ABOUT THIS STORY: I think I was influenced by an old 70's horror movie about a woman in a new house with little creatures that come from below the firepalce. Although the title escapes me (Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (or something like that)). Written in my senior year of high school, 1987.


       In the hardware store, Jack Zipperman marched up to the counter as the young man with the thin neck watched him.
       “Do you have any rat killer?” Zipperman asked in his demanding way.
       “We do,” The young man said as he stepped out from behind the counter. “Did you want traps or poison.”
       “Poison!” Zipperman was abrupt.
       The young man led him down a few aisles until they were at a section. He pointed out a large plastic jug. “This stuff is new.” He hefted the jug and handed it to Zipperman. “Be real careful with this stuff. I hear it’s pretty strong. If you have and pets you need to keep it away from them.”
       “Give me two.”
       Heading back to the counter, the young man continued to explain about the poison. “After you put down the stuff close up your drains and put something on your toilet lid. Them suckers get a taste of that stuff and they’ll be running every which way for water. If you fill your tub up half way with water by morning all your troubles will be floating on the surface.”
       Nodding and digging for his wallet, Zipperman said, “I just might do that.” There was a hint of satisfaction in his voice.
       “It might get a little messy. Had a guy in here that got some last month said that he found a couple rats had exploded from drinking too much water in his barn after they got poisoned.”
       Again, the idea appealed to Zipperman.
       “Did one of them bite you?” the young questioned about Zipperman’s bandaged hand as he dropped change into it.
       “Yes, the little fucker!” Zipperman caught himself from more fuming as he recalled the incident that brought him to the hardware store. He hadn’t actually been bitten. Nevertheless, the constant gnawing in the wall made him lose his temper enough to slam his fist through the plasterboard. His fist caught a nail upon entry. Although he considered needing stitches, Zipperman decided a trip to the hardware store rather than a hospital visit.
       With plastic jugs in hand, Zipperman marched out of the store.

The long drive through the valley on the twisting road led to only the house. Nestled among tall popular and maple trees the old house sat in tall swaying grass. Built in the late 1800’s and framed in oak, its façade looked ominous. With no other houses for miles, Zipperman purchased the land and house with this in mind for his kingdom. Acres of forest with No Trespassing signs posted along the road for anyone thinking of venturing onto his private land. A tall rusting wrought iron fence surrounded his paradise house.
       After unlocking the front door and stepping inside, Zipperman dropped the poison by the table. Looking around to the living room, Zipperman found something else to blame on the rats.
       “Ah shit!” The book, once arraigned on the inset bookshelves, were scattered all over the floor. Some of the pages had been torn from the hard covers, paper scattered across the Oriental rug.
       As the sun moved to the over side of the hill, Zipperman set to work, cleaning up the mess, salvaging the books not destroyed. As he worked, he cussed and ranted, cursing the little creatures that had been a problem since the first day he moved into the house that had been dormant for fifty years.
       Once the books were replaced and the trash taken care of, Zipperman spread the rat poison sparsely throughout the house, in corners, in cupboards and under sinks, he went through a whole jug, and half of another before he was satisfied with his endeavors. He went to the bathroom to shower.
       Deep in the black bowels of the heating ducts a meeting took place over the fate of Jack Zipperman. The arguing voices were sharp hisses.
       “He has lasted too long as it is--”
       “It is the law.”
       “The law is for our kind. Not his.”
       “No! I saw we kill him now!”
       “It is I whom he almost killed with his fist through the wall. It is my right to decide his fate.”
       After a moment of silent recognition, one of them said, “You are right. Proceed.”
       Under the pulsating showerhead, Zipperman thought he heard his name called. He turned off the water and waited, listening. Disappointed with his imagination, Zipperman got out of the shower and slipped on his robe then placed the hamper on top of the toilet seat. After a thought, he filled the tub three quarters full of water and left the bathroom.

In the living room with the drone of the television, Zipperman drifted off to sleep with his glass of iced tea sitting on the end table next to his favorite chair. After the drone of the white noise on the TV awoke Jack Zipperman, he reached to finish the iced tea.
       After taking a long draft of the liquid he heaved and spit the contents out, gagging furiously.
       “Piss!” he screamed, throwing the glass against the wall. “You little bastards!”
       Zipperman went into the bathroom to wash out his mouth with Scope and brushed his teeth until his gums bled. Still fuming, Zipperman wandered off to bed.
       Somewhere in the night, Zipperman thought he heard his name. It was enough to wake him out of a sound sleep with a start. When he looked to the door in the dark, he glimpsed something cross the path of the open doorway. A small creature that gave Zipperman chills thinking he was dreaming. Rats, as far as he knew, didn’t walk on two legs. Zipperman forced himself to sit upright in bed, continuing to stare at the black open space of the bedroom doorway. When his stomach growled for lack of dinner he slept through, Zipperman ignored his active imagination, and climbed out of bed.
       Wandering into the kitchen, he searched through the cupboards for a late night snack. Settling on a box of cereal, Zipperman collected a bowl and spoon and grabbed the half-gallon of milk from the refrigerator before sitting at the dining room table.
       After trying the cereal, Zipperman retrieved the sugar and doused the stale, bitter cereal in a sugar coating. Two bowls of the stuff filled Zipperman enough to clean up his mess and settle back in front of the television to fill the void in mindless black and white horror movies.
       Zipperman realized he had drifted off to sleep only when movement in the kitchen woke him with a kink in his neck. Listening from his chair, Zipperman thought he heard someone or people whispering from the kitchen. Facing the opposite direction, Zipperman dared not turn around as he heard footsteps, in a hopping fashion, approach the living room from the kitchen. When the footsteps went from bare wood floor to the carpeted area of the living room, Zipperman jumped from his chair with a start.
       The rat or, as Zipperman reconsidered, creature was nowhere in sight.
       The cramping in Zipperman’s stomach made him double over in pain. The parched sensation in his throat made him clamber for the bathroom. Zipperman dropped to his knees in front of the bathtub filled with clear, clean water. With no other thoughts but to have his thirst quenched, Zipperman dipped his face into the water and sucked down life-giving water.
       Unknowing the time he spent in the bathroom, soaking his head as he drank and drank and drank, Zipperman turned on the cold water to kill the bathtub supplying him with all the water he needed. A sound from above drew his attention shortly from the water. Looking to the heat vent, he saw it pop open from the bottom. Watching, unblinking, brown fleshy three fingered hands with razor nails opened the vent enough for the rest of its body to slip through. A naked form with a paunch belly and long arms of brown color crawled out of the vent and slid down the wall to the sink. With feet large, disproportionate to the rest of its legs, the creature stood then squatted on the bathroom sink. Although the thirst beckoned Zipperman to be quenched, he couldn’t take his eyes from the creature that looked down on him with red eyes inset of a baldhead. In wriggled its black nose frowning quizzically at Zipperman.
       “You are a foolish creature,” it said in a deep voice, disproportionate to its tiny frame.
       Trying to face off the little beast, Zipper whipped his hand over his soaked head as he turned his body away from the tub. Zipperman was shocked to feel the expanded stomach slosh against the floor and tub.
       “You’re trying to destroy us because you don’t understand us.”
       “I never asked for this war,” Zipperman choked. “You brought this on yourself when you moved into my home.”
       The creature moved its index finger in the air before Zipperman, Its sharp nail slashing at the tension between them. “You were the one that invaded our home. We lived here long before you arrived. We’ll be here long after you’re dead.” The last part hit Zipperman with a realization that hadn’t occurred to him.
       The intense thirst, the abdominal cramping, he’d been poisoned by the creature, tricked into eating the very stuff he’d brought home to kill them with. With angry movements, Zipperman grabbed at the creature. Still out of reach, the confident creature didn’t flinch. Zipperman was unable to lift the added water weight to gain ground.
       “Why don’t you get a little closer and I’ll show you who’ll be around longer!” Although Zipperman mustered enough strength to be a threat that strength was waning, and he dropped his bulk to the floor next to the tub where it stayed. Propping himself against the tub for support, Zipperman’s stomach weighed heavy on his legs and dragged on the floor. His limbs trembled with the effort to keep himself upright.
       The creature seemed to sense his weakening condition. It cocked its head at him. “It was up to me to decide your fate.” A smile played on its thin lips. “You left us a half of a container to mix with your cereal.”
       Again, Zipperman grabbed at the creature, but was unable to go far. The creature remained squatting on the edge of the bathroom sink. Zipperman saw others of its kind looking down on him from the vent opening. Wanting to lash out Zipperman could only follow the urge to quench his dying thirst. The inviting flowing water into the brimming tub beckoned him to drop his head into the water.
       There, submerged up to his shoulders in the overflowing bathtub, Zipperman drowned. The creatures waited until the body stopped twitching before turning off the water and draining the tub. Them took their time disposing the body somewhere where no one wound ever discover it. The house was once again theirs.


Originally completed

July 1987

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