Phillip Cullum Peterson, nicknamed PCP by his friends as a result of both his initials and his frequent use of that specific hallucinegenic drug, had been arrested. To the consternation of his fiancee, Phil had gotten so high on PCP he thought the statue of General Grant on his horse in the city park had come to life. When the mounted park police appeared on the scene with his nightstick in hand, Phil freaked out, thinking Grant was chasing him with a drawn saber.
Released on bond 48 hours later, he was sober and serious about never using drugs again. As the weeks and months passed I, along with the rest of his friends, was amazed to witness the strength of his resolveto remain drug-free. He joined Narcotics Anonymous. He began working with various youth groups to help deter kids from drug use. He became a serious-minded college student and his whole life seemed to have a new purpose. He even began attending church on a regular basis. Kay, his fiancee, was deliriously happy at the change in Phil's life.
Puzzled by this transformation, we questioned him about what transpired during his stay in jail to cause this radical change in his lifestyle. For the longest time he refused to answer our inquiries. It wasn't until his birthday a year and a half later, as we sat around his kitchen table, that he loosened up enough to tell the following story.
When I was arrested, they placed me in a dimly-lit cell alone. During the night I awoke to see what appeared to be a giant mutant cockroach at least 4 1/2 inches long standing on its hind legs in the middle of my chest. He was dressed in a green beret and camouflage dungarees which looked as if they had come off of a G.I Joe doll. At his side was a large sewing needle strapped on like a saber. As my eyes cleared, he began to speak. "I am Rambo Roach and this is my home and you are tresspassing. If you wish to remain here you will have to pay rent to me and my troops." He then informed me the cold sack lunches which the guard brought twice a day belonged to them.
In the back of my mind I realized I must still be tripping from the drugs. I knew it took 72 hours for the drugs to clear out of my system but this seemed so real I wasn't sure what to think. At five A.M., the next morning the guard tossed a sack lunch into the cell. I had dismissed my midnight visitation as a bad dream. When I reached down to pick up my sack it seemed to move. Thinking I must be so dizzy from the drugs that I misjudged the sack's location, I reached for it again. It moved again. Finally, with all the speed my foggy mind could muster, I lunged for the sack. When I lifted it up, the entire bottom fell apart spilling the contents into the floor. Then, right before my eyes, I watched as dozens of cockroaches began rapidly carrying my food through a hole in the wall under my toilet in the rear of the cell.
I reached for my jail-issued shower shoes to use against these pesky critters, but by then they were gone along with my food. Without anything to eat I laid down and slept most of the day. When supper time arrived I was up and hungry but still not sure what was reality and what wasn't. The guard tossed the sack lunch onto the floor of my cell. Before I could move, no less than fifty cockroaches swarmed from beneath my bunk and made off with my sack of food. I immediately reached for my shower shoes only to find they were gone. While I slept through the day the roaches had removed my shower shoes, leaving me without any effective weapons against them.
Weak from hunger and still disoriented by the drugs in my system, I couldn't distinguish truth from fantasy. I decided to go back to sleep.
Once again my nocturnal visitor arrived to deliver his threats of retaliation if I opposed his attempts to collect his due rent. While he stood upon my chest ranting out his threats, I thought, "I'll just smash him with my bare hand." But when I tried to lift my arms I found this pesky predator had sewn the sleeves of my jail jump suit to the mattress. I couldn't move. With a snickering laugh, Rambo marched off, leaving me alone in the half-lit cell. After a good deal of effort I managed to get up with the mattress strapped to my back. Then, using a disposable razor, I cut the threads from my sleeves. It was some time before I was able to go back to sleep.
When the rattle of the jailer's keys broke my sleep that morning I resolved not to lose my sack lunch again. I was up and ready. When the sack was tossed into my cell I caught it while it was still in mid air. However, before I could move an inch from where I stood, a swarm of roaches parachuted from the empty book shelf mounted high on the wall opposite my bunk. I began swatting at falling roaches with both hands, dropping the sack lunch in the effort. By the time I recovered from this surprise attack my sack lunch was once again long gone.
Now I was really mad. I was determined to stay awake all day if necessary to make sure I didn't get beat out of my next meal. I counted cracks in the wall, I counted drips from the faucet, I even read my Gideon's Bible to keep awake. One of the passages of scripture I read was how God made an ass speak to a wayward prophet. I began to wonder, had God given this giant coackroach the power to speak to warn me I, too was going the wrong way? Or was it more likely that this mutant mercenary was an emissary from hell? Somehow I managed to remain alert and when the sack lunch came this time I got it without seeing a single cockroach.
It was so quiet in that cell I swear I could hear my hair growing. It was eerie. That same hair would stand on end at the slightest sound. Now I was scared to fall asleep. I fought to stay awake but after being up all day I couldn't make it. I dropped off only to be awakened by a sharp piercing pain in my left ear lobe. Once again my sleeves had been sewn to the mattress and this time my trouser legs were, too. My pint-sized tormenter was pulling the bloody needle from my ear lobe. He began to lecture me about taking his property and owing him rent. When I tried to argue he rapidly crossed to my other ear and stabbed it too. He seemed satisfied then and soon retreated with his troops following him.
Feeling like Gulliver besieged by the Lilliputians, I slept fitfully the rest of the night. My tossing and turning managed to break the threads holding be down. Yet the jailer brought the morning sack lunch I made no attempt to retrieve it. Instead, I simply rolled over and went back to sleep. I vowed to myself I would never let drugs put me through hell like this again. A few hours later Kay bonded me out of jail and I promised her I had given up drugs forever.
Most of us were stunned by this account. We could not make ourselves believe our friend was serious. I questioned, "Phil, you don't really believe you were attacked by a giant cockroach in jail, do you?" In answer, Phil push back his shoulder-length hair, showing us the punctures in each ear. No one knew what to say. Phil excused himself to visit the restroom.
As Phil left the room, Kay slipped out of her chair and walked across the kitchen. She withdrew a large rolling pin from the drawer. Then, with a look everyone knew meant business, she threatened, "I will cold-cock the first one of you who tells Phil that I pierced his ears when he passed out in my lap earlier the evening of his arrest."
Since it seemed healthier pretending to believe in giant cockroaches than to tangle with Kay, we each agreed to live well enough alone. No one could deny the purpose and quality of our friend's life was better in every way. Besides, each of us entertained a serious doubt that anything we could say could convince Phil that Rambo Roach existed only in his mind.