WHEN THE CHIGGERS COME

Who was he? I wonder looking at all the things I know I made but the feelings behind it, the context, my whole past, gone and I had burned it, had to and suddenly I want to remember it.

"Twenty minutes", blairs the klaxon, the alarms and my messaging thing. We walk along catwalks in our tunnels, dug deep, the surface, we live there, but it will all be destroyed. To our cramped spaces, our catacombs our shelters and for some of us our tombs. Necessary.

"They say they will save more than 100,000 trees this time"

"Can't be that few..." someone says back. They haven't done this enough, haven't done it enough to be dazed. We march through the flickering lights, as through the windows of the dome we see the chiggers fall. Must move quickly. I remember there used to be forests. I remember, there used to be oceans, but those are great deserts now, filled with the bones of the animals that used to swim in them. Our planet reels from this assault.

Silently and quickly they spread and attack and consume. Some say they are an invasion, some say the solar system is but passing through them as it orbits the galactic plane. What was is it like before then? I can't answer that. Was it like before yesterday? That's what I want to know. But I don't. There's only the catacombs, the hiss of the needles and the suspension. The great shield doors close above us. The British are bombing the planet this time, nuking the whole thing, with powerful bombs, continent smashers. There is no precision against the chiggers, god, how we all wish we had that! Our technology just isn't that good, and there's only brute force, against its brute force, its contaminating dark hand of that alien species reaching around our innards, pulling and gnawing and wanting to dominate, and to kill us all. There is no reason with these things.

We save what we can, and then we nuke ourselves, and kill as much as we can, to try and be rid of these chiggers. Why daddy why... why daddy why... i don't know son I don't know.. tell me the story about noah and the flood and the ark..will there be a rainbow after the chiggers. The ceiling bends slightly from the force of the blasts. Deep waves of pressure move through us. Falling dirt and small rocks. I hold my son tight, my body over him to protect him, just in case. Do not crush him.

Chiggers penetration clear the catacombs... we run.. son son where are you.. pulled apart in the rush and I see one, a chigger swarm... do not touch me do not touch my son. It is a dark thin thing of air, of a million living alien things, in concert, random, malicious, to dominate. I grab a flare rifle and fire as it turns to me. Most of it is gone, vaporizes and victory and yes I killed a chigger but then I see the hair out of my leg, the hair where it will be, to take me and I'm gone, saying, to his mother.. her boyfriend.. anyone... someone... save him... screaming, shooting.. shooting at the chigger.

A gurney and men and women in thick suits wheel me. Deep suits, thick armor, quarantine themselves, is it really enough... tubes and men in masks. What does she look like, through hers? I like her eyes... dreaming. I try to sense where I am, navigating by the hospital lights as if stars. A shot, a hiss of a dose gun, and I am gone again.

Tile floors and the sounds of voices and the mercury shower naked with the others, chigger bit like me. Radiation shower, Mercury X brand, liquid silver runs over our bodies, no need to dry, but so warm, and there she is beautiful, with me, beautiful in the light, supple and athletic and younger than I. I reach to her and hold her, and kiss her, and she kisses me back, and I pull her up slightly, yanking her legs around me and my hands enjoy her back and my mouth enjoys her and then, and then, the heads growing out of us, the chigger mutations, they kiss too. I would take her in this crowd, not there to me. Don't care.

Suddenly the Mercury X shower is off, and we are handed our smart laser knives to do our cutting, to cut these things out. Laser flash and the head inside me falls to the floor, screaming at me in betrayal, as the few chiggers inside howl in protest.. the pain and nano-smooth floors soaked with blood, ever so bent, pouring down the drain. Did I put my chigger head in the oven? I can't remember. This has to end. Anything. Lasers and more cutting. Anything. Laughter and then screams, all of us, anything. I remember some of us laughin, as we cut the chigger heads away. Arms from the ceiling, mechanical no doctors here chigger quarantine, platelets and healing things and blood, jam into us. We scream. I see her scream. Gas and nuclietides, mercury X, flashing lights and gurneys and whirling around blacked out and the woman is gone.

What was living like, I just want to remember!

So here I am walking on the catwalks, out of the catacombs in the days after the chiggers came. How long was I out? How long was I gone? Could it have been months? Could it have been years? I feel older, but younger, new, but with old sagging skin and greying hair. We walk in lines underneath the great shield door, dented in, and broken, half open. Water drips off. Does that mean?

"Can you believe its been raining?" said a passersby.

"Rust, who would have thought we would have seen that again huh mate", a man motions to the grate.

"Move quickly then"

"The oceans are filling up again, they say... "

"We've got enough in storage to reseed them alright."

I don't know where I am, or who, or what.. empty this is so new. I point, just to point, to classify something, to live. I see the band around my wrist, notice the fabric of my hospital smock. Light fabric. I reach down and feel the scar where the head was.

The chiggers are gone.

Conversation drifts through me. I'm alive, in a way, and just fascinated by the sunlight and the rain through the old blast dome as I walk to the surface. I hear a voice and there he is, my son. His mother lets him go, and he runs to me.

"Dad! Dad! Dad!", he yells, as I pick him up and whirl him around. "I love you I love you I love you..." and he motions up to the sky, through the dome, where the sky is blue for the first time in a long time, misty and what's that run through it?

My son says, "look Dad, there's a rainbow... there's a rainbow!"

And I'll be damned but there it was, and we walked up to the surface, towards the wet sunlight, carrying him, carrying my boy, my arms aching, and wanting them too, wanting them to ache for a long time.