Author: Russell Bert Waters

The restraints dig into my wrists as I awaken.
“Have you ever truly smelled this city?” a man asks from behind.
“Where am I?” I ask.
I try to look around without moving.
There is an aquarium full of cockroaches on a shelf nearby.
“With its architecture, modern transportation, this city wants to be special, artistic even” my captor continues, “but I submit that it is rotten. You can smell it.”
“Why do you have me? Where am I?” I continue, ignoring his chosen subject.
Everyone has a story, especially crazy people.
I need him to focus on me and my needs; my need to get out of here, for instance.
“You’re down below, in the true heart of this city, where the future is.”
I hear sounds of medical tools being clanked around on a metal tray.
“What are you doing?” I ask, trying to steady my tone of voice to mask my growing terror.
“Preparing you for the future” he replies.
“You get it, you don’t know that you get it, but you do. You understand poison, garbage, filth. You understand the toxic underbelly of this city, this world. You may not understand it as fully as I do yet, but you understand it. Where you and I differ is this: you see it as a bad thing, and I see it as the wave of the future.”
He pauses, and I hear another clank, “there are twelve of us now who intimately understand, you will make it a baker’s dozen.”
“Are those roaches?” I ask, feebly.
“Yes! And these are German Cockroaches. They’re the only ones, so far, I’ve been able to truly work with. They are why we can now move to the human phase of our project.”
I’m not going to be able to hide the terror much longer, and clearly, I will not be able to reason with him. I scan my surroundings, pull against my bindings, trying to find some weakness in this situation that I can exploit.
He moves into my field of vision.
I recognize him.
I was in line at the store after a jog.
He was in front of me. Next to him sat several cases of soda.
“Those things will kill you,” I said.
He regarded me, and I could see his left eye twitching on its own, independent of his right eye.
He smiled “These cans represent the wave of the future. The sugary, poisonous wave of the future.”
I kind of laughed, but I didn’t get it.
Now I get it. I had become a target with that exchange.
“German cockroaches” he continues, bringing me to the present day, “respond well to our manipulations, truly binding to the nervous systems of humans. For now, I have to introduce them to their hosts in a surgical manner. Eventually, they will seek hosts independently, while people sleep perhaps. Their programming will become part of humanity’s overall DNA. Mankind will evolve into human versions of the ultimate survivor: the cockroach.”
Suddenly, he darts out of sight and a needle jabs my neck.
I feel the pressure of something being forced into me, but I’m unsure if it is going into a vein, under my skin, or even into my spine.
The cockroaches abruptly turn toward me, crowding against the glass.
“When you wake, you will have a headache” his voice feels increasingly far away.
“You will need sugar. I recommend soda. It’s fast and effective.”
His eye twitched again, as though something just behind it was moving.
While blacking out, I hear “welcome to the future, number thirteen.”