Antsy to Get Revenge

Photo by Salmen Bejaoui on Unsplash

Over the next ten days we will be publishing the ten finalists from the 2024 Voorheesville Short Story Contest. The theme of this year’s contest was “But There’s a Catch.” This, the fourth of our ten finalist stories, made it to the final round of judging with our guest judge, Laurin Jefferson. Today, enjoy Brian Sheldrick’s story, “Antsy to Get Revenge”

“You do understand what you’re agreeing to, right?” This was the tenth time the tower had asked me the question and it was starting to get on my nerves. “Yes, I do. I became immortal but I will never wake up again. Do you think I’m stupid enough to have traveled here without doing an inch of research? I mean I’m the first person to reach you in 3,000 years, do you think that was just sheer luck on my part? You’re in the middle of the desert buried under hundreds of feet of sand crying out loud! Just grant me my wish already so this can be over with, it’s like 100 degrees down here,” I said wiping the sweat from my brow. “Fine by me,” said the tower, and just like that I was back aboveground. “Stupid tower,” I muttered to myself. I knew what I was getting myself into with this wish, so why did they think it was right to keep questioning me? The tower served one purpose and that was to grant the wishes of those who came there but at a price. All the books mentioned something about equivalent exchange, where the bigger your wish was the bigger of a drawback you would suffer, but none of that mattered to me. I had one goal, and one goal only, when I had set out to find the tower and now I would finally be able to get what I wanted, then finally be able to rest. I had uprooted my entire life to make it to this tower, I had no job, no savings left, and had removed myself from every person who had ever meant anything to me, but now I would finally be able to give those bastards the ending they deserved. To keep living like nothing had ever happened, and that they had not wronged me in any way, well I would make sure they knew just how badly they had screwed themselves over when they decided that it was fine to ruin my life! Luckily enough for me, the airport was only an hour’s walk and a thirty-minute drive from where the tower was. I had brought a few gallons of water for the trip, but surprisingly I didn’t feel the need for it on my way back, it must have been a side effect of my wish which was a nice surprise. To be completely honest, the water hurt me more than it had helped on the way back. The dunes were made infinitely more difficult to traverse with the tens of gallons I had brought with me and I had fallen multiple times before I had even made it a tenth of the way. I was constantly covered in scratches while traveling back even though they healed almost instantly from the wish. By the time I had made it back to the airport, I had shed all of my belongings but a bottle of water, my passport and ticket, and my wallet containing the last bit of money I had left. I had intended to have way more with me at the time, but I had been caught speeding on the way back to the airport. I had been so excited to finally see my plan come to fruition, I had neglected to follow the rules of the road and had been caught by the local police. I ended up just paying off the officer so that I wouldn’t miss my flight, but now I wasn’t sure I would be able to afford everything necessary to carry out my revenge. With my newfound power, however, I was confident I could improvise if need be. The plane ride was relatively short and uneventful. I spent the entire time fantasizing about how I would finally be able to achieve what I had set out to do months ago. I had considered just sneaking in and exacting my revenge while they were sleeping, but that was better than they deserved. I wanted to make sure they knew how big of a mistake they had made and suffered just as much as I had. I had bought myself a coffee to make sure I didn’t get too lost in thought and fall asleep on the plane, and as luck would have it, I had made it back home with just enough time to carry out my plan. After making a few stops, I walked myself over to their apartment building.

 For months I had been wondering if I would feel any sort of hesitation, if I would regret my decision that I had spent so much time trying to accomplish, but no, I had fully committed to this and was going to see it out to the end, no matter the consequences. As I rode the elevator up to their floor, I checked one last time to see if I had everything, and made sure I was ready. As I stepped out of the elevator, I took one look around to see if they were in the hallway, but there were no signs of them. “1219,1219,1219,” I repeated to myself as I walked down the hallway. And as I turned the corner, there it was, the place where those two worthless bastards had been living for the past four months. Room 1219, I had finally made it to the promised land, the place where I would finally be able to put my past to rest and myself shortly after. I had traveled across the world to make sure this went perfectly, forfeiting the rest of my life to make sure that no matter how hard they fought back, I would be able to finally achieve what I had set out to do. To kill those two and make sure that they suffered at my hands for what they did to me.

I knocked twice before someone opened the door. I knew he recognized me because the second the door was opened, all the color drained from his face. “How’s it going buddy,” I said before lunging at him and barely missing. “Call 911,” he shouted, confirming that my other target was here as well. As I tried to get back on my feet I felt a sharp pain in my back. As I looked down I saw a pool of blood forming under me, and I realized I had been stabbed by that bastard! I reached behind me and pulled the knife out and threw it to the floor. Even though I was immortal, I was not invincible. I felt the hole slowly start closing, much slower than the scratches I got in the desert, and turned to my first target. “Why are you here? We thought you were gone, you promised to leave us alone. We even got a restraining order against you just to be safe!” I chuckled to myself, “You thought I would give up so easily, after everything you’ve done to me? You thought I would allow you to live the rest of your life in peace!?” At that moment I felt someone tackle me from behind. “What did we do to you? Everything that happened was your fault! You were the one who came home drunk every night, you were the one who never listened to her, and you were the reason she came into work covered in bruises every week, and you have the nerve to blame me for helping her get away from you? You think that none of this is your fault? How self-centered are you?” At that moment I felt an anger I had never felt before, I saw red and lost any restraint that I may have had. My mind went blank, and when I finally regained my bearings I saw both of their bodies slumped against the corner, disfigured beyond recognition. As I sat on the floor, content with what I had done, I could hear the sirens blaring outside and the police rushing up into the building. I let them take me away, knowing that this would all be over once I went to sleep.

When they took me in for questioning, I immediately admitted to everything I had done. They put me in a holding cell until they could find me a court date for sentencing. As night approached, I felt a wave of relief wash over me, this would finally be done, I could finally rest. So as the sun finally set, I could finally go to bed and die knowing that I had achieved my final victory. And suddenly it was morning and I had not slept a single second. I had spent all night trying to sleep, lying with my eyes closed, counting sheep doing anything I could think of to fall asleep faster. I was then brought in for a second round of questioning in which I explained my crime in further detail to the police. I knew that all the adrenaline from the day before must have not worn off last night which is why I had trouble sleeping. After that, I just laid in my cell all day hoping I could eventually fall asleep. It never happened. The third day is when the bugs started. There were only a few at first. A few spiders in the corner, maybe a beetle on my shoe, or a grasshopper in my hair. I complained to the guards about it but they seemed to have no idea what I was talking about. The fourth day was when they started increasing, I was shaking cockroaches out of my shirt, finding my shoes filled with worms, and the spiders in the corner seemed to be multiplying. The guards informed me that my appearance in front of the judge would be later that day so I needed to get ready. I was escorted to the showers by the guards, who seemed to have ants crawling in and out of every opening in their bodies. When they talked, a few would fall from their mouth onto the ground, their ears were constantly being entered and exited by dozens of ants at a time, and it seemed like their eyes had been entirely replaced by ants as well. I wanted to scream, but I feared the ants would crawl into my mouth if I made even the tiniest sound. When they finally let me go in the showers, I was relieved because I would be able to wash off all the ants that the guards had spilled onto me. I turned on the shower head and felt the fresh, warm water cover my body and rid me of all the filth that had been covering me. But something felt off, some of the droplets felt bigger than the others, and that is when I realized that it was not only water coming from the showerhead, but hundreds upon hundreds of leeches as well. I rushed to pull them off of me but I couldn’t remove them. I pulled, and pulled, and pulled, but they just wouldn’t come off. As a last resort, I used my fingernails to get under my skin and peel all the leeches off of my body. It worked and after almost 20 minutes of ripping, I managed to get them all off. After I had finally finished, I could see the pile of my skin, which as of 20 minutes ago, was still connected to my body, in the corner of the room. I ran as fast as I could to get the guards to explain what had happened but they just looked at me with their ants and took me back to my cell, saying that there’s no way I could have peeled off all my skin and have it still be there. I tried to explain that I was immortal due to a tower I had bargained with in the desert but they refused to believe me and told me to get ready for my meeting with the judge.

I plead guilty to everything the giant spider judge accused me of. I knew that the walls had told him everything anyway, so what was there to hide? Death by electric chair is what he had decided for me. Effective two days from then so I still had 48 hours to fall asleep before then, I didn’t. No matter how hard I tried, how many times I slammed my head against the cockroach-covered walls, the best I could get was the loss of certain cognitive functions for a couple of hours before I regenerated. During this time they started whispering to me, the bugs wanted to converse. At first, it was in tongues I couldn’t understand but as time went on the sounds started to form words I could understand. They wanted in, they wanted me to be just like the guards, to let them into my body, to let them take over. They wanted control, and I was scared that they were finally going to try to take it. Luckily enough my execution happened before then. On the day of the execution, the guards grabbed me with their ants and made some sort of clicking sound with their mandibles I couldn’t understand, and brought me to the chair. I was finally going to be able to leave this horrid existence I had been suffering through and finally be able to sleep. If my entire body was fried at once, there was no way I would be able to survive. As they strapped me to the chair with the giant worms, I took one last look around at the walls, and as they looked right back at me I said my final goodbye.

Nothing but slight consciousness, that was it. Every other function was fried away in the execution, and yet I was still not allowed the luxury of death. To never sleep is to never wake up, and I was fully experiencing the horrors of this reality. Had I listened to the warnings of the tower I would never have slowly regained my senses, buried in the ground, in a metal box filled with bugs. They had finally made it impossible for me to reject their wishes. They crawled through every hole in my body, moving through all my internal organs, through my veins, and under my skin. They gnawed on my bones and laid behind my eyes. Every time I tried to close my mouth, from the thousands of bugs rushing in, I could feel their exoskeletons cracking and their legs snapping between my jaws. I tried, and tried to peel off my skin to pull them out, over and over. And every time it would grow back and more bugs would fill in the spots of the old ones. Even when I was covered in layers of decaying skin I refused to stop pulling it off to get them out from under there. Even as the coffin filled up with so much skin, the pressure started crushing my bones. I never stopped. When my hands could barely function because of the bones in them being constantly crushed, and the tendons being constantly torn from the pressure, I refused to stop. Even when the box burst from centuries of constant pressure I refused to stop. When the world left me as a fiery ball destroyed by nuclear war, the bugs never did.

About Brian Sheldrick 452 Articles

Brian Sheldrick is a junior at Clayton A. Bouton High School.