Bill Drennan

Nigglers: Part Two

Despite the fact that he has been sleeping more and more, Greg has become increasingly exhausted; so much so that he no longer cares to ask what it is that’s draining his energy and switching his head into standby mode. He has quickly adapted to the curt conversations and prolonged sex sessions with the giant insect and they are now quite pally – even though Greg doesn’t have much to say. The bug is not always there and when it isn’t Greg misses it. It keeps him company. It makes him happy. Nobody visits any more. Greg has even stopped drinking. But he has become negligent in matters of hygiene. The kitchen is overrun with cockroaches; he doesn’t wash; his hair is matted and crawling with headlice; his unchanged clothes are shiny with wear and oily with grime. Filth, like his morning sickness, is now a matter of habit. The larvae he pukes into the sink survive the filth and all too soon disappear back to their own dimension. Greg wishes their offspring would hang around for a bit longer, though he shouldn’t really forget them: the stink of giant insect pheromone, the overpowering stench of ammonia and shit, as though from a half-bleached sewer, makes up Greg’s aura. His stomach and chest are covered with a deep hardening layer of rusty scabby insect shell. Greg is glued to his own stupefaction, as if stuck to the shadow he is too scared to look at; this has become an entire way of life for him; he is neither aware of his physical self in the world nor of the nasty stink that has his isolation almost completely cordoned off. When he ventures into the outside world – and that is rarely – people look at him as if he’s crawled out of a rotting vegetable. He enters the post office to cash a social security cheque and joins a suddenly disappearing queue. “Just like our babies.” He breathes his awful breath into the tracheae of his companion and partner. “Here one minute … Gone the next …”

Now these nigglers, as we already know, exist to serve pleasure and are therefore extremely sociable – to say the least. While Greg’s sociopathic exile is self-imposed (or so it was to begin with), the bug’s exile has been imposed by its other-dimensional collective for its having failed to stick to the basic duty of keeping hold of its captive with enough intensity to hold it in the time-loop – which is not a machine, but just another state … Too dream-stricken to be anywhere near his prime of awareness, even before the possession, the niggler’s exile into Greg’s mind has given him a new focus and a new awareness. And yet, now that it has more or less full possession of him the bug has become bored. It can’t get enough sex for one thing; and it can’t, because it is banished from there, slip back to its own dimension and knock heads with its cross-dimensional bed-fellows. When it wants a break it therefore retreats deep into Greg’s unconscious ‘boxroom’, “The mental equivalent,” the bug supposes, “Of hiding under Greg’s bed … Full of dust and boxes that haven’t been opened for years … Well I can’t read them on my own. It’s something you find in fairy tales: there’s some kind of locked room, which is usually an enchanting but dangerous place to venture into. A handsome princess beetle might want to come to the rescue, but this is not for me … I’m no hero.” And with that it scuttles back into what remains of Greg’s conscious self, feeling a bit disgusted with itself, as if it has turned down a session with its closest family and gone off alone to gratify its own urges.

The psychology of horror requires that others doubt either the reality of the possession itself, or the psychological soundness of the possessed. If you are sensible you will doubt them both and believe that fiction is just another version of reality. Short of a witness, there is nobody to give us a third opinion. The niggler and Greg have not come out and announced their love to the world. Greg rarely ventures into the outside world and the insect refuses to go out on its own. They once spent a fortnight living on mars bars and milk. Because Greg isn’t a very good specimen, the giant insect can learn only so much from him about human behaviour, reason, interaction and reaction. “If,” thinks the bug, “I have to stay here much longer, I might as well find out what I’m up against.” Having exhausted its knowledge through conversation with the ‘possessed’, the niggler coaxes Greg into watching TV for most of his slumped-out and sluggish waking hours. They watch mainly daytime TV, reality shows, soap operas and the news channels. The kind of stuff that helps in the end only to uphold and affirm some pretty shaky illusions, or realities, or whatever you want to call them ... The bug enjoys only the sex scenes in movies, but finds it hard to engage in the violent ones; it has seen enough arguments and violence, enough mind-numbingly inane chatter and enough useless cleaning products to make it thoroughly homesick.

On a darker night than usual, following another lengthy session, the giant insect shines a light onto Greg’s face, illuminationg his dream-mask in a kind of tent under the badly-mucked bedclothes. It says: “Most people would have gone off their rockers by now. Or they would have done away with themselves. But not you, Greg. You’re strong. And so am I …” The insect pauses. “Maybe we can combine our natural strenghths and help each other … If you help me return to my own dimension, I’ll help you get back to yours …” Greg mumbles: he doesn’t want to lose his one and only companion. And anyway, what does the bug mean by getting back to his own dimension? What is his own dimension? Is he not already there? “You must follow me,” whispers the bug, “Into a time-loop …” Greg’s vision drifts towards the bug’s antannae and, without too much of a zombie gaze, pulling a cold blue electric sneer, he says: “No more tv for you!” Surely a straightforward case of familiarity crawling in from a cold place, slipping contempt in between Greg and the giant insect and getting between the sheets of filthy orangey brown narcotic wax from the swollen and ever-ready glands of the giant bug.

“We can zip off together into the dark matter,” whispers the insect. “It’s a bit like walking into a shadow in a wall – warp version, of course – but it’s not the kind of real you are accustomed to exchanging yourself with in the world. No, it’s more like the kind of shadow you can not think.” And then it chuckles. “Here let me help you …” The bug stands upright and towers over Greg, who is flat on his back under a now vertically extended canvass with the trembling of some unearthly light streaming into his eyes. Behind the vast underbelly of the giant insect, Greg can see stars. And they are moving and changing shape and colour as you might see in a kaleidoscopic planetarium, or psychotorium. His attention is distracted by a whirring sound, like the soft liquid bowels of a digital camera. It’s not camera. It’s glowing lights. The bug is unleashing its genitalia and as they flash blinding colours they flood the whole sordid and windowless little room, which looks from the inside like an alien abduction scene. “A simple device … A frequency transponder … It runs on batteries …” Had there been a window in the basement bedroom, passers–by might have seen the blaring flashes of just another hypnotic tv set. “Close your eyes Greg … Now think of a shape that will fit in with what you are now seeing ... Slow … ly does it …” Greg hears a tiny sphere of what appears to be pure light running riot in geometric arabesques, shapes and patterns all over his closed eyelids. These designs, this language, scratches at the closed lids. “Any shape will do …” He feels the shift. Something is tearing through the inside of his head. It is not a giant insect.

(Part One of Nigglers can be found here.)

Bill Drennan is a regular contributor to Otoliths. A list of his published work can be found at Hypoetics along with many examples of his satiric & surrealistic fantasy sketches. Author of the now extinct book of poetry flightpath resistor, he is currently working on A Year of Solipsism, which he hopes will be published early next year ...

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