The Fly: A Short Story

Peering at it he saw translucent wings that could be seen against the screen which, in turn, were attached to a fat round body with pinprick legs.  Looking more carefully he could just about focus onto the fly’s multi-lensed eyes and searching feeding tube, flickering as it was here and there.  The folded first pair of legs rubbed against each other seemingly in pure joy at the location that it had found itself in.

A flicker of disgust rose in his belly on seeing all of this.

To top it off that incessant buzzing noise was so annoying!

‘Hey there, do you mind not staring at me as I try to feed please!’, politely opined the insect under view.

Jumping back slightly and slowly rocking in his seat Joseph sensed that this was not quite right, flies did not normally respond in such a manner to human inspection.

‘I… well I beg your pardon Mr Fly!  It seems as i you have chose a rather inconsiderate position, upon my computer screen where you currently reside, to settle yourself’, he stammered with half empty lungs still gulping down air in mid shock.

‘Well be that as it may but give me some peace please!  I am more than half way through my life cycle and my weary wings need a rest!’ replied the fly curtly.

‘Also, could you please stop spraying that awful chemical around your house!  You have already killed my brothers and sisters willingly, at least let me give your screen a quick clean’.

At this the fly gently patted his first few limbs against the screen’s surface and shook his head slowly to express his disappointment.

‘Well yes of course, please make yourself at home’.

His default manner in shock was one of prime consideration to his fellow man and, in this instance, insectoid.  If the fly really did make itself at home and start to feed in such a manner flies are known to feed in, well then he felt that he really wouldn’t be able to keep the rising bile contained within his throat and would have to let rip in full bodily disgust.

‘So… how did you come to be able to speak?’, his question contained mild awe at the somewhat deep voice that the fly had spoken in.

‘Well sir, you are really asking but two questions there and I shall have to go into them on a granular level’, counted the fly in reply.

He started to regale the fellow as to how he first noticed he could talk to these upright lumbering beasts…

‘Since my answer is granular on a most profound scale, could I ask of you that you lay out some bread crumbs first so that I may feast before I tell my tale?’

‘Yes, why of course I shall be back in a moment’.

In the kitchen Joseph couldn’t quite believe he was rubbing pieces of bread together to collect a small surfeit of crumbs for his winged guest.  Winged speaking guest no less!  A dab of water was needed to cool his forehead but he did as Mr Fly suggested and brought the crumbs through to the office room and lay them out on a small dish.

Choking back the sickness that had welled in his throat he watched Mr Fly saunter from screen to saucer, hop onto a large crumb and attach his sucker.  Presumably he digested it there and then, but his human audience did not care to look upon this part.

‘Just the ticket!’ squealed the fly in sheer delight.  A small leg pad rubbed his belly and Joseph almost swore he could see a smile on his little insectoid face.  He had to admit he was growing quite accustomed to his winged guest and admired his good behaviour.

‘Thank you Joseph for the food, it is much appreciated.  Now let me start my tale of when I first knew I could speak to you humans…

On a summers day I found myself seeking shade from the blazing sun, we flies can get too hot you know and I could spy a blackbird, a hundred seagulls and more, who were all desperately trying to peck me.  So I flew and I found shade and safety in an office, the door magically opening as I followed a human in.  This human was bald, not like the rest of you haired apes (Yes Joseph, I too know my animals!).

He moved into another smaller room within this office and closed the door, but not before I snuck in and latched upon the wall, resting, tasting.  I could hear him speaking but at first I could not make out the words as to what he was saying.  This was to be expected! Fly speech is very different to human speech, our special buzzes hide all sort of sonorous tones that emit signals for how we are and what we want.  You may hear our buzzes and
think nothing of it but we are speaking Joseph, we are speaking to each other!

I was glad to be on that wall, the pesky bumble bee bastards were buzzing me earlier in the day and getting me agitated.  I knew I had to find a safe and clean place, and what is more sterile than a human office!

As I tuned in a most magical thing happened!  I could understand partly what he was saying.  I caught the odd word as he stared at his face in the mirror world.

I could hear ‘ha ha ha, haha haha haha, haaa haaaa’ and variations within.  Every once and a while the words ‘game plan’, ‘going forward, go-ing forr-wood’, ‘in this instance’ and that most special of words – ‘granular, grain ula, gran-ular’ were spoken a hundred times, each inflection more varied than the last.

I admit it Joseph, that word had a special effect on me.  I could feel the bass notes shivering through my thorax and my wings fluttered in simple delight.  I felt I must try this word, I must speak it myself!’

At this Mr Fly shivered and slumped upon the remaining breadcrumbs and remained quiet.

‘Are you alright Mr Fly?’ ventured Joseph to no apparent reply.

‘Mr Fly… ? Hello… ?’

After what seemed like an eternity Mr Fly shook his wings and re-awoke.  Joseph shook too, but with with thankfulness that his little insectoid friend had not become the late Mr Fly and instead resumed his previous courteous manner.

‘And so, when I had heard those words uttered from this humanoid form I could not help but be bewitched and in turn wanted to utter those words myself,’ he stated having not realised he had momentarily passed out.

‘But.. but how could you?  You do not have the right anatomical equipment to utter such words nor the brain to understand them!’ stammered Joseph, at a loss to explain how this fly had gone from pest to best friend within a matter of some minutes.

‘Well all you see is not what you all get my dear fellow’.

A forelimb wiped gently at his lensed right eye and a quick shake of his wings indicated Mr Fly had something rather further more to say on the matter.

‘I practiced again and again at getting the words just so, how I yearned to emulate my master in the mirror world and utter the word ‘granular’, how beautiful did it sound to my fly ears and how each letter reverberated across my thorax!  You see you humanoids all think that we insects are the same, that we cannot think individually and act instead as a mass of self denial, acknowledging only our queen or basic instincts but this is simply not true!

We lead lives just as you do!  We too have feelings, thoughts, desires and romances, our hearts, little though they are, burst forth with the beauty and decadence of this life as do your best writers, painters and actors, thinkers and do’ers.

But of course we cannot express this – we are entwined with nature in such a way as to be invisible without it whereas you humans, you create whole new worlds of meaning, locked away in sterile isolated buildings full of arbitrary rules and regulations to govern each and every action and reaction.

No, I know of your world but I am not of it.’

Mimicking a courtesy head bow Mr Fly prepared to fly off into that world once more.

‘But wait!  Why mimic human speech?  Why become fascinated by something so much that you emulate it and then cast it aside?’ questioned Joseph, an imploring look plastered across his shrew-like features.

‘Why use language, we could talk you and I, our species could talk!  Good God Mr Fly, could you think of the implications!’

At this Mr Fly shivered, cast his multi-lensed eyes across the room and wiped them once more with his tiny forelimbs.

‘No, I have seen your kind, preening in the mirror world.  Only for today are my words for your ears Joseph.

I thank you though for sharing your bread with me, it is much appreciated and it will not be forgotten.  But now I must go and join my own!’

‘Thank you, a thousand times thank you!’, cried Joseph in return.

The fly raised its head as if to sniff the air and then flew off, out of Joseph’s home office and back into the world of the living.

Meanwhile, in the work office in which the fly had learnt to use the language of humans but briefly, the balded man sat at his desk staring into his computer screen.

First his arm spasmed, then his left leg jerked uncontrollably.  He tried to speak, to shout out in mounting horror but no words emanated forth from his now twitching mouth.  Instead, only a series of low buzzes poured out which attracted each and every fly around to dance around his shoulders and atop the crown of his head.

The staff, not quite used to seeing the spectacle of winged insects invading their office, quickly shrieked and shirked in primal horror and abandoned their workstations en masse.

Mr Fly, at the centre of it all, landed on the computer screen observing each and every movement made by the now crowned man and his flailing colleagues.  Yes, he thought, they may run now but in time each will respond as did Joseph, with warmth, kindness and compassion.

He flicked his wings, clicked his forelimbs and took flight.

The Spider

I remember as if it were yesterday, the thick legs creeping slowly around the side of the cobwebbed decorated bag with all the inevitability of death itself.  I howled, even as I jerked the bag onto the surface of the bed and I could see for the first time that this large spider was aged, weary of life.

It had none of the vitality of its younger form; it didn’t embody the free spirit of jazz scuttling here and there, enticed by the possibility of finding a mate.  It was stately, as if to query who would dare to wake it from its slumber in the bag I had so little used and within which it had made its final home.

I crushed it quickly and fully, the circular body being beaten flat with the legs retracting close to its lifeless form.  I covered the body with a cup, afraid to see the results of my own actions.

In my dreams it haunts me still.

Mercurial Selves

I’m sitting at the table and I have an itch on my head, just above my right ear.  I go to scratch it, gently pressing my fingers in against the hair and the skin.  The fingers just keep digging in, drawing blood first and then they gently parse aside the fibres of the temporalis muscle.

Deeper still they go, through the border of the parietal and temporal bone, reaching into the bag that keeps the brain whole until finally the fingers penetrate the soft folds of the brain itself.

I look around and my family have not noticed anything different.  My breakfast sits before me, untouched and uneaten.

I am slightly sickened by this point so I retract my fingers, hold them steady in front of my face and twist the right hand around, noticing as I do the soft droplets of blood hitting the bowl in front of me.  They are red tears dropping onto my cereal biscuits, mixing with the milk to make it a pinkish dye.

I want to scream, to say that this is not normal.

But then I realize, slowly, that each of my family members also have one of their own hands extended deep into their own heads, exploring their own personality and their own individual ticks.

This is normal.  This is what we do.  We examine our own conscious, our feelings, for hints and tips on how to react to external stimuli as appropriate.  We look deep into ourselves and, finally, we also look to each other for social clues, for the nous that we think is missing from the familiar.

This is a routine that we practice each and every morning, the examining of our physical selves to better re-enforce our emotional batteries.  We are what we are, we are both flesh and blood; we are but thoughts and emotions also.

The milk tastes okay with the droplets of blood, there is the hint of the mercurial and the taste of the metallic as I crunch down on my breakfast feed.

It is the same every morning, it is the same every week.  For better or for worse.

Moving On

“Just put the spade down please and come back inside, we can sort out the hole tomorrow.”

Her voice sounded tired, jaded even, as though she had seen this behaviour a thousand times before and just wanted this particular charade to be over with.  Which, in truth, she did.  She had her boyfriend to meet, holidays to ponder over.

“No, you know I want to do this, I want to bury myself, just for a bit!  I have to know what physical death feels like, where we lie in the ground for eternity.  Besides mam said you can’t interfere with me anymore ’cause of Dr Johnson’s orders!”

There was a faint hint of glee in the upswing of that last word.

It was true, the quack had said that James must ride out his emotions that, given the situation wasn’t life threatening, he should be able to act out what he said he wanted to do.

At this point I had given up and I could hear their continuing conversation drifting up from the back garden through the open window.  I’d retired to my room to drink in the solace of it, the place where I had lived for nearly 25 years before finally moving myself on.

I had known for a while that I needed to leave, that James’s dramas could take care of themselves and that he was as alright as he was ever was going to be.  It had struck mam and dad particularly hard that one, knowing that he’d need care, not constant but enough to keep them on their toes.  I’d done my part of course, I’d helped around the house, kept him company as I searched for a job, but we had agreed that I needed to move cities to find chance of work in my area.  This city wasn’t dying but it wasn’t exactly going through a boom cycle either.  There was a comfortable constant turn over of both jobs and people, so that the faces and policies in the local administration changed enough but not too fast to upset the local citizens.

“I’m doing it! I’m pouring the soil over myself!”

I peeped over to the edge of the open window and saw that James was indeed lying supine in his homemade burial, carefully pushing the clumps of soil over his lower half.  He seemed content, happy even.  His body was slowly being reclaimed by the cold earth of home.

He wasn’t overly fond of the insects and arachnids that made the soils and grasses their homes, but he’d put up with them if they wriggled and scuttled away from his thrashing actions.  Worms in particular fascinated him though, the flesh coloured tube of life dancing on his palm before he chucked them clean away, free to carry on their tunneling lifestyle.

It wouldn’t last long of course, he’d come to his senses and wriggle himself free of the pitifully small amount of soil that he’d managed to cover himself in and come screaming back into the house, tearing his body this way and that.

Profound Bullsh*t

Snippets of Profound Bullshit:

After an operation the best course of action for a swift recovery is to eat good food.

Affer an operation the worst course of action for a swift recovery is to eat hospital food.

Like every other human being he thought too much about the past and worried too much about the future.

No matter how fast you run you cannot outrun life itself.

A warm room in the begining and a cold grave at the end, life inbetween is just a waiting room.

Your next punch is always the hardest.

 

Electric

I’ll pleasure pain as pain is pleasured, only by my hand alone can I bring the misery that the thousands seek!

D calm down, please take a moment to reflect on what you are saying.

Fuck you and your medicine, your magic stick is nothing but a staff of false promises, you blaspheme even as you breath!

Do not spit on me D, please! Get off that table and come and sit by my side you errant child, let me listen to your troubles – let me smooth your ruffled hair.

I’ll stamp and I’ll cry as much as I feel I should, your words hold no meaning to me!  Only the dragon that can be tamed will calm me, and we both know they do not exist!

What…what are you on about?  Take a minute to breath in deeply, let that breath invigorate your body and calm that vibrant mind of yours!  Please, for heavens sake, do you not know I run a place of peace and tranquility?  You are ruining that not just for yourself but also for the others around you, for your nearest and dearest.  Your mother and father seek the beautiful son that they once knew, they hold your love in their garden of peace.

Oh please, hold your pity in wild abandon you insufferable dog, do my parents know how much you are paid by the hour?  It’s bullshit and you know it!  There is naught so fine nor fair as you ripping people off, stealing their life savings by pretending to bring families together, families that should stay long apart and grow anew if you ask my opinion!

I am NOT asking your opinion!  You will listen to me and to me only D, you have one last chance before I call for help.  You know what will happen when I call for help, there is no coming back from that – it is a black mark on your record, one that will deny you jobs, stable employment, benefits and care.  I do not take that decision lightly but please do not push me.

Ha, a curse on you and your profession!  You think you hold such sanctions above my head, er as I sit in your office?  Please,  hold back your vanities and delusions of power.  I know MY rights, I know my place.

Well, if you think that is so then please I will let you go and it will not rupture my heart so.  Begone you foul wicked person, take your jest elsewhere, to a place where it can affect man nor woman,  where the cold dry walls are your only audience.

Born tl;dr Die

We all die, and we all die alone.

 

    I had no meaning in my life,

                                                      meaning instead was imposed

by the very existence of my life.

 

Not upon the world but in my family,

by the invisible chains of familiar blood

which gave a future to my nearest.

 

So

I carefully stepped

(one at a time) Down the stairs of life

 (with one breath at one step) Knowing that at the end

 

Lay only the untenable truth of my own death.

 

I swallowed hard

And I held the hand of my mother and my father

And took that first step

 

I became a person with(out) meaning.

 

(She held a trembling hand

She spoke with an effort

but what She said…)

A Final Meal

It was a fine calm day to prepare my last meal.  It was peaceful, a time where most families would be preparing their roast dinners at a time of festivity.  I had the place to myself.

The delicate leaves on the nearby row of silver birches fluttered in the the light breeze, a natural calming wind chime for the living.

Some say that eating in the open air unleashes the taste buds, that the fresh air invigorates the tongue itself.  Others say that it makes our ancestral mind recall the eating of flesh outside in the open, that the brain releases neurochemicals of pleasure because of this ancient recollection.

I could not care less.  Eating in the open was delicious, pure and simple.

I had prepared the table, cleaned it carefully and laden the surface with the finest embroidered cloth I could buy.  The cutlery was the best silver I could lay my hands on, the table set for two.

The main course, venison slow cooked with red wine jus, was waiting speared on a silver tray.  It was perfectly cut, thin slices of pure lean meat.

I was surrounded by good friends, long since dead and remembered only in stone.

With the first bite of the meat the juices ran down the side my mouth, tinged red.  I closed my eyes and slowly ate a soft delicious slice of a beautiful creature.

The sun was shining and my heart was howling.  I had come to eat my dignity.

angel

The stone angel overlooking the eternal place where mortals lie. Taken by the author with a Pentax S1a camera using black and white film. If reproduced anywhere credit as appropriate.

B&W

I have not painted for a while as it can get frustrating quickly and, often, the result is not what I had in mind.  Sometimes though I just like to see what happens and see what will come out.  I often have to cover a canvas in a multitude of colours before I am struck with some inspiration for the image that I want to appear on it.  This little fella popped up the other day and I have not yet decided if it is finished or not.  It looks quite joyful, not quite as sinister as I originally intended.  May shade the face a bit more to reflect the anatomy but, for the moment, I like it as it is.  Simple and unrefined.

A recent painting of mine which was partly influenced by the wonderful film Pans labyrinth. Acrylic paint on canvas.

Dark Dreams

Her eyes were glued to his eyes which were glued to the glass windows watching the never ending torrent of rain.  He had been like this for the past ten days now, ever since the clouds had gathered and the rain had started.  As endless sheets of rain were hurled down from the heavens he had remained a statue watching it all happen, taking in every single drop as it hit the earth in a quiet explosion of water.  His mother had become a paragon of worry during the ten days of his stillness, her hands clasping and unclasping, a light cold sweat of despair framing her face as she wondered why he had not moved.  It was not for a lack of effort on her part, she had tried to entice him with various favourite foods, had even tried to push or shove him from his sentinel stand, but he would not move, would not take his eyes from the rain.

He rarely blinked, never said a word and hardly moved.  His mother could hear him breathing slowly when she was next to him, could even hear his heart faintly beat, but he could not be roused to interact, to speak or to engage.

The rain was a thing of beauty.  The sun never truly broke past the dark and graying clouds during the whole ten day period, but a hint of a rainbow could be seen towards the end.  The drops of water, tears in the sky really, ranged in size as if a military bombardment of various guns were continually raining shells down onto the grass.  The ground itself was sodden, no doubt of that, but somehow the water percolated through the ground each and every day, pooling for only a few minutes during the heaviest periods of the downpour.  The colour of the water itself changed over the course of the ten days, from a clear pearl luminescence to hints of purples and blues framing the clear droplets falling in the later stages.

He had never seen anything so beautiful, so captivating as the fluid that fell from the sky.  He longed to be outside, to be running across the ground but he could not move.  His pupils became engorged, his eyes restless in their lazy meander, trying to take the sight in.

The Conference

The conference, everyone agreed, was a massive success.  Ground breaking research and novel ideas were exchanged, numbers noted and contacts made.  The only problem was that no-one could remember the exact details of the lectures or posters presented after the 3 day extravaganza.  Sure there was a round-about idea noted for each talk and each project, but there was no concrete theory or material proof.  It was a conference for, and of, lost souls, of ideas and theories never quite fully formulated or realised in the labs and departments.

Over time the conference gained a certain note of notoriety for the lack of details.  Researchers who had attended joshed with other researchers amid the miasma of forgetfulness, departments struggled to bury the conference notes among the piles of departmental paper output and tenured professors disregarded thoughts of the sessions attended.  However it niggled the attendees as much as they tried to forget it, leaving a certain feeling of unease and worry buried in their minds to pop out at the most importune moments, during lectures, in PhD vivas or during tense talks with funding bodies, but the feelings themselves were never discussed openly, each organisation fearing ridicule and each researcher fearing discredit in their field.  It was agreed then that the conference was a success as communication after the event heralded it, but it was never alluded to after that and the papers were never published in a conference volume.

In time it became an academic legend of the lost, little white lies grew of the value of the research presented, of the wonderful new ideas aired and theories expounded.  It was spoke of in hushed airs in quiet academic pubs, across clusters of pint glasses and gnarled clothing.  A certain ghastly smile became associated with the mentioning of the ghost conference, a knowing look of horror at the loss of hard-earned and shabbily funded research evaporating in a mist of forgetfulness, a wrought slumped feeling of the heart penetrated PhD researchers and tenured professors alike when the conference was alluded to.  By words for it became keywords became little uttered but dreaded words on the lips of academia.

Many years later a new wave of researchers examined the paper trail for the build up to the conference, gathering numerous amounts of data, of research published pertaining to, and referencing, the conference.  The data was examined and added to a growing database for analysis.  Yet upon each and every view key intrinsic details were missing, blurred, it seemed, with a magic marker.  No sense could be made of the notes as a body of work, yet no paper could be understood by itself.  Try as they might the researchers could not contact or find any surviving attendees to interview for cross-examination.  It remained an academic malaise, causing unfiltered discomfort in the ranks of the current crop of researchers who had not dared think that knowledge could be lost, could be cast aside, or could be forgotten.

A Little More, A Little Less

I can see you hiding behind the delicately placed flowers, swimming in seafood colours.  I knew you were there, I didn’t want to break your incandescent smile, your wavy blonde hair bobbing up and down.

Come here child and listen to me ramble.  Among the brightest lights there are still dark spots.  Even when you think all around there is nothing but lightness they are there lingering in the background.  They protrude unwanted every now and again.  Like an unwanted relative bartering on your door, ‘let me in, let me in’, they cry and cry.

I tried to drown them out at first, thinking as one so often does that yes, yes they can be coped with unbidden ignored.  Until they start rotting slowly, festering, and then they silently feed, taking their time.  Here my child is where the fun does really start.

I notice you have a small flower, it is very beautiful.  Small and radiant, clasped tightly in your hand you are strangling it.  Let it go and watch it grow.  Bees and bugs will visit and the sun will beat down upon it, you will give it life once again.

But back to my little story shall we say, be what it may.  Imagine a cold dark alley with clouds far above the tall grey buildings, litter hugging the street and not a shade of green to be seen.  Walking along you are the only one.  Sometimes it’s once or twice a week that you imagine yourself here and then suddenly you find yourself walking among the same path everyday of the week.  It is a sudden shock, a sudden realisation.

Sometimes my child you just have to escape, take a break.  Let everything go and become nothing.  Sitting in my metal chair drinking my cup of coffee, one more before I go please waiter, I know what you will have to face.

Every day, my child, becomes a race.  Can you run a little faster?  Can you push yourself before you break and cry?  I mean not to disturb you but to bring you to your senses.  Remain a child forever more before you to grow with age, bending to meet mother earth in a cold reunion.  Enjoy what is around you each and every day and you will be fine.  Go along to your mother waiting, I will say no more and bid you, my young listener, a fond farewell…