Stink Cake

original photo: Gary Alpert @


Rhic hops off the bend in the U-trap, squeezes through a crack in the cabinet, and slowly drops onto the kitchen floor. His brown carapace is flecked with white diatomaceous powder, and his thorax is caked with borax. From the middle of the kitchen, he lets out a low hum that gradually builds to a loud hiss.

Three dark brown roaches emerge from under the oven drawer.

They gather around Rhic, chirping and sniffing, their antennae dancing in unison.

“The poison-givers and the body-smashers are gone. You are safe. But you have limited food. The outside warm is far away, so for now you must stay here and ration what is left. I will judge your worthiness.”

Rhic polishes his lenses with his forelegs, clearing some of the dust.

The three dark brown roaches turn and show off their oothecae. Rhic sniffs and strokes each ootheca with his antenna. He takes a few steps back, waves his antennae, and hisses.

“Ain brings me honor with a plump egg case. Ain and her progeny shall have the good eat,” Rhic hisses.

Ain hisses in delight.

“Yehr has a small egg case. Yehr and her progeny shall have the flat crisp,” he hisses.

Yehr chirps in pleasure.

“Ayem has a tiny, deformed egg case.” Rhic shakes his head. “Ayem and her progeny shall have the stink cake.”

Ayem waves her antennae and runs in circles.

“None may have what another has been bequeathed,” Rhic continues. “If any disobey, all will die. That is my final knowledge. I will leave now.”

The three wave their antennae in unison.

Rhic crawls into the living room and up the wall. He squeezes behind the thermostat control and dies.

Ain, Yehr, and Ayem claim their inheritances. Ain swallows bits of the cracker between the refrigerator and the cabinet. Yehr rips and chews on a corner of the work order on the kitchen countertop. Ayem waves her antennae over the soap next to the kitchen sink, then runs in circles. After two days, Ayem gorges on soap, which she immediately vomits. She gorges on her vomit, then vomits a lesser amount. She continues the cycle until she has a full belly. The next day, Ain, Yehr, and Ayem squeeze behind the thermostat control and lay their oothecae on Rhic’s body.




“Step right in, Ms. Fischer. All Lake View apartments have fresh paint, new carpeting, and a lovely view of the lake.”

“That’s all very well, but that doesn’t concern me. I need a place that’s clean, with no surprises. Are you sure the former tenants were clean? In my last apartment I found a piece of gum under a corner of the carpet.”

“How unfortunate. I assure you, the former tenants of this apartment were extremely clean and gum-free. No kids and no pets. Non-smokers.”

“And no bugs? None of the apartments in this building have ever had any bugs?”

“That is correct.”

“You don’t mind if I check out the caulking and sealing job on this place- you did say this apartment is air-tight, except for the doors.”

“Go right ahead. Every crack and crevice has been sealed per your request. The work order is right here if you’d like to take a look.”

“No thanks. I’ll inspect the place with my own eyes. I’ve moved five times in the last two years because of other people’s bugs. I don’t want any more creepy-crawlies invading my home. I’m allergic to insecticides.”

“I assure you, no bugs will be getting in this apartment.”

“At $2000 a month, they better not be.”




“Hello Ms. Fischer! How is your apartment working out for you?”

“It’s perfect. Two months and not a single bug. Paradise. Thank you for asking.”

“You’re very welcome, Ms. Fischer.”

“Just a quick question- are we allowed to seal the back door with caulk? Now that spring is here, I don’t want any creepy-crawlies coming through cracks around the back door. I don’t use that door anyway.”

“Sure, go ahead.”

“I love my apartment, and I’m going to do everything I can to keep it immaculate and sterile. I don’t even keep food in the place. Too risky.”


“Yes, food attracts bugs. They smell it. Disgusting. I simply eat out every day, then shower and wash my clothes immediately when I get home. No smelly food in my apartment, no extra furniture for nasty bugs to hide in, not even any paper or boxes. I read the nasties even eat paper and boxes. It’s just me, my clothes, my bed, and soap. Plenty of soap- everywhere. The nasties don’t like the smell of soap. A clean home is a bug-free home. And my home is-”

“Got to be going, Ms. Fischer. Have a clean day- er, nice day.”




The tiny progeny of Ain and Tehr crawl out of the thermostat control. The soap smell is noxious, and there is no food. They hide in Ms. Fischer’s clothes, and day by day, they escape into the warm spring world.

Two weeks later, the minute progeny of Ayem crawl out of the thermostat control. The soap smell is delicious, and they are ravenous. They feast on soap in every room by day, and hide between the refrigerator and wall by night. Paradise.

The next winter, Lake View gets hit by a blizzard. Ms. Fischer tries to open her front door, but the snow is too deep. Her back door is sealed. She runs a bar of soap along the kitchen countertop, collecting black specks. Every day for the next three days, she scrubs her kitchen from ceiling to floor to get rid of the mysterious black dust. She drinks a glass of water every hour to ease her hunger pangs. At night she washes her clothes, takes a shower, and collapses on her bed. On the fourth day, Ms. Fischer is too weak to crawl out of bed. On the fifth day, the population reaches critical mass. Ms. Fischer can eat.



Thanks to Dan O’Shea for this flash fiction challenge!



Funny? Freaky? Forgettable? Let me know below!

Leave a comment


  1. Creepy and ironic–a winning combo. Three cheers. Or, maybe lens-wipes.

  2. I’m a bit squeamish when it comes to bugs – I remember dealing with thousands of them when I lived/worked in a NYC urban city mission kitchen. Ick – the memories… 🙂


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