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Horde by Karen Schauber

Updated: Apr 6

In the morning the window has been thrown open, last night’s storm upending the terracotta pots and herbs on the ledge. Rain has soaked the flowered banquette cushions inside. I pull the latch closed and wrap a pashmina tight around my shoulders, light the fire in the pot belly, assembling bits of kindling like Jenga. My head swimming like vichyssoise after a night of drinking—I never learn. I fill the cast iron pot and take down the steel-cut oats for a hearty warming breakfast. Lots of debris to clean up outside.

I hear the crunch before I see them. A blur of mottled brown shells scuttles across the floor. My feet recoil but where to step next. More snap crackle pop underfoot. I don’t dare move. My toes crimp in their slippers. I call out to Geoffrey, but my voice is raspy, thin, hardly audible. The horde already advancing like a parade, a marching band, hissing, chirping, trilling, two-by-two around the legs of the gabled table, a constant tempo over the transom and with precision on toward the pantry door. I look for the leader, intent on extermination, follow hundreds of tiny sets of legs tippy-toeing up onto the countertop. The thick viscous trail marking the territory through a wide thoroughfare, boulevard, streets, and backroads; changing lanes and traffic patterns like Google mapping. I reach for the broom, crushing exoskeletons as I lurch. I hear Geoffrey thumping up the staircase, watch his terry bathrobe billowing, he’s running, he heard me. I gesture to the swarming infestation, Wait, Watch it. He's seen this before, he says, reminds me I should stick to a two-glass limit.

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