Bill Drennan

Nigglers: Part One

Greg has shut himself away and there is absolutely no way of going back on this decision. He has burned paintings a so-called friend gave him along with certain books that also now disgust him. It is as if by deleting a history that he no longer cares to suffer, he has deleted his suffering. This he has done in a frenzy of dejection, worthlessness and alcohol-elevated depression. And yet, has he not made a fool of himself with the giant insect? The pounding hangover crawls up through his internal organs, all the way to his mashed brain and then back down again, the contained vomit pressing against his gasping, smoke-thickened lungs. He scrambles out of bed, hand over mouth, in a race for some toilet ceramic.

The niggler is a giant bug or, more accurately, a composite of beetle, cockroach and louse. It taps its head against hard surfaces as a pre-mating ritual, not unlike the death watch beetle. Its reproductive organs are lodged in the abdominal segments and it can choose whichever role it wants to adopt - male, female or both - by revealing and making use of ovipositor, claspers, aedeagus, or all of them at the same time. Even the underbelly is armour-plated and highly abrasive. This insect has an awful scent, as has its larvae. As a fully-grown adult it stands almost seven feet high.

When Greg pukes larvae into the toilet bowl the stench is unlike anything he has ever smelled: it reeks of shit and undiluted ammonia; his insides feel ripped, as if he has given birth to a pain harboured for a thousand years; as if that very pain has been given the substance and permission to weigh on his physical person. He collapses into a heap on the bathroom floor.

The niggler is a pan-dimensional pleasure-seeker. It can make a crossing into human consciousness at the scuttle of a thought though it does not possess shapeshifting capabilities. Neither can it forcefully reproduce with any other than its own kind without a degree of consent on the part of its potential partner. A human sex-partner, for example, must willingly comply with any reproductive alliance and this is normally achieved through coercion, persuasion, perversion, desperation or insanity.

The larvae have disappeared. Greg is too sick to notice the abrasions on his torso, or that he is back in bed. He has wrapped his shivering body in a blanket. The hangover has gone. He is still a bit drunk, maybe. He is thirsty. He pours himself a Scotch.

The easiest way for a niggler to capture you is in your dreams. Once you submit, there is no turning back. This catch turns these bugs on enormously and they tend to go at it like raging bulls. The catch enters a time-loop as soon as consent is granted. The niggler enters its host on the deep-sleeping delta waves, riding into the captive's mind from its own unspeakable dimension. It appears very much as most movies and dramas would have it, flashing in and out of the flesh, as if it can strip itself down to thin air and then put its armour back on again at will … Promiscuous by nature, this breed of giant insect gets quickly bored with other bugs in its own industriously reproductive dimension. But its kind never get fed up scuttling over one other and knocking monstrous heads together in a sea of stinking vibrations - often resorting to headbutting the genitalia of their partners and making good use of their antennae too.

On downing the Scotch, the nausea returns. Greg boaks and a solitary larva lands in the empty glass. It changes colour: from a golden malty hue to the colour of a diseased toenail to a transparent one; then it dissolves, leaving a shitty ammonia odour, a souvenir from the irresponsible ether. “Maybe I do need some company,” Greg thinks. An uninvited image flashes into his head. He falls unconscious at the sight of it and faints.

A niggler must isolate its host and keep that host isolated, stranded in the intensity of its insect will and the host's lack of it, in order for the time-loop to be properly effective - holding the catch in a kind of animated and depraved suspension, an extended colony of unknown practices (pointless to attempt to relate here) in what can only be described as insect utopia. Many a niggler has been cast out of the colony for failing to honour such a basic responsibility. An outcast bug is exiled to the host it fails to hold in loop isolation and must stay there with its failed catch until the very end. Being promiscuous, it is forced to suffer only one other, where it prefers to suffer many. In instances where loop isolation succeeds a connection is sustained whereby the isolated partner can be shared with any other niggler in the extended colony. Unfortunately for an outcast giant insect, a catch that is isolated with a single outcast bug in this much reduced version of the colony (a broken colony, like a broken family) usually goes crazy or does away with itself. The niggler is then left stranded without a host and dies of starvation in a matter of months. All offspring, whether or not the catch is successfully looped, end up back in the colony.

(Part Two of Nigglers can be found here.)

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