Skate-O-Rama by Jessica Gleason


The cosmic carpet had seen better days; its bright purples faded with time, leaving only stained planets and smudged gum, a sad relic of the roller-skating nineties. A trusty vacuum would suck up the day’s nacho crumbs, but it couldn’t stop tennis shoes from sticking like worn-out Velcro to the disgusting carpets.

Seline sighed, looking at the scattered mess left by Valentine’s kiddie party participants, all hopped up on slushies and Super Ropes. Wishing she’d had a date tonight, she popped in her earbuds, and flipped on the building’s bright overhead lights.

“It’s going to be a long, stupid night,” she sighed. If she’d finished college, she probably wouldn’t be cleaning up after grubby children on Love Day. She could go back, finish, and move on with her life, but the comfort of this dated relic and her abject fear of change kept her rooted to the spot, stagnant and mechanical.

With the soothing sounds of Cosmo Sheldrake pumping in her ears, Seline powered up the ancient Kirby and began her first round of vacuuming for the night, wiggling along to the music as she went.


Seline was blind to the devastation outside the roller rink’s concrete walls, the deep cracks splintering the Earth’s surface, and molten lava spilling out into the streets. The bug creatures had implanted their eggs beneath Earth’s surface years ago, with the expectation that babies would hatch and inherit the planet, fresh and new, so unlike the one they’d left behind. While the initial creatures died out, unable to colonize an entire planet on their own, they knew the species would live on once their spawn made their way to the surface.

The awakening babies, sloughing off bits of shell, slimy and new, instinctually scraped their way to the planet’s surface. By the end of the hour, many of Earth’s residents had been swallowed up by great steaming fissures in the Earth’s crust, holes left behind once the bugs had broken free. Others sat charred, reduced to burbling lumps of sticky goo, no longer resembling anything remotely human.


Switching tasks, Seline readied her mop for light surface cleaning. She looked at the cracking tiles with disdain, wondering if she should even bother. No one would notice if she neglected her duties, but she was stuck in the locked building until morning unless the place burned down, a scenario Seline had masochistically played in her head more than once.

In the end, she figured monotonous janitorial tasks would help her pass time. During the mid-shift lull, she switched her playlist to the sweet sounds of Danny Sexbang screeching out nonsense Ninja Sex Party jams. Each task required a specific musical genre to help her pass the night and remain sane and awake.

Earbuds piped loud music directly into her ear canals; she never heard the screaming or the pleading. The venue’s concrete structure was well-insulated, but the chaos of the outside penetrated the building in a cacophony of muffled screams, loud booms, and the screeching of tires on poorly maintained concrete. Of course, in the rural Midwest, the population was less concentrated than in the loud cities where the screams filled the air, guttural howls of dying humans pervading each inch of space.

“Ugh, people are disgusting,” she fumed as she moved on to gum scraping, gagging each time a masticated lump of pink goo touched her ungloved fingers. Once she’d neared the end of her first rotation, the night was still again. The guttural noises slowed to a trickle as more people ceased to live, and the world fell into a quiet lull before the inevitable crescendo.

“Finally,” she exclaimed, “let’s get the automatic scrubber!” It was the Zamboni of the roller rink world, a ride-on device to clean the wooden skating surface, readying the aged floors for another day of squeaky skates and fallen asses. Seline always worked her way up to the scrubber; it was a mid-shift treat, one she enjoyed as the soothing sounds of Danzig blasted into her ears.


Outside, power to most places had faltered, but the roller rink stood loud and proud, a neon beacon in the night, its backup generator surprisingly advanced for a relic of days gone by. Much like the concrete Dollar General, it seemed a safe shelter, at least for a time.

When the great horned bugs came, six feet long with menacing sharp pincers, Wal-Marts were overrun by manic patrons collecting supplies and beating one another to death over batteries and cases of Diet Dr. Pepper. Food, shelter, toilets, and power were sought-after commodities, but the roller rink was forgotten in the shuffle.

And, so it was that while Seline was bopping to “The Final Countdown,” Eddie, in his homemade patch-covered jeans vest, with his dyed black hair and painted nails, strapped with a baseball bat and some kitchen knives, was nimbly hopping between bushes and dodging behind trees and dumpsters on his way to the lonely light still blinking on and off in his small Wisconsin town. Forgotten like he was most days, the somber young man strafed his way across town to the one building he knew would be standing.

Upon his arrival, Eddie couldn’t find a way in. The roller rink had two locked steel doors, and it lacked windows, which would have made for an easier point of entry. Not keen on making noise, he heaved in resignation. There was no other choice. It was knock or nothing. So, using his baseball bat, he banged on the entrance, hoping someone nice and helpful was inside.


Thinking it was time for a break, Seline plucked the headphones from her ears and went into the kitchen, looking for something to eat before beginning the tedious task of checking and cleaning the rental skates. The free food was a perk of the job, though it was limited to concessions like chicken nuggets, nachos, fries, and frozen pizzas. There was nary a vegetable in the whole place.

Bang. The nose reverberated across the empty venue, but Seline shrugged it off as the old building clanked and groaned. Bang. Bang.

“Well, what the hell?” Letting her curiosity win, she followed the sound, bang, bang, to the doors. “Um… hello?”

“Let me in!” A strange panicked voice.

“Yeah, no. Pass,” she replied.

“You have to let me in right now. I don’t have much time. They’re coming.”

“What are you talking about? Who’s coming? Do you want me to call for help?”

“No, I want you to let me the fuck in,” Eddie replied, his voice thin and strangled, so very mismatched from his gentle persona and gothic facade.

“Look, man, I don’t know you. I wouldn’t let you in even if I could. Stranger danger.”

“What do you mean, if?”

“The doors automatically lock. I come in, they lock. I can’t get out until morning. They’re on some kind of timer that is operated from outside the building.”

“What if there’s an emergency? You’d just die in there?”

“Well, I mean, maybe? I’d call for help and figure it out, probably.”

“Shit, shit, shit,” Eddie was running low on options and could hear the distant skittering of multi-leg abominations growing closer with each passing second.

“Let me call 911.”

“No, you can’t. Don’t you know? There is no 911.”

“Don’t be silly. Of course, there is. We’re out in the country, but not like that far.”

Running a tired hand through his disheveled brown hair, Eddie replied, “You’re not hearing me. There’s no 911. There’s no anything. This is the end, man. You’ve gotta let me in.”

Seline looked down at her phone, noticing the X where her service bars should be. That’s weird. “Give me a second. I’ll go try the landline.” She hurried off to the counter and picked up the phone. No dial tone.

Upon returning, she tentatively asked, “What’s your name? What’s really going on?”

“Eddie. I’m not crazy. Not dangerous. I need shelter until I can… until I can process what’s going on. For God’s sakes  I’m not here to kill you.”

“Well, I didn’t think you were going to do that, but I kind of do now.”

“I’m nervous. You need to find a way to let me in.”

Seline paused, thinking for a moment. Her solitary nights at work had never proven this interesting before. “Ok, Eddie. The phones aren’t working. So I can’t call for help. And I wasn’t lying; I can’t open the doors.”

Eddie slumped down, leaning against the door and sinking to the ground, violent sobs escaping his mouth. Thankful the girl inside the roller rink couldn’t see him, he heaved there against the door until he was cried out.

“Eddie, I don’t know how to help you. I’ll talk to you if you like. Could you head to the police station or… um, the hospital?” 

“You’re still not hearing me,” he wiped his nose and sniffled, choking on a thick stream of mucus before continuing, “There are no police. The hospital isn’t an option. It’s the end out here, like the end of the world.”

“Is this a joke? Who sent you? Jane? She’s always trying to pull one over on me.”

“This isn’t a damn joke. Listen to me because they’ll be here soon, and I’ll be toast.”

“You’ll be ok. Wait there until morning, and we can go for coffee together.”

“There’s no morning for me. You haven’t seen the cracks? The lava? You didn’t hear screaming?”

“Headphones and industrial equipment, sorry. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“…And then the giant bugs clawed their way out and started ripping people’s heads off.”

“Okay, Eddie, this sounds like a shitty sci-fi movie.”

“Listen, whatever your name is…”


“Okay, Seline. This is real. Put your ear to the door and listen closely. You’ll hear the skittering. Save yourself if you can.”

“Don’t do anything rash out there,” she replied, beginning to worry he was unwell, that he might hurt himself. Lots of people got down or had psychotic breaks during V-day. “You’ve got a reason to live. Do you hear me? It might seem dark right now, but when the sun comes up, we can get you some help. Hang on out th…”

Eddie’s violent scream ripped out into the night.

“Eddie. Eddie, stop. Don’t do this. You can make it.”

A hulking aberration of an insect seized Eddie by the shoulders, clamping its great jaw on his head and tearing it free from his body with a loud pop. The bug greedily slurped Eddie’s blood before haphazardly tossing his cooling carcass to the ground and moving on in search of another warm-blooded snack.

“Eddie? What’s going on? Are you there? Are you okay? Please hang on.”

There was no reply. Heart-racing, Seline sat near the door, straining to listen. When she heard nothing, she began to pace. It’s ok. I’m ok. Eddie’s ok. This is just a joke.

As the clock struck 6 AM, Seline could hear the metallic clink of locks releasing. Everything’s fine, Seline. Go outside. You’ll see. She took a deep breath and depressed the handle on the door before pushing it outward. Blinking into the sun, it took her eyes a few moments to adjust.

When her vision cleared, she could see smoke along the horizon. Acrid air filled her lungs, causing her to cough, “What the hell?” Baffled, she looked down, seeing – what could only be – Eddie’s headless corpse near the bushes and his head lying there, seeping a few feet away.

Clamping a hand over her mouth to stifle her scream, Seline slowly retreated back into the roller rink, manually locking the doors this time.

She sat unmoving, frozen in a state of disbelief, for hours. Her fingers tingled… her head buzzed. If she focused, she could, indeed, hear the skittering. With the full weight of everything washing over her, she whispered, “What happens now?”


Hawaiian-Italian author, Jessica Gleason, is a lover of horror and fantasy in their various shapes and forms and can usually be found penning gory tales deep into the night. She enjoys painting monsters with acrylics and singing a mean hair metal karaoke. Her daytime persona teaches college English and Communications in the American midwest. Her recent releases include “The Dangerous Miss Ventriloquist,” and “The Fabulous Miss Fortune” (Evil Cookie Publishing, 2023) and “Madison Murphy, Wisconsin Weirdo” (Champagne Books Group, 2023). For information on her projects, follow her on Instagram (@j.g.writes) where she hosts a monthly horror writer challenge, #WeWriteHorror.



Published 2/14/24