Fiction by John Richmond


 

The Fly

Was Steve crazy or was he not? He really wasn’t sure, he could have been, but, then, again–maybe he was not. On these sorts of matters he really didn’t know. But, what he did know was that there was this fly in the house, and he knew that for a fact.

At first, it was almost like an apparition. Did he really see it or was it just his mind playing tricks on his eyes?

Also, it was unnatural–almost aberrational–to entertain the possibility that flies were out and about in mid-January in upstate New York. Considering that he had never seen such a thing at any time over the course of his life, further made him think that it just might be a figment of his imagination.

He wondered whether it was the result of the last couple of weeks of late-night binge drinking, which always ended with him stumbling upstairs to the bedroom where he flopped into bed- clothes and all–and then passed out. But, no, enough sightings convinced him that the fly was not a hallucination, it was real–or at least for the first few weeks, that’s what he thought.

Slowly, however, over that period of time, he began to notice the accumulation of what he termed “fly peculiarities,” starting with when he sat at the kitchen table–doing his work–the fly was never attracted to the free-standing fruit; that, when it moved–“flew”–it never made a sound; and then there was its uncanny “knack” of being wherever Steve was; one moment it was there at the top of a table chair; on the front door as he was preparing to leave; on a pillow in the bedroom as he was getting ready for his shower.

Still, his thought processes failed to approach even the slightest threshold of a “critical mass” about the fly, until, one day, when he was in his basement office checking his emails, he found one from an old friend who he had collaborated with in trying to write a screenplay based on one of his full-length plays.

It was a story about politics, a manipulation of the concept of Islamic terror, and the recruitment, blackmailing and eventual murdering of an innocent person–named, Salim–for no reason other than to be re-elected.

So, Steve–in Queens–0and Alan–in Manhattan–began working on the screenplay. They exchanged voluminous emails as well as drafts through the mail.

Soon, like with the fly, subtle things began to happen. Steve had the Con-Ed truck parked at his corner for months at a time, though, he never saw anyone working.

Pretty much, the same happened at Alan’s apartment building, only there they parked the Verizon truck right in front of it.

Oh, there were other occurrences, too; often, when they sent mail to each other, they would receive it opened, then wrapped in plastic and stamped, “DAMAGED UPON PROCESSING;” on their Yahoo pages, instead of the weather for New York, they got Chantilly and Langley, Virginia, respectively.

Over and over, again, at a shallow, subconscious level, the key elements kept running through Steve’s brain–Alan–The Screenplay–the Surveillance; Alan–The Screenplay–The Surveillance–until finally the realization burst forth into his consciousness that it was Alan’s email–coming after an absence of a couple of years–that was the tripwire, in Steve’s head, that connected the goings on that surrounded the screenplay with the presence of the fly.

Now, for the first time, Steve really began to observe the fly, while becoming increasingly convinced that the fly was doing the same thing to him.

I find it hard to believe, Steve began to himself, that the government would go to such an expense–and effort–to surveil someone who was doing absolutely–and totally- nothing that was detrimental to the welfare and safety of the nation. It’s crazy.

Though his questions, doubts and suspicions continued, they slowly and equally fell away once a few days went by without seeing the fly anywhere.

Day after day, week after week, there was no fly to be seen, no fly to be thought of, until it was back.

It seemed slightly larger than he remembered, especially since it was still winter, and he wondered what, if anything, it could be eating, so as to not only sustain itself, but to grow in size.

This time, in its reappearance, the fly did not begin to follow him from room to room. No, its behaviors became more “fly-like,” sitting on the leaf of a kitchen plant; on a salt shaker; blending in as it sat on the kitchen cabinetry when it wanted to be “present” but at the same time “unobtrusive.”

In fact, it was almost as if it wasn’t there at all until the emails with Alan, began, again, in earnest, and with their arrival, the fly began to make its presence known. It significantly closed the distance between them–sometimes even sitting on the table right in front of him–but smartly out of swatting range.

Yes, swatting range, Steve told himself, having now both planted the seed of the fly’s ultimate fate, but also having closed the door of reality because not only it has exceeded the normal lifespan of a common fly–28 days–but because Steve had now become convinced that it only “looked” like a fly.

Of course, by accepting that “reality” brought Steve to the ultimate question–“When is a fly not a fly?” And, as hard as it was for him to imagine–let alone believe–hat it was not a fly, the answer was both logical and inescapable–“When it’s a drone.”

Sure, it was a crazy thought, but, then again, considering the advances in technology, it fit in perfectly.

Yet, knowing, believing and accepting the very real possibility that he was- once again- being surveilled did not move Steve to “terminate” the fly, immediately.

Okay, he thought, with a nonchalant change of heart, being careful not to speak out loud lest the ”fly” was wired for sound, so, it sits there and watches me work. So what? I’m not doing anything illegal. Watch all you want! I’ll even say “Hello” to your handler!

This “working relationship” went on for a couple of weeks, and, for the most part, it was both peaceful and uneventful. But, the first time that Steve noticed the fly on the bathroom mirror, just moments after getting naked so as to step into the shower, that “appearance” changed everything.

It was then that Steve got the very real sense that the fly “had crossed the line” from simply surveilling an otherwise law abiding citizen to now becoming a voyeur.

He wondered about the controller, was it a male or a female; were they alone or did they have a partner–even a team; a roomful of other voyeurs; his naked parts streaming across every screen on every desk from the N.S.A. to the Pentagon, the C.I.A. and on to the F.B.I.

That’s it! Steve decided the fly had gone too far–the government had invaded the privacy of his nakedness.

It was at that moment that Steve told himself analytically, objectively and without an iota of compassion, That fly has to go.

He grabbed the end of his washcloth and slowly approached the fly. Finally, when he was within striking distance, he brought the loose end down on the spot where the fly had been sitting.

SLAP!</strong the washcloth hit the mirrored wall.

Steve immediately looked down toward the floor, expecting to see the “dead” fly–but there was nothing.

Then, out of the corner of his eye–at nearly a forty-five degree angle to his body–he saw the fly. It was, now, sitting motionlessly on another bank of mirrors. Steve figured that at the last split-second, the fly had moved near-to-laterally so as to escape the washcloth.

“H-m-m,” Steve groaned–hummed–with increasing suspicion and resolve. He realized that, perhaps, the washcloth was a bit too small to do the job adequately.

Next time, I’m going to need something bigger, he said to himself as he surveyed the rest of the bathroom.

Over to the left, on the door to the bedroom, hung a full-sized bath towel, yet, immediately Steve knew that it was too big and unwieldy to do the job quickly and with the biggest impact.

Scanning the rest of the room, he noticed that there, on the countertop, off to the right, was a hand towel, close to two-and an-half-times the size of the washcloth.

Oh, that’s good, Steve told himself with a glow of self-satisfaction as he watched the fly while moving over slowly to get the towel. Once in hand, Steve stepped to the sink, turned on the water and wet a little less than a quarter of it.

After he had squeezed the water out, he knew that he had created the appropriate “killing machine” that had a lot of snap-velocity to it.

However, as ready as he was, he had to wait for the fly to move to another surface that was free and clear of the bottles, tubes and vases that “inhabited” the bathroom countertop.

Steve figured that if his hypothesis about the fly being a drone was correct, the best way to get it to move would be for him to go to a part of the bathroom that compromised the fly’s ability to fully observe what he was doing.

To that end, he went to his reading basket next to the toilet, picked up a magazine and notepad then positioned himself–at the vanity–so that his back was to the fly.

There, he shuffled and rifled through the magazine and made notes on the pad while talking to himself in a low and unintelligible tone.

Within minutes, the fly moved to another spot on a mirrored wall in front and to the left of Steve.

There you go, Steve congratulated himself as he watched the fly, peripherally.

Initially, as much as he wanted to strike out and put an end to whatever was going on, Steve paused and reminded himself–again–that as much as he was watching the fly, the fly was also watching him.

Thus, a blatant–and obvious–move against the fly would have been easy for the fly’s controller to spot. Steve knew that it had to look as if he was involved in some other activity, and, then, as instantaneously as possible, deliver the blow.

He thought for a moment, considered his circumstances, his location and distance from the fly, and having decided on an “element of surprise,” he put his plan into motion.

First, he looked into the mirror, rubbed his beard and said–well loud enough for the fly to hear–“maybe I should shave.”

Having said that, he walked to the white wicker cabinet across the room where he took out a razor and a can of shaving cream. Returning to the vanity–and at an appropriate “kill distance” from the fly–Steve opened the can of shaving cream and then “accidentally” knocked the razor off of the vanity and onto the floor.

Bending down, now, below the fly’s surveillance level, he pulled the hand towel down off of his shoulder, stood and delivered a mighty SMACK! to the fly.

Immediately, he saw the fly fall to the floor. Quickly, he pulled a wad of tissues from the Scotties box on the vanity, grabbed the fly and rushed over to the toilet.

There, he flushed it- and waited- until the water began to swirl, then plunged his hand- with tissues and fly- into the water. He watched the wad spin around and around until it disappeared, down the drain.

For a moment, as the tank refilled, he felt satisfied–relieved–that he had gotten rid of the fly, but something inside of him seemed to know better. Perhaps it was a product of the sci-fi and action movies he had seen over the course of his life. You know, the ones where the good guy “thinks” he has defeated the villain or where the hero has seemingly dispatched some creature to its demise. Yes, at that very moment his collective unconsciousness was telling him–just like it did during the movies:

No! Stop! Don’t be Stupid! Don’t think that you’ve gotten rid of him- or it! Do it again! Make sure the job is done!

And Steve listened.

Turning, he pulled an handful of toilet paper off the roll, spread it across the water- and flushed, a second time.

It was probably after the fifth flush that he told himself–with a solid sense of certainty–that he was finally rid of the fly.

But, at the same time, he knew–with a parallel sense of certainty–that in the world of technology there was almost nothing that he knew for certain except that the fly would be back, but, next time it might be a bird at the window, a squirrel on the deck- maybe even a spider so small, that he wouldn’t even know that it was there, but it would be back.

 

John Richmond has “wandered” parts of North America for a good portion of his life. These “wanderings” have taken him from a city on the Great Lakes to a small fishing village (population 200), before heading to Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and then on to a bigger city on the Great Lakes- Chicago- then, eventually, New York City. Since then, John Richmond has made his way to a small upstate New York town and has sequestered himself in his office where he divides his time between writing and discussing the state of the world with his coonhound buddy, Roma.

 

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