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The Habitat





The Habitat

When he signed the papers for his new home, the stars aligned. A million-dollar home staring right out at Palma Sola Bay -- he had argued them down to 950. 

    The house stood at one story, but not for long. John's mind rearranged every inch: arched windows here with custom stained glass, marble counters, a spiral staircase into what would be the upper story. Another million dollars, but what did he care. 

    His promotion at the Able and Perron Law Firm had probably been the closest he had come to great sex since the divorce. The feeling of sitting down at Thanksgiving in front of Aunt Lucille and her meth-stained teeth or his little sister who was repeating her third year in college, for the fifth time, was sinfully delicious. It even made the dry turkey taste like ambrosia. 

    John laughed internally as each of his family tried to show off, tell each other they were off the bottle or had found Christ. They tried to pick at his divorce, but he was more than happy to tell them his dearest Sarah was dating an unemployed loser and beloved children had scribbled all over their tiny apartment. "I sure do miss them," he concluded innocently.

    Oh, he missed them alright. Sure, he did. 

    Back in his home, he inhaled the scent of the clean -- it was citrus and superiority. He couldn't wait until his sister visited in a month so he could show off his leather furniture, art from local geniuses and imported wines (no touching). He was split between hoping she would bring Mom and praying that she wouldn't.

    Right on the Bay. Life was good. 

    He ran his hands over the smooth wood that would make his custom bar, euphoric. His bliss was cut short when he felt a sharp pinch on his thumb. 

    "Damnit!" He glanced down, ready to call the workers and scream at them until they sanded the wood properly. Instead, the culprit was a large, black carpenter ant. 

    John scoffed, "Of course. Damned lazy migrant workers kept the door open all day. Of course, these little bastards would get in." He folded his arms at the scurrying dot and chided, "Well, there's no food here for you -- because I paid for it." He paused with a wry smirk, "I admire your work ethic, Danny ole' boy, but you're just not keeping up with the times." Danny had worked at the law firm for over twenty years. John had to fire him last week. "We'll have to part ways, Dan. Nothing personal." And with that, he squashed the ant under his thumb and flicked its corpse into the trash can. 

    He'd get the exterminators to spray the place before his sister came. No big deal. John almost laughed. His mother had always told him that ants had the right idea: no lollygagging, no protests, just working towards a better life. 

   Maybe they did. He didn't get to partner by wasting time or daydreaming. His new surround system was here. No time to ponder worthless insects.

   The exterminators came and went. He made sure he hired the top rated (and most expensive). You get what you pay for, after all. Before his sister stopped by, several cousins, aunts, uncles and even his ex-wife had stopped by. John could see it in her eyes behind her mumbled pleasantries: it was killing her inside, seeing how she could have had it, and he felt like a kid allowed in a pool full of jello. 

    His kids, Tom and Kelly, ten and eight, were only concerned about the possibility of a game room. Just to stick it to his ex, he put on a sickeningly sweet voice and asked them what happened to all the nice games he had bought them before. They whined that Ronny (their new Daddy) had sold them because they weren't good kids for Santa. 

    I wonder if his dealer is named Santa, John giggled internally while telling them he'd see what he could do.  John was glad Sarah scurried off with their kids after. Their voices had started to grate on his ears, and he had to check on his granite counter tops.

    He almost skipped over when they were gone. The best revenge is living well, after all. He hoped it burned her right to her bleached blonde roots.

    Ants. John stopped and gawked at the line of black dots moving around his counter. He almost instinctively grabbed for his cell phone, ready to put the exterminator on his speed dial shit list. Instead, he took a deep breath and doused them in glass cleaner before sweeping their fallen army off. The timing was good, fortunately, as his sister had arrived.

    “Johnny boy,” Gina called in her usual sing-song tone.

   “Come in, G!” He hollered back.

    Gina let herself in, swaying a bit. How many times would she lose her damned license? He wondered this as they hugged.

    “Cyoar, great place!” She raved. Gina was on a kick of pretending to be British. “Uncle Ron bitched forever about how he had all this same crap in his time and for a better deal.”

   “Fuck Ron,” John muttered. “He still insists he knows Kung Fu. Fat bastard.”

    They laughed together and he offered her some coffee (still no touching on the wines).

    “So, who did you have to sue to get this place?” She gave him a sideways smile. Gina always assumed that his position let him pull some kind of Mafia deals.

    “No one,” he laughed. “The agent told me that there were some issues with loose dirt under the foundation and I told him to make me a deal and I would fix it.”

    “Nice.” She sipped and made a face. “Black, no sugar? What, afraid of ants?”

    He bristled. “Sugar isn’t in my diet, G.”

    “Oh yeah, Mum was still calling you her little piggy, eh?” Her smile faded. They shared a small moment of silence. “She didn’t want to come.”

    “God knows she could bear the thought of me making more than Dad ever spoiled her with.” John wanted it to be lighthearted, but it was about as bitter as the coffee.

    Gina sipped in silence and tried to lighten the mood. “Hey, you’ve donned the crown of the dysfunctional heavyweight division – kudos!”

    “Thanks.” His eye had been drawn to the upper corner of the wall. You have to be fucking kidding me.

    She followed his gave and frowned, “Oh damn, Johnny Boy, you’ve got some heavy roommates.”

   He swore at the line of ants. Little fuckers must have popped up under the wallpaper. His custom made wallpaper. “Maybe I’ll sue the damned exterminators.”

    “You could try vinegar,” she tried. “They hate that shit.”

    “So do I!” He snapped, startling them both. In the uncomfortable silence, he murmured, “Sorry, G. Maybe you should go. I gotta take care of this.”

    As soon as she left, he was screaming down his phone, calling every single exterminator he could find. He spent the rest of the day angry. Angry and looking under every nook and cranny.

    The little fuckers were everywhere.

    When he tried to go to sleep that night, his gorgeous home groaned around him. “I know,” he groaned with it. “This is bullshit.” It seemed like the very dirt was rustling. He saw ants in the dark, like a tapestry of writhing soldiers marching across his vision in perfect diagonals.

    The next day, his house was full of poison while he angrily paced about. Each consecutive exterminator was obviously displeased, but he didn’t care. What the fuck was he paying them for?

    Each one marched out with a grunt of affirmation. If anything had been living in his house beside him, it would be dead meat now.

    John went to work and kept his mind off of ants. He had a whole litigation team to lay off and several petty cases and real estate closings. The mind-numbing paperwork soothed his frayed nerves. No more ants. No more rattling dirt in the night. He had spent a fortune to assure it.

    When he came home, he broke his own rule and opened a nice vintage. He didn’t even bother with a glass and sipped straight from the bottle.

    If his table hadn’t cost over five thousand dollars, he would have spit it all over the surface.

    Ants. He was drinking ants.

    John stared at the dark, drowned smudges in the bottle. “How? How did you get in there?! It was sealed!”

   He screamed and threw it against the wall. “I don’t have TIME for this! Don’t you fucking understand that I built this house?! This is MY HOUSE!”

   His raving led him to the kitchen. Everywhere. Marching, pinching little fuckers everywhere. His food, his fridge, the washer – everywhere.

    John didn’t care that it was ten at night. He sprinted to his Benz and roared towards the grocery store, barging past some retail slave trying to close. He didn’t even look.

    Bleach, bug spray, vinegar, garlic; he nabbed it all and practically threw cash in the cashier’s face.

    He left a message as he weaved violently on the road towards his home and told his boss he was calling in the week off he hadn’t taken in all his years at the firm. He didn’t even care if they paid him or not, he was done.

    For five days, all he did was kill ants. Every single one he could find: stomping, drowning them with bleach, scrubbing the walls with vinegar and bug spray.

    Anything.

    By Saturday, he hadn’t showered all week. The shower was full of ants.

    John had run out of bug spray. He had run out of the pads, out of vinegar, out of everything to keep the little bastards at bay. Now, he was crouched down by the ants’ endless line and squashing them under his thumb, one by one.

   "Damned ants," he muttered each squish. "Ruining my perfect new home!"

    The light from the windows grew dimmer. He faintly heard the dirt shift under the foundation, as though even it was tired of the swarming army.

    "Those are custom made windows, you sons of bitches!" He lamented.

    His beautiful home. The home that had impressed even his family, covered in endlessly marching ants.

    But he would have the last laugh. He swore it.

    John rolled to his side and on to his feet, uncaring of the ants crawling over him. He had laid a crowbar to the side -- it was meant to help him pry off the old wooden eyesores in the walls. Instead, he found himself aiming for the pipes under the sink.

    "Like mother always said. You keep washing until there's no more mess."

    He swung the pipe with a manic grunt, and beat at it until water began to spurt upwards. He knocked holes in every wall and beat at every single pipe that had painstakingly been marked, each with a battle cry of, "Drown!"

    The water took its time, but it didn't take too long before it had near turned black with struggling dots. John sank against a wall with a tired smile. The bliss of feeling the bites fade as he was cleansed was absolutely euphoric.

   He'd let it flood. He could buy new furniture, start over on his dream home. His family would come back and be even more impressed. Maybe he'd put in that god forsaken gaming room for his two snot-nosed little shits. He had the best job in the whole family -- bunch of deadbeats, druggies and whores. Who was going to turn their nose up at him now?

    No one, that's fucking who.

    John shut his eyes and let the water rise. Done. Over. Finally.

    When he could be bothered to open them again, he thought perhaps he hadn't opened them at all. The light had gone completely.

 

    "I'm just too tired to open my eyes," he assured and forced them open with his fingers.

    Darkness.

    He looked instinctively towards his beautiful, custom arched windows. Brown? How could they be brown?

    Then he realized that the water wasn't the only noise. The very foundation of the home had been dragged down and loose dirt crinkled all around him in surround sound. The real deal, not that cheap shit the guy at the store had tried to sell him.

    John stumbled to his feet and waded in a frenzy to the kitchen to grab his flashlight. He turned it on with a muffled sob.

    His beautiful home had been buried. What once had been a million dollar view out on the bay had becoming nothing but dirt and buried dog shit.

     For a long moment, all he could do was watch the ants crawling in the thousands on his windows. They would get in soon. He looked to his food: covered in ants. His clothes, covered. Everything was nothing but a squirming black horde.

    His mind went back to his mother's ant farm. How he used to stare as they moved around like the undead, following the call of a matriarchal tyrant. He wondered if ant queens ever told her ants that they didn't collect the right sugar, or sent them off to their deaths for amusement.

    They were beginning to swim on him. The stubborn bastards used their own comrade’s bodies as little boats.

    Smart fuckers.

    His flashlight, filled with water, gracefully took its death.

    The water was still rising.

 Amber E. Colyer

 Amber E. Colyer is an aspiring novelist who loves all things horror, fantasy and science-fiction. She has been writing since the age of eleven and is currently writing about an action story about witches fighting in giant robots. Any spare time she isn't writing, at work or in school is dedicated towards music, video games and daydreaming.
Visit her writing portfolio: http://www.amberecolyer.journoportfolio.com .

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