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The Ghost of a Flea

The Flea

By Dennis HumphreysPublished 11 months ago 8 min read
The Ghost of a Flea (oil painting), by William Blake, 1819/20. Public domain image

by: D.R. Humphreys (the DreamWriter)

I've never found any advantages to being a hypochondriac. Some have told me, when you're a severe one like I am, the advantage is the tendency to stay away from people, so you never get your heart broken. I'm not sure if these people really believe that or if they think they're giving me some kind of justification for the way I live, which is also slightly agoraphobic... well, more than slightly. I work solely out of my apartment. I order my food on line and have it delivered. I do everything in that six hundred square foot place. I look out the window longingly wanting, unsuccessfully, to be normal. I catch glimpses of people walking by, at the end of the alley, that I can see if I really push my face against the window hard, and look out of my right eye, as it almost touches the glass. Otherwise, if I look straight ahead, I see the brick wall of the building on the other side of the alley. I get my heart broken at least once a week. Being couped up in an apartment all the time you have a tendency to watch a lot of television, or at least have it on for background noise. At one time or another, you begin watching soap operas. Then you develop relationships with the actors in them. I have developed romantic fantasies with some of the actors, so I become victimized by their transgressions.

I don't live completely alone, if I've given that illusion. I have a cat I call Router. Router is a medium sized tabby I've had for five years. I'm not sure what I would ever do without Router, but that's why he stays with me constantly. I guess I've subjected him to a sort of induced agoraphobia, one of which I am the conductor. Router seems happy with the arrangement because he never begs to go out. He does like sitting on the window sill in my bedroom, staring at the brick wall across the alley. I'm not sure what he sees, but he stares for a long time, intent on something that never seems to appear. The window he sits at overlooks the old fire escape where I've placed a few plants, hardly giving the illusion I live in the country where living would be a horrible experience for my psyche.

I usually water and spray my plants first thing in the morning after rising. I found by doing the same thing at the same time every day, it leaves you little room to forget. Someone told me one time to put a little hydrogen peroxide in your water when you spray your plants to actually imitate real rainwater. It's healthier for the plants. I think it works. I'm not one hundred per cent sure. I just made the concoction and opened the window, which I normally have to fight with to open, because of it sticking. I opened the window, and as I bent to pick up my watering can and sprayer, Router bounced out of the window, and sat by the steps on the walkway.

“Router! Router, get in here. Come on,” I yelled, but not too loudly for fear I would frighten him. He had never been outside, and I was afraid he might quickly develop a liking. “Router, come in here.”

I thought about getting his favorite treat to lure him back inside, but I was afraid to leave the window, thinking he might decide I had abandoned him, and he might as well leave. I stared at him as I hung out of the window and made little hand gestures, hoping it said something to him like, 'get your ass back in here', but it didn't work. I had to climb out of the window to try and get him. I was afraid he might think I was playing and run to avoid me. He did. I took one step towards him, saying his name, and he leaped to the walkway, bounding down the steep steps and kept going. I yelled after him as I watched him run, tail in the air, down the alley towards the street. I kept yelling after him, but the little fucker just kept running.

Shit, I thought, he's gone. I'll never see him again. A car will run over him, he's not used to the outside world. I am not going to sleep tonight. On top of my hypochondria and my agoraphobia, I had constant nightmares. Something like this only aggravated them. I left the window open as I worked inside, hoping Router would reenter, and I'd look down to find him sitting at my feet like he always did, begging for one of his treats.

Towards dinner time, the sun was going down and it was getting chillier outside, at least I felt chilly, even wearing one of my favorite sweaters. I went into the bedroom to close the window and there was Router lying on my bed looking at me, as if he had been laying there all day, and didn't understand why I had been looking for him earlier. I didn't say a thing but ran to close the window, to keep him from even thinking he was going to leave again. Once closed, I decided to berate him for his escape.

I went to the kitchen to prepare something to eat for myself and opened a can of cat food for the wanderer, since this was dinner time for him as well. He appeared to be a hungry explorer.

“There you go Router. You had me worried, please don't run away like that again. I'm not sure what I would do if something happened to you, and I never saw you again. I felt a slight tear well in my one eye as if I were about to cry.

I think Router felt guilty, as he wouldn't leave me all evening after his return. Instead, whenever I got up to do something, he was right behind me, trotting along to keep my company.

“Good night, Router,” I told my cat as I went into my room and turned off the light. I left him lying on the sofa in his favorite spot, and went to bed. As always, after being in bed about twenty minutes, I heard Router come in the bedroom and leap up at the foot of the bed. That induced a meow, which seemed to express his statement of 'here I am'. He laid down beside me as normal.

I slept the night through, but woke up early, scratching. Sitting up in bed I looked at the red streaks I inflicted on my forearms and saw something jump.

“Damn it Router. You brought fleas back yesterday with you,” I admonished him, but all he did was lay there and stare back at me with the kind of regal gesture cats have. “I had bug spray but I hated the smell. I wanted to get rid of them right away. If you don't, they can easily multiply and then you have an infestation that is hard and expensive to eliminate. I sprayed anyway.

I had gotten several bites and they bothered me throughout the day. Router just laid down to watch me scratch and tried to appear aloof. He acted as if he was not sure what he knew I was talking about, when I accused him of bringing fleas back with him. I needed to have him treated to take care of any remaining on him. Being the hypochondriac I was, I began wondering what illness I would succumb to from the bite of a flea. I was aware that during the middle-ages, with the bubonic plague, rats carried the fleas, that carried the disease, that they then transferred to humans through their bites.

I fell asleep that night but began dreaming I was a peasant during the middle-ages. Rats ran across the wooden beams, under my thatched roofed housecd, as I lay in my bed at night trying to sleep. When I awoke in the morning I was covered in boils and the others in the house were covered as well. Waking again for real, I looked for boils inflicted on me by the bite of a flea, confusing reality and the dream. I got up early, paranoid, and gave Router a bath. He whined, screeched and hissed at me as I attended to him, fearful he housed many of the vicious little insects. Perhaps I feared the dreams more so, since I knew they would haunt me until I was assured there were no more fleas. If I could only scrub the nightmares away. But they were my demons

Demons come in all sizes and shapes, appearing at will whenever and wherever they wish. It is this uncertainty of appearance, which is oftentimes horrifying. It gives them their power. If one hosts many demons in life, then there is natural tendency to invite them in, allowing them to feast on your soul. I have played host to many such ghosts over my life. They haunt my dreams and my waking states. They come unannounced with their own set of rules, but then I have no one to blame but myself, for I give them the occasion to become more powerful in their haunting.

These visions that the universe conjures, are hcccccccdfost to my demons, giving them form so hard to endure. I open my eyes and they are there. I shut my eyes and they become larger than life. They are not wise for it doesn't take wisdom to create fear, only the recognition of some intimate weakness lying just below our surface, You might ask, how can a creature so small as the common flea be so fearsome, but there is no relationship between the size of the creature and the size of its spirit. In the world of the dead, the largest of creatures can host the smallest of souls while the smallest can issue the largest, most terrifying of forms.

I fear sleep more than I fear the ghosts because dreams are the portals through which they enter my sane mind. When they do, they digest more and more of my sanity, leaving me with less each passing day. Retaining less sanity with every rising sun assures greater madness with its setting. It opens even larger portals through which these creatures can enter and conduct their havoc.

The figure of the monstrous spirit of a flea haunts me now, and I wonder what it desires as my heartbeat rises within me. I fear looking into the crucible, it openly holds, knowing it contains something I don't want to see. It taunts me by not trying to hide it, or it contents. Perhaps it is its next victim, a victim of this unforgiving blood sucker. Its power expands along with its demands, urging me to cower in the face of its power. Somehow it finds delight in the scent of my fright, coming closer to smell it. Can fear be measured by the size of the fearsome? Or is it measured by the weakness of your soul? I smell the beast as it comes closer in the vision... or is it a vision? It wishes for me to look into the crucible it holds, motioning me to do so. Finally, I surrender and look at the pool of blood it contains. As I look, I see my own blood covered face rise from the bottom, wide-eyed, in abject fear.


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