by Ryan Forsythe
It was a dark and stormy night. All throughout the house, not a creature was stirring. Okay, that’s not exactly true. Behind the east wall of nine-year old Penny’s bedroom was a whole colony of cockroaches. I’m talking Macropinesthia rhinoceros. Yep, Australian rhinos, the biggest of all cockroaches. One of these dirty buggers could take your foot off, if you know what I mean. And there were thousands of ‘em. But little Penny was finally sound asleep, after tossing and turning for hours thinking of each and every thing she had asked Santa for. Would she wake up to find a My Little Tweeker with GlueSniffing Action™ under the tree?
Anyhoo, let’s try not to get sidetracked by the cute kid—and she was cute, with her freckles, dimples, wide corrective lens-free eyes, and nary a hint of the pimples that had scarred her stupid brother Jimmy, making him think he was the butt-ugliest boy at Carson High, which he was, by the way. No, let’s not get off course. Right now we’re more interested in these cockroaches. Big mean hairy sonsabitches with one aim, one purpose uniting them on this of all nights.
It was precisely one year earlier, on a Christmas Eve not unlike this one, when one of them eight fancy reindeer stomped NrwFTrb. Just so you’re not confused by the name, I should note here that cockroaches don’t take names like Willie and Peter and Dick. No, those are names that Homo sapiens reserve for their kids to ensure a lifetime of penis jokes. But cockroaches don’t have penises, not technically. You might just say the cockroach’s very name is something of a misnomer. Which is not to say that they don’t have cock jokes. Which they most certainly do.
By RuxvtPr “Ruxvtie” Johnson
Q: What’s the difference between a Gromphadorhina portentosa and an angry automobile driven by an asshole Blatella germanica?
A: One is a Madagascar hissing cockroach. The other is a mad hissing gas car roach cock.
Q: What did the female cockroach say to the male cockroach after sex?
A: My one time and I end up with Mr. Attaphila fungicola!
Just in case you didn’t get that last one, I should mention that the smallest species of cockroach, the Attaphila fungicola, reaches a maximum length of 3 millimeters. Also, some females mate once and then are pregnant the rest of their lives. As you can see, this is a large source for jokes among cockroaches. The book may have sold well among cockroaches, but it was a total bust among all other species—even humans, who will generally buy anything, especially if it has the word “Best” in the title.
But the cockroaches. The Christmas before, little NrwFTrb had just finished covering his spermatophore in a protein-reach wrapping, in order to provide some nutrients for his best girl. When WAM! Out of nowhere comes Blitzen. I know, it would have been better to say “along came Rudolph”—Santa’s got to make it to town and all that. But we want to be true to NrwFTrb’s memory. And so, we must stick to the facts. Which can pretty much be summed up this way: Splat.
Ah, but he wasn’t dead yet. No, NrwFTrb was a smart little cockroach, and so he was able to detect the smallest movement in the air by the tiny hairs sticking up on his cerci, two little appendages on his back. The hairs sent the word along his nerve cells to get out of there pronto. Unfortunately, compared to NrwFTrb, the reindeer were enormous. And there were eight of them. His cerci said, “Move! Move! Move! Go now! Run! Go! Go! Go!” And I don’t use all those exclamations loosely. They are nasty things, certainly never to be overused. But as I noted above, we must be true to this story. And NrwFTrb’s cerci most certainly were shouting.
He darted from Dasher and Dancer and propelled past Prancer. The vermin virtually vaulted Vixen and quickly covered ground between Comet and Cupid. He even dashed doggedly away from Donner. But then, there NrwFTrb was. A bloody blemish beneath Blitzen. Blast that belligerent beast.
Really, our hero had just lost his head. Cockroaches can live a long time without their head. But he was no longer able to fend for himself, to fight off predators. And sure, even if technically he died an hour later because that gull considered him a tasty snack—just the right mix of crunchy and salty—the other cockroaches still attributed his death to that asshole Santa and his reindeer goons.
Man, those cockroaches were steamed. And so they planned and plotted for this day, knowing that the executioner in red only comes once a year. Ah, and this brings us right back to where we started. To catch us up: A dark and stormy night. Penny’s house. Cockroaches stirring. Revenge.
Knowing this night would be their one chance in 365 to exact revenge—for this was no leap year—the cockroaches were abuzz with chatter. It came to a head forty minutes before midnight, when Tyyyyuk raised a point.
“What if Penny and the other child—the one called ‘Jimmy’—have not been good this year? What if Santa is bypassing the house this year? Then we’ve prepared this whole time for nothing. I say we must cut our losses now.”
Please note: when I say Tyyyyuk raised a point, you must understand that cockroaches are silent animals. They communicate without vocalizing, instead using touch and chemicals and sometimes even visual cues to share information. Don’t think I don’t know this. Hey—if anyone knows these particular cockroaches, it’s me. But I’m paraphrasing here, translating for you. Obviously if I said, Tyyyuk touched Pwdssv’s back and then probed her antenna before proceeding to drop a trail of feces in a four inch circle and finally touching twice the smaller sensory bristle extending from her abdomen, you’d have no idea what I was talking about. You’d literally have no freaking clue that Tyyyyuk was a pacifist, advocating that they give up the mission.
Anyway, Tyyyyuk’s speech riled NrwFTrb’s mother, Sally.
“No!” she screamed. “I won’t let this be in vain! They took my son—my only son!”
“Actually,” said her husband Ubdqm. “We have 246 children. And you’ve got 32 more babies in your ootheca, coming any day now.”
“Shut up, dear. I’m trying to make a point. And the point is this: How often have we let Santa dictate our lives? We could live freely. But no, we live in fear.”
And she was right. Santa didn’t even stop to help poor NrwFTrb. Didn’t care, probably didn’t even notice. It’s behavior like this that gives us humans a bad name. (Yes, I, your trusty narrator, am a human. Are you surprised? Imagine how completely surprised you’ll be when you find out I’m Penny and I’m actually dead and reciting all this from heaven. Yeah, trick ending—go me!)
“Tonight,” said Sally, “we celebrate… our independence day!”
“Wait—you mean Christmas, right?”
“No, my little Blattodea. Today we will be free of the red suited menace. Forever! We have been planning for this moment for months.”
“Yeah!” shouted hundreds of cockroaches.
“Now,” said Sally. “Who’s with me?”
Finally, the big moment arrived. The reindeer thumped on the roof. Mom and Dad and Jimmy slept through it. Penny stirred a wee bit, but was soon back to her dream. Probably that one about Charlie Burkhalten, this dreamy guy in her math class. He had this great smile, but he liked Darlene Stapleton. Bitch.
So the cookies were on the mantel, the sleigh was on the roof, and a sound pierced the air. “Ho.” Then two more just like the first. “Ho Ho.”
Yes, the moment they’d all been waiting for. The cockroaches made their move, rising up and swarming Santa in a sea of brown. Biting his rosy cheeks, nibbling his cherry nose, attacking again and again.
But Santa was not perturbed one bit. In fact, he began chuckling. The chuckles turned into one mighty guffaw that shook his belly like a bowl full of jelly. Something was wrong—something was very wrong.
Sally was the first to notice something peculiar: his glowing eyes. She flew back for a better view. And it was then that she realized: This Santa was no human.
She tried to alert the others. But the roaches paid no attention. Few saw her spin around two times, back her wing against another roach, and tap her front legs together. And so they did not know what she was desperately trying to convey.
This was none other than a Robo-Santa XK, one of 14,237,502 then in existence, used by Santa to be in so many places around the world at the same time. And that didn’t even count the 3,942,807 Generation One SantaBots still in service. Santa was phasing them out as their warranties expired—he didn’t get the three-year service plan, which was actually fortunate because soon after he got all those Generation Ones, the XKs came out.
What’s more, this particular XK was one of a new breed, the Cockroach Eliminator 4000. Yes, Santa knew what these cockroaches were up to. Surely you didn’t think the whole “He knows if you’ve been bad or good” applied only to humans.
The elves had been hard at work in their North Pole bunker outfitting the Eliminators. All those claymation shows you saw as a kid? Not even close. Santa and his crew lived fourteen-thousand feet below the surface in a titanium reinforced fortress, protected by a deltamethrin-encased layer of hydramethynon gel, reduced to a temperature of forty below zero—cold enough to freeze any cockroach in his tracks. Additionally, a perimeter extending forty meters, composed of fipronil, surrounded the compound. When it came to cockroaches, Santa took no chances.
In the middle of the swarm, Santa gave a wink of his eye and a twist of his head. Suddenly, a cloud of boric acid blasted from his schnoz, coating the cockroaches in toxic powder. Those closest to the robot immediately started dropping. Only those buzzing on the outer perimeter were able to escape. Sally was not so lucky. In her fruitless attempt to warn her fellow roaches, she got a little too close to the acid.
The Robo-Santa XK Cockroach Eliminator 4000 tapped a finger to his nose and soon disappeared.
Though he was out of sight, Sally heard him chuckle and shout, “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight!”
As Sally lay dying, she turned to her younger brother.
“Tyyyyuk, promise me you’ll destroy that man, if it’s the last thing you do. That you’ll avenge my death and the deaths of all who have given their lives today.”
“I don’t really think it’s appropriate to engage—“
“Oh, uh. I promise.”
And with that, Sally fell on her back, her legs shook three times, and she was gone.
The survivors regrouped and surveyed the damage. Fully three-quarters of the cockroaches had perished in the epic Battle of Christmas Eve.
“What are we going to do, Tyyyyuk?” asked WqYIPf.
Tyyyyuk was torn. On the one hand, he didn’t believe in aggression. But he couldn’t sit idly by while those reindeer continued to destroy the roach way of life. Or could he?
“I don’t know, WqYIPf. I don’t know.”
“I hate to say it. But there’s only one thing that can ensure that our way of life continues.”
“No—you don’t mean…”
“Yes, I’m afraid it’s the only way. We must acquire a nuclear bomb.”
Tyyyyuk gulped. He really did. This is the one action that means the same among cockroaches as it does among humans. So I didn’t have to translate. But I wanted you to know that I wasn’t translating, just describing the scene. So I had to tell you that. Sorry—I’ll stop.
“Where in the world are we going to find a nuclear bomb? Those things have got to be locked up tighter than a—”
“Leave it to me,” said WqYIPf.
Nuclear-grade Plutonium was hard to come by in the U.S., but in the former Soviet Union, they only had to get past one man with a gun and a chain-link fence. Still not convinced that a cockroach could get past security? Chew on this: for an adult cockroach that can squeeze into a space the thickness of a quarter, a chain-link fence is an invitation.
In fact, cockroaches are not uncommon in former nuclear weapons holdings. Sure, in the U.S., janitors regularly mop the floors at high-security nuclear laboratories. But with the break-up of the Soviet Union, the regular cleaning schedule has been stopped altogether. Hence, cockroaches are not an uncommon sight. A fact that they exploited to their advantage to walk off with seventy-five kilograms of Plutonium—enough for a baker’s dozen of Nagasaki-sized bombs.
Excerpt from the Congressional Subcommittee Hearing into Who Knew What When. And How.
SENATOR A: Madam President, refresh our memory. Why did you elevate the threat level on December 6 to ‘Really, Really Red’?
PRESIDENT: There was clear and present danger. We had detailed and highly specific information that an attack was imminent. It is my sworn duty to warn the American people, to prepare them—
SENATOR B: Madam President, is it your intent to negotiate with the cockroaches? Are there even presently any agents who can understand cockroach… ese?
PRESIDENT: Um…we’re working on it. As I’ve learned, cockroaches don’t talk so they must communicate in other ways. But as I’ve stated before, under no circumstance will the cockroaches be allowed to maintain these weapons. If there are any cockroaches listening now, let me say—
SENATOR B: What I want to know is, why weren’t we prepared for this? Homeland security spent so much time monitoring emails and library books that they ignored the real menace right in front of our faces—cockroaches! We now face a nuclear-capable order of insects. Just how in God’s name did this happen?
PRESIDENT: If I may, Senator, no one had any clue that the cockroaches would do something like this.
SENATOR B: No clue? It’s my understanding there was a report issued by your administration in February regarding cockroaches. Is that true?
PRESIDENT: Uh, yes. That’s correct.
SENATOR A: Do you recall the title of this report?
PRESIDENT: I believe it was something like ‘Cockroaches Determined to Get the Nuclear Bomb and Use It Against Santa, Possibly Taking Out the Rest of Humanity With Him.’
Tyyyyuk flipped off the television.
“Okay, I agree that this Santa is a problem. But we have the weapon now—it’s a deterrent. There’s no way we can use it. I mean, how do we even know that we will survive the blast?”
“Oh, come on, Tyyyyuk. We’ve all read the stories about how we’ll survive anything. We’re cockroaches, damn it.”
“Yes, but that information comes directly from the humans themselves. What if it’s a trick? To lure us into a false sense of—”
“Shut up. It’s been decided. We’re doing this. And we’re doing it now. We must avenge NrwFTrb.”
Under his breath Tyyyyuk said, “May cockroach God have mercy on our souls.”
Beeeeeepbeepbeep… Beeeeeeeeepbeepbeep. This is the emergency broadcast network. This is an actual emergency. We repeat, this is an actual emergency. A nuclear bomb is expected to arrive in the KPOW Loyal Listener area in approximately twenty-seven minutes time. All Loyal Listeners are urged to duck and cover. We repeat, you are urged to duck. And cover. If there is a bomb shelter or bunker in your region, what the holy hell are you waiting on? Go now. Please stay tuned for more updates as we get them. We now return you to our Retro 80’s Rewind Weekend here on KPOW, home of all your favorites from yesterday and today. Anyway, Merry Christmas, everyone. Here’s Loverboy. Everybody’s workin’ for the weekend.
In case you’re wondering, I never got that My Little Tweeker doll. But it didn’t matter as within a few months just about everyone on earth was dead. Except for Santa, of course. The bombs didn’t touch him in his bunker. The cockroaches are reorganizing. I guess they have some bigger ideas for next Christmas.
RYAN FORSYTHE is a writer and artist from Cleveland now living in Southern California. He is the author of The Little Veal Cutlet That Couldn’t, a children’s book for adults. Learn more at www.ryanforsythe.com.