Liz McAdams

The July Editor's Pick Writer is Liz McAdams

Feel free to email Liz at: lizmcadams75@gmail.com


by Liz McAdams

Leaning on the breakfast table, Janet cradled her coffee cup. “They were giant bugs—like cockroaches or something, but bigger—like the ones in the movie we saw last night.”

Dave shrugged. “Trilobites? Maybe you shouldn’t have fallen asleep in front of the TV.” He smiled at her. “Actually, I liked that documentary. Netflix has some pretty cool stuff on right now.”

She stared down into her cup, still unsure.  “Yeah, well.”

“Look, why don’t you pick something tonight. Change it up a bit. Tell you what; I’ll even watch one of your chick flicks.”

She sat, still staring into her cup, trying to sort through the images of last night. There were bugs, sure, but something else, too—no, it must have been a dream.

Dave leaned over, brushing his lips to her forehead, “C’mon, time to get ready for work.”

“Yeah, I’ll be up in a minute.”

As daylight filled the kitchen, the visions of last night slowly faded away. Impossible, really, she told herself. But she couldn’t shake the feeling that it was all very real somehow, as she lay frozen in terror with thousands of bodies writhing over her, antenna waving and hard shells gleaming in low light.

It was that place that did it—the place in her dream. That place unnerved her, never mind the dream. It was a grey rock in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by darkness and the sense of sterility, as though nothing had ever lived there, except the bugs. Even the air was different; she knew she wasn’t breathing it.

In that place, she dreamed of silent screams. Her mouth opened, her vocal chords strained raw and bleeding, but still no sound ever came out. But it was the lighting in her dream that terrified her the most. Silvery light like the moon, she thought, but colder and more distant.

Ancient, the word sprang to mind.

Dave leaned in the doorway, now freshly showered and buttoning his dress shirt. “Are you gonna sit there all day, or are you heading out with me? You’re gonna miss your train.”

Glancing down at her wristwatch, she startled, and held out her arm. Red lines, crisscrossing, each the width of a thin blade covered the underside of her forearm.

“Looks like scratch marks,” Dave narrowed his eyes. “What caused them?”

“I told you, it happened in my dream.”


The steady hum of conversation floated over her cubicle; it was business as usual in the office. Yawning, Janet scrolled through images of insects on her laptop, the report she was supposed to be working on minimized and hidden.

There wasn’t anything that looked like the bugs she saw. Long antenna, sure, but all these insects had hard shells and segmented bodies. Beetles, cockroaches, flies, even ants— all the same. Six legs. That’s it. The ones she saw in her dream had maybe twenty legs, with long antennas, and a flat body in the shape of a disc.

Maybe Dave was right, and she’d been thinking of trilobites. Or some kind of round centipede.
She shook her head. It was just a dream. Made up bugs, it wasn’t as though she’d find anything like them anyway. It was all in her imagination.

Absently, she rubbed the underside of her forearm; itchy, the scratches had formed crusty welts on her skin. She probably hurt herself while sleep-walking; maybe picked up a knife in the kitchen.

Soft clicking and a high pitched whine interrupted her thoughts. Janet sat up; did the air conditioning system start to drone…or was that a buzz? She tilted her head, straining to listen through office noises.

Then nothing.

It was probably all in her head. She was exhausted; it played tricks on your mind.

“Are you okay, Janet?” Rhoda leaned in the doorway of her cubicle.

Startled, she twisted in her chair, clicking the expand button on the report. “Yeah,” she forced a smile, “I’m just trying to pull together the Watson report. Just checking a few things.”

“Uh, sure. Anyway, a few of us were planning on heading out for drinks afterwards. You want to join us?”

Stifling a yawn, Janet shook her head. “I’ll give it a miss tonight. I’m wiped.”

“That Dave keeping you up?” Rhoda grinned, “I know how newlyweds are.”

“No, uh, well…” she fumbled. “I’ve just been having some weird dreams.”

“Like nightmares?”

“Yeah, about bugs and stuff. This kind of thing.” Janet clicked on the screen, revealing segmented bodies and a multitude of legs; trilobites stood fossilized, long antenna curved down their backs

“Weird.” Rhoda shrugged. “It’s probably stress. Or excessive gluten consumption; you know my naturopath says—”

Janet ignored her, and stared at the laptop. Images of waving antenna filled her mind; legs too many to count, and all writhing over her body.

“Zinc, you need more zinc. And when was the last time you had your iron levels checked?” Rhoda continued.

Janet stared at the pictures. Suddenly, an antenna waved, and a leg moved in jerky rhythm, as through trying to start; faltering, and then stopped.

“Did you see that?” Janet turned around.

“What? Uh, no. Anyway, I was saying that if you try the five-day cleanse—”


Darkness surrounded her, and the insects crept out from rocky crevices, just as she knew they would. Their bodies swam together as she lay frozen, somehow immobilized, lying on the rocky ground. Dust and dirt drifted toward her as they moved, each particle seeming to hang in the air a long time before settling back to the earth. At least, she thought it was the earth.

She screamed as the bugs came, but still, her voice made no sound.

Enormous insects, hard shells nearly the size of dinner plates; their glossy blackness reflected in the low light. She stared around, looking for the sun, a distant point near the horizon shone coldly, but the dark sky was filled with stars, as an array of unfamiliar constellations marched across the sky.

It’s only a dream, she told herself.

Then they covered her, scratching claws pinching and grabbing hold; creatures dragged heavy bodies and smooth carapaces, hard shells hiding rows of tiny eyes; antenna waved and probed, detecting something.

Terror flooded, Janet screamed; her voice rang out silent. She felt her throat burning, and the metallic taste of blood crept across her tongue. She was screaming herself hoarse, without uttering a word.

Sharp burning sensation swept down her forearm, bare flesh was exposed, and now bleeding. The mass of insects suddenly shifted, drawn to the open wound. In a frenzy of scratchy legs stepping over one another, they gathered around, hard shells piled as a multitude of bodies stacked up, all with antenna waving.

Dots of beady eyes across their heads gleamed, and suddenly, their mouths unfurled. Proboscis, her mind whispered.

Janet screamed again, her voice still making no sound. The creatures continued to lap her blood; a low clicking noise filled her mind.

“Hey, Jan,” a heavy hand shook her shoulder, “hey, Babe, wake up.”

Twisting in the cotton sheets, Janet stared at the ceiling. Creamy white and builder’s beige walls surrounded her. She was in bed.

Dave reached for her. “Looks like it was a bad one. You all right?”

She shook her head no. Her mind, still filled with a swarm of insects gathering together and descending upon her. Low light from distant stars stretched across the dark sky, and then…

“You wanna talk about it?”

“It was the bugs…and that place again,” she turned toward him. “It was dark, and then all the stars were different.”

“The stars were different?” His arms slid around her, drawing her in.

“The light, too.” She shook her head. “Really weird; dark. Cold.”

“It was cold?”

She shook her head again, not sure how to explain the place.

“You know it was just a dream, right, Babe?” Dave smiled as his lips brushed her forehead.

“Yeah, I guess.”

He grinned at her. “And the best cure for bad dreams is wild sex, right?”

Smiling, she shook her head. Leave it to Dave to leverage a situation like this.

“So we better get busy.” His lips sought hers, and she raised her arms, trailing her fingers across his shoulders.

Suddenly he twisted away, “What the—”

Picking up her arm, he stared at it; bright red blood streamed down her forearm, a gaping wound running its entire length.


“Maybe we should go to the hospital or something.” Dave leaned against the breakfast table, a roll of paper towels and masking tape scattered across. Impromptu first aid supplies. He continued, “I really think you need a doctor.”

“I don’t know,” Janet held out her arm, examining it. White paper towel slowly blossomed with red flowers.

“Look, you’re still bleeding through that thing.”

She stared down at her arm, “I think it’s stopped.”

“We should get you to a doctor anyway.”

“And say what? I’m having violent dreams? That’d be a laugh.”

“No, but this is weird. Something’s going on.”

Janet looked down at her arm, “Yeah, they’d probably just say I was sleepwalking or something, cut myself somehow.”

“Is that what you think?”

She looked up at him, “I don’t know—it’s all impossible. Just a dream, right?”


Dave sprawled across the sofa, and as she walked into the living room, he patted the cushion beside himself. Janet stood in the doorway and asked warily. “What’re you watching?”

He shrugged and waved the remote, “Don’t know, what’d you want?”

Arrays of conspiracy theories paraded across the screen. Secrets NASA kept, now exposed. The alien agenda. Area 51, declassified. Alien autopsy performed by the Army.

“Maybe none of that.”

He smiled at her, “Bridges of Madison County, then?”

“Sure, I could look at Clint Eastwood for a while.”

“Don’t look at him too much.”


Janet lay nestled on the sofa, bowl of popcorn on her lap. The TV flashed before her as Dave scrolled through a selection of movies. She sat up, “Wait—stop—go back.”


“That’s it! That’s in my dream!”

Slowly panning back through the movie selection, he paused and looked up at her. “This one?”

Life on other planets: proof revealed.

She nodded.

“You’re serious?” Dave looked at her, hovering the cursor over the title.

She nodded again, staring at the image. Grey rock, deep crevices and midnight sky; the image stamped with ‘never before seen footage’.

Suddenly the movie started, blackness flickered, and then opening credits flashed across the screen. Thanks to NASA, and others she didn’t know.

Darkness filled the screen; a crisp British accent burst into the living room as the narrator began: “Through satellite technology, we have been able to catch a glimpse of primitive life forms on distant planets.”

Black and white, grainy footage of rocks and craters suddenly jumped, as though bumped by an unseen creature.

“That’s them! That’s the bugs.” Janet kept her eyes fixed on the television.

“What? There’s nothing there, just rocks.”


She stared in horror as thousands of bugs swarmed across the screen, and the narrator’s voice continued, “…recent footage, never before revealed to the public and obtained through exclusive transmissions, has found proof of life on other planets; in fact, resembling prehistoric life here on earth.”

Cut to an image of a fossil of a creature with a flattened body and a multitude of legs. The narrator continued, “Trilobites, a creature from our warm seas first appeared during the Early Cambrian era, are now only seen through the fossil record. Tremendous scavengers, they consumed decaying bodies left on the ocean floor.”
An artist’s drawings of flat bugs creeping underwater, with countless legs and long antenna, flashed across the screen.

“That’s them,” Janet repeated.

He shrugged. “It’s just a documentary, probably not even real.”

“The most successful of early arthropods, trilobites colonized the oceans and flourished until the end of the Permian era, one of many creatures lost in a mass extinction; which is now believed to be the result of asteroid impact.”

Dave smiled, “I can see why you had bugs in your dreams. This stuff’s putting me to sleep.”
She held up her hand, shushing him.

The narrator continued, “And now, for the first time ever, we have evidence of life emerging on other planets, deep within our solar system; life-forms which bear a remarkable similarity to our own ancient creatures.”

The view shifted to grainy footage, black and white landscape. A female body lay prone, outstretched on the rocky ground. As the bugs descended, suddenly the film shifted, shaking and the narrator’s voice broke through, “Hey! What’s she doing there?”

An unfamiliar voice, replied, “Satellite malfunction, Boss, don’t worry, we’re on it.”

Dave and Janet stared at the TV as the body disappeared in the next frame, the bugs still piled in a heap, they fell tumbling down into empty space, then righted themselves, pushing upwards with black limbs and antenna waving.

“That’s not you,” Dave turned toward Janet.

“No, we’re watching her.”

On the screen, a single insect rocked on its shell, upside-down, legs thrashing furiously as it tried to right itself. Slowly shifting as one, the others seemed to detect a weakness, and the swarm descended upon it.

The narrator’s voice continued in polished tones, “In the ancient battle of the survival of the fittest, the death of one provides life for many, ensuring the continued existence of the colony..”

Dave leaned forward. “What the—”

The insect flipped over onto itself, and lifted the hard segments of its carapace, revealing transparent wings; and beating them furiously, launched into flight, heading straight for the camera.

Janet closed her eyes.

“Holy crap!” Dave stared at the screen. “It knocked the camera right down.”

“You said this documentary is probably not real!”

“It is starting to look pretty real.”

From the now-tilted camera angle, with the camera obviously lying on the ground, grey dust hung in the air, and small rocks and pebbles appeared enormous. Through the cloud of dust, the other insects became visible, each spreading hard shells to reveal transparent wings, all beating furiously, they launched into flight.

The swarm filled the screen, countless insects flashing before the camera, and as one enormous mass, the bugs rose into the night sky, disappearing in the darkness.

The narrator’s voice came back on. “As these primitive life forms take flight, we do not know where they are going, or which planet they will choose to colonize next.”

The screen faded to black. Dave looked at Janet expectantly. “Well, that was weird.”

“I know. Wait, look!” She pointed back to the screen.

The film credits stated, This unauthorized excerpt of the Mars Rover transmission and film were made possible by our satellite providers.

Silence stretched between them as the documentary ended, the prompts to ‘rate this title’ and ‘next selections for you’ flashed across the screen.

Finally Dave turned toward her. “So that’s it, right? You must of fallen asleep on the couch, and the weird bug movie was playing, right? It got into your dreams.”

“How do you explain this?” Janet glanced down at her arm, no longer in bandages, light scarring tracked down her forearm.

“Look Babe, you were probably sleepwalking or something. Maybe fell and cut yourself,” he tapped the glass coffee table. “That’d do you in.”

“I know, but…” trailing off, she closed her eyes, trying to pull up memories of the place. “It was all so real.”

He laughed, “Like the faked moon landing docs. Or fake extraterrestrial bug docs.”

‘Your next movie will start in eighteen seconds,’ flashed across the television, and a countdown began. Janet sat staring at the screen, popcorn bowl now forgotten. “Shhh… listen.”

“Okay, now you’re starting to freak yourself out, Babe.” Dave reached for her arm. She jerked it away.

“No! Just be quiet.” She sat up, staring, wide-eyed. “Oh my god—”

Then Dave heard it too; his eyes widened as he looked around the living room. “What is that?”

A steady hum filled the air.

“It’s them,” she whispered, still sitting frozen.


“The bugs! They’re coming.”

“Look, Janet, it’s just a TV show.”

“No, turn it off.” Janet grabbed at the remote, and the TV snapped to blackness.

A soft thud struck against the living room window, followed by another, and a flurry of others; dull thumps striking, and faint scratching noises.

“What the—” he cried. “Somebody’s throwing something at our house.”

“No, Dave.” She grabbed his arm and pointed at the window.

“It’s the bugs?” He stared stupidly, trying to take it in.

Otherworldly creatures with scratching claws and hard shells clung to the glass, their antennas waving idly. Carapaces opening and transparent wings fluttering; a steady drone filled the air.

He leaped up, yanking at the curtains, trying to close them. “It’s impossible! It’s somebody’s idea of a joke!”

Suddenly, the creatures shifted; several mouths unfolded—long tubes lapping at the window glass. He jumped back, yelling.

From behind the window, the long tubes lapped and sucked, revealing trailing tongues. A thin coating of slime soon covered the glass.

Janet screamed, terror flooding and twisting all thought. She stood with the remote still in her hand, and abruptly threw it at the TV; it fell, clattering against the screen and landed on the carpet. Unmoving.

“What the hell do we do?” Dave turned toward her, his eyes wide. Bugs continued to crawl across the living room window. “We gotta call someone! The cops.”

She stared at him, breathing heavily. Bugs. All over the window.

Stumbling across the living room, he bumped his shin on the coffee table and grabbed his phone from the sofa; his fingers mashed through emergency numbers, holding it to his ear…a faint ringtone was audible over her breathing.

“Do you think the police…” he trailed off, listening through telephone prompts, press one for fire, press two for injury—

She shook her head, then a noise caught her attention: soft scratching of claws on hard plastic, followed by a faint hum.

“Dave! They’re inside the TV!” The scratching sounds slowly grew louder; the hum now a steady drone.


“Da-ve,” She twisted his name into a scream as a slim black limb eased out of the TV, waving at her. She screamed again.

The black leg was followed by another. And another.

Lunging toward the television, Dave reached out with both hands. He turned and stared at her, grey faced in panic.

“No! Don’t!”

Dave pulled the television toward himself; it hit the floor, crashing amid shattered glass and the crunch of cracked plastic housing.

Janet yelled, “What’d you do?”

He stared at the TV, unable to speak.

A glistening sea of hard shells and waving antenna erupted as hundreds of creatures emerged from the back of the television; swarming over carpet and the coffee table toward them.

A loud buzz filled the air, then nothing.


A different television screen flickered, darkness cut with static. A hurried voice said, “Just some technical difficulties, folks, stand by.”

“What is this shit?” Gary asked his buddy, Jay; and drew on a cheap joint—thinner than shit, it better be good. He waved the smoke around the living room and stared at the TV. A bunch of names, he only caught NASA, flashed by. “What the hell is this?”

“Just watch.”

As the opening credits rolled past, the narrator’s voice came on…some posh British accent. “Through satellite technology we have been able to catch a glimpse of primitive life forms on distant planets.”

“Hey man, whadya watching this crap for?” Sparking up another one, Gary turned toward Jay, and held out the joint. “Thought you’d find something decent. Not some fucking David Attenborough shit.”

“Wait,” Jay reached for the joint and inhaled. The grainy black and white footage jumped and skittered. “You gotta see this. It’s so messed up. Faker than shit.”

As they watched, two bodies lay on grey rock, a man and a woman, both immobile; thousands of bugs crawled out of a crack in the ground, covering the bodies with hard shells and waving antenna.

“Look at ‘em just lying there, they don’t even move.”

“Yeah, you bet your ass I’d be hollering bloody murder if that happened to me.” Gary stubbed the remainder of his joint out into the overflowing ashtray and leaned forward on the sofa.

“They’re just sitting there with their mouths open— oh shit, check this out, Buddy, one of them bugs is right in his mouth.”

“Fucking gross.”

“And her— check her out. Bugs’re all over her tits. Oh shit,” he burst out laughing, “one’ve ‘em went right down her top.”

Jay started laughing, and then coughing; leaning forward, he choked out a cloud of smoke. The sweet smell of marijuana filled the air.

Gary pounded him on the back, “You’re supposed to inhale, dude, not waste the shit.”

“Yeah.” Catching his breath, Jay drew deeply on the joint, his cheeks collapsing inward. Exhaling, he waved his joint at the TV. “Fucking messed up shit, that.”

They sat staring at the television, watching grainy footage jump and skitter as the insect swarmed over the bodies. Suddenly, the sea of bugs lifted as one, launching into flight.

“Holy shit! Look at ‘em go.” Jay nodded at the screen. “Bugs’re getting outta there.”

“Yeah. Show’s over.” Gary flopped against the sofa cushion. “Now what’d you wanna watch?”

“Just wait— something’ll come up.”

“Better not be lame-ass.”

“This wasn’t—”

“Hey man…did you hear that?” Gary sat up, and stared at the cable box.


“I dunno—some kind of scratching noises.”

Liz McAdams is a short, sharp writer living in the wilds of Canada with her laptop and black cats. She adores themes of love, loss, and longing—all with a twist of darkness. Her work appears in venues around the globe, appearing most recently on Shotgun Honey, Spelk, Yellow Mama, Near to the Knuckle and the newly emerging feminist horror lit mag, Twisted Sister.

You can connect with Liz HERE