Ryan Deysher

The Annunciation

It’s black, so I flip a light on. White tile, white counters, white fixtures, white light. The only thing out of place is Jeffrey, who’s frozen beneath the light in the center of the floor. We stare at each other. Him, with blank, glassy eyes, me with harsh, sharp eyes. I’ve been told I have cruel eyes, but I suppose that would be lost on Jeffrey. I roll my eyes and turn on the faucet to fill my water bottle. In response, Jeffrey backs himself into the wall. Fine. As long as he keeps his distance.

I take a look in the mirror, flecked with opaque stains. I spot Jeffrey in the reflection. He continues to cower, safe in his corner. I wait for the water bottle to fill up. I look at my eyes in the reflection. They’re bagged and bloodshot. It’s been a long day. Work got off late. The train was delayed. It was snowing. When I got back to the apartment, I ran into my first floor neighbor on the front porch. He was half-asleep, passed out on the tattered couch with the front door open. He did ketamine on the porch most nights. I passed him—barely present in my own right—and closed the door behind me. He’d forget to lock it. I poked my head out before heading up to my floor.

Hey, I said. I didn’t know his name. Lock the door.

I’ll try to remember, he mumbled, eyes still closed.

Water overflows from the bottle onto my hand. I stop the faucet and twist the cap on. I look at the reflection of Jeffrey’s corner and find it empty. I look down. He’s inches away from me. I quickly stomp my foot, and Jeffrey scurries away into his hole in the wall. The hole in the wall has been there since I moved in. It’s dark, grimy, and full of pipes. Occasionally a hissing noise emanates from it. It’s presumably where Jeffrey makes his home, since it’s where he retreats whenever I deploy the stomp defense.

Jeffrey is a cockroach. He didn’t come with a name, so I named him Jeffrey. Jeffrey is the largest cockroach I’ve ever seen—about the length of two quarters. He’s massive and threatening, but ultimately a coward. So much as a stomp and he runs in terror.

Jeffrey’s twitching antennae peak from behind one of the hole’s twisting pipes. He briefly studies me from his hiding place, before crawling back into the light. I recoil. I’m not squeamish when it comes to insects. If anything, I have an unnatural appreciation for them. Still, roaches get to me. My first run in with Jeffrey involved him scurrying across my foot while I was attempting to cook an egg. I was so frightened that I nearly sprung out of the window. The incident also seemed to scar Jeffrey, as he scurried in a panic all around the room after grazing my foot. We’ve never touched since.

Jeffrey crawls ever closer to me, so I stomp again. He scurries back to his hole and crawls through his hidden spaces before finally emerging from a crevice behind the sink.

I’m generally disgusted by Jeffrey, but we have our moments. What started as mutual hatred has shifted to coexistence. Jeffrey is a primeval constant. I merely pass through his domain. He has always lived in the kitchen. We watch each other, understanding without words.

I turn off the light, leaving Jeffrey to his mysterious work. I go to my bedroom and collapse into bed so violently that I feel as though my eyes could eject from the socket and roll along the floorboards like marbles.

Distant footsteps in the hallway awaken me to eternal darkness. I assume it’s one of my roommates lurking around and attempt to return to sleep.

A door creaks. I reopen my eyes and am greeted by a shadow in the doorway. It’s motionless. I prop myself up on my elbows, and the shadow nervously jerks back. I clear my throat. What do you want?

There’s silence. I let it sit for a moment.

Who are you, I say.

The shadow replies in an unfamiliar voice.

Check your kitchen, it says.

The shadow and I stare at each other for a moment before it bolts in heavy beats down the hallway to the stairwell. I lay down, put a pillow over my head, and fall back asleep. I don’t dream anything. It’s morning when I wake.

I get out of bed and go to the kitchen. The window is broken, all of the tables and chairs are gone, and the contents of the cabinets are strewn on the floor. I realize my apartment has been broken into. My nameless neighbor forgot to lock the door.

Sunlight floods through the window over the wreck. The white tile floor is scuffed black with boot marks. In the center of the blackened floor is a white-brown stain. Jeffrey.

The roach corpse shoots across the scuffed floor like a silent scream. The body itself is split in half. A clear line runs down the center, created by a divot in the shadow’s boot tread. The bottom of the corpse skids upward in white pus. It shimmers in the sunlight. At the apex, the carapace splits and spreads like wings.

I bend over the corpse and stare at it intently beneath the radiant light. I see a cockroach crushed beneath a boot.

I remove the remains with a paper towel. The angel departs wordlessly in blank space.

Ryan Deysher lives in Salisbury, MD. He teaches English at Salisbury University and holds an MFA in creative writing from The New School. He collects gargoyle statues. Ryan is an aspiring lifestyle influencer and really wants you to follow his Instagram @hollywood.deysh (it would mean so much to him).

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