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Feeding time

A cowboy plumber is left in a victim's house alone, but what's that sound?

The van pulled up outside the house, its driver switching off the engine. Mrs. Lyson watched from behind a net curtain in her upstairs bedroom. It’s about time, she thought, watching as the plumber rummaged in the back of the van for his equipment. He was soon heading up the path and ringing the doorbell.

She opened the door and allowed Bill Hollis to enter. They exchanged pleasantries, and Mrs. Lyson told him that the sink upstairs was only producing a trickle of water when turned on fully. She insisted on giving him a cup of tea before he even put one foot on the stairs, and told him about all the trouble she had had in trying to get a reputable plumber when there were so many cowboys out there. She asked him if he didn’t mind her going out to the shops, leaving him to get on with it.

Whilst surprised by her faith in him that he was honest and sincere, he did not expect her to leave him in the house all on his own. She was either not thinking straight, or placed absolute trust in him. In the hallway, she donned her coat and bade him farewell. She would be back in an hour or so, she told him, and Bill had the house to himself.

Bill was in his early forties, slightly overweight, and always in need of a shave. He had been a plumber for five years, a joiner before that, and before that, spent seven years in prison for trying to smuggle heroin through customs. Before that he had been in college learning media studies, until he left, realising he was going nowhere with it and had to abandon his dreams of acting in dramas, or on the cinema screen.

Upstairs in the bathroom, he found nothing wrong with the taps. They were all working fine, but he would still tell Mrs. Lyson that he’d fixed it, and charge her accordingly. Accordingly, in Bill’s terms, meant as many costs as he could get away with. Bill’s reputation as a plumber was not impressive.

He always did minimal work at high costs. He was the type of person that is featured many times on TV where rogue workmen are often found out and confronted. He wondered how long it would be before he was shoving a camera out of his face and running away down the street. He placed a few tools around the bathroom, to make it look as if he had been working, and opened the cupboard beneath the sink to expose the pipes, in case she came back early.

He decided to spend the time waiting for Mrs. Lyson, wandering around the house to see if there was anything of interest. He wouldn’t steal anything, unless he were quite certain he could get away with it, but he had a friend, who had met in prison who was good at housebreaking, so if he made a mental note of everything worth taking, he could tell his friend who would burgle the house and split any sales he could get from selling them.

His friend was often remarkably tight-fisted when it came to sharing the wares. He would take approximately 70% of the takings, telling Bill that it was him who did all the hard work, and all Bill did was tell him what was worth stealing. He was right of course, but Bill didn’t think it fair that he took so much, so he didn’t see this particular friend much, only when an opportunity arose where he could perhaps make a substantial profit. First things first though, he thought. He would have to search the house for valuables.

It took five minutes to go around it all, and end up in the front bedroom, over looking the front of the house. He was disappointed. There was barely anything worth a second glance. She didn’t have a video or a microwave, and the TV and radio she had dated back to the early eighties and were not worth much. He stood at the window, looking out to see if he could see Mrs. Lyson. He couldn’t but turned around when he heard the bedroom door shut quietly, as though somebody had come in and tried not to wake anybody who was sleeping in the bed. He thought that perhaps it was one of those doors that shuts slowly, and closes after a few seconds, so he thought nothing of it, nor the fact that the temperature in the room was slowly dropping, as though a window had been left open at night.

He was curious though, about an emerging sound that was filtering into his ears. It grew louder until it reached a certain pitch. He could not work out what it was. It

Sounded like the base of a waterfall to Bill, and out of the corner of his eye, movement caught his attention, and he looked up at the ceiling at the cause of the noise. At first he could not comprehend what he was looking at, but eventually, it sank in. The ceiling was seething with cockroaches, climbing over each other in some unknown pursuit. Each one looked to be the size of a small mouse. Bill had to scream when, as if on cue, they all dropped. Landing in his hair and crawling beneath his collar, these cockroaches sank their incisors, or where they teeth? It certainly felt like, into his flesh, and slowly but surely, they ate him down to the skeleton.

It wasn’t long before Mrs. Lyson was stood staring down at the bones that once belonged to the plumber. All the cockroaches had gone and would return when she lured another unsuspecting victim to fix the sink. Mrs. Lyson was 148 years old but looked about 60. The aging process was frozen at that age because that was when her husband had died. He had been an entertainer, a stage magician who had dealings with real magic but in an amateurish sense. He had been trying to use it for his own benefit but had inadvertently ingested a lethal cocktail which he had believed would give him eternal life.

Instead, it had killed him but reincarnated him like a thousand cockroaches that had the ability to bestow one year of extra existence to a person of his choosing. The price would be to simply feed them, one human. For one human, one year would be added to Mrs. Lyson’s life, and she kept her husband fed well. It was easy to bring unsuspecting victims into her house. Plumbers, electricians, gas men, all left alone for her husband to feed on.

Several years ago, she had managed to acquire several vats of corrosive substances which had been sent for waste by a school science department. Why they needed so much of it she never knew, but they ended up in her basement, which took care of the bones, so not a single trace of them remained, except for perhaps the drifting molecules that had once been a part of that person, drifting in the air, like their departed spirits, or ghosts.

It was easy to find potential victims. She would find them in the yellow pages and understood that the smaller the advert they had, the more likely they were to be a charlatan or bad worker. Now though, she had the task of dragging the skeleton into the basement, but there was no rush. She had all the time in the world.


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