I laid in wait for my enemy to return. Four days passed and still no sign of him.
The morning after our initial encounter, I searched for him under my bed to no avail.
Once again, I donned my protective armor and, without physically touching any of the objects, painstakingly removed every item that had made its home under my bed. My protective staff-racket served its true purpose well again, keeping me from having to shove my unprotected hands into the dark void under my bed. The thought of it, of the demon potentially lashing out and ripping the flesh from my hand with its vicious pinchers, terrified me.
Instead, I used the racket as a rake and pulled the objects out one by one. With each jerk, as an object cleared the edge of the bed, I immediately jumped back to the ready, prepared for the monster to show itself. But no luck. Box after box. Game after game. Folding chair after suitcase. Nothing. It was as if he had disappeared as quickly and as suddenly as he had arrived.
Satisfied he had slipped from right underneath me, I, with the same deliberate attention to my protection, returned every item to its darkened place.
Three nights of sleeping with the lights on later, and my enemy still had not returned. When will he show his disgusting face again? I wondered. Or did he retreat fully? Did he run back to the vent from which he came, too afraid to challenge me again?
How I wished that were true, but something told me this battle was only going to end one way: with one of us dead. Nay, my enemy was simply waiting for the right moment.
The moment came that very evening.
When the devil reappeared, I was sitting on the same couch he had first banished me to. He was at the top of the wall directly across the room. It seemed he liked to look down upon me. I started to push myself to my feet, as I had but one choice, to ready myself for battle. But then I paused. My eyes widened and my pulse quickened as the realization hit me.
He was positioned over the entrance of the hallway that led to my armory-closet.
What was I to do? I certainly couldn’t fight without my weapons. I felt naked without them, and that was no condition to be in for fighting. There was but one solution. I would have to cross his path unprotected.
I immediately ran straight at him. The element of surprise! I believed if I ran fast enough, he wouldn’t have time to react, and, sure enough, I flew through that hallway entrance and didn’t hear any response nor see any flash. He had been bested for the moment.
It took me only seconds to prepare, but this timeI added to my arsenal. I realized, in our previous struggle, when my foe came so dangerously close to my feet, that I might need something bigger and stronger with which to crush him, something that didn’t require putting my body in harm’s way. There was one object that immediately sprang into my mind: a book. A big heavy book that would flatten a monster like him quickly, easily – and painlessly, I hoped. After all, I didn’t wish him pain. Just death.
With my racket and ball in one hand and a book in the other, I took off running again and didn’t stop until I reached the couch. Again, the devil had not moved. Perhaps he knew an action as rash as falling onto me was not ideal. He had other tricks up his sleeve. I could feel it.
This time I decided I would not be the aggressor. Instead, I would allow his actions to dictate the course of our combat. So I sat on the couch, waiting.
After a few minutes, my enemy became impatient. He frantically dashed back and forth across the top of the wall, as if looking for the best path to mount his offensive. In response, I got up from the couch and moved closer to him. I stalked his every movement, anticipating the time he would make a mistake and put himself in reach of my racket. This time, I would surely not miss.
It came sooner than I thought. He reached the far corner, the one that put the greatest distance, and the dining room table, between us, and veered once again toward the floor. Now I would have to maneuver around the table as well. He was smart, this one.
Then ingenuity struck! With the low hanging light over the table, the racket was too long an object to be swinging about. Plus, the narrowness of the racket’s frame demanded the most accurate of strikes, something, to be honest, I wasn’t sure I could deliver. If only I had something with a bigger surface, something that would have more force behind it during that initial blow, something that increased the odds of an instant kill, victory would be mine.
I quickly discarded my racket and book onto the table and yanked my heavy sneaker from my foot. Yes, I would have to get closer. Yes, my precious foot would be exposed. But these were risks worth taking for what seemed like a sound strategy.
He was halfway down the wall by the time I got it off. There was no time to waste. I took two steps around the table, cocked my arm back, and flung it forward with a force so violent it could rip the dead from their graves. The sole of my sneaker connected with the wall. For a second, as the shockwave reverberated back through my arm, I thought I felt a surrendering smush of exoskeleton.
But alas, I had missed again! As I pulled my arm back, the cockroach sprung from the wall. I let forth a banshee-like scream and once again retreated.
This time, the cockroach did not follow me. Instead, he scrambled onto the solid, black base of a wrought iron wine rack I had sitting in the corner. He must have thought it the perfect camouflage, but in reality it was a fatal mistake. It was the perfect surface on which to smash him with my book.
I slowly picked the book up off the table. This was it. The moment I had been waiting for, the moment I would finally rid myself of this horrible creature. He would haunt me no longer. With two hands to keep it horizontal, I drop-threw the book.
I then leapt onto the book and drove my feet into the ground to be sure the death blow had been successfully delivered. I heard a second crunch, then silence.
It was over.
The triumphant rush of victory was exhilarating. I had killed the monster! I had vanquished mine enemy! I was the winner!
Yet, I felt the tinge of remorse every hero feels when they take the life of their enemy, as if a part of their life’s purpose has been crushed as well.
I left the book there for over an hour. I couldn’t bring myself to see what had become of him. Out of respect for my valiant foe, I paid him the traditional time of mourning. He had fought a great battle, forced me to be resourceful and creative. It had not been a straightforward smash job. This one had taken planning, and I was the better bug killer for it.
Finally, I removed his dead carcass from the cover of my book – a cloth cover, which, in hindsight, was poorly chosen – as well as any remnants from the wine rack’s base. I then removed my armor and returned my weapons to their place. The battle was complete.
To this day, if ever I hear that sound…tsp. tsp….tsp. tsp… my eyes instantly return to the area of my wall where it meets the ceiling, expecting to see the devil again.
If he comes for me, I will be ready.