Conflagration

Mark tumbled down into the hole, and as he fell, he heard Hades cackle.  The hole was much deeper than it seemed, and as Mark fell to the bottom he landed on his side several feet down under the earth.  Thousands of tiny bedbugs covered the mound of earth on which he had fallen.  Bugs littered the earthy dirt walls of the hole.  Their small, ugly bodies crawled over one another, the millions of gross little legs walking over the outer shells of other insects.  A deafening hissing noise emanated from the bedbugs, enveloping Mark in an inescapable wall of sound.      

Mark struggled to his feet.  His left leg, the leg on which he had fallen, seared in pain.  He looked up, shielding his face from a swarm of bugs that had flown into his line of sight, and saw the insect heads of Hades, Brittany and Chelsea peering over the top of the hole.  The three of them squealed in delight.  They pulled their heads back from the edge and disappeared.  The voice of the exterminator reached Mark, but his words were muffled and indecipherable.  Oz screamed.    

Mark clutched the lighter while his other had groped along the bug-infested walls.  A bug from the wall crawled onto his arm and became immobilized in the gasoline.  He swatted it away in disgust as he flicked the lighter.  A small orange flame danced on its tip. 

He gazed back to the top of the hole.  Oz’s screaming had ceased, and Mark wondered if his roommate was dead or if the three bugs and the exterminator had spared his life.  He hoped for the latter, but a sickening feeling of dread swelled in the pit of stomach at the thought of the undeniable reason for Oz’s silence. 

But there were other living students.  There was an entire campus of them—innocent students like himself who had kissed their mothers and fathers goodbye just a few days ago, students whose parents expected them to return home over Thanksgiving and winter break, students whose parents did not think their children would die at the mercy of a college overrun by oversized bedbugs.

He flicked the lighter again, and held the flame to his pant leg.  The fire caught immediately, and the burning flame spread across his gasoline-drenched body and charred the bugs within the hole.  The fire scaled the walls of the hole and erupted at the top.  The conflagration enveloped the underground chamber and left nothing but black, burnt remains in its wake.

*          *          *

            “A fire at a local college burned down half of the campus last night,” the televised news report buzzed.  “Fortunately, no students were injured, but authorities say that the fire seems to have only targeted insects as the remains of thousands of insects beneath the college’s buildings were found…”

The End

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