“Dang!” Eleanor’s husband cried. “The damn thing bit me!”
He grabbed his triceps and looked at her with an expression that mingled pain with surprise.
Eleanor was as surprised as he was. Jonathan, her husband, was not the type to whine about an insect bite. He was the muscular type of guy that went to the gym three times a week, sweated his ass off, and wore tank tops to prove it. She could try to pretend, but that really was the reason she had fallen for him quicker than she’d dare to admit to any of her gals. That, and his tight jaw line.
To see him stunned like this was out of character for him.
Then again, flies are not supposed to bite at all. Not even these blue-arsed buggers that infested their flat since the day before. It had started with just a handful, but now there were dozens of them around the house. It worked on her nerves and drove her insane.
She’d taken a wrapped newspaper and smacked several, as evidenced by the gory red spots that were littered over the walls and the windows in no particular pattern. But there was no way she could keep up with them. For every one she flattened it appeared as if four more popped out of nowhere.
Jonathan had come to her aid. He was taller than she was and better equipped to squash the flying hordes that were gathering high up on the windows. They liked the warm air close to the ceiling and the sunlight as it entered from outside. As he took his turn with the newspaper it had been hard for him to miss as he swiped at their tiny conglomerations. He had killed over fifteen of them when one appeared to have taken its revenge.
“That’s it, I’m calling the exterminators,” he said.
Eleanor looked at the ceiling where still dozens of the swarming insects buzzed and stalked the white paint. She sighed.
It was only Saturday morning. Calling in the exterminators was probably the right call, but their toxic fumes meant that they wouldn’t be able to stay in their flat for the weekend. She would enjoy being out; she could sip her latte in the pleasant sun of an early spring afternoon. Maybe get some shopping done while Jonathan enjoyed a pint on the terrace. But the evenings were still chilly and she had been looking forward to the comfort of her home and a good night’s rest.
Tucking in early and getting up late.
“I’ll find us a hotel with Netflix,” she agreed.
Her afternoon was a disappointment. The exterminators arrived around noon and told them to stay out of their home for 24 hours, which was to be expected. They checked into a hotel where they dropped off some clothes and after that, Eleanor had hoped that her husband was going to join her in the city.
Instead, he opted to go straight to the gym. He needed to ‘clear his head’, or so he said. They both had full-time jobs — he was an accountant and she worked as a fashion designer — and with his busy gym schedule during the week, they had little time left for each other. But on Saturday, they were both free. Even if he wouldn’t go in any shops with her, at least she had hoped he would come out with her to find a nice place to sit under the sun and enjoy some time together.
Instead, she found herself alone on an outdoor terrace. She ended up texting her friends, only to discover they were occupied with plans of their own. And when she was done, she found her coffee had cooled faster than expected from the cold freeze.
Those darn flies had ruined everything. Where did those things even come from?
Their flat was on the fifth floor of an eight-story building. Generally, they didn’t see too many buzzing insects making their way over there. Whatever their origin, she hoped the poison would kill them all.
She called Jonathan at 5:30 PM. She’d spend the past couple of hours in an uninspired mood, walking through shops, but not buying anything. Meanwhile, she hadn’t heard back from her husband at all. Dinner time was approaching and she held out hope that they could find a place to eat out. It didn’t have to be romantic, just a quiet place where they could spend some time together.
“Hey,” he answered.
“Love, what shall we do for dinner?” she asked.
“I’m heading back to the hotel and I will order pizza,” he replied.
“Oh…” That didn’t sound like her John. Her husband was fit, and proudly so. He watched his carb intake. “Okay, I’ll join you then. You know what I like, love.”
“Yes,” he replied and hung up.
Disappointed, she looked at her phone.
She had known Jonathan for six years now. They had been married for six months. Their lives were busy and they still focused a lot of time on their careers, but she couldn’t remember feeling this kind of distance from him before. Something felt off.
At least one thing still went according to plan. At 9 PM, Eleanor tucked herself into the comfortable hotel bed. The TV was on, an impossibly low volume reciting dialogue she had already lost interest in. The flavor of greasy pizza thankfully subsiding.
She looked at her husband as he stepped out of the bathroom, naked and ready to join her. He looked tired, but while his demeanor was sagging, his muscles still highlighted his athletic build and she felt herself warm up to him again.
“Will you join me?” she asked, as she lifted the blanket on his side of the bed.
Finally, a smile cracked his stone face. “Of course,” he said.
He walked over and lied down underneath the blanket.
“I’m sorry,” he apologised. “I’m not really feeling myself today.”
“It’s okay,” she said, and guided him to move on top of her. Already, she could feel his enthusiasm.
She grabbed his strong arms as she prepared for him.
“What’s this?” she asked.
On the back of his arm, she felt a bulging hump.
“Huh,” he said as he looked at his triceps.
It was the place where he had been bitten. A wide patch around it was swollen.
“It doesn’t hurt,” he said.
“It doesn’t look so good,” she said. She carefully prodded the edges.
“Really, I feel nothing,” he assured her. “If it’s still like this on Monday, I’ll visit the doctor, promise.”
That settled it.
“Okay,” she smiled. Those flies had ruined enough of their weekend. “Get to it, big boy.”
The next day she felt a lot better, but she wished the same could be said for Jonathan. He seemed a bit pale now and was wearing a warm sweater, despite the sun being out again. But when she asked him if he felt alright, he merely said ‘how could I not be’ and gave her a wink.
They enjoyed a large breakfast, both of them feasting on ravenous amounts of bread and sausages and egg.
It was just after noon when they arrived back at their apartment. She removed the sealing from the front door and unlocked it. A chemical stench welcomed them as they entered the flat. Dead flies littered the carpet.
Eleanor walked to the window to open it. The place desperately needed fresh air.
Behind her, Jonathan gave a hoarse cough.
She looked at him, concerned.
A fly squeezed out of his left nostril and took flight.
“John?” Her voice wavered.
“What is it?” He stepped towards her.
Something moved in the corner of his eye. It bulged, then another fly crawled out. A body with six tiny legs. Its wings unglued from its body, it buzzed and took off.
“Oh my god…” she gasped.
“What?” He took another step towards her.
The room grew smaller. She was cornered with nowhere to go. Her strength was no match for his. Suddenly his tall, muscular body felt towering and intimidating.
She started to panic.
Was he sick? Was it the bite from that fly that had infected him? How far did the infection reach? Was he aware of what was going on? Had the flies infected his brain? At least he wasn’t acting aggressive…
He reached for her shoulder.
Reflexively, she stepped in and kneed him in the groin.
Jonathan kept looking at her, confused.
“Why did you do that?” Two more flies erupted from his mouth.
A low, buzzing sound emerged from his pants where she’d hit him.
She felt a sick revulsion come over her. The urge to retch only suppressed by the stress of the situation. This man, the man she loved, who had been inside her the previous night, started to extricate more flies as she saw tiny dots of movement crawl underneath his skin towards his natural openings.
Desperate, she flung herself at him. She had to get out of there.
Unexpectedly, Jonathan collapsed like a sack of potatoes.
She didn’t stop to look as she sprinted towards the front door, closed it behind her, locked it and left her key in the lock on the outside. He wouldn’t come out anytime soon.
She was inside the stairway. No neighbours were in sight to ask for help, but as she stood there, wondering what to do, she couldn’t help but feel a warm draft of air go up.
She looked up and saw sunlight enter at the top of the staircase. With no further thought she started to climb. Towards the light. Towards the warmth.
Credit : Aron Silver
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