the adventures of the stubbed-toe mosquito: a cooperative tale by tabnet (Zinnia Kray and Cthulu).
The ominous squealing grew louder; the aural hybrid of fingernails on a chalkboard and a malfunctioning buzz saw.
It grew soft and slow... at times in the velvet coal it seemed to
stop altogether, alighting upon perhaps a burnished brass desk lamp or
perching on an unoccupied coat hanger. I could gauge its recesses by the
clicks of the grandfather clock in the hall, until seconds turned to minutes
and attention became impossible. Yet somehow it would then start up again,
just as velour was once again caressing my lobes, coming at me from a
direction where it had not been before, and never from the same spot (nor to
the same target) twice.
I dug my fingers deep into my ears and swathed myself in the
bedclothes; mummified and deaf perhaps I would stand a chance against the
creature's roving mouth.
Enshrouded. The weight of the tangled duvet increased exponentially
as fresh oxygen was depleted. Like breathing through asbestos. Fragments of
lint adhered to my drying tongue. But I couldn't... I couldn't.... I
couldn't open a window for succor. The creature would know immediately.
I was in a crypt, the dust up to my carven ankles. My wings were
stained and corroded lines ran from my downturned eyes to the floor. In the
silence of the inner earth my sanctity was disturbed for the first time in a
century, with the sound of feet on a long-disused staircase which had lain
behind a walled- over passage, and the intrusion of a glow beneath the
timbers of the moldering door.
Dream. No. I shuddered awake from my momentary fantasy. To my horror,
I had a damp leg. The smell and raspy feel of warm urine adhering to flannel
bothered me, but I was paralyzed, out of wariness of the tiny vampire still
circling my room.
In my delirious, sleep-deprived psyche, the centimetre-long mosquito
took on the dimensions of a ghoulish vulture -- a carrion crow sniffing
death. I bit down on my thumb.
It grew, swelling slow but firm and vast as a giant peach, filling my
mouth and prying the limits of my jaw's extent. Soon it blocked my view but
worse, to complement the burning sensation on my hand and in my mouth, I felt
something creeping upon that self-same arm. Slowly, like a plate tectonic, I
moved my elbow in one angle, and then another, but in all cases the source of
the creeping was unseen.
As I gradually grew accustomed to the thumping pulse in my brain, I
realized that I could no longer hear the flying menace's charnel call. I
jerked and flopped and pursed my lips and blew past my hand, in some effort
to sweep the source of this unsubstantiated sensation. In desperation, I bit
down on the thumb, hard. It exploded inside my mouth in a shower of pus and
petroleum jelly, and I quickly yanked it aside, alternately spitting and
swallowing, to move my arm at long last and examine this peculiar prickling.
An earwig scurried beneath my gaze, shrinking as if in shame,
waggling its abdomen in penance. I let it crawl beneath the mattress - I
bore no qualm with it.
In fact, studying its shiny orange carapace and oral pincers, I could
feel my frame of mind shrinking -- going inside the earwig -- into its
chittering insectoid brain -- a brain filled only with electric instincts and
the infrared images of prey. It was a bizarre sympathy, and after a few
minutes of staring at the purposefully groping creature I was unable to tell
if I was it or it was I. The earwig-psyche swallowed my own. I was it's
two-legged homunculus, its slave on remote control. The emperor dreaming of
being a butterfly.
Warfare was being waged, subtle but sure, between the avians and the
creepers. From my advanced vantage point I had never known but upon
reverting to this scuttling mentality I was treated to a barrage of messages
reinforcing my own feelings towards those flying abominations. The individual
conflicts raged on night after night in every bedroom on the planet, with one
side invariably growing and returning bloated and successful. Confrontations
were brief but furious, and the repercussions could be felt for weeks
It was hopeless. I was not going to sleep at all. This was the
fifteenth straight night of my imprisonment at the mercy of the exoskeletal
auto de fe. The advent of my sorrows was checked off on a dank corner of my
bedframe, the soft wood carved by my degenerating fingernails -- three fives, as
stark and as unforgiving as a Puritan fencepost.
Insanity or death awaited. I knew it. I had known it since the third
night, the night I had sat up under the covers with a flashlight and a
cracked mirror, examining the mapwork of broken blood vessels under my
sagging and bleary skin, retracing the grooves of black-purple misery that
underscored my yellow and manic eyes. My internal processes had all but
ceased, thanks to the cessation of the circadian rhythms: rotting food lay
partially digested in my gastric system, putrefying and sending up polluted
vapours. Unsloughed-off dead cells collected in every conceivable place --
my skin was a thick and pasty horror. It was only a matter of time before
the meat that made up my external body was eaten away by the atmosphere and
its attendant microbes. My vital powers waned more with every scratch on the
The question now became one of a more academic nature - whether it
was better to lose this war of attrition, laid low by decay and entropy or to
surrender the one thing I had hoped to keep secure, that ruby fluid well
contained and most vital. Both were life, on different levels. Certainly
the two shared different benchmarks of how much could be gone and still to
live a functioning existence. The final answer seemed the same in any case,
but would ice sincerely work with the efficacy of fire towards my
Or was there another answer? A solution concealed beneath the down
wisps of my torn pillows and the rusted coils beneath my weight? One thing
for sure - it could not be found beneath the stifling shelter of a filthy
quilt, unless, unless it was instead inside me.
A most puzzling quandary from one trying to decide whether to keep
their skin literally or figuratively.
Then, seized with a sudden instinct, I let one poxy arm shoot out
from my cotton-wool coffin. My hand clamped shut around something small and
animated. Quickly, before my reflexes gave me away, I drew my hand back in
and forced the insect, still squealing and hovering, down my digestive tract.
The metamorphosis began almost instantly. I could feel its cellular
matter breaking down in my guts; then, the miraculous response of my
neglected body to this new intruder initiated a life of its own, complete
with functions and their attendant functions.
Life's ceaseless mechanism continued even as I lay there, breathing,
palpitating, under the weight of my misery and a new, unexpected, revelation.
It began with a gurgle, deep and primal, coming from the most
primordial of soups. A silence, then another kindred rumbling, both soft and
loud, grating in the head but gentle on the ears. It slowed and stopped
again, then returned, rhythmic and vibrant with the music of life. A bead of
sweat, still distinct from my slickly smeared forehead, pulsed furiously down
my brow and into my eye, then, continuing its journey as a tear, over the top
lip, slowing as it rounded the curve into the bottom; over and under and
ending as one more wet spot on my soaking flannels.
I directed a soft stream of air up and over the trail it left behind
but this seemed parallelism most vile - as air was pushed from my lungs, it
arose also from my stomach and, lo of most repugnant fluids, sank to my colon.
I stopped, the flow ceasing as if a faucet was turned and waited, bubbles
clenched tightly in reverse peristalsis as sphincters trembled and jerked in
I tried to swallow the misdirected gas back down my tortured gullet,
as attempting to accomplish the same in the other direction with whatever
powers abdominal muscles could muster, and pondered how long I could hold out
before the difference in pressures between my insides and the impossible
atmosphere outside my skin tore me apart like a paper frog.
A pinch, a prickle; toes tingling as capillaries complained of
sluggish, used up blood; perhaps a cut could introduce oxygen into the
system, though the pins pressed against my arches didn't seem to be sharp
enough. The tear's salty trail burned like Novocain up my neck, flaming
numb from my chin to my pulsing lips.
A twitch, a tickle; betrayal at long last! Control had been
maintained over two orifices top and bottom, though two valves were foolishly
left unsealed, as much as no headway being gained or lost on either front.
Followers of Hermes himself could not imagine preventing this foul treachery,
however, as my compatriot, the earwig, in the guise of evaporation, sniggered
and snuck from the comfort of my boxsprings to the hell which is my nasal
cavity, dank and crowded with scars and stalactites. Could not the ear a
better home provide, safe from gusty exhalations?
A quip, a quiver; whispered insults directed at my mother cause my
follicles to stagger and sway with perceived indignity. In retaliation
disaster strikes in all directions - the offender ends up removed, plastered,
crucified and glued to the far wall with what he might have waded through,
but worse, far worse...
The rush of noise before the action - indrawn air rubs against and
passes the outgoing gas in the forced dance of the diaphragm. Then Hiroshima
on top and Nagasaki in the nether regions. The only thing which could
possibly match the fantastic flatulation (which, if ignited, could surely
illuminate the night sky with blue) would be the exit from the mouth,
consisting of the belched equivalent of projectile vomiting. Noxious fumes
spout from my lips, anus and navel and any remaining life in beneath this
duvet is instantaneously obliterated beneath this combined sterilizing spray.
As my rear clutches at the horse that left the barn seconds ago, I wipe the
foam and bubbles from my chin and finish with a half-slobbered sleeve as I
gape with disbelief at the presence I sense. Wings tinged with acid and
proboscis scored with mucous, the pandemic predator has returned for the
Sullied with my humours, the beast watches me with a form of maniacal
curiosity. Although its eyes are too small for mine to detect, I can
perceive that they bore into me. It stops its damned humming; perches
sedately on the end of my scaly and half-obliterated nose. Fear chokes the
remains of my innards.
Too weakened to swat it away with the stubs of my fingers, I merely
gaze down my nose, breathing shallowly, and regard the creature, using the
same querulously calm gaze which it directs at myself.
At this point, a quatrain from Swinburne's "Sapphics" runs
ring-around-the-rosy through my decimated grey matter:
Newly fledged, her visible song, a marvel,
Made of perfect sound and exceeding passion,
Sweetly shapen, terrible, full of thunders,
Clothed with the wind's wings....
In an instant of arcane epiphany, my eyes cross paths to focus
sharply upon the infinitesimal beastie cowering before me, and I know, I
know, in that one instant, that it is looking into the windows of my soul
much as I am looking into its. But I see nothing but an ocean of red. I
wonder what it is that it sees in mine. Dials and gauges, flickering and
adjusting themselves with every visit? Perhaps my shadow is reflected in my
eyes as a colossal hand, blotting out the sun, or a blind mole, seeking
desperate refuge beneath inches of concealing topsoil leaving me free to
continue my pointless existence.
At any rate, the thing sees into me with a perceptiveness unmet by
the most enlightened Buddhas in heaven. I am as fragile glass to this
creature, a weak and fickle toy. It is upon this realization that I
surrender myself completely to the alien's bloody bliss.
I loosen my filthy pajamas, wrench the buttons aside, and present my
neck to the mosquito like a lamb upon the Jew's altar, or a wolf cowering
before its betters. My mortified flesh sighs in relief as I do so. I have
let go of the grudge, given up the ghost of my stubborn human will.
I feel a touch, a caress on my collarbone. The small angel alights
and inserts its proboscis into my yielding skin. I feel no pain as it does
so. My life flows into its stomach. However, the communication is not simply
one-way -- as I give up my blood to the creature, it transmits to me its
saintly knowledge, a knowledge of the higher realms of buzz and screech, of
the white noise and sanguine smells of nirvana. I realize the animal's
correctness; that life feeds off life while life endures, and that once life
ends so will the futile struggle.
As the last drops of my blood are drawn away, I kill the animalcule
with pinching, bloodless fingers. We die as one.
Morpheus buries me like an ant in the path of an unwinding Persian
carpet, and for the first time in weeks, I lie, as in death, with no fear for
my soul or next of kin.