It had been an unusually snowy winter in New England, so naturally it broke into a notably wet spring. There wasn’t as much rain as one might expect, but despite the sunny April weather, floods broke out all over the Northeast, as the blackened piles of aged snow fell away into thousands of their own small rivers.
Josh stomps into a puddle. Clear water splashes onto his frog-faced rain boots and onto his bare skin, catching the sun there, as though his legs are covered in glowing jewels. He has mud on his denim shorts and blue t-shirt, and he knows that his mother will scold him for it, but he really isn’t concerned with that at the moment. He stomps in another puddle and lets out a mighty roar.
He is Godzilla. Moments ago, he rose from the ocean, which — for his purposes — is the deep puddle at the end of the driveway. Presently, his mission is to make it from the deep puddle all the way to the swing set behind the house, which is Tokyo. As he makes his way to the swing set with great ferocity, he mercilessly stomps on each of the smallish puddles in his path, imagining that they contain submarines, dreadnaughts, and other aquatic weaponry. SPLOOOSH!! BOOOOOM!! The poor mariners don’t stand a chance!
Godzilla makes it all the way to Tokyo and plops himself down on a swing. Josh pauses to catch his breath, wiping mud from his forehead with equally muddy hands. Being Godzilla is exhausting work, what with the entire Japanese military shooting at him and all. He swings his little legs aimlessly and looks around, already bored with his monster game.
The back porch catches his eye. He had almost forgotten about it. He spent much of last summer crouched within the dark crawl space beneath it, peering out from behind wooden slats, content in his little hideaway. He hops down from the swing and approaches the porch. There is an opening in the wooden slats, maybe four feet wide and two feet tall, and he sinks down to kneel in front of it. He runs his fingers over the wooden slats. They criss-cross to form a pattern of little squares. He is delighted to find that the wood is ever so gently more weathered since the summer. He can’t wait to bring his little platoon of G.I. Joe soldiers out when the ground dries a little. They’re going to do all sorts of espionage, tucked away in the square openings. He can just see them now, clinging to their little plastic guns, hanging in the openings from their elbows. Alert and on the lookout for danger.
He pokes his blonde head into the opening. It’s pretty dark in there, and at first he can only take in the smells. Rotting leaves left over from the autumn, mildew, wet wood. His eyes adjust, and he makes out a familiar round shape: it’s his sister’s Barbie doll kiddie pool. His father put it down there after the weather started getting cold, and threw a tarp over it, but the tarp isn’t on all the way and it seems like there’s water in there. It must have had snow in it all winter.
Compelled by a feeling he can’t explain, Josh reaches out his small hand and tugs on the tarp. It isn’t on too securely. He pulls harder, and the entire thing comes off. He throws the tarp to the side and peers into the kiddie pool. What he sees there grips his stomach like an adrenaline fist.
There are thousands of them.
Ghostly white, plump, wriggling. Larvae. They are everywhere, writhing in and out of each other like some sort of horrible nest of fleshy mouse-tails. Josh’s eyes widen. He has one thought process. This is not right. These should not be here. They have to die.
He slowly rises to his feet and takes a few steps back, eyes still locked on the dark pool. Cautiously, deliberately, he turns and walks. He finds himself in the garage. He beelines straight for the bright red gasoline container, which casually sits in a corner of the dim space. With grave determination, he hoists the gallon off the ground and carries it laboriously to the back porch. He sets it down carefully and runs back to the garage, returning with a packet of matches that had been kept on a low shelf near a bike rack. He doesnŐt know why, but he has to do this.
Josh, seven years old, unscrews the cap to the gallon jug. He does not know exactly how gasoline works, but an image keeps appearing over and over in his head; a slow-motion memory of his father starting up a barbeque grill with gasoline and a match. Operating on instinct alone, Josh clumsily pours the gasoline into and all around the kiddie pool. He watches the larvae wriggle more feverishly, and he understands that even the tiny not-yet-insects can feel their imminent doom.
As if possessed, he pulls out a match and lights it.