doomsday flies

I'm under attack, ducking and weaving to avoid the animal that's pestering me, that shouldn't be out until spring.

I’m under attack, ducking and weaving to avoid the animal that’s pestering me, that shouldn’t be out until spring. It’s not a bear, though I wouldn’t be surprised if they are feeling grumpy like me, impatiently waiting for winter to arrive, to put a chilling end to the fly that’s buzzing around my head.

The sudden and puzzling resurrection of flies is a spring phenomenon, which is why I find it troubling to have them cruising through the cabin in January. I’m not sure where exactly they come from, spaces in between the logs, the roof insulation or other undisturbed corners of the cabin where they’d been feigning death for months.

Why do they even bother to semi-die? Why take on that pose of insect corpse, little knobby legs all stiff and dust on their wings, when they could be living the high life all winter? The cabin is heated, and (I shudder to admit) happy meals can be had off dirty dishes, complete with sips of water from the dog bowl. The bell pepper tree and kitchen herbs provide a natural ambiance, supplemented with fake sunshine from our LED and oil lamps.

Maybe they’ve just woken up to that fact. At any rate, their usual hibernation seems to have been cut short by reasons unknown to me, and for six days in a row now I’ve spent the early morning hours listening to the buzz and drone of revived flies. Giddily, they dive at the LED light behind my head, flying crazy loops right past my face and coffee cup, before landing on the window pane.

I’m hampered in my efforts to speed them on to eternal sleep because our lighting is too dim for murder. There’s nothing for it but to wait for daylight to finally creep into the sky, to make the windows translucent again and pinpoint the insects against the grey sky for me. I spend those endless hours clutching my tool of execution, the battery-powered fly swatter. Whenever the flies approach, I press the button and swing it in the air like a Venus Williams version of the grim reaper, but it’s a futile exercise in frustration. The darkness, pretty much the only thing that’s wintry about this winter except for the snow, defeats me. It’s then, sitting in semi-darkness with my fly-swatter, that I wonder if I shouldn’t inform the people concerned with end time scenarios about this troubling development.

Surely, if we’re looking for signs that 2012 is the year when all years come to an end, apart from the usual suspects like whacky weather and natural disasters, a first-rate sign of impending doom would be strange animal behaviour. As I sit gritting my teeth and swearing revenge for the torment of having flies orbit my skull like so many winged satellites, I try to think if this has been mentioned in any of the predictions. It doesn’t seem so, which points to a grave oversight on behalf of the Mayans, Christian sects, and general conspiracy theorists. Or perhaps this is the unknown trigger they’re all waiting for?

As the radio plays another jubilant weather forecast by Whitehorse’s CBC crew, ecstatic as always about the absence of winter temperatures, it gets just light enough for me to zero in on one of the flies. It’s sitting on the plastic insulation covering the window, rubbing its front feet as if rejoicing in a job well done. I sneak up on it slowly, cunningly circling to the far side so the lamp won’t betray me by casting my shadow on the insect. Fly-swatter raised and electrocution button engaged, I bear down on it with slow precision. The window foil trembles briefly in sympathy, and it’s over.

After the fly dies its second death, this one for real, not a stunt like it pulled off in November, I carefully incinerate the corpse in the wood stove to avoid a third rising. If there should be such a thing, a phoenix-like emergence from the ashes, I shall waste no time to notify the public waiting for a sign the end is near. But in the meantime, I’m crossing my fingers so hard I can hardly operate the fly-swatter anymore, and fervently hope that winter temperatures will still find their way up here and lay to rest the flies I couldn’t catch.

Lisa Hasselbring is a writer who lives at the headwaters of the Yukon River south of Whitehorse.