Bite Back

Marissa James

March 4th, 2022

The day after the storm there were wings in the sugar bowl. Papery, pale brown, sticking to my fingers with a mix of saccharine stubbornness and electrostatic cling.

The news said not to worry about the aftermath. If you were indoors when the storm passed over, if you had all your windows closed and doors blocked while hard-shelled bodies pelleted the siding like hail, you’d be fine. The wind-swarm had passed on, whatever damage they’d done to crops or unsheltered animals.

All well and good, if that ‘if’ applied to you.

Outside of their frenzied storm-bringing, they weren’t aggressive unless provoked. The scrabbling in the cupboards, beneath the oven, shouldn’t be a problem as long as I moved cautiously and gave them ample space. But they’d still be hungry.

I pulled a metal bowl of thawing chicken breast from the fridge. From prior storms we knew they preferred red meat, but meat of any sort was tough to come by. It was an exaggeration to say they could strip a herd of cows to the bone like airborne piranhas, but once they’d dug their mandibles into flesh, taken the choice bits they wanted, no one was going to try and salvage what remained.

In case the meat wasn’t enough of a draw on its own, I kicked the kitchen door’s weatherstrip back into place to remove the option of greener pastures. Took my coffee in both hands and leaned against the countertop next to the sink, and waited.

They could bite like hellfire. Could take a finger clean off at the joint. And that’s what you wanted to happen, if you wanted to survive. They bit you somewhere else and got their saliva in you, you’d start getting digested from the inside out while they moved off and waited for the job to finish itself.

Ugly little suckers. Didn’t matter what light you saw them in, those protruding bulb-like eyes and black-brown bodies, telescoping mandibles and over-jointed, knobby legs. As they sidled out of their shadowed hiding spots, I couldn’t help my wince of disgust.

I stood far enough away, and still enough, that they ignored me in favor of the chicken steeping in its own juices. I counted them as they congregated and the cupboards quieted.

A dozen or so, all told, each as big as a hand. To cut off their heads with a cooking knife you needed to hit just the right gap between plates of exoskeleton, and good luck holding one still while they battered those wings at you.

When they were all inside the bowl, swarming and scuttling, I moved. Cloche-shaped lid in hand, coming up from below and around in a sweeping motion to trap them within. As I reached to start the stove hard bodies pinged against the lid and sides of the bowl. Trapped in such a small space, they couldn’t get enough momentum to whip up a windstorm.

I shifted the setup onto the rising blue and yellow flames and bore down as the pinging and scuttling increased in intensity. The chicken would likely burn since I couldn’t stir it, but I didn’t care. Once they were cooked through I’d heard they tasted a bit like scallops.

As the pinging slowed I let up enough of my weight to angle my right hand at the bowl, to raise the single joint of my middle finger at them.

I didn’t care so much about hot or cold; I was most curious how revenge tasted when served fresh.

Author Bio: As a fine art professional, Marissa James has wielded katanas and handled Lady Gaga’s shoes. As a veterinary assistant, she has cared for hairless cats, hedgehogs, and, one time, a coyote. As a writer, her short fiction can be found in Flash Fiction Online, Etherea, Mysterion, and many other publications. She is a recipient of the Ladies of Horror Fiction grant, a Pushcart Prize nominee, and a reader for Interstellar Flight Press. She resides in the Pacific Northwest and can be found tweeting about all things writing @MaroftheBooks.

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