My Life As A Horror Story: Silver

To thank everyone for their patience as I work towards getting Coping Mechanism and Other Disturbing Stories published, I wanted to share a very special “My Life as a Horror Story” this month. One of the stories in Coping Mechanism is inspired by true events. Sure, the ending is outside the realm of possibility, but Mark and I lived through the events of my story “Silver.”

The is one of the top three most disturbing stories in the collection, so reader discretion is advised. All of the “fuck nos” from my beta readers should give you an indication of how bad things get. So, without further ado, here is the first half of “Silver”. If you want to read the whole thing, you’ll just have to wait for Coping Mechanism.

The first one fell from the ceiling at around 1:15 am. No one was aware of its presence, not even Max. Silently, and without disrupting the sleeping bodies underneath, it skuttled across the bedsheets and tumbled delicately onto the parquet floor. A shell-like exoskeleton protected it from the fall. It crawled the short distance across the hall into the kitchen, and snuggled under the bars of the radiator where it was warm and damp. There, it waited for its kin.

By the time Max was aware of a disturbance in the small apartment, more had joined it. Some had fallen from the ceiling in the kitchen, others emerged from beneath the floorboards. There were enough now that Max’s finely tuned ears could pick up the faint sounds of their tiny bodies bumping into one another. He stretched his paws out in front of him before jumping off the bed sniffing the humid summer air.

Max took two steps towards the doorway before glancing back at the sleeping humans. He meowed once, but neither one of them stirred. The continued whisper of noise from underneath the radiator was all that kept him from hopping back up to the foot of the bed.

~

The alarm went off at 4:00 am, causing Sam’s arm to instinctively fly out from under the covers. It flopped half heartedly over the phone screen as her fingers hunted for the snooze button. But when Sam tried to curl back up beneath the sheets, Tom nudged her gently and mumbled something along the lines of “go to work.” Sam let out more of a grunt than a sigh and rolled out of bed. Half awake, she stumbled into the kitchen and went to pour herself a cup of coffee.

“Fuck.”

The pot was empty and the indicator light was off. She usually set the timer so that the coffee would be ready by the time she was up. Not last night, apparently. Sam pressed the on button and slid to the floor. Max meowed to get her attention.

“Hi, buddy,” she whispered.

He stared at her, wide eyed, tail flicking.

“Come here, Max.”

He meowed again, this time with more urgency. He didn’t even blink.

“Come over here, mister. Come see Mommy.”

When he realized she wouldn’t come over to him, Max returned his attention to the radiator and pawed at the ground in front of him.

“What’s up, Mr. Max?”

Sam leaned forward until she was on her hands and knees, and crawled over to him. The smell of fresh coffee was starting to permeate the small kitchen and she was feeling marginally more alert than before.

“What’ve you go there, bud? Oh.”

Her face wrinkled at the sight of the thing. A small, milky grey insect danced between her cat’s paws, tripping over itself as it tried to scurry back to the safety of the radiator. It didn’t get much farther before Sam squished it underneath a tissue and tossed it in the garbage.

“Thanks for finding that. Let’s not tell Daddy about this, okay?”

Max pressed his face up into Sam’s hand when she reached out to pet him. But when she turned to pour herself a cup of coffee, Max settled down beside the radiator. With his chin on the floor, ears pointing straight up, his whiskers twitched as he waited for more intruders to emerge.

~

Almost two weeks passed before Sam felt the need to say anything to Tom. By then, the two of them had grown somewhat more accustomed to Sam’s new work schedule and were both relatively awake when the alarm went off.

“I think we might have a bug problem,” said Sam in between sips of coffee.

Tom tensed, as she knew he would.

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah. I didn’t want to mention it at first when it was just one or two, but I’ve caught Max playing with bugs like every day, every second day. It’s when I’m getting ready for work so maybe they’re nocturnal or something. Looks like they’re coming from under the radiator.”

“What kind?” Tom asked. His shoulders were tense, and his fingers pressed into the sides of the coffee mug.

“I don’t know. They’re kind of greyish, and… I think Max found another one.”

Tom walked over to the cat with determination, but his shoulders were still drawn up around his ears.

“I think it’s a silverfish,” he said.

“Is that bad? I’ve only ever had to deal with ants.”

“I don’t think they’re that bad. I mean, at least not as bad as,” he swallowed hard, “bedbugs or cockroaches. I’ll pick up some bug spray on my way home.”

“Okay.” Sam stared into her coffee mug. “Are you going to be alright?”

“Yup. Bugs happen. Let’s change the subject.”

~

Days later, after the humans emptied a full can of bug spray under the radiator and Max was discouraged from playing there, he woke to a familiar sound in the night. With his ears twitching, he hopped off the bed and paced back and forth in front of Sam’s bedside table. He meowed twice, louder the second time, but she did not wake. When he realized he was on his own, he padded down the hall to the bathroom to investigate.

Sitting at the base of the tub, he peeked his head over the rim and watched for the familiar little bodies that crawled out from between the grout. After a moment to assess the situation, Max jumped into the tub and pawed at the tiles.

To be continued…

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