Friday, June 24, 2016

LATE NIGHT EXTERMINATOR

by Vincent Daemon


Art by Kara Koma

             It was well after midnight when the telephone rang, snapping Lee out of his hypnagogic painkiller nod. He answered quietly, exhausted, irritated. “Yeah?”
            “Is . . . is this the Late Night Exterminator service?” It was a young woman, sounding quite upset.
            “Yeah.”
            “Um, um, we have a bit of a situation . . . with um . . .” The girl sounded completely frazzled, her heavy breaths panted loud into the receiver of the phone. It sounded like there was another person there in the background, mumbling something he couldn’t hear.
            “Look, kid, I ain’t got time for this. What’s the issue?”
            Clickhang up.
            Friggin’ tweakers Lee thought to himself, dropping the phone back onto the receiver, the little ringer bell dinging inside as he did so. He kept his nineteen-seventy style rotary phone and used that as his office incoming line, no outline. For that he did have a cell, really more out of necessity than anything else.
            Lee leaned back and shut his eyes, hoping to fade into another moderately peaceful nod state, when the old phone rang again. He picked up, furious. “Look here, I ain’t got time for you goddamned tweakers . . .”
            “No listen, please.”  There was something about the dire tone in her voice that kept him listening. “It’s my Aunt Ginny, there’s something wrong with her . . .”
            He went with the obvious. “Spider bite? Get her to a hospital, nothing I can do but . . .”
            No! Listen . . . you just have to come here, now! Aunt Ginny is sick, really sick.”
            “Look, I ain’t a doctor or paramedic. I am an exterminator. I fucking kill bugs, lady. Bugs.”
            “But . . . there are bugs. Lots of ‘em. Please! This is an emergency . . . they’re friggin’ everywhere!”
            Lee felt the desperation in her voice was genuine enough, and he could still hear someone yelling now, a male, in the background. Begrudgingly, he conceded. “Where ya located?”
            The young woman yelled back, right into the receiver, just like her heavy breathing. “Goddammit Norman! Just hold her down . . . hold her the fuck down!” Just as harried, her attentions turned back to the phone. “Um, sorry, we are at 44 Dolton Lane. In Dolton.”
            “Dolton?” Lee proclaimed, really not wanting to travel ninety minutes outside the city for anything, not even his job. But the reality was that he was broke, and really, people don’t ever need a late night exterminator unless there is a very real problem. Or they are completely tweaking. And Dolton was indeed tweaker country. This sounded like both, the mere thought upsetting his stomach and instilling a great unease within him. “Gimme ‘bout two hours, lady. What’s your name again?”
            “Nikki and my boyfriend here is Norman and . . .”
            “Yeah, I’m already familiar with Aunt Ginny.” Too much info, tweaker. “Gimme about two hours.”
            Click.
            Lee sat up, lighting a Camel cigarette, pulling heavy, holding, releasing slowly. He then popped five time release thirty milligram MS-Contins (morphine sulfate), masticating the pills into a bunchy bitter paste on his tongue, swallowing them hard with a warm bottled water. It was the only way he felt he could calm his nerves.
            Standing, he walked over to the closet and began to suit up, the outfit being an altered creation of his own kind. It was made of a thick black stretch fabric, with thick black pads on the elbows, knees, and shoulders, each joint wrapped in a tight band of silver duct tape, the pants tightly tucked into scuffed leather knee high jack boots. There was virtually no way any foul insect could touch his skin in this get up, especially when he put on the mask. With large dark covered holes for eyes and a WWII style breather, it was meant to instill fear, Armageddon, and a subconscious fetishistic curiosity in one fell swoop. Then there was the “insecticide,” a viscous and volatile concoction of unknown strength that was quite flammable, made by Lee himself.
            Lee really hated bugs.


            The night was hot and humid, his suit tight, uncomfortable in the swelter. As he left the city, moving a quick pace toward tweaker country, he could feel the morphine kicking in, that certain strange kind of anxiety, particular to opiates, only lasted a few minutes before the gentle cool down of the drug itself. His mind always went to strange places during that anxiety, and when on jobs, especially such as this, his thoughts would eventually go to what drove him into this horrid profession in the first place.
            In his early twenties, Lee lived down south, running from his strange hoarder mother and questionable upbringing, and had met the most beautiful red haired southern belle named Grace. She had a thick cute southern drawl and long legs, and she had loved him with all her heart. On late and sultry nights such as this, they often would go out into the dank thick swamps, bustling with all the eerie silent commotion of late night swamp life activity. They would go to look at gators, to make out, to fool around even further, making intense and sweaty love on rickety and half rotten prohibition-era dock stills, hoping not to fall into the warm black waters.
            One particularly frisky and full moonlit evening the heat was making them half insane with a complete and total primal lust for one another, so much so that upon the mere sight of each other their sexes would begin to throb and their bodies long for each other’s touch. They went deep into the swamps that night, further than usual, as Grace was concerned about anyone hearing her particularly loud orgasmic wailing. She knew she’d be completely out of control.
Finding a decent sized dock-still, Lee hitched the canoe to it quite hastily. Almost immediately they were both undressed, pressed hard to one another against the boards of the small dock. Tongues intertwined, Grace got on top of Lee, wrapping herself up like a serpent and riding him furiously. Eventually, while still interconnected and kissing deeply, Lee rolled her onto her back, watching the wonderful pale and extra bright moonlight brighten up her comely face, reflect in her love-mad eyes. They were moving in such a potent and powerful unison that they did not hear the dock-still begin to crack, the dry rotten ply board snapping swiftly and without warning. The dock had broken into the water at a forty-five degree angle.
            They began to slide off, and both reached up to grab the lower railing of the still. Unfortunately, Grace reached up and put her hand right around a nest of horrid and very large brownish white spiders. The large arachnids immediately began to panic, biting ferociously and quickly crawling their way up her arm, over her shoulder, up her neck and down her bosom. Grace began to lose it, shrieking from both terror and pain, and let her grip go while flailing about, feebly trying to slap the spiders off her skin, only to enrage them further.
            Lee also began to involuntarily swat these terrible arachnids off her already blistering flesh, which would have surely gone quite necrotic. Due to the sheer volume of bites, she would quickly die from infection. However, she slid down into the murky swamp muck, feet first and right into a nest of mating copperheads.
            Lee caught himself just in time, and reached his free hand down to help his love. She scrambled, continued to flail. When she howled with a pure and primal terror he had never before heard, he knew at that moment there was nothing he could do. Thrashing seizures from so much neurotoxin pummeled her form as the horny snakes crawled and slithered over her skin. After several minutes of this convulsive helpless hopelessness, Grace fell still, the waters around her calm but for the odd moonlit reflective ripples of the copperheads coming and going, their home disturbed, repeatedly biting her every now and again for good measure and to make sure she was no longer a threat.
            Lee was trapped on that spider covered dock-still for two days before he was found naked, alone, covered in those horrendous spiders (though oddly enough not bitten even once), emotionally decimated and stricken with grief. He had seen her carcass dragged off by gators, and no trace of her had ever been found. He had loved her like no other, and she him, setting his life on a course of bad drugs, worse women, and even more dreadful decisions. He quit his band Glitter Skank and moved back up north to Brisberg, just outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. From there he began to take on various exterminating jobs, eventually going into business himself as the only late night exterminator in every town he went to. The psychological scarring of that night with Grace had caused a phobia so hateful and intense inside him that every lowlife insect he killed was like a little more retribution for him . . . and another piece of him dying all over again. Hence the strange suit he had created; hence the morphine addiction.
            The memory was driving him mad now and he had to shut it off. As the morphine eased in fully he hit his tape player inside his truck, and turned the roaring locomotive thundering rock of Motorhead as loud as it could go, Philthy Phil “The Animal” Taylor’s double-bass steam train drum assault beating those thoughts back into the recesses of his deepest, darkest memories.
            Lee floored the work truck with a wild transmission-shifting rev on into Dolton.
           
                                    
                                   
           
His mid-sized blue Dodge work truck pulled up to the dark house on 44 Dolton Lane. He thought he could tell just by the immense amount of clutter and debris on the front porch what he was about to walk into. For a moment it looked just like where he had grown up. Fucking tweaker hoarders.
            Within moments this harried looking girl came running out and down the porch steps. “Are you the late night exterminator?” she questioned quite pleadingly.
            Whatta you think? “Yeah. You Nikki?”  Lee was out of the truck and loading up his gear, consisting of a container of home grown toxin spray poison strapped to his back, and the very odd black gas mask.
             The girl stood silent, her eyes glazed over and her pupils the size of tea saucers. She smelled like she hadn’t bathed in weeks, a pungent scent of stale menstruation mixed with severe body odor, stimulant sweat and cigarette-whiskey thick, tooth-rot breath. “Please hurry!” Lee could hear her boyfriend yelling incoherently from inside the house.  The girl shouted, “Dammit, Norman! The fucking exterminator’s here! Asshole!”
            Lee could pick up on that all too familiar stench of decay and rotten meat as he entered the cluttered abode. He began taking stock of some of the things on the porch: a tricycle, rusted beyond repair; all kinds of weird Coca-Cola collectibles; a broken drum kit; televisions; radios; busted filing cabinets . . . definitely hoarders. Lee felt like he was walking into one of the rings of hell. Lee felt like he was walking into his past.
            The inside of the house was piled high with all manner of newspapers and comic books, magazines, baseball cards, clothing, fine china and waxy silver, the ever present Coca-Cola collectibles and every manner of everything.
            “Heh, sorry for the mess,” Nikki told Lee sheepishly, perhaps somewhat aware of the condition of the place though most likely not fully cognizant of it . . . and certainly not able to do anything about it.
            “Nikki, get in here, she’s seizing again!” came the ever harried and bellowing voice of a man from another room. Deductive reasoning told Lee that it was Norman.
            “Wait here . . . oh, just start killing these fucking bugs, please. I’ll be right back,” and Nikki was off to the room in the back, maneuvering her way through a literal two and a half foot wide corridor of junk, piled high to the ceiling absolutely everywhere.
            He could hear garbled, angry confused voices coming from the back room, and stood there for a second surveying the situation. Within moments he could spot all manner of creepy-crawlies hiding out and scurrying around the moldering filth. Huge brown spiders were everywhere, making Lee’s flesh positively crawl beneath his suit. Silverfish of all sizes swarmed in and out of the ancient newspapers and magazines, feasting and breeding amongst the damp rotten pulp. Maggots littered the floor in places where food stuffs had been left out and dropped, those foodstuffs also rotting away; chicken bones, half eaten fast food burgers. Maggots squirmed in piles of unmentionable foulness. They squished underneath his every step. Eyes still to the floor, he could see the extremely aggressive centipede species scutigera coleoptrata running all over the top of his boots, trying to crawl up his body. He shook them off, and looked around to see that the house was infested with the damn things. They clung to every wall, almost watching him with a great and sinister intent.
            The commotion was still going strong in the back room, yelling voices and an odd but low chirpy buzzing drone, wavering in volume. Lee pulled his mask down, covering the entirety of his face (yet only a little of the stench), and began to pump out the homemade poison from the sprayer on his back. Without giving one good goddamn, he began to just spray everything, the insects and arachnids now exploding from every newspaper and filthy wall corner, sick from the toxin and quite pissed. He was soaking everything in the house, and it seemed the more he sprayed the more nasty things there were all around him. Hell, he’d been doing this for years now and was seeing things the likes of which wouldn’t show up in his worst nightmare. As he maneuvered himself around the now poison-drenched narrow corridors of antiques and junk and food waste, he felt that horrible trapped feeling. He was also concerned about the towers of junk collapsing and burying him in a filth-slide of mold and mildew and bugs.
            Lee heard the man yell “What? What?” and heard angry footsteps come rushing out at a furious pace. The man appeared, seemingly out of thin air, and was an obviously tuned-up speed freak. His blue eyes completely glazed over with methamphetamine madness, the look on his face one of pure hatred toward Lee. “Hey, I’m Norman. What the fuck do you think you’re doing?”
            This sent Lee’s blood boiling. He really did not need to deal with this speed freak shit right now. “I’m the late night exterminator. Nikki called me about an insect problem. I’m trying to remedy that problem.” His tone came out a wee bit aggressive.
            “Well, you’re fucking up my stuff. This shit’s worth a lot of fucking money. The problem ain’t in here, neither.”
            Lee couldn’t contain it any longer, though tried quite in vain to sound professional. “Excuse me, sir, have you seen the condition of your house? There is a severe insect problem going on here and
            “Yeah, I know exactly what’s going on. You are in my house fuckin’ up my livelihoods, asshole. I told you, the problem ain’t in here.”
            “Then where the fuck is it, buddy?” Now Lee was very much on the defensive.
Norman pulled out a revolver, pointed it directly at Lee’s face. 
“Get down the end of this hall and get in that room, now.” The gun cocked, and Lee made his way through the maze of trash, gun to the back of his head the entire time, Norman prattling off obscenities about his stuff and his “livelihoods.” 
            Nikki stood in the doorway of the room Lee was being forced into, and began to beg and plead at Norman. “No! Norman, this is not what we discussed! You said to call him to get rid of the bugs so you could sell that stuff and we could have money to get more stuff and . . .”
            “I fuckin’ lied. Now move outta the way.” He whacked the side of Nikki’s head with the butt of his revolver, sending her weak and malnourished little cranked-up body to the slimy larvae floor, hard. The poor girl merely sniveled and cowered in whimpering shame.
            “Now, exterminator man, take off your fucking mask.” Lee did so, the stench of the little room hitting him hard. “Now, look on the bed. See that old broad there? Exterminate her.
            “What? No! What are you talking about, speed freak?” Lee was aghast with horror to find old Aunt Ginny tied down to the bed, duct tape over her mouth and around her knees. The old woman seized hard beneath the restraints, her eyes wide with a panic that seemed more like a semi-aware dementia. She fell still, and that muffled buzzing emanated from some indiscernible part of the room, though it sounded like the woman herself.
            “What do you mean ‘no’? You come into my house, destroy my things, and then refuse to do the job you were hired for?” Norman slammed the muzzle of the revolver to the back of Lee’s head. “You got no choice, buddy. You touched my fuckin’ stuff . . . it’s mine.”
            Still holding Lee at gunpoint, Norman walked over to Aunt Ginny, ripped the duct tape from her sallow parched lips. The only sound that came out was that buzzing din, growing louder as she began another round of convulsions.
            “Hey, this woman needs a doctor, man, not . . .”
            “Do what I say! Now!” He pulled the duct tape from her knees, her hands and feet still bound to the bed, the scent of decubitious ulcers intermingling with the other foul aromas and hanging like a wall of rot in the air. “Your sprayer, put it up inside her before there is a big, big problem.”
            Lee felt frozen, involuntarily, not wanting to act on this horrid request, but full well knowing his fate if he did not. He forced himself to move closer, slowly, toward Aunt Ginny.
            “Pump it. Put it in her, and pump it, or so help me GOD I will blow your fucking brains out.”
            Nikki got up, hysterical, and came at Norman, maniacally and out of control. She bellowed at the top of her lungs to not kill her Aunt. With one quick maneuver, Norman turned and pulled the trigger dead square into her face, virtually blowing it out the back of her head. All of her brain matter and fragments of skull splattered the grimy grey wall behind her. Nikki’s body fell into a dead heap before all in the room, as Aunt Ginny continued to seize and buzz.
            Lee acted fast, turning his sprayer on Norman and blasting the meth head right in his eyes, Norman dropping the gun while both men were temporarily deafened from the close range gunshot to Nikki’s face. Norman screamed half gibberish obscenities, and grabbed an old nameless Boy Scout trophy from a box in the room, going at Lee blind and swinging. Lee managed to duck the trophy by tackling the crazed Norman to the slithering maggot floor, trying to wrestle the trophy out of his hand. The two men skirmished amongst the filth and the trash, the sprayer on Lee’s back breaking as they rolled in pools of Lee’s homemade insecticide, battering each other with their fists, their skin burning. Lee kept trying to push Norman’s face into the puddles of poison, but he jerked back each time. Apparently he knew how to fight, especially kooked.
            Aunt Ginny’s buzzing grew louder, and could still be heard over the ringing ears of Lee.
            Lee was on top of Norman, holding him down by the throat. He looked up and spied yet another collection of ancient Coke bottles, the sturdy kind from the fifties. He grabbed one, and began to bash Norman’s skull open with Neanderthal fury, the speed freak’s cranium collapsing a little more after every slam of the bottle. His grey matter seeped out into the poison puddles with upturned ketchup-bottle chug sounds, falling in thick splats to feed the maggots. Norman’s body fell still.
            Winded, Lee got up. “I gotta get you to a doctor, lady.” He went over to the bed to untie Aunt Ginny, and noticed her belly rising and falling, her eyes rolling white in the back of her head. Something seemed to be creeping up her throat. Her jaw began to distend, as though being opened from the inside out.
            Without warning, from between Aunt Ginny’s legs, that buzzing sound grew to a roar of white noise, and literally thousands of freshly born cicadas came pouring out of the woman’s groin, and then from her throat. Lee watched in astonishment and horror as her eyeballs dislodged and the cicadas came oozing out from her empty sockets as well. They flew and buzzed about the room, covered in the suffering old woman’s blood and bits of innards, spotting it everywhere as their strong wings clamored a billion miles a second. Lee’s face was covered in flecks of Aunt Ginny’s stinking rotten guts within moments.
            Throwing his mask back on, he bent down to rummage Norman’s pockets, finding two large wads of cash, and stuffed them into his own. Turning, he knew what he must do. He’d had to do it before. A few times, actually. Pulling out a box of water proof matches, he struck one, was momentarily tranced by the glow and sizzling sulfur sound, and dropped it into the puddles of insecticide around Norman’s corpse, the toxin going up like kerosene; a slow burn but spreading quickly.
            Lee stealthily began to make his way out of this strange and terrible hoarder house, lighting and leaving matches the whole way, a veritable Promethean string of hot flame in his wake. Being cooked alive, the poisoned insects and arachnids lay twitching in the blue flame pools of  toxin, as though they were freshly gassed soldiers on a WWI battlefield. He made his way out to the truck, pulling the door open and jumping in quick.
            Before he started the truck, he looked back to the house, knowing the whole time that he should have just stayed broke, in the city, instead of traveling here to this madness. He popped five more painkillers, and started the truck.
            Lee felt horrible about this, but was aware of the fact that he may have done these methed-up simpletons a favor. Poor addled Nikki, so stupid . . . and Aunt Ginny, whatever the hell was going on there . . . and fuck Norman. It seemed every couple of jobs ended with some form of out of control madness, but it’s the profession he chose . . . to be a Late Night Exterminator. It was his business to deal with the strange, regardless of how so. He felt deep down this was not the last time, not by a long shot. It never was.
But Lee couldn’t think about that now. Pulling out his cell phone, he called the fire department.
            Lee lit a Camel, sucked in deep, and hit play on the cassette player. Motorhead roared once again at top volume, “Riding With The Driver.” Fingering the wads of cash in his pocket, he floored his truck straight out of Dolton.



         


        
   Return this Sunday to read 
illustrated by Marge Simon & Shasta Lawton

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Archive of Stories
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Virginia writer. KB's life work,
published 100% for free:
(We are not certain if K.B. Updike, Jr.
has lost his Virginian virginity yet.)