safe! Please!”
His hand slapped against the roof of the car, as though it would wake her up.
Tim’s head whipped up. In the open garage door was a man. He was holding a gun down by his side. He was tall, a little overweight and was sweating through his T-shirt which read, “Don’t be a Richard.”
The man waved his gun at the car, “They’re dead. You got anything to eat?”
Tim looked in the car and could see his mother and brothers inside, clearly dead. The finality of it, the acceptance, hit him in the gut with an iron fist. He looked at the man then back in the car and back at the man again.
The man peered back over his shoulder, head craned back to take in the swirling darkness. He wanted to get inside. Especially before night fell. It was so much worse when you couldn’t see them. He swiveled his head back to the kid, mouth a straight line with worry. The man scratched at his temple with the barrel of the gun, “You okay kid? You’re turning a weird shade of white.”
Tim opened his mouth to reply, but then a funny thing happened. The room spun, the man blurred like an out-of-focus photo and then someone must have turned off the lights because the room went black.
Tim’s Fun Facts: By 2050, it is predicted that the world’s population will be almost 9 billion.