Stefan hears the distant sound of a bluebottle buzzing as he sits at a table staring at the phrase he’s written across the centre two pages of his notebook – All stories begin with a question. The sound grows louder. A large bluebottle lands in the gutter between the pages of the notebook. Imperceptibly, Stefan, holding his breath, slides his fingers under the book’s hard covers. With great speed he slams the book shut crushing the fly between the words he’s written.
His hands tremble as he holds the book very tight. He tries to breathe normally. It must be dead, he thinks. He’s too afraid to open the book. He closes his eyes. I need to know it’s dead, he thinks. He opens the book. The insect is pulverised. He gags. Waits.
Carefully, he tears out the two pages and folds the paper, entombing his enemy. He folds again and again, keeping his fingers at the edges of the paper to avoid feeling the relief map of death.
He sets the package to one side. It’s too near. Placing it in the palm of his hand he carries it across the room as if it might explode at any moment and sets it on the mantelpiece above the fireplace.
It’s night and Stefan is asleep and dreaming.
A cyclone of flies surrounds him. Their noise is deafening. Rasping. They swirl, battering him as he flails his hands to beat them off. They settle in their hundreds, in their thousands, on his eyes, in his ears. He gasps. They fill his mouth. He tries to spit them out. Their noise is deafening. He swallows. Wings. Plump bodies. Minute fringes of their bodies’ hairs catch in his throat. He gags. He spits more out. Flies. In his nostrils. Burrowing in his beard. Tiny translucent droppings in his hair. Everywhere their anger buzzes. They thud upon him, vomiting their filth.
Suddenly they are gone. An absolute silence surrounds him. He struggles to wake but can’t.
He sees the folded pages in which he’d entombed the bluebottle. Slowly the package begins to unfold amidst a muted buzz until the paper is completely open. The creature is as it was – a gory mess – but now immense and stirring.
Stefan cries out in his sleep.
The buzzing grows louder as the bloody carcass of the crushed blowfly grows as it re-assembles itself, but ever larger. It flaps its wings and its six legs quiver. The head looms threateningly as the great orbs of its eyes stare maliciously. Dripping skeins of saliva pour from the mouth as vomit gushes from the fly’s stomach with the force of a storm drain.
Screaming, Stefan awakens, his hands frantically trying to clean his face from the nightmare vomit. He’s soaking with sweat. His eyes search the room for the fly. He runs to the fireplace.
The package he’d placed on the mantelpiece is intact and inert.
But for how long? he wonders.
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© Phil Cosker 2021
Phil Cosker has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved; no part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted by any mean, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.