I mentioned previously that I still had the story I wrote the night the NY Islanders won their first Stanley Cup. Without further ado, here it is.
I’ve been living in this area all of my life and I don’t think I ever saw anything quite like it. They came in droves, crowding into what we had called home for generations and driving us all into hiding. Many of us wanted to leave right at the start, but other heads prevailed and remained for the most part. They did have a strange language, and a culture that we didn’t understand; still, they hadn’t really done anything to us yet – maybe they came in peace, looking for a place to call home. If those were their intentions, then we were obligated to extend a welcome to them.
Of course, those were not their intentions. Unless, of course, the following day could be written off as a difference in customs, which I consider morbid to say the least. Still, you be the judge.
A glorious day it was, with the air slightly damp and the skies dotted with just the right amount of clouds. Our welcoming committee of about 50 esteemed citizens set out early that day (myself included) to greet our new neighbors with open hearts and smiling faces. We were totally routed. With a scream of pure hatred, a foreigner rose into view, holding a cylindrical metal object in threatening fashion. Before our terror could be transformed into action, the attack began. Bursts of poisonous gases erupted from everywhere, spreading death to whomever they touched. We ran in terror, scattering for cover, and terror followed us. The foreigners are barbaric! we despaired, as our brothers fell dead and the survivors struggled for a place, any place, in which to escape our impending deaths.
As quickly as the attack began, it ceased. Not daring to move, I waited for the next wave, the inevitable attack which never came. The foreigner returned to whatever it was that he did all day, totally oblivious to the massacre he had just caused. When we were sure he had gone away, I and the other two survivors crawled out of hiding and raced back to our town as if hell itself was at our heels. Little did we know that in reality it was.
In the days that followed, the horror became worse. Foreigners hounded us day and night with their poison gases and giant cudgels which tasted the blood of my entire family. Friends, strangers, in-laws and outlaws all fell to the relentless onslaught of the invaders. They slew without mercy, without recourse, WITHOUT REASON. I cannot understand what would drive any being to such insane hatred of another, such obsession with the genocide of a group different from itself. And through it all, that horrible roaring noise echoes through my brain, a word repeated over and over with the killing of my brethren. If I knew what that foreign word meant, I could begin to see the hatred take a more understandable form. As it has haunted my waking life, that word will haunt my dreams for the rest of my life – however brief that may be.
Which brings me to today. I hide beneath an old rotting stairway, feeling the frustration mounting again. There is nothing let that I can do; I am the last one of us to stand before the invaders. Every one of my brethren has been mindlessly slaughtered by screaming, Word-yelling foreigners. If their deaths are to have any dignity, and justification, I must seek the answer to the invaders’ frenzy – I must seek the Word.
It is a perfect night, the kind of night I used to stroll with my folks in when I was younger, much younger. Much, much younger, before the foreigners, before the death squads of invading chemical-wielding animals.
My attention is snapped back to the present by that too-familiar roar, the word that plagues my dreams and nurtures my nightmares. I’ve been spotted! Diving deeper under the porch. I race to the secret hole that leads into the basement. If the invader activates the gas bomb before I reach safety, I am surely dead. Breathlessly I scramble through the rocks, as my slower enemy positions himself for that one fatal shot. Lunging for the opening before my eyes, hoping my legs will not betray their age, I reach the hole just as the gas explodes at my back. Safe, at last.
Of course, safety is a relative thing. I escaped the bomb blast, but gas is something not easily blocked by stones and walls. Coughing violently, I make my way across the dark and musky room, hoping beyond hope to complete my mission. It is now a suicide run, a one-way ride that carries no assurance of reaching its destination. At the base of the stairs, my legs begin to twitch spasmodically, making it difficult to negotiate the stairs. At the top, the spasms become more violent, making ordinary walking impossible. The end is near, so near I can taste it. But I cannot give up now, cannot die without knowing. Of all the friends and relations that fell to the invaders, not one knew why. Crawling through the basement doorway, I vowed to know why before I died.
Outside, the rain pounded steadily, drumming on the kitchen windows above where I crawled relentlessly. We are much alike, I thought, the rain and me. Both are doomed to fall headlong into their awaited endings, neither of us knowing why but rushing there anyway. Glancing around the room, I have trouble making out the surroundings. My night vision seems to be as good as my breathing, once excellent but now faulty and random. Darkness is closing in now, like the dank and dusty air surrounding my final minutes. I am so weak that my body no longer responds to my commands, my legs swaying feebly in some unknown breeze I can do nothing but wait for death, which approaches like the sound of invader footsteps from the hall.
Helplessly rasping for air, two feet in death’s door already, I state at the invader above me. Tell me, I cry, Tell Me WHY? Please just tell me why before I die? The invader says nothing, just smiling as he lifts his cudgel over me for the final time. As if in answer to my prayer, the meaning of the word is hammered into my brain with as much force as the cudgel seconds afterward. In the instant of death, I know the word but not the meaning. My life is uselessly wasted.
The word was “Damnroaches.”