itch was proud of his room, or rather of what his room used to be. Mitch's room used to be the neatest room in his apartment building. The furniture all arranged just so. Not a speck of dust anywhere. Bed positioned so that when the sun shone through his crystal-clear bedroom window, it would bounce off his bedside lamp and shine on Mitch's face, waking him precisely at 6:30 AM. But why was Mitch's room so meticulously clean? Because of Mitch's maid, Billy Jean. Billy Jean was a superb maid; she cleaned and mopped and dusted all day long. But then Billy Jean died of a cerebral aneurysm and since Mitch had no time to clean his room, it became dirtier and dirtier.

One day, five years after Billy Jean's death Mitch decided it was time to clean his room, but first he was going to survey the mess. Mitch walked down the hall to stand outside his bedroom. An aura of untidiness seemed to radiate from the room. A thick layer of gray dust caked the tarnished bronze doorknob. Mitch had not opened this door since he moved out of the room last year, when he had almost not found his way out one morning.

Mitch's hand closed around the doorknob; he twisted. It turned easily, as though well oiled. Then, to Mitch's surprise, the doorknob came away in his hand, its core rusted away with age. He dropped it. The doorknob landed near a pair of thick, horn-rimmed spectacles. They had been there since Mitch had stopped trying to find a maid. Probably a year and a half now. The glasses had been dropped by Consuela, Mitch's last maid, when her heart stopped after seeing the room. They rested alongside an ancient feather duster which had been left by the maid before her.

Stepping back, Mitch threw all his weight against the door. The hinges creaked and groaned as the door slid open an inch. Dust spewed forth from the crack, followed by an ominous blackness and the musty stench of old air. Again Mitch threw himself at the door. This time the rotting door jam let go of the hoary hinges and the door fell into the room with a loud 'bang'. Dust, disturbed by the falling door, filled the air. The only light came from the open doorway, the only exit. Coughing, Mitch reached for the light switch. There were two lights in the room, one mounted in the ceiling and another on the bedside table. He flipped the switch on; there was a bright flash, followed by a loud pop. The light bulbs in the ceiling lamp had exploded, but a dim yellow glow still came from where Mitch's bed had been. He could not see it because his view was obstructed by six-foot-tall piles of junk: old pizza boxes, dirty clothes, moldy candy wrappers and miscellaneous, unrecognizable jetsam.

The light revealed more than just the junk though, it's feeble yellow-orange glow showed most of the room. To Mitch's right was an aged dresser, the once-green paint peeling heavily, the drawers hanging out in a desultory manner, spewing unused, dust-covered clothes. On top of the dresser was a shattered mirror. Mitch's reflection in the mirror was smudged and grimy beyond recognition. The carpet, where it could be seen, was an indistinct grayish color. Moth-eaten, yellow socks were strewn across the floor, no two alike.

Mitch gagged on a sudden gust of musty air. "I gotta open the window," he thought. He picked a long rope up off of the floor. Mitch tied one end around the radiator in the hallway. The other he looped around his waist. Now he could not get lost.

Walking around the first mound of garbage, Mitch saw his closet. The doors bulged outwards, barely holding back the tsunami of clothes behind, straining against the chair he had propped against the doors two years ago, when he had opened the closet to find a clean shirt and had nearly suffocated under an avalanche of age-yellowed, mildewy apparel before his muffled cries for assistance had been heard by a neighbor. When the neighbor had finished digging him out, Mitch had set the chair against the closet so it could never be opened again.

After circling another towering pile, Mitch reached the window. A full inch of dust lay on the window sill. Mitch could not see through the window, the glass was so covered in dirt and dust. He tried to open the window. It would not budge. Again he tried, the timbers in the wall groaned.

"I guess I'll have to get a crowbar," Mitch thought to himself. Turning to retrace his steps by following the rope, Mitch was just in time to see a number of large, black cockroaches, who had been chewing on the rope, scurry away into the dark crevices between the heaps of rubbish. Mitch looked down at the rope: it had been gnawed clean through. He looked around the dim room desperately for the other end, his only way out, but there was no sign of it. Panic seized Mitch.

Then, with a loud crack, the last light exploded. Total darkness enveloped the room. Mitch could not see his own hand in front of his face, let alone the way to the door. He walked in the direction he thought was out and tripped over what might once have been a TV dinner.

Mitch was lost, but this time no one would hear his cries for help. Or his screams of terror and pain as ravenous cockroaches and giant, carnivorous rats devoured Mitch alive.

Copyright © 2003