Modern Anxiety Round One - JED
This month's pitch is to take turns telling each other horror stories, each rooted in a modern anxiety.
"I think about the dinosaurs sometimes."
We were lying in bed, watching the gray light creep over the flaking drywall and the water-stained window sill. Neither of us had slept much. It was too hot to sleep well anymore. The sheets were yellow and crisp with our sweat.
He was propped up against the headboard, looking away from me, and I could see the bald patch just beginning to take hold in his brown-off-blond hair. He wanted me to say something, I could tell from the tone of his voice. I waited for the silence to became a pressure before giving in.
"What, how we're like them? Dying off?" I rolled onto my side. The pillow pressed against my cheek, and I could feel the individual threads scratching irritation into my chafed skin. I was hungry but there was nothing to eat.
"No. We're worse than they were. I don't think about that."
He paused, then said "I wonder if they ever looked at the little furry things crawling over their toes and thought, 'You're next.'"
He looked across our small bedroom at the mirror on the backside of the door, and the pile of unwashed cast-off clothes, Lasso and Jake slumped on the floor, the bobs of their dripping pink tongues like out of synch metronomes. He measured it all with his eyes, then looked down at his hands, resting on the mangy paunch of his belly. Picked a nail with another nail. Then he cast off the sheets, and walked naked but apathetic in his nudity, to the window. He folded his arms above his head, leaned his forehead against them, and stared through the smeared glass.
I could imagine the scene out there, the wet asphalt and decay and the depopulated streets. The gurgling gutters filled with brown-on-black water, and the pigeons in the air, the cockroaches crawling on the walls. The things that liked the heat and the smell of the emptying cities, making their homes in our worn out carcasses.
"Who do you think is waiting for us to finish dying?"
He turned and looked at me, just for moment, his eyes hesitating on mine before moving around the off white room where the morning shadows lingered on the mess of our lives. He stared at the empty pizza box lying on the washed out beige of the berber carpet, house flies still licking at congealed cheese plastered to the cardboard.
"I know everyone says rats and roaches, but my money's always been on the dogs."
I raised an eyebrow. Even that an effort in this hot-clotted air.
He almost smiled, just for a second, before the expression collapsed, stillborn on his face.
"Everyone thinks they're our babies, our surrogate kids, but they aren't. They don't really need us, you know."
I snickered at the thought of Lasso and Jake rubbing their paws together in glee as we collapsed into our yawning graves, picking up our stuff, playing with our toys, moving into our beds. Little Red Riding Hood redux. I looked up at him, amused and contemptuous.
"Come on. They're man's best friend, right? You think they're just waiting in the wings for us to kick off?"
His eyes were red and serious when he finally looked at me. He was tired. Wasted. Nothing funny left in him. Not the man I knew anymore.
"The Devil was God's right hand. He just made his move too soon. Look at them."
I did. Laying on the floor in their heavy coats, panting. Healthy wet noses. The shining ivory of their teeth. The strange and sudden alieness in their darkened eyes.
I glanced up at him, and he was smiling. He said,
"They won't make the same mistake. They're patient."