22 Feb Filth and Consequence
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"Filth and Consequence"Written by Andy and Laura
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Estimated reading time — 14 minutes
“Oh, Loki. Stop.” Jamie batted the fluffy tail out of her face. It tickled her.
The cat lazily glanced back at her from his spot on the counter and flicked his tail in her direction once more. Jamie rolled her eyes and got up from her perch on the kitchen stool to join her mother at the oven. The smell of the casserole, Jamie’s favorite, was making her stomach grumble.
“Almost done,” Pam said over her shoulder before her daughter could say a word.
Jamie wrapped her arms around her stomach and groaned loudly. “But I’m starving,” she whined, drawing out the last syllable for several seconds. Dramatically, she stumbled over to the refrigerator and began rummaging inside for a snack.
“Jamie, please. Ten minutes.”
Jamie ignored her mother. She had never been good at being patient, and while she may have been over exaggerating, she was pretty hungry. She hastily placed some cheese and a piece of ham between two slices of bread, set the sandwich on a plate, and headed upstairs with Loki at her heels.
“You’re not even going to eat that!” her mother called to her.
Jamie closed the door of her bedroom behind her to muffle the sound of her mother’s voice. Nobody could annoy her like her mother. She sat on her bed to eat the sandwich, but after a few nibbles, she lost interest. Her mother was even more annoying when she was right. Jamie looked for a place to set the plate. Her nightstand was covered with dirty dishes. She carefully stacked a few bowls and pushed them until they teetered over the edge of the wood. She placed the plate in the newly cleared spot and began to pick fleas off her cat while she waited for dinner. Less than ten minutes later, her mother called to her. Dinner was ready. Jamie pushed the cat from her lap and ran to the kitchen, leaving the uneaten sandwich on her nightstand.
Pam looked up as her daughter re-entered the kitchen and almost sighed in disappointment. Jamie had neglected to bring the plate back down. It was a habit she had developed recently. In fact, Pam noticed several new habits, and it worried her.
Jamie’s father moved out eight months ago. The marriage between Pam and Eric had been wrong from the start, and the separation was one of the few things they had actually agreed on in the twelve years they were together. However, as great as the decision was for the two adults, Pam knew that a ten-year-old would have a hard time understanding and accepting it. Eric was a good father and talked to his daughter several times a week, but Jamie was struggling with the change.
It had begun with a little weight gain. Jamie was young and active, so Pam wasn’t overly concerned, but she made a point to watch Jamie’s food intake a little more closely. It didn’t take long for Pam to notice that Jamie made snacks quite frequently and would take them to her room to eat. She also noticed that Jamie began keeping her bedroom door closed. One day, while Jamie was at school, Pam ventured in and found out why. The room was a mess. Clothes were strewn all over; the bed was unmade with blankets and pillows spilling onto the floor. Dirty dishes, many with food still on them, littered every surface. As Pam walked through the mess, she noticed bits of food scattered on the floor as if they had been tossed across the room.
Now, as Pam watched Jamie load her plate with casserole, she struggled to contain her irritation.
“What happened to all of our dishes?” she asked, her tone harsher than intended.
Jamie froze and refused to meet her mother’s eyes. She plastered an innocent look on her face. “What do you mean?”
“You’re lucky to not be eating off of the floor because we’ve apparently been robbed of plates.”
Looking down at the plate in her hand, Jamie said, “Then what am I holding?”
That was another new habit, the talking back.
“Go to your room and get all of the dishes right now.”
“I don’t have any in my room!” Jamie shouted.
Pam furrowed her brows. The lying was another. “I’m not telling you again. Bring them down or I’ll—.”
“FINE!” Jamie shouted. She turned to leave the room.
“And clean your room tomorrow! It’s a mess!”
Jamie returned to the kitchen overloaded with dishes. She had to make two trips up and down the stairs to get them all. As punishment, her mother instructed her to wash all of them by hand. Jamie absolutely despised washing dishes. For an hour, she stood at the sink, struggling to remove the hardened food. When she put away the last dish, her mother reheated some of the casserole, and they sat down to eat. Jamie ignored her mother’s attempt at making conversation.
* * * * * *
That night, while Jamie was sleeping, she felt something brush lightly across her face, soft as a feather against her cheek. Instinctively, she opened her eyes and rubbed her face. She glanced down and saw Loki curled up next to her, his tail twitching while he slept. That damn cat. She turned to lie on her side, closed her eyes, and attempted to go back to sleep. A moment later, she felt it again. Sitting up quickly, she nudged the cat with both hands. With a meow of protest, Loki jumped off the bed and retreated underneath it. A soft buzzing sound suddenly broke the silence. Jamie scanned her bedroom, but the room was too dark for her to see anything clearly. The sound grew louder and again she felt the light touch on her face. She abruptly jumped out of bed and cowered in the corner.
A shadow of a figure appeared at the foot of the bed.
“Thank you,” the figure said. Its voice was rough and unpleasant to her ears.
Scared and confused, Jamie managed to whisper, “For what?”
Without answering, the figure retreated slowly until he was swallowed up by darkness. Several minutes passed before Jamie was able to move. Trembling with fear, she walked across the room and reached for the light switch. The bright overhead light made her feel brave, and she searched the room. Underneath the bed, she found Loki sleeping peacefully, either unaware or unfazed by the visitor.
After turning the light off, Jamie slipped back into bed and pulled the covers up to her chin. Her eyes were wide, and her breath was shaky. She kept her gaze on the darkest corner of the room. If she really strained her eyes, she thought she could see flashes of movement.
* * * * * *
By morning, the fear had worn off, and by the time Jamie got home from school, she had convinced herself the figure was part of a very vivid dream. Throwing her backpack on the floor of the kitchen, she grabbed a container of leftovers from the fridge and headed off to her room. As she reached the top of the stairs, a familiar buzzing sound filled the air. She continued down the hall and reached out to touch her door handle.
“No. No more eating in your room.”
Jamie jumped and turned to see her mother hovering over her shoulder. “Damn it, Mom, you scared me.”
Jamie ignored her mother and pressed her ear to her door. The buzzing sound was faint but still audible. She glanced at her mother to see if she noticed the sound, but Pam only stood there with her arms crossed, a look of concern on her face. Jamie focused her attention back on her door and turned the knob. As soon as she entered the room, the buzzing stopped. Puzzled, she looked around.
“You’re cleaning your room today, right?” Pam asked.
“Sure, Mom,” Jamie answered distractedly.
“I’m serious, Jamie. This attitude has to stop.”
“I said okay!” Jamie shouted.
“If you don’t, I’m going to–.”
Jamie turned and slammed the door shut in her mother’s face. Like the previous night, she searched the room, opening the closet and even every drawer, but she found nothing. The buzzing sound didn’t come back. Sitting down on her bed, she absentmindedly picked at her blanket. She was seeing things, hearing things. She knew none of it was real. Her mind was playing tricks on her, but she didn’t know why or how to stop it.
“It has to be Mom’s nagging,” Jamie muttered aloud. “She’s driving me crazy, literally.”
She decided to clean her room.
* * * * * *
Jamie rolled over for what seemed like the twentieth time and groaned in frustration. She was tired but sleep was evading her. She settled on her back and watched the ceiling fan for several minutes. The spinning was calming, and as she focused on the soft breeze cooling her face, she felt herself start to drift off.
A loud thumping sound made her snap to attention.
She sat up. She hadn’t seen or heard anything unusual in days. As she peered into the dark, the buzzing sound started. “Please, no,” she whispered.
Seconds later, the figure appeared at the foot of the bed.
“Where’s the food?” it asked.
“What?” Jamie squeaked.
“Who are you?”
“I’m sorry, I-”
“I need sustenance.”
“I don’t know what that is!”
“FOOD! I need food.”
“You’re just a dream,” Jamie stammered.
“I’m as real as you, little girl.” The figure stepped closer.
Jamie whimpered and eyed the door. It was so close. She could reach it in seconds. Her mom would know what to do.
The figure could sense the girl’s fear and moved back a few paces. “I’m sorry for being so aggressive. I haven’t eaten in days, and I am very hungry.”
“What—what do you want me to do?” Jamie asked.
“All I need is food. Can you bring me food?”
Jamie shook her head quickly. “My mom said I’m not allowed to have food in my room anymore.”
“There must be something you can do. There are others who need food too.”
Jamie was trembling uncontrollably now. There were more? “If I give you what you want, will you leave me alone?”
The figure didn’t respond.
Desperate, Jamie said, “I can sneak you food, but I’m supposed to be sleeping now. Can you wait until morning? Please?”
The figure was silent for so long, Jamie thought it wasn’t going to respond. “Yes,” it finally said, “but not any longer.”
The figure vanished into the darkness, and Jamie’s body immediately relaxed. She fell backwards against her pillow and began to cry. She was terrified, unable to even move from her bed. She called out for her mother, but her voice was too feeble to emit much sound. She stayed there, weak and unmoving, until her room was filled with light from the morning sun.
From the corner of her eye, she saw movement, and she knew it was watching her. For how long, she didn’t know. She had not yet seen the figure in the light. In the dark, it was nothing but an outline, black and faceless. With a deep breath, she turned her head toward it and nearly screamed. The figure came closer, as if it wanted her to see. It was tall and slender with wings that went all the way to the floor. Its skin was like a kind of organic corroded armor with short thick hairs growing from it. Its eyes were huge, and its mouth was like nothing she had ever seen before. It appeared to be a large fly.
“When will the food be ready?” the fly asked.
Stunned, Jamie struggled to untangle herself from the bedcovers. Her mouth moved but no sound came out. The fly watched her wordlessly as she stumbled over her feet heading backwards toward the door. She didn’t want to take her eyes off of it. In one swift movement, she opened the door and nearly ran down the stairs. Her mother was standing at the kitchen counter making coffee.
“Did you sleep okay?” Pam asked.
Jamie briefly looked her mother’s way as she pulled open the refrigerator. She piled food into her arms and left the room without answering. When she returned to her bedroom, there were five additional flies, all huddled in a circle in a corner of the room.
“That is not enough,” one fly said, staring at the packages in her arms.
“I can get more.”
* * * * * *
To hide the new arrangement from her mom, Jamie began leaving the food under her bed or in the closet. Every day, she would come home from school and raid the kitchen. If her mother ever noticed the amount of food that disappeared, she never mentioned it. At night, Jamie could hear the flies buzzing as they came out of hiding and congregated around the food. She had sneaked a peek at them only once; there were so many of them. From then on, she kept her face buried in the pillow and her eyes shut tight. It seemed like it was hours before the buzzing stopped long enough for her to fall asleep. They rarely spoke to her.
After several weeks, however, the flies began to get demanding. She never brought enough. She never brought what they needed. The flies had rampant appetites, and it left her room a mess. Crumbs and scraps of food littered the floor. Different smells permeated the carpet. Pam was constantly griping at her about the mess, but the flies loved it.
“Jamie, you have to clean that room. I don’t know what to do with you.”
“I’ll clean it later,” Jamie promised.
“You always say that. What’s going on with you?”
Jamie knew her mother was concerned. She wanted to tell her mother about the flies, but it was an unbelievable situation. When Jamie was away from the house, she could hardly believe it herself. It was only when she heard them that she knew it was really happening.
“It’s the divorce, isn’t it?” her mother asked softly.
Jamie could only shake her head.
“Yes, it is. You’ve been so different lately. You lie to me. You talk back. I know you’ve been taking things from my purse. I’ve seen you push Loki around. You’re living in filth, for god’s sake. I’m so sorry that your father and I couldn’t make it work, but I don’t know what to do. How do I make this better for you?”
The pleading look in her mother’s eyes sent a wave of guilt through Jamie’s body.
“It’s not you, Mom. Promise.”
That afternoon, she cleaned her room.
* * * * * *
Jamie knew the flies were there before she even opened her eyes, though they weren’t buzzing as usual; they were chattering loudly. In the morning light, she could see them all clearly. She watched them for several minutes. When they noticed she was awake, they swarmed her, batting their wings furiously and poking their limbs in her face.
“What did you do?!” one fly shouted.
“She wants us to die,” snarled another.
She buried her face in her hands and let them yell at her. She finally shouted, “No! Go somewhere else! I don’t want you around anymore!”
She kept her head down for several minutes. When she looked up, they were gone. Startled, Jamie walked to the spot where the flies had stood seconds before. She couldn’t believe it had been that easy.
She heard a soft knock on the door, and her mom poked her head in. “Your room looks so great, hon. Do you want some breakfast?”
“Oh, sure. Hey,” Jamie said walking closer, “what happened to your neck?”
Pam gently touched the reddened area of her throat. “I think it’s just a rash.”
Jamie moved her mother’s hair away and peered intently at her skin. A smattering of large, red bumps blemished the right side of her neck.
“It looks awful.”
“It hurts a little, but it’s fine. I put some cream on it.” Pam moved toward the door but quickly turned back around. “You know, I had the weirdest dream last night. It was so dark, I couldn’t see anything. But I could hear all of these, I don’t know, buzzing sounds all around, almost on top of me.” She shook her head. “Anyway, pancakes okay?”
Jamie stood still for several minutes after her mother left. She had a very vivid dream, that’s all. And rashes were common. No sense in making this a bigger deal than it was.
“Everything is fine,” Jamie whispered. “It wasn’t them. It’s a rash.”
She repeated those words to herself until she suddenly collapsed to the floor. “Please don’t hurt her,” she cried. “Please.”
* * * * * *
“Jamie, you’re still up? I thought I heard you walking around in your bedroom hours ago.”
It was almost midnight, and Jamie was curled up on the living room couch staring at the blank television screen. Underneath the blanket, her legs were trembling. Whatever her mother had heard, it wasn’t her.
Pam motioned for Jamie to join her. “Come on. Let’s go to bed.”
“Why don’t we put in a movie and watch it in here?”
“It’s too late.”
“We can make popcorn and—.”
“I’m tired, honey.”
“What about a game—.”
Jamie trudged up the stairs, her mother a few steps behind. At the top, her mother kissed her cheek and said goodnight. Jamie watched as her mother went into her bedroom and closed the door. She wondered if the flies were in there, waiting for her mother to fall asleep so they could feast.
Earlier in the day, she had resolved to tell her mother everything. She rehearsed what she was going to say and tried to predict every possible reaction her mother could have. At dinner, she had been so close, but she panicked. Her mother would never believe her. Jamie had never felt so helpless.
She flipped on the light to her bedroom and took a look around. Her room was still spotless, but it looked wrong. She couldn’t discern exactly what it was, but something had been touched. She paced around the room, pulling drawers in and out, pulling the blankets off of her bed.
She got down on her hands and knees and peered under the bed.
And she screamed.
Pam rushed into the room seconds later and wrapped her arms around her still screaming child. Jamie was thrashing around on the floor, her arms and legs beating the air wildly.
“What’s wrong?! Jamie, what is it?!” Pam desperately tried to restrain her daughter. She hugged her tightly against her chest until she felt Jamie calm down. The two of them were intertwined on the floor.
“What’s wrong?” Pam asked again, softly this time.
Jamie began whimpering and pointed to the dark space just a few feet away. Pam hesitated, but when Jamie began to cry, she reluctantly crawled to the bed and lowered her head to the floor. Jamie’s sobs grew louder as Pam stretched her arm out underneath the bed. She began to pull her arm back, and they both watched in horror as a paw, leg, and then head appeared.
Pam flinched. “Jesus.”
“They did this, Mom! I know it!” Jamie screamed.
“Who did?” Pam asked quietly, staring at her daughter.
“The flies! These big flies! I was feeding them. I’m so sorry. And it’s not a rash; they bit you. They did it to scare me, all because I cleaned my room!”
Her mother’s gaze returned to the carcass in the middle of the room.
“Are you listening? They bit you, and they killed Loki. I told them to leave us alone. I tried to make them leave us alone.” Jamie struggled to contain the sobs. “Mom?”
“Do you have a box?”
“What? Mom,” Jamie stuttered. “You believe me, don’t you?”
“I’m going to…get Loki out of here, and you’re going to clean….the rest up.” Pam gagged and held her hand over her mouth.
“Do you believe me?”
Pam sighed. “No, Jamie, I don’t believe you. You’ve been sneaking food up here for months—.”
“—You lie to me constantly. You cuss and slam doors in my face. But this—.”
Pam threw her hands up in the air in frustration and left the room. She strode back in with a box in one hand and a bucket in the other. She placed the box on the ground, gently lifted Loki, and placed him inside.
“I’m calling your father,” Pam said from the doorway, the box under her arm. “We’ll need to decide what to do with you.”
“Please listen to me,” Jamie pleaded. She hugged her arms around her knees and stared up at her mother from her spot on the floor.
Pam looked at her daughter’s tear-stained face. “No. For once, you are going to listen to me. You are to stay in this room and clean up the mess. There’s a rag in the bucket for you.”
“No, don’t leave me in here!”
Pam slammed the door behind her. Leaning against it, she shook her head, unable to believe the situation she found herself in. Pam never would have believed her daughter capable of such a horrible thing, but her behavior had been so odd lately. And now she was talking about giant flies?
From the kitchen, Pam called her estranged husband and explained the situation. She had awakened him, and he wasn’t happy about it.
“I have a dead cat in the garage right now, Eric. I would say this is pretty serious.”
Listening to the agitated voice on the other end, Pam clenched her teeth. “Fine. Why don’t you talk to her?”
“Jamie!” she called up the stairs. “Get down here! Your father wants to talk to you.”
Pam lowered the phone to her side and rubbed her eyes. She just wanted to go to bed and pretend this incident had never happened. She strained her ears but heard no movement from upstairs. “Jamie! Now!”
Her eyes fell on the water bowl near her feet, and she gagged again. “Jamie!”
“Calm down, for god’s sake,” she heard Eric say.
Fuming, Pam stomped up the stairs. The door to Jamie’s room was ajar. She pushed the door open with such force, it banged against the wall.
For a minute, she didn’t know what she was looking at. There was a mass on the floor, a black, moving mass in the center of the room. As Pam watched, a pale, white hand poked its way out and reached upwards. The mass began to rise, dropping black clumps as it ascended. Suddenly, the door slammed shut, causing Pam to turn around with a gasp. The door was covered in tiny, black flies.
Almost paralyzed with fear, Pam turned toward the mass. She suddenly knew what it was. A thousand tiny flies were moving, crawling all over, and eating their way into her daughter’s body. The flies pulled away, leaving the now lifeless body of Jamie falling to the floor.
“Jamie…No,” Pam cried softly.
The flies swarmed Pam. She waved her arms erratically trying to fight them off, but it was pointless. They attached themselves to every inch of her body, and she collapsed to the floor. As her body hit the ground, her hand was jolted open and the telephone slid away.
“…Pam? Pam? What’s going on? Is everything okay?”
CREDIT: Andy and Laura
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