Short Story #146: The Roaches by Thomas M. Disch

Title:  The Roaches

Author:  Thomas M. Disch


Masters of Horror and Supernatural Great TalesMarcia Kenwell has an obsessive fear of cockroaches.  She routinely scours her apartment with roach-kill, disinfectant, and cleaner.  Ever since she moved to the city she has been unable to rid herself of the pesky bugs.  She was warned about them by her aunt and her mother had a phobia to all bugs, but Marcia first encounters them at one of her first jobs and it has been a never-ending battle since then.  She desperately seeks a new place to live especially after the neighbors move in next door.  The two men and one woman (unclear who is related and who is a lover) are loud, foreign, and dirty as Marcia sees it.  Their presence brings in more roaches and this deeply angers Marcia.  One day, she encounters some roaches in her apartment and without thinking, she verbally commands them to leave.  In an instant, all the roaches leave the apartment.  She slowly finds she has the ability to command the roaches.  In a frenzy of anger, she directs them all into her neighbor's apartment.  She hears yelling and screaming and then tells them to disperse.  When the landlady comes the neighbor's room, she sees the mess and demands they leave.  Back in her room, Marcia opens a cupboard and all the roaches flood out onto her.  Instead of repulse, she feels utter love and invites all of New York's cockroaches to visit her.  


There is a wonderful ick-factor to this story, especially if you are not a big fan of bugs.  While I've learned to be ok with cockroaches, silverfish freak me the hell out.  However, the imagery and changing nature of Marcia make the story delightfully horrific and exciting to read.  

Short Story #146 out of 365
Rating: 4 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  5/26/2014
Source:  Masters of Horror and the Supernatural: The Great Tales, compiled by Bill Pronzini, Barry N. Malzberg, & Martin H. Greenberg.  Bristol Park Books, 1981.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.

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