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Family Heirlooms

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They say that madness runs in my family. But I would disagree. I would more likely say that my family, in its history, has been plagued by a series of grievously unfortunate events that took their tolls on the minds of my great-grandfather, my grandmother, and most recently, my father. It simply wasn’t within our control.

For example, great-grandpa Stephen wasn’t always the sheltered recluse of a man that my mother used to tell me of. He was once a great role model, and a brilliant biologist, who womanized in his youth with his countless exploits of trips in the Amazonian jungles and Middle Eastern deserts that had amassed him a great wealth of exotic pets within his estate. But after his wife died, he became attached to the bottle, and would lock himself up days on end, shouting to seemingly no one in his atrium full of insects and snakes. On the rare occasions she saw him, said my mother with a weak sigh, he rarely spoke a coherent word. He simply gibbered at his glass tanks, as if the creatures crawling within understood his every word.

They say it was due to a drunken accident that he was found in his mansion, dead, lying in a glass tank along with five fat-tailed scorpions.

And then there was dear old Grandma Susan. I still remember when she would show off her marvelous sketches of the forest. I still remember when she was still a sweet old lady that would bake us cinnamon and raisin cookies, rich with brown sugar, and straight from the oven so that they were still moist and hot. Of course, this was before one day she tried to feed my brother and me cookies with a fat, squirming cockroach baked into each one. I remember her protesting as my mother pulled us out of the kitchen:

“They’re full of goodness and sweet dreams and chitin!”

We never really saw her again after that. No more trips to Grandma’s, no more cookies, no more cockroaches. I don’t know what it was with cockroaches, she started drawing those everywhere. I looked through her notebook during the funeral at her house after she was found beside a bottle of powerful roach killer. They were full of elaborate drawings of cockroaches and peculiar writings about swarms and buzzing in her ears.

I miss Grandma. But I suppose everyone goes senile sooner or later, it couldn’t be helped. She did look so calm in the casket, so dignified. She would have been proud to go that way.

But my father… well, I’ll admit I’m not too sure about my father. He was always quiet, rarely reprimanding, almost never saying a word. I don’t know why my mother married him, I don’t know why they bother having my brother and me, because they so rarely even acknowledged we existed. I never knew quite what to think of him.

I loved him, I suppose. Despite everything he’s done, I love him. I loved him when he put me to sleep as a child, when he gave me a rare smile after doing well in school, and when I came home to find my mother and brother strangled and collapsed in a pile in the backyard. My father was nearby playing with an anthill, watching the creatures run the lengths of his long, rough fingers.

It’s sad indeed, our family history. There’s very little pride in holes where the insects crawl. Because here, family and fate means nothing, as all that matters is feeding the hive, feeding the King. But I suppose that our unfortunate incidents were inevitable acts of survival of the fittest. Our great-grandfather was a mighty man, but even cockroaches can be quashed, and as greatly as they may try, those little, little ants cannot hope to escape the slaughter of the beautiful, invincible scarab.

The claws, the claws and shell and wings and mandibles give me shivers every time I caress them. And that infinitesimal moment of tension where their carapace bends before it shatters beneath the tooth is… exhilarating. Even in this soft cage, they still come to me in the silence to feed me, to give me a blessing from the King with feelers and legs and hooks.

They say that madness runs in my family. But I would disagree.

The scarab whispered otherwise as it burrowed into my brain.

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