Rise of the Centipedes
BY JASON GANTENBERG I AUGUST 6, 2008
The Sun will rise soon on the False and the Fair. Townes Van Zandt
I writhed and grunted. Sweat began pouring out of my forehead. It must have sounded heinous to the folks in the next room, but I had no choice. I could either wrestle the bastards up front or spend the rest of the day letting them take little chunks of me back to Hell.
So there I was, sitting on the crapper with my pants around my ankles and performing the daily exorcism of some truly vicious excretory demons. My bowels were in a knot, and there was little hope at all of doing this thing quickly when I heard that familiar scuttle--like bottle caps scraping against a hardwood floor.
Sure enough, a centipede shot underneath the door and lit upon the white wall directly across from my face, close enough that I could see the sadistic smile curled over his little fangs.
"Out!" I screamed. "I don't have time for this shit right now!"
I took a half-hearted swing at him, but he ducked it easily and began laughing in the gravelly voice I have come to forever associate with his kind.
"Tsk. Tsk. You'd better not get too riled up, Mammoth. You wouldn't want to be tried for murdering someone with diplomatic immunity, would you?"
"What the fuck are you talking about? You're not in uniform."
The smile left his face momentarily. His cover was blown.
"Ha! You're not even an ambassador." I shook with glee. "You're nothing but a moss-sucking emissary. What's to stop me from smearing you all over the wall, huh? I wouldn't be breaking any treaties."
He shuffled backwards, and I watched his myriad legs rippling along and down the brown ridges of his trunk. The very sight of the bugger was putting me off, and it was difficult to concentrate on anything but those yellow-black striped legs ticking against the tile. He didn't have to say anything. It was clear he could see how afraid I was, and as I shifted uneasily on the toilet, he laughed again.
"Whatever you say. Just know that I could call down a strike right now, and you'd be swimming in us. We'd pick the skin right off your bones and feed it to the younglings."
"Bullshit. You're not in season until mid-July. Most of your soon-to-be recruits haven't even hatched yet, and it's only a matter of time before I find your nest and torch it along with your larval army."
"We have a truce until August!" he snarled. "Do not fuck with laws you weren't around to write!"
I could feel my face turning red, and a stabbing pain shot through my abdomen.
"FUCK LAWS!! You assholes sent a bomber in April, you cretin! Not to mention the fact that I took a shower this morning only to find one of your trainees scampering around on my bath towel! I thought you were nocturnal, anyway.
"And don't forget that nifty alliance you've made with the hornets, you twisted sot! I drowned two of them in bleach, and the other one got away! So do not utter another word about laws or treaties or agreements, or I'll soak the whole fucking basement in gasoline and see to it that we all go up together!"
Silence. The mention of alliances had sent an ecstatic shiver through his exoskeleton, and whatever petty transgressions had transpired within the house were null and void at this point. Something in my gut told me the game was different now. Something had changed for the worse. D-Day. Kaison. Fredericksburg. These days—heretofore momentous for their carnage and massive scale—were soon to become footnotes of footnotes in the Anthology of American Footnotes.
I hung my head not wanting to hear whatever vitriol the little punk was going to spit at me next.
"It's funny you mention alliances..." he looked amused.
"Don't tell me. You've tapped PNAC."
I shook my head and bashed it against the wall. My voice became shrill and quivered with anger, "You've tapped them, and you've got Interpol, the World Bank, the Freemasons, Bohemian Grove, Exxon-Mobil, Richard Nixon's preserved brain, and the entire military-industrial complex under your thumb. Their resources. Their personnel. Everybody.
"Not only that, you've probably got Al-Qaeda and Iran too. You've got every rogue terrorist organization and cell operating in the continental U.S. as well as most of the ones in Europe, except they don't know you've got the West on the other side."
I sighed, and the "Jesus Fucking Christ" that escaped my lips was almost silent.
His laugh shattered the mirror. "Proud of us? It took a lot of elbow grease, but we're all quite pleased with the results around the nest."
"You're either planning to save the world or destroy it."
He flashed his fangs at me—a wide, sadistic grin—and turned to leave, but I managed to choke out two more words: But how?
"That's not any of your concern, old friend. But while we're at it, would you like to know who the next president is going to be?"
I nodded, eyes bulging in terror. The horrid anticipation of his answer sent shockwaves down my spine, terrible convulsions, and a creeping numbness in my lower extremities that could only mean my Central Nervous System had finally shot its wad and that this little creep of an emissary and his friends would get the chance to dance on the corpse of the Earth—unchecked, without remorse, and forever more.
"Robert Kagan," he said. "With Paul Wolfowitz as his VP."
The emissary scuttled to the other side of the door as I began to weep. This was impossible. A global coup of this magnitude, and I allowed its perpetration. They did it under my own nose, in my own house, and I had done nothing but pick off a couple of scouts.
They—those fucking arthropod scumholes—were too connected by now. Eradicating the nest in my house would represent little more than an imperceptible hiccup in a centipedal network that was probably already teeming with operatives on all seven continents, and there was no telling how soon they would be able to manipulate, cajole, and kill their way to full support from the Chinese as well as Russia.
It was my last shot. I would have to book the Red Eye to Beijing, hoping to hell I wasn't too late. And I still wasn't even ready to get off the John.