continued from previous
4:39 am. David is awoken by an itch. In fact, he is itching in three different places. The first one he notices is his foot, close to the ankle where the skin is thin and blood vessels abound. He scratches it intensely for a minute, before he quickly shifts his attention elsewhere: there is a similar itch on his shoulder. “Strange” he thinks, knowing that his flat is fortified with insect screens all over. And then he hears the unmistakable sound of a mosquito buzz in his ear. The fortress has been breached. In fact, he has just been bitten on the face. He waves his hands in the air violently to scare off the mosquito, and covers himself under the sheets. Still scratching his ankle with one hand, he runs his finger over the side of his cheek. A bump is growing, and he can feel his own heartbeat on his skin as the blood rushes to the area, mounting an inflammatory response.
Staying under the sheets is not an option. The heatwave is too brutal for even one layer of cover, and he knows that the mosquito will just wait for the right opportunity when a limb, a forehead or even a pinky is accidentally exposed. This is a time to take action, and David has become a master at killing mosquitos. He folds a brown envelope in half and rushes to the bathroom, turning the lights on. Sitting on the floor like a Buddha, he waits in silence, as he tunes his eyes and ears to the silence. He knows that his blood-thirsty friend will follow him anywhere he goes. This plan has been tested over and over, with a 100% success rate.
Sure enough, and not even before David starts getting bored, the mosquito enters the bathroom. It is easy to spot against the bright, empty walls. David quickly shuts the door. “it’s just the two of us now” he whispers, as his eyes struggle to follow the mosquito’s erratic flight path. Even against the bright, white wall, the insect’s elusive maneuvers are enough to escape even the most trained eye. David knows this and has a plan: the trick is to be patient and intimidate the mosquito enough until it gives up and settles down in a corner. This is always the most challenging part. He watches as the mosquito goes from wall to wall, trying to sus out what its exit strategy will be. He waits, and waits, not more than a few minutes before the mosquito realizes it is trapped in a room. It finally decides to wait this out and settles on the corner of the wall, next to the ceiling. “How predictable” David thinks, as he breaks out an evil smile.
He gets up from the floor slowly, holding on tightly to the folded brown envelope. He knows that the first hit always has the highest success rate. It’s the Pearl Harbor of mosquito wars, the moment when the blood sucker has no idea what’s coming.
And snap! As quickly as he could, he slaps the wall with the envelope. But it’s not all over yet, now the forensic work begins. If a body is not found, it could mean that the suspect might still be at large. After carefully looking everywhere, David finally finds the tiny mosquito corpse in amongst the pebbles he had brought back from an island vacation many years ago. It is 5:13 am. He might as well officially get up.
He heads towards the living room window. There’s a large dent on the insect screen from last afternoon’s hailstorm, the third one in a row. He briefly casts his gaze out towards the square and quickly looks away. He can’t bear to face the disaster that has unfolded in the garden over the past three days. The hail has destroyed everything: trees and bushes have been stripped of almost half their leaves, which have been scattered like confetti and plastered like stickers on every surface. The petunias have been battered, disheveled and dismembered into individual twigs that could possibly be used as grafts to start new plants, if someone had the patience and emotional resolve. The palm and a couple of yuccas are the only real survivors. Even the hardy oleanders have been amputated: all of their tender new shoots curiously decapitated, as if someone had purposely gone over each and every one clumsily and hastily with a pair of scissors, overtaken by some kind of homicidal cutting frenzy. The few vehicles parked around the square have all suffered permanent damage: their bodies covered in mini craters, as if they’ve been machine-gunned with rubber bullets. Most windshields are broken, and wet leaves are still plastered everywhere, like a practical joke someone played with a leaf-blower.
David’s ears are still ringing with the sound of hail coming down like a blitz bombardment each evening. The only safe place is inside, as lethal rocks of ice fall from the sky, intent on obliterating every living thing that dares to cross their trajectory. No climate scientist had warned about the hail. David has become the mosquito.
(from the upcoming novel A New Earth)
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George is an author, researcher, podcast host, chemist, molecular biologist and food scientist. You can follow him on Twitter @99blackbaloons , listen to his Spotify podcast George reads George, sign up for blog alerts below, or enjoy his books