And then she killed the fly and didn’t know why.
Actually it wasn’t a fly but a mosquito- a mosquito in these climes and this season! For it was winter, summer having gone long since.
It must have been there since then she thought, for it emerged slowly from a hole in the wall. She imagined that it had been sandwiched in the cavities between the bricks for months, zooming around avoiding the tricks of spiders and mice; whining and chattering to itself trying to find a way out – and when it did it was through a crack behind the mirror into her room. Not only did the poor thing fly weakly and lopsidedly into the bedsit to be greeted by darkness and the cold it was also confronted by a half mad woman clutching a beer and talking to herself.
She fairly screamed when she saw it. Not because she disliked mosquitoes but because she found them and especially this one, quite ridiculous and therefore an object to be scorned. Something about them made her want to hit out with the violence of a small child. Rose in her some sort of bile and the same kind of contempt a bully feels when recognising a victim. This poor mosquito, its proboscis shrivelled, its thorax weak, its whining more like a small plaintive cry; was not at its best because it was cold, hungry for blood and alone- which made it more trusting, more vulnerable and not very good at socialising.
But it did not seek the human to feed off, she did not perspire enough; no the house’s cat was its regular fare and it needed the human to open the door and let it find it and feed and replenish. But she was not to know this. No, all she felt in a rare moment of clarity was a desire to destroy its pathetic swollen head, pathetic little wings and six gangly legs that were crying out to be crushed and stamped upon.
What is it about the weak and vulnerable which cause in some feelings of exasperation, disapproval and contempt, rather than compassion and empathy? Is it fear? Envy? Resentment? Resentment at not concealing one’s suffering so that others don’t have to see and be reminded of it or have to be bothered to help? Or was it just a lack of life experience and a kind heart thereof?
For this was how she was now. But she didn’t feel like that about wasps or bees for example. Why only the other day one had dared to venture into her classroom to the accompaniment of the children’s cries, and hadn’t she spent time with it?; trapped it under a glass and then let it carefully out? That was how she was with insects. But may be it was purely intellectual? Everything she did for them was motivated by thought and therefore others, rather than by feeling.
But something had happened here. Hatred. And resentment because it had survived that long, hatred because it looked so pathetic and weak. And how stupid of it to get trapped in a wall. Couldn’t it look after itself, like the other mosquitoes? They didn’t do things like that. Why couldn’t it buck up, stop looking so miserable and ‘down’ all the time, putting everyone off? Why did it have to remind one that life could be depressing and one could suffer and suffer as it had done in the dark for so long and still there was no reprieve? Why couldn’t it put on act and buzz around cheerfully, at least that would have made it more bearable to her and to everyone else no doubt. But no it had to crawl on the wall by her bed and fix her with a long self pitying desperate look which only incited her to anger.
Love me, it whined. Please love me and make me warm. Please, I can’t cope, I need you.
Oh buck up, she said. The world doesn’t just revolve around you you know. Others are having a good time, even if you aren’t. Don’t spoil everything.
But she knew her words were quite lost on the mosquito which satisfied itself with a grooming. She watched it stick its tongue out and lick its head, thorax and abdomen -which because of a lack of food was grotesquely swollen. It was also covered in lice if you can ever imagine a mosquito being covered in lice… and the lice were so many that when it stayed still it looked like it was moving. She had also noticed a quite nasty smell wafting around the room since it had come. Like it had not changed its clothes for days – don’t be stupid she reminded herself, mosquitoes don’t have clothes- or it was that kind of smell you get with someone when they haven’t defecated for a long time and really really need to. Bad guts.
Yes the smell was bad. She stared at it seething with anger. How dare it come into her room, disturbing her peace and equanimity? An equanimity she worked hard to achieve and had only just attained. A defence that she had against the world- her nicely lit cosy room and laptop and thick curtains- no one could get at her here, she couldn’t be reminded of the world and no one could get in, except that the mosquito had really done away with that. Disturbed her routine. And she really needed to do her yoga and how could she with it sitting there with that pathetic long face and silly buzzy whining noise? She had to do her yoga otherwise she couldn’t settle. How dare this mosquito disturb her!
She brought her head close into it, eye ball to eye ball- and it perked up! Gave a little smile, thinking at last some company and you’re going to talk to me, that’s nice; no one’s noticed I exist for a while now-
but she instead she yelled,
You stink! And you’re ugly! And I don’t want to talk to you! I’m not interested! Go away and leave me alone before I make a complaint!
Perhaps in fear, or in shock or just because, as it was warming up its bodily functions chugged into life again; it shat itself- a long jet of brown liquid streaming down the yellow wall. And dared to smile nervously at her as it did so.
She retched, one hand on the wall to support herself- the smell was indescribable- a bit like that of a dead mouse- have you ever smelt a mouse that has been dead for so long? It is a smell of decay. Anyway she retched and held up her hand. The poor thing cowered and was about to say something – she had not noticed it had gone quite red with embarrassment- but however it was too late, she brought her hand down against it and felled it to the floor.
And in the silence that suddenly occurred it lay there in the corner on its broken back, its legs out and already quite stiff.
And then it was as if she suddenly saw it properly. For somehow it seemed much larger in death than it had done in life. It looked almost regal- its legs held up and poised in the way a horse will when rearing on its haunches and its head- well its head and face had on it a peculiar expression- it was the expression of one who expects abuse, expects mistreatment all along and puts up with it silently and instead of turning away meets its punishment by presenting the other cheek.
Even in death you make me angry, she thought.
She sat on the end of her bed her back to it. She could ignore it, the corpse in the corner. Couldn’t she? May be she should turn the light off? She needed to sleep, now that it was finally quiet.
But in bed it begins as a shake. It rises through her belly, up the rib cage, the trachea and into her mouth so that her teeth chatter with it. She can’t stop. She thinks the shaking will elevate her above her bed such is its violence.
Am I ill? she thinks. Oh God, is it malaria? Oh God, is it?
Her body aches. She imagines the onslaught of the disease and a wave of nausea hits her, rocks her vision like a sea boat tossed in a storm.
Then she laughs out loud. Huge crashing waves swamp her bed and fill the room, a violent sea imprisoned by four walls. And then there’s a buzzing louder and louder and peering over the end of her bed the mosquito’s proboscis
I’ve lost my glasses, it says; come and help me find them. Otherwise how will my children recognise me?
She shrinks back in a wordless scream and wakes, her bed a bath of sweat.
In the shower she turns on the cold tap. Then the hot because she is suddenly very cold. And despite the heat she cannot feel warm. She realises she has forgotten her towel. She can’t go back to the bedroom. She doesn’t want to see.
She slides down the wall meeting the floor with a bump.
She stares at the door, droplets running down her face.
All she has to do is discard the corpse, hide it quickly; and no one will ever know. No one will see. But she will know, she will see she thinks, and that’s all that matters.
I’m a murderer, she thinks. I took away a life unnecessarily because I was angry. Everyone will know. They’ll find out. They’ll come and get me in the morning
I hear by sentence this girl to life in prison, says the judge.
But I was acting in self defence, she whispers. This mosquito disturbed me. It was – so pathetic! I mean, it didn’t deserve to live, it couldn’t look after itself. Getting trapped in a wall. I mean how stupid!?
But the judge waves her away.
You have unfairly taken away the life of another.
It’s true. That mosquito was buzzing around, happy to be out of the dark walls at last and glad to experience some warmth. Yes it stank and was crawling with lice but that could have been sorted out. A quick trip to the baths and some tlc. It could have gone on to have led a rich and fulfilling life. But she had destroyed that opportunity. That mosquito that had kept faith it would be released from flying around in those bricks had been released- into the hands of a callous murderer! Her! Who didn’t believe in anything. But no, it had made her be a murderer. Because it was so silly and pathetic. And caused her disquiet.
But she was bent double with guilt and regret. How could she have let her emotions get the better of her? Yet it was so easy. This forever conflict between what we feel and how we should act- sometimes the two polarities are so against each other with their values and the intense feelings that each produces that they force an action merely to find a solution and resolution. Merely to give relief.
She still sits by the wall shivering. Her long hair floppy. Her arms around herself, hugging herself. A small wet lonely thing now.
When the landlady finds her in the morning she is quite still, blue and numb.