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ISBN-10: 1-89484-172-7
Genre: Supernatural/Horror
eBook Length: 212 Pages
Published: August 2002

From inside the flap

The demented mind behind GRAVEROBBERS WANTED (NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY) and SINGLE WHITE PSYCHOPATH SEEKS SAME is back with an another outrageous blend of the humorous and the horrific. Extremely large and vicious red fire ants (Solenopsis invicta) are on the loose in Tampa, Florida, and those who don't immediately become ant chow must figure out how to stop this attack before the entire city becomes overrun by the creatures. Whether you love ants, hate ants, or have no real opinion of them as long as they're not currently stinging you, you'll love this over-the-top, action-packed, tongue-in-cheek insects-on-the-rampage thriller!

Reviews and Awards

No writer working today comes close to Jeff Strand's perfect mixture of comedy and terror. Simply put, Mandibles is tons of fun.
-- Cemetery Dance

Unlike other horror stories that you might have read I don't think that "Mandibles" is meant to be taken seriously. It's more of a giggling-horror than a terrified-horror. I quite liked this novel, and I do think "Mandibles" is entertaining. Just don't take it too seriously or you'll miss out on the fun.

Cindy Penn
Senior Editor,

On the Yowza meter I'd have to give Jeff Strand's MANDIBLES four and a half Yowza's.

--Reviewer, Steve Vernon

Mandibles (Excerpt)


Charlie flung his bag of gummi bears into the sink, disgusted and furious. This wasn't the lousy generic brand that Lauren always bought; these were direct-from-Germany, premium quality gummi bears, one of the few pleasures in his miserable life, and now the whole bag was filled with ants.

He smacked his fist against the counter. "Damn it, woman, you left the bag open again! Are you going to learn to follow my rules or do I have to start slapping you around?"

Charlie cringed and looked frantically toward the kitchen doorway. He hadn't meant to say that quite so loud. Please, God, please, please, please don't let her have heard that over the television, he prayed.

"What was that, honey?" Lauren called out from the living room.


"Are the dishes finished?"


"Did you wipe off the table?"


"Then the dishes aren't done, are they?"

Charlie wanted to argue that, technically, wiping off the dinner table had nothing to do with washing the dishes, but he was still rattled from his close call. Anyway, he hadn't worked up the courage to argue that little detail with her in eight years of marriage. Maybe tomorrow.

He peered into the sink. Several of the tiny red ants had crawled out of the bag and were making their way up the side. Perhaps some swimming lessons are in order, he thought as he turned on the hot water full blast. He picked up the sprayer and directed the water at the ants on the side of the sink, knocking them off. He envisioned little Lauren faces on them as they swirled down the drain, screaming in unbearable agony.

He picked up the bag by the bottom corner and shook out its contents, gasping as hundreds, maybe thousands of ants poured out. He could barely even see the colors of the gummi bears. Some of the ants ran up the bag toward his arm, so he quickly dropped it.

Time to perish, Lauren-ants. He flipped on the garbage disposal, grinning wickedly as he sprayed more and more of the ants to their doom. Some others tried to escape up the side of the sink again, but he sprayed around the rim and took care of the rest of them. It wasn't long before all of the Lauren-ants had been washed down the drain, their incessant complaining silenced for all eternity.

Lauren was saying something over the noise. He flipped off the switch. "What was that?"

"I said, quit playing with the garbage disposal."

"I wasn't playing with it. I was using it."

"It doesn't take two minutes to use the garbage disposal."

"There were ants in my gummi bears."

"Then you shouldn't have left the bag open."

Charlie clenched his fists but didn't say anything. He'd seen a bit of orange gummi bear in Lauren's teeth last night, and knew for certain that he would never leave a bag of direct-from-Germany, premium-quality gummi bears exposed to the elements, but arguing the issue would be a waste of time.

Oh well. He was thirty-eight years old, and far too mature to grieve over a simple bag of candy. The ants got into it, the ants had suffered their deserved fate, and that was the end of it. Once her show ended, Lauren might let him switch over to the Sci-Fi Channel and then everything would be okay.

"Did you check for more of them?" Lauren called out.

"More what?" he asked.

"Ants," Lauren replied, her voice clearly indicating that he was a gargantuan idiot.

"No, I got 'em all."

"I mean, did you check the rest of the food? They could have gotten into more things."

"I don't think so. I only saw them in the gummi bears."

"Well why don't you check?"

Charlie decided to check. He opened the pantry door and searched the floor carefully. No sign of any ants amidst the numerous shreds of onionskins that had fallen through the bottom wire shelf. He glanced at the shelves, and everything looked okay.

He wanted to walk out into the living room and ask her if he should open up the canned goods to ensure that they were ant-free, but he decided that it wasn't a good idea. Lauren's sense of humor tended toward the non-existent.

A box of cereal on the top shelf was open. Not surprisingly, it wasn't his Froot Loops or Count Chocula that had been left open, but Lauren's grain cereal with the unpronounceable name. She should be the one in here looking for bugs in the food.

He took down the box and peered inside. Not only had she left the box open, but also she hadn't bothered to roll down the top of the bag. And yes, the cereal was absolutely swarming with tiny red ants.

He closed up the top and headed for the garbage can, but no, Lauren should at least see that it was her cereal that was infested. She always tried to blame everything on him, but she knew darn well that he never touched her crappy twig cereal.

"You left your cereal open," he said, displaying the box as he stepped into the living room. Lauren was lying on the couch, feet propped up on the armrest, bony legs bent at the knee.

"Then maybe you should close it," she suggested, glaring at him with her eyes of Satan.

"Too late. The ants already got it, see?" He opened the lid and waved the box at her.

"No, I don't wanna see. Just throw it away. What's the matter with you?"

"I just thought you might want to see."

"Why would I want to see a bunch of bugs in my cereal? Maybe if you wouldn't forget to close the pantry door this wouldn't happen."

Charlie frowned. Now that was going too far. "The door ends an inch from the floor," he pointed out. "There's no ant in the world that couldn't get in under there."

Lauren sighed. "Why are we having this conversation?"

"I was just saying--"

"I know what you were just saying, but you can't possibly think it's important, can you?"

Charlie resisted the urge to throw the box of cereal at her. "You said that it was my fault for leaving the pantry door open, and I was saying that the ants would have gotten in anyway, that's all."

"Well it's not a big deal either way. Just throw away the box."

"The only reason it's not a big deal is because it's your fault instead of mine."

Lauren swung her legs off the armrest and planted them on the floor. "Honey? Throw the box away, okay?"

Charlie didn't move. Maybe he should throw the box at her. Hit her right in the face. A nice big mouthful of ants might shut her up for a while.

"Charlie? Are you listening?"

The ants might even devour her tongue. Then she'd never be able to gripe at him again unless she learned sign language, and she hated to study.

He could do it. He could throw the box.

It would be all her fault.


"I'm sorry," said Charlie, lowering the box.

"That's okay. I just don't see why you have to make a big deal out of everything. Finish up in the kitchen and we'll watch whatever you want."

Charlie nodded and turned away, then cried out as burning pain tore through the back of his hand. He dropped the box of cereal as a swarm of red ants quickly moved across his wrist.

"Help me!" he wailed, desperately trying to brush them off. Lauren immediately jumped off the couch and rushed over to him. The back of his hand was already covered with dozens of small welts, and the agony was incredible.

Lauren grabbed his other arm and dragged him into the kitchen. She pulled him over to the sink and turned on the faucet. "Put your arm under it!"

Whimpering, Charlie held his arm under the water. It was scalding hot, but that couldn't compare to the unbelievable burning pain in his hand. He'd been stung by bees several times and it was no big could ant stings possibly hurt this bad?

Lauren used the sprayer to wash the rest of the ants off his arm. Once they were all gone, she took the dishtowel from where it hung over the refrigerator door handle and gently blotted his arm dry. His hand and arm were already starting to swell up.

"Are you okay?" she asked. "How bad does it hurt?"

"It's like my hand is on--" he began, and then let out a scream. "They're under my shirt!"

He could feel some ants scurrying across his shoulder. With Lauren's help, he quickly pulled off his shirt and threw it to the floor.

"I don't see them!" said Lauren.

Charlie fell to his knees and began smacking the back of his neck, where the pain was at its worst. "Get them off me!" he shrieked.

"I still can't see them!"

"They're in my hair!"

Charlie began to claw at his scalp, practically sobbing. How could they sting him so many times so quickly? It was like somebody had jabbed red-hot needles along the ants' path.

He was going to die. He'd read about people dying from ant stings in Florida before, and was never able to figure out how something like that could happen, even to the elderly people who were the usual victims. Now he knew.

He was barely aware of his surroundings as Lauren pulled him to his feet and led him to the bathroom. She shoved him into the shower, turned on the water, and hurriedly helped him out of the rest of his clothes. The cold water eased the pain a bit, and he vigorously scrubbed at his hair, trying to rinse out the insects.

"Just stay under the water!" Lauren said. "I'll go get help!"

Charlie nodded and grabbed the shampoo bottle. He squeezed some into his palm and began rubbing it into his hair, hoping that would help get rid of the ants. He wasn't feeling any new stings, and while the pain was still excruciating, it was starting to subside just a bit.

Over the spray of the shower he could hear Lauren talking on the phone. Her loud mouth had never been more welcome. She'd take care of him. An ambulance would be here soon, and then he'd be fine. The only reason anybody ever died from ant stings was because they didn't get medical attention in time. Lauren wouldn't let him die.

Then he felt something dig into his left eye.

Total panic took over. His feet slipped out from under him. And the burning misery went away for good as his head struck the tile floor.