The Roachiphant 
 

A CURIOSITY

by Dennis Fisher
I have in my house the only known exemplar of the roachiphant.  Of its origins I can only say that I had it from my father and he from his father.  It is mine by virtue of dislike; none of my brothers wanted it.  And who could blame them?  It is an unfortunate beast, an unhappy cross between a cockroach and a pachyderm.  It eats prodigiously, and leaves its waste all about the house.  The sad burden of this strange animal has tainted my life, since no woman would have me as husband with such an odd creature as my constant familiar.  Though it shares my life, I cannot call it a pet. 

Whether my roachiphant has any actual elephant paternity is a matter for conjecture.  It may simply have been an attempt to replicate the extinct mammal from one of the few creatures remaining to science.  Certainly it has four legs instead of six, though they are brisk and hairy rather than smooth, gray, and columnar.  A segmented trunk and chitinous ears give it the correct profile at first glance.  But the ears are more like wing cases and seem to have little to do with hearing, and the trunk is very like a centipede on close inspection.  The roachiphant even has a species of tusk adorning its face, but again it seems more like the horn of a rhinoceros beetle (to whom it is perhaps distantly related) than the ivory appendages of the true animal. 

Is my beast a sport of nature or a construct of man?  I may never know the truth, and perhaps it is better that way.  As a legacy I cannot dispose of it, though if I thought of doing so it should certainly be easier if I thought it some human mistake rather than a purposeful design of nature.  Perhaps nature, (or should I say God?) wishes to replace the lost original.  Or it may be the blighted end product of some unremembered atomic exchange -- an unplanned result of man's brutality toward himself. 

                                                * * * 

As a roach it is curiously inept.  It cannot scamper or hide.  As an elephant it is also a failure.  It lacks the grace and sympathy of that animal.  Though many sizes larger than a roach, it is stunted for an elephant.  The roachiphant is neither one nor the other, and recognizes no brethrenship anywhere.  It rejects filth, but will happily take a dust bath.  It cannot trumpet, but sometimes can be said to wheeze. 

And how long will it live?  The animal shows no sign of aging.  It is changeless and self-contained.  Certainly its life gives it no pleasure.  The roachiphant does not frisk or play.  Its only joy is in eating grass (tons) or the sugar cubes I give it.  It shows me no affection, only a tolerance bred of familiarity and resignation.  Sometimes I seem to detect a glistening at its multifaceted eyes, as if it felt sorrow at its nearly insupportable lot, though it seems to lack the will or perhaps the means to end itself. 

Or does it miss its own kind?  Are there others like it in some far corner of the world?  Do other households like mine exist, each blighted by the existence of such a monster?  Each with its lonely, unmarriageable master or mistress hopelessly waiting out the days until one or the other is dead? 

                                                * * * 

For myself I am mixed in my feelings toward the curious, jointed roachiphant.  Sometimes I feel a kind of affection toward it, as if we were bonded by more than inconvenience.  On other days I wish to flee the house, and sometimes do, though never farther than the local establishment.  There I drink, but never so much that I reveal my secret life to all and sundry.  Always I return, and always my antagonist greets me with an indifference tinctured with apprehension.  It is utterly dependent upon me for its every want, yet if it could live without me I believe it would gladly do so.  

I have seen it staring for hours at the sky, as if trying to make up its mind to take wing.  Once I fancied that I saw filmy wings folding and unfolding beneath its iridescent skin.  Could what lurks beneath its assumed form ever burst forth?  

Sometimes when I am seated in my easy chair and it is curled tense and unlovable at my feet, I contemplate ending its miserable existence as befits its type, by squashing it beneath my boot.  At such times the roachiphant will often turn its freak head to me as if reading my thoughts, and daring me to give it release.  But we are both locked in our passivity and impracticality, unwilling to take the step that would lead toward some definite conclusion.  Were it more elephant-like, then no doubt it would thunder triumphantly into extinction, following its lost kin, making an end of itself in some unique roachiphant graveyard.  Were it more roach-like, then certainly I would find no difficulty in killing it.   *  
 

Story copyright ©1998 by Dennis Fisher <azimuth@bangornews.infi.net>   

Illustration copyright ©1998 by Romeo Esparrago <romedome@aol.com>  

 
 

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