by: Dennis R. Humphreys
Do we ever really understand cause and effect. Politicians are famous for redirecting our attention to an effect an action has on creating it. Often the real effects go unnoticed until so called precautions are taken against a particular cause and the real problem arises centered around the real effect an action causes.
'You look like an irate person trying to learn sign language,”Jocilyn Manning, Eric Andrews' date, kidded him from across the table as he tried swatting the flies away.
“Watch it, our first date could be our last. Have you noticed how bad the flies are this year?” he questioned her as he just missed another one that wouldn't leave him alone.
“They're awful. They just said something on the news last night about how bad they are,” she told him. “Some people say it's because of all the homeless around but that's not politically correct. There's so much human excrement on the sidewalks and the alleys. Some of the local rivers are completely void of fish now because they're floating cesspools.”
“I know, the river I used to fish in when I was a kid has no more fish in it because of the problem but no one wants to talk about it. Where are the environmentalists?” Eric asked her.
“They're off arguing that fire breaks disturb the mealy mouthed grasshoppers,” she laughed.
Eric liked her sense of humor. That's what attracted him to her. It had an underlying truth to it too, you couldn't dispute. He saw her a few weeks ago working in a health food lunch shop downtown...a place he went to once in awhile but once he saw her there he made it a point to become a regular. Jocilyn had just been hired. She never lost her temper faced with the most obnoxious customer. She responded with humor. If Eric was confronted with the same thing he'd probably get fired for what he responded with, but that was the point...that's why he liked her. He finally decided he was going to ask he out, checking out her fingers for an engagement or wedding ring first. Since there was none he asked her out but she said some such nonsense as to employees not being able to date customers. He offered then to stop coming in and just be a stalker which she thought was funny. Finally after asking her a half dozen times, she relented.
“The thing is, they're different. You kill one. And suddenly a half dozen land on you or bounce off your face like they're attacking you. Same thing if you spray one with insect spray. You spray one and all of a sudden they all disappear and get quiet. Then thirty seconds later a bunch of them rush you.” Eric explained.
“Have you always been this paranoid?” she asked him. Looking over the soda she was sipping.
She liked Eric. They talked quite a bit at the lunch counter of the health food store she worked at and liked his drier sense of humor. She could get away with joking with him incessantly without getting the feeling he was feeling intimidated. Most guys she dated in the past would just get pissed at her and say something nasty. Eric just laughed or joined in on the joke. He was a nice guy. It was too early in the relationship to tell him that though...not on a first date. It might go to his head and ruin things.
“We'd better get going. The movie starts in a half hour,” Eric announced looking at the time on his phone.
Outside, they headed up the street where the movie theater was in three blocks. They were accosted by a constant barrage of homeless people asking for money as they side stepped the excrement on the sidewalk.
“Half these people aren't even homeless and make more money pan handling in a day than what I make a week. That's bad for the people really in a jamb. If you gave money to everyone that asked you'd be homeless in days. I've leaned to say 'no' but avoid making any eye contact to begin with or you open the door, “ Eric recommended.
“I love it when you take a turkey sandwich out to someone that looks desperate and they turn it down saying they don't like turkey,” Jocilyn related.
They watched the movie loaded with special effects...overly loaded. That was almost all there was to the movie. The dialogue was minuscule and what there was, with the sound effects, was hard to hear. It was void of any character development whatsoever.
Eric leaned over to her halfway through the movie and tried to form his question in such a way to not sound like a complainer considering their earlier conversation..
“I don't know if it's me but do you find this movie...” he began asking.
“Trite and meaningless? Yes, I do. Let's leave,” she said hitting his opinion right on the head.
Outside they both felt relieved.
“I didn't know how to say anything without feeling like a complainer. That was a total waste of some producer's money,” Eric reasoned.
“He probably wanted the tax write off, or it was like that old comedy where they sold more shares in the movie than what they had so they had to make it a flop to declare bankruptcy but it became a hit? What was the name of that movie?” Jocilyn questioned trying to remember it.
“The Producers! Well they definitely have a loser there,” Eric laughed grabbing her hand to walk down the sidewalk.
“That's it...the Producers. What do you want to do now?” she asked as if she already had something planned in mind.
“I don't know. It's still early and I want to get to know you better. Let's get off the street and go someplace to sit and talk.” he suggested.
“Where? We'll get accosted by someone every couple of minutes. I don't want to sound forward but I only live a few minutes from here, let's just go to my apartment so we can sit and watch television. I have some beer there and I can make nibbles a little later if you're not too full,” Jocilyn offered. “I do have two other room mates that may or may not be there. If they are, they're pretty unobtrusive.
“So we have Netflix with a wide variety of movies unless you want to get into a series you haven't seen and go brain dead watching four or five shows in a row,” Jocilyn suggested.
“Actually that sounds good. If we pick too good a movie we'll end up watching it instead of talking and getting to know each other,” Eric suggested scoring points.
“I like your reasoning,” as she sat down and began pushing buttons, eventually picking a twelve week series neither had ever watched.
After about forty minutes into episode one they began to ignore the program and started talking generally about things. Eventually after episode three, the programs stopped and the screen popped the question, 'are you still watching...do you want to continue?' so Jocilyn turned it off to regular programming.
“How about another beer? I can make some nachos to go with it. You like salsa, Monterey Jack and hot sauce?” she asked going into the kitchen.
“That's fine on both accounts,” he yelled to her. As she brought out the beer for him a public service announcement came over the television station. It was about the fly problem so it caught the attention of Eric and Jocilyn.
“As you know, there has been an exponential rise in the fly population this summer. The county has been attempting o control the problem by spraying but it seems normal fly control insecticides are not working. Because of the threat of the spread of certain diseases flies can spread, county officials have elected to use a new insect control spray that is much stronger than what has been previously used. They will begin spraying the area tomorrow night at midnight to control the problem. We suggest if you have pets that stay outside at night, you bring them in over the next three nights. Do not leave food or water dishes outside for them uncovered and if you do, discard the contents before letting them eat or drink.” the announcer suggested.
“There you see how much of a problem it is?” Eric asked Jocilyn.
“If it's that bad for pets outside at night how about the rest of us?” Jocilyn asked correctly enough.
“Oh, we don't matter in the scheme of things,” Eric replied sarcastically.
He and Jocilyn sat on the couch and drank beer and ate the snacks she made. Both room mates came through the door totally wasted, flopping in the two overstuffed chairs in the living room, laughing and belching.
“Well normally they're not obtrusive,” Jocilyn said quietly to Eric who had just started to give her a kiss which she was ready for until her friends ruined the moment.”
“That's OK. I'd better get going anyway. I'm supposed to help a friend move tomorrow and I have to get up early,” he told her rising to his feet.
“I'll walk you out the door,” Jocilyn told him wanting to finish the kiss he started.
“Hey, where are you going?” asked the one room mate. I thought maybe you stay over and we could have a foursome. Have you ever been with three women at one time?” the one asked.
“That's Allie,” Jocilyn told her date.
“Yeah, I wanted to show you what I can do,” said the second room mate.
“And that's Taylor,” Jocilyn told him by way of introduction. “Guys, this is Eric who was about to leave, maybe forever if he has to put up with you two.
“You're wrong there,” Eric told her pulling her into him close against him outside the front door.
“Wrong about what?” she asked looking innocently into his eyes hoping for the right answer.
“About leaving and keeping going. I couldn't do that now after spending the best hours of my life with you,” he told her as he planted a kiss on her.
Well, she thought that answer was a little over the top but that was fine. It was along the lines of what she was looking for, so she was satisfied with it. She was also quite satisfied with the kiss. He watched him go down the steps as he left through the front door of the section. Then she went back into her apartment.
“I swear you guys can be so obnoxious at times,” she told her roomies as she closed the front door and leaned against it, thinking about the kiss.
“Oh she hasn't done it with him yet,” the one jabbed.
“That's why she didn't want to share. She won't share until after she gets him broken in,” the other girl pushed.
“You guys...are such pigs sometimes,” Jocilyn said laughing as she left the room to go to bed.
Of course Jocilyn wondered if Eric would call or if she'd see him again at the health food store. He left in a positive note but with guys you never knew. If he didn't enjoy her company he might just disappear and she would be wondering what she said, or what she did to turn him off to just take off without another word. She was pleasantly surprised and elated he showed up for lunch Saturday which was the first time ever he came into the shop on Saturday. That was a good sign.
“So what happened to your big move you had planned for today?” she asked him as he came into the shop.
“Done. He didn't have that much and we were all ready, the four of us, at daybreak this morning to get going, “ Eric told her.
“I thought it might have been an excuse to get away from my roomies last night,” she kidded.
“Have you taken a break or can you take lunch?” he asked her when he got to the counter.
Everyone in the place knew she just had her first date with Eric so when she turned around to ask her boss. who had overheard, she motioned for her to go ahead and take lunch. Jocilyn made a couple of sandwiches quickly and bagged them for the both of them to eat, so they went out to the bench outside to sit.
“I had a great time last night,” Eric told her. “I hope you did too because I want to see you again.”
“I did too. I was hoping my room mates didn't run you off,” she told him.
“We'll actually, that's why I wanted to see you again. I was hoping for that foursome with the three of you,” he told her jokingly but then by the shock in her face that first second, he added quickly, “just joking.”:
They laughed and when she did she saw a strange cloud over the city causing Eric to look as well.
“That's a weird cloud there. It's darker than the others and moving in the opposite direction. Maybe something's on fire,” Eric surmised.
“No...it's insects. Look their turning and coming down “ she observed.
Within seconds the street was full of flies as they flew down the main avenue. There were millions of them and people on the street began swatting furiously in an effort to bat them away. Most of the people ran into nearby businesses to get off the street and away from the insects. Their buzz was a din of annoyance. Eric hated the sound of several flies buzzing a room but this was absolutely unbearable.
“Let's go back inside,” Eric yelled to Jocilyn as they picked up their lunch and went back indoors. People that had been in the shop already had gathered at the door and window to look out at the bedlam the infestation was causing. No one was about to leave and a few came from off the street to get away from the commotion.
“At least they're spraying tonight to take care of the problem. How did it get so bad so quickly? one of the customers questioned.
“It's biblical,” another one mentioned.
“It's from all the crap all over sidewalks and the streets,” another chipped in stating the obvious. 'Hell it's probably a whole new breed of flies.”
“We should all start calling the health department and find out what's going on, this didn't just happen overnight,” said a man in a wheelchair that just pulled up to the front door.
The surge of flies seemed to die down to nothing within ten minutes and people began to carefully come out from their hiding places onto the streets. People in the shop started leaving, some with items they bought while there.
“At least it was good for business. You got some people in here that probably were never in here,” Eric told Jocilyn and the others that worked there.
“We don't have to actually go out tonight you know. Between the spraying at midnight and the flies, we can stay in again,” she suggested.
“No we can do something early and get in before midnight. After it cools down and gets dark there won't be any flies. Let's go roller blading at Nasco's rink. It'll be air conditioned and there won't be any flies there. By the time we leave, there won't be any outside. You can come to my place tonight and maybe we won't have to worry about the spraying or your roommates, ”he suggested then thought about it and added, “you can stay the night, I have a room mate but he's gone for the weekend. You can stay in his room if you don't mind the mess.”
“That sounds like fun, maybe in the morning the streets will be lined with dead flies,” she added.
Eric didn't know why he suggested the roller rink. He had two left feet when it came to roller blading and spent most of the time, when he tried, on his butt. That would give something for Jocilyn to laugh and joke about though. So that's what they did for the evening.
“I'm glad you weren't trying to impress me tonight,” she said laughing as they drove to his apartment.
“I wanted to get all my negatives out of the way first...show you my flaws. I'm completely void of coordination when it comes to any kind of skating,” Eric expressed in exaggeration
“That's your only flaw? Am I with Mister Almost Perfect?” she joked back.
“Pretty close to it. When I was younger and in school the nuns all nominated me for sainthood but the kicker was you had to be dead and I wasn't quite ready to go at the time,” he elaborated.
“Oh is that right? I'll bet the nuns had a time with you!” she remarked.
“OK...I have Netflix too. Do you want to pick up where we left off on that series last night?” Eric asked hoping the answer was 'no'. After the first half hour he had no idea what was going on anyway.
“I hope you're kidding. Give me that remote. Let me pick something else,” she demanded., holding out her hand for it.
This time she chose a winner. It was a short series of eight shows but it was spell binding and kept them at the edge of their seats.
“Why are the really good shows only for like six or eight? The bad ones run four seasons and are six dozen monstrosities,” she remarked.
“Because they get you hooked into doing a marathon on these things for an entire weekend and when Monday morning comes you realize you're brain dead after watching a bunch of worthless shows. They like to suck out your brains,” Eric poked fun acting like a vampire. “It's a conspiracy.”
“Like your flies?” Jocilyn asked.
“He no joke, that could be one,” he said getting serious.
Jocilyn awoke to the Netflix screen. They had both fallen asleep on the couch somewhere into the fourth episode. She got up and turned off the television and went back to Eric trying to get him awake. He was one of these people you could set off a bomb and he wouldn't awaken. She looked at the clock and it was 3am. She was ready to go someplace more comfortable than the sofa to finish out the night.
She finally got a little coherence out of Eric and pulled him to bed. She decided to just snuggle in next to him rather than sleep in the other room. She wasn't ready for sex yet. The timing wasn't right but she wanted to be close to him and hear his breathing while he slept....to feel his body jump and twitch while he was unconscious. It was always the simple things you took pleasure in with the other person when you found someone you could love.
She laid awake for awhile then lying next to him, just listening and feeling, absorbing every little thing he did as he dreamed. She wondered if it was about her. The next thing she remembered was opening her eyes and seeing Eric watching her as he rested his head on one hand.
“Good morning. Sorry I was such a spoil sport last night falling asleep on you,” he told her.
“”I'm not sure who fell asleep first. Let's just call it even,” she told him smiling and wrapping her arms around is neck.
“Not too close. I always have horrendous breath in the mornings. I'm afraid if you catch wind of it you'll run screaming out the door,” Eric told her with a real warning.
“Not on your life buddy. I found you and nothing is going to make me run, even that morning wood you have down there,” she joked.
“I hope you don't like morning sex because I'm not into that,” Eric told her joking but meaning it while he thought he would give her an easy out in case she wasn't ready.
“Maybe later. Morning isn't my favorite. I like to be a little more awake. I wonder how the spraying went. I'd like to take a walk at the park if you're into it,” she suggested.
“I'll cook up some bacon and eggs and we can head there,” he told her.
“You cook. That's good,” she remarked.
“Yeah...bacon and eggs. It's a bachelor thing, otherwise you starve or go bankrupt eating out all the time,” he said getting up to go to the bathroom.
They drove to the park and got out to walk expecting to see piles of flies everywhere but there were none. They disembarked from Eric's car and started down the trail there for joggers and walkers. They held hands as they walked, surprised not to see more people but then it was Sunday and most people were probably sleeping in or at church even though it was constantly reported how church attendance was off the last few years.
“What's that over there?” Jocilyn asked spotting something blue in the shrubs.
“It's a body,” Eric exclaimed as he went over to check it out. “A woman jogger.”
“Oh God. Was she murdered?” Jocilyn asked.
“Doesn't look like it. Her nasal passages seem to be loaded with dead flies. Her mouth is loaded too. It appears she was asphyxiated,” Eric observed stooping over the woman's body. “It wasn't very long ago either. Call 911.”
Jocilyn tried dialing but there was a disturbance on the line when the call tried to go through. Some kind of white noise was there.
“I can't get through, Try your phone,” she suggested. Eric did but got the same thing and puzzled, he stood up.
“Does that noise sound like flies buzzing to you?” he asked her making a guess as to the sound since it sounded familiar, but thought maybe in lieu of the last two days, it was his imagination.
A nervous fear came over Jocilyn realizing her boyfriend was right about the sound.
“Let's get out of here. We can try to call 911 again later. I don't want to stay here,” she announced.
They started back to the car. Jocilyn hurried, she wasn't sure why, but she had an eerie feeling creeping up on the back of her neck and she all but pulled Eric with her.
“Take it easy. You act like there's a pack of wolves on our tails,” he tried pulling her back a bit.
About that time she stopped to listen. She looked towards where the sound came. Another couple passed them taking a walk towards where they had come from. Eric was about to warn them about the body in case they stumbled across it on the same path but Jocilyn interrupted, pointing at the sky.
“Flies. Look at that cloud of flies!” she yelled. Eric and the other couple looked.
“Let's get to the car. I suggest you guys get back to your car too, ”Eric warned them but they just looked back puzzled.
Eric and Jocilyn got to their nearby car quickly and rolled the windows up tight. The other couple casually began walking back to their car which wasn't in sight. They must have parked further away. Within seconds a huge swarm of flies, whose buzzing could be heard through the car windows, descended on the helpless couple. In horror Eric and Jocilyn watched as the scenario played out in front of them. The flies seemed to go for the noses first, blocking the nasal passageways. Unable to breath the couple opened their mouths to let in air but the flies took advantage of that and inundated their mouths with hundreds of them, filling them so it was impossible to get any air. They ran to their car as fast as they could but their progress slowed as they began to run out of air. They swatted and did everything they could to remove the insects but the creatures seemed more intent and more aggressive in their attack. Soon the couple fell to the ground and momentarily the jerking of their bodies subsided as they lay dead.
“I can't believe this,” Jocilyn cried. “Fucking flies killed three people. What kind of flies are these?”
“Take it easy. These flies may feed on fear. Get control. The spraying obviously didn't work. It may have made them even more aggressive. Maybe the powers that be, started a war with these insects. They certainly know what they're doing. It appears to be an organized attack,” Eric commented as he started the car and began pulling out from the curb.
As he pulled out thousands of flies attacked the car, bouncing off the windows trying to get at the couple inside. Eric turned on the windshield wipers and the window wash to help see where he was going.
“Fasten your seat belt, I'm going to go faster but I can't see too well. I might accidentally hit something,” he warned.
“No car is airtight. If they find an opening they'll swarm us too,” she screamed as her fear escalated.
“That's why I'm trying to go faster,” he said laying on his horn to warn people they were coming.
Finally, after several blocks the flies went away. Eric managed to clear the window of the bodies and the guts of their attackers and Jocilyn calmed down more.
“I'm going to park the car a few blocks away from my place and we can walk the rest of the way,” he suggested.
“I don't want to walk any more than I have to out there. Get as close to your place as possible,” she demanded,
“Look...from what I saw these things are intelligent and organized. I'm sure there are a few live flies still holding on to the car somewhere. They tried to get us. What if those flies that are still on the car fly back to the others and tell them where we are...like bees do with a food source They could lay in wait until we showed up or see where we go and come after us again. I'd rather not give them that opportunity,” he rationalized and rightfully so. There seemed to be an intelligence driving them in a challenge for control, perhaps exacerbated by the county's insect spraying.
They walked to Eric's apartment three blocks from where they parked. Eric looked at the car before they started walking and noticed several flies clinging to the edge of the back window that took off together in the direction from which they had driven. He didn't know if they were the newer fly version out there or the regular variety but he felt better parking where he did. However, the others could lie in wait for them to return to the car, so he wanted to be careful just in case,
Jocilyn felt safe once inside the apartment. She went around making sure all the windows were shut tightly. Eric watched as she traveled from one room to the other,
“Feeling a bit paranoid?” he asked.
“What's paranoid about it? It looks like a real threat to me,” she grumbled as she moved.
“I'm turning on the television to see if they say anything. I still can't get through on my phone. If I had a land line I'd try that,” Eric said as he sat to watch for something being televised. “Hey here's' a talk show with von Eddy and some local health department official. They're talking about the flies.”
“...so Mr. Jacobson, how much of a problem exactly is this insurgence of flies in the area?” von Eddy, the interviewer asked.
“We seem to have quite a sudden infestation but we have it under control...” the older man began.
“Yeah right. Typical autocrat,” Eric gripped as Jocilyn sat next to him on the couch.
“...we began a spraying program last night to get this under control and so far it seems to be working just fine,” he continued.
“Is it? I understand several people have been killed by swarms of the insects cutting off their oxygen supply. It has been observed that the spraying had no effect on the bugs other than to make them more aggressive,” von Eddy confronted the government spokesperson.
“I haven't been made aware of that,” the man answered.
“Well, you just have. Considering the reports, what are you going to do about this? von Eddy pushed.
“Our greatest interest is in the public's safety. We will do everything in our power to insure that. Let me just say we are on top of things and the public shouldn't panic,” the official announced with the greatest sincerity.
“Yeah sure,” Eric commented incredulously not buying a word from this guy. The camera switched to von Eddy ready to make an ending statement like he always did when he interviewed someone on the air.
“There you have it...I guess. Based on the a number of reports we have coming in though I urge the public to be careful going outside. These flies seem to be very aggressive and the sprayings' only success is to seem to have made these insects more aggressive. If you can do not swat or spray them, you might come under attack. There have been several deaths from fly attacks in and around the city by asphyxiation where the flies enter the nasal passages and into the mouth where they block any oxygen intake possible. It may be a good idea to wear face masks outside if you have to go out to thwart any attacks by these flies. This is Jordan von Eddy speaking. Thank you for your attention.”
“Face masks...that's a good idea. I didn't think about that. Do you have any face masks at your place?” Eric asked Jocilyn. I have some medical adhesive tape I can tape cloth on us if you don't. I got rid of all the COVID masks I had in the bathroom.
“I have several in a box yet. The tape would be a good thing to really seal things off. Let's go over to my apartment and get them. I want to pack a few things to stay here, if you don't mind. I have a land line there if we need to use it,” she announced to Eric's surprise and pleasure,
“Of course I don't mind. Is this decision to move in based on my manly charm or fear of the flies?” he asked.
“A little of both,” she told him.
Before they left, Eric took a handkerchief and cut it in half. He taped one to Jocilyn and the other to himself. Then they stepped into the hall and left the building to go to the car. When they got to it, they realized they would have to walk or find some other way to get to her place about three miles away. The car was filled with flies. You couldn't even look into the windows as they were covered.
“Don't look too closely. They might realize who we are and swarm us. Let me try and call an Uber driver, “ Eric suggested as they went around the corner and down the alley. “Still no signal. Let's start walking towards your place. Two blocks over we can catch a trolley car. It won't be too bad.”
When they got to Jocilyn's she went straight to her bedroom and packed some things. She went to the bathroom and got the box of masks she had there. It looked like Taylor and Allie were there but sleeping in...they must have had a big party night. The two were incessant partyers but talked a bigger game under the influence then there really was.
“I'm ready but let me check the windows before I go. Allie likes to sleep with her windows open and under the circumstances, I don't think that's a good idea,” she informed Eric as she headed for Allie's room. She let out a brief scream when she opened her door that sent Eric running to her.
Allie was lying naked in bed with her eyes wide open in a look of abject horror. There were dead flies in the bed, in her nose and her mouth being wide open exhibited a slew of flies motionless in there. Jocilyn just stood there looking while Eric covered her body with a sheet.
“Call 911 on your land line. I'll check Taylor,” but Eric was reticent about finding anything different there.
He was right. Taylor was pretty much in the same position staring at the ceiling with the same horrified look on her face she had as she died. There were dead flies in there. They must have come in through Allie's window and then under the closed door to Taylor's room where she slept unknowingly until she was awakened, not being able to breathe. Eric covered her body as well and went into the living room while Jocilyn spoke to someone at 911. He just shook his head as he entered the room and Jocilyn looked at him. She began to cry then, having lost both friends the same day. Hanging up, she went into full scale crying mode.
Eric held her and patted her.
“I'm surprised you got through that quickly to someone at 911 with what's going on here. They must have put more people on expecting higher volumes. I think they know more than what they're saying,” Eric told her.
They returned to his apartment the way they had come. Eric wondered if somehow they followed Jocilyn's scent or perhaps a pheromone to her apartment and came across her friends. If that were the case the flies had been exposed to the two of them and it was only a matter of time they showed up at his apartment where they would most likely come under attack. They found the car because of the few flies that rode with them until they parked.
“I'm going to stop at the drug store if it's open. I'm going to pick up some colognes there that have pheromones added. Maybe we can disguise our scents,” he told her.
“Do you think that'll work?” she asked him.
“It's worth a try. Maybe it'll confuse them and hide our trail.
“You got here just in time. We were about ready to close,” the drugstore manager told him. 'With all the crap going on I thought it safer to send everyone home. They've found nine more people killed by the flies”
“I doubt if that will help. The flies can go anywhere if they want to get you. You're probably just as safe here as at home,” Eric informed him as he went to the aisle where men's colognes were.
He looked and finally saw two brands that had advertised on the front that pheromones were added to attract the opposite sex. Neither smelled great and were not to his liking being very strong. Jocilyn will really like these he thought facetiously but it was a matter of survival and being strong, stinky and with pheromones it might be the perfect elixir for them.
When he came out the doors Jocilyn was standing there waiting.
“Any problems?” he asked her.
“Not a one. Didn't even see any flies. Did you get what you wanted?” she asked him.
“Yeah, hopefully these work,” he said handing her the bag containing four bottles.
Jocilyn pulled out each bottle and gave them a sniff.
“Could you have chosen anything more stinky?” she commented after reviewing the two kinds.
“Who cares, as long as they work. You might even find something in there you like on me once I put it on,” he joked as they walked to pick up the trolley to get closer to his place.
When they finally got to his apartment they went inside to relax. The windows were covered in flies on the outside.
“The bastards are looking for one of us or both. I wonder why they've singled us out,” Eric determined and then took one of the bottles from his bag. “I'm going to spray around the windows and see what happens.”
He did so in a minute the flies started going away.
“It's working,” noted Jocilyn as she watched.
“It's masking our scent, so they're leaving,” he admitted. After he finished spraying the windows and was reasonably sure it worked he began spraying himself.
“What are you up to?” Jocilyn asked.
“I'm going to the car. We need it. I'm going to spray it down with this cologne when I get there and bring it back here. They know where we are now but maybe if I mask everything with this they'll leave us alone. Hopefully we get our ride back,” he told her spraying the mask down as well. Just what I wanted he thought.
“Sounds like a plan. Just be careful,” she told him giving him a kiss.
“I will,: he assured her.
“Whew, you smell like a cheap whore on a Saturday night ,”she alerted him as she ushered him out the door.
“Stuff something at the bottom of this door after I leave,” he told her being cautious.
The car was still full of flies, waiting for its occupants to return. Eric didn't want the flies there to associate the cologne with them or a new target or this would defeat their purpose. That was one reason he bought two different colognes. Then he could switch off if he needed to. God forbid though if anyone else in the area wore one of these colognes.
Eric had an idea. He pulled a toboggan he saw sitting in the top of a trash can and dowsed it with the cologne. Then he took his car's remote and opened the doors. Then he ran to it and opened the door quickly throwing in the hat soaked in cologne, then closed it again. It took perhaps ten minutes but the flies left the car in droves and was empty. Eric went to the car and looked in and it was indeed empty. The insects left the premises. He opened the door and climbed into the drivers seat. The place was filthy with vomit and feces from the flies. He shuddered thinking about it but began spraying the inside with the cologne to be safe,
He drove it to the front of his building and parked it. The place was like a ghost own. There wasn't anyone on the streets. When he got out of the car and locked it he went around with the bottle of cologne, spraying all the door handles and around the windows. When he felt reasonably assured he had reconditioned the car he ran up the steps to his apartment and let himself in where Jocilyn sat watching the television.
She ran to him when she saw him and hugged him.
“How'd you do?” she asked him.
“The cologne works like a charm. The flies left the car and I brought it back here,” he assured her.
“They've had twenty one more deaths. The numbers are rising fast. Someone called in anonymously and said these super flies were bred from the human excrement on the streets after feeding the homeless a diet that consisted of GMO food and other additives meant for the general population as a whole. It ended up breeding super maggots that turned into super flies. Somehow they've been programmed to kill certain people that represent a threat to the political agenda in this state,” she enlightened him to what she had been listening to.
“Wow...talk about conspiracy theories,” he laughed, “You work at a health food store. That's pretty politically overpowering.”
“Well, you told me you're a journalist, what exactly do you write about?” Jocilyn asked her boyfriend.
“Well nothing that sinister to involve such a plan, ”he replied.
“Maybe this plan was in the works and not just for you but people like you that represented a threat. It could be something that's gotten out of hand,” she surmised openly.
“Really Jocilyn, I think that's a bit far fetched,” he told her.
But she said something that made him begin to think. Over the years he researched a lot of things for stories he could write and some were way further out there than her imagination. He didn't want to go the route of paranoia but maybe he'd explore things from a different point of view.
He was writing a series of articles on how religion was supposed to be becoming abandoned by the population...where governments were trying to replace God with themselves, making man dependent on the government. He had found the numbers about the decline in church attendance that the government was putting out were falsified. A number of things in the bible that scientists, anthropologists, archaeologists and other groups had proven were correct and provable that for years leading non religious groups dictated were nothing but myths, had come to light. Eric had interviewed some of the people. His conclusion was that many political groups wanted the public to believe they were myths...the creation of a stupid, ancient people. It was quite the opposite.
Would this be worthwhile for some political agenda to create some infestation to destroy its competition for dependency? The news was reporting deaths from the fly problem but not the names. He wondered if through some of his contacts in the newsrooms and the hospitals if he might be able to uncover the names of people killed by the flies. He figured nothing would come up but now Jocilyn had his wheels turning and for his own need for sleep thought he would have to check things out right away.
“So far, Eric, thirty two people have been reported killed by this infestation of flies. I know the names are in my boss' office since he's the head of infectious diseases. That's what they're concerned about not necessarily the flies. But considering this is a new strain of flies, and flies are notorious for spreading disease, the problem is a concern. I know they've been doing autopsies on everyone,” the voice on the other end of the phone enlightened Eric who had placed the call just after breakfast because of the time difference.
“Can you get me the names. I don't need anything else. Sounds like there's probably inches of files on everyone by now,” Eric told the man, Barry on the phone.
“I'm sure there is. I know they haven't uncovered anything infectious so far. It just looks like everyone was smothered by the little devils.
“I can probably go a couple of different routes to get you the names. It might be easier to get the autopsy report names. I have a close friend there and I know he doesn't care about keeping secrets so I'll contact him. Give me a day or two and I'll email them to you. Do you have an encrypted software. I'll send it to you encrypted through my rotating ISP address so prying eyes can't get at it...just in case,” Barry told Eric.
That was good. It wouldn't be as difficult as he first thought to check things out and dispel doubts that Jocilyn created in his head.
They were officially living together now after having a night of torrid sex. It was great. They were already finishing each others' sentences like an old married couple. He couldn't see ever being with anyone else and imagined them growing old together. They planned on staying inside for the most part until the fly thing was rectified. Her place of business temporarily shut down while his work went on uninterrupted because he was able to do everything via computer.
Sure enough, the following morning he had an email from Barry. He ran it through his encryption software. He always felt like a spy using it but it was always important to treat his sources this way. He was privy to a lot of information that his sources were privy to and there were people in politics and industry that frowned on whistle blowers of any kind.
As he read the list, there were now forty one officially dead from the flies. Eric scanned the list and immediately felt better None of his contacts or sources were on the list. If there was some conspiracy going on, it was definitely not because of anything he was involved with as far as his writing was concerned. The whole fly thing could have been planned but it was more likely the result of greed and stupidity...seeing an effect and recognizing the cause. However, where big money was concerned, the likelihood of anyone accepting blame for creating a bad situation because of something that was manufactured and put out there was unlikely. Besides, things would have to be tested in a controlled environment before pointing any finger. Someone would have to take the lead on that. Either the flies were genetically altered purposely for some reason, or they were created unknowingly because of something else. Since we are what we eat...Eric's bet was on their diet and perhaps the idea of flies eating human waste that contained something to cause their negative evolution was more in line with what was happening.
He walked into the other room where Jocilyn was napping on the sofa. Staying inside had its drawbacks if you couldn't work from home as Eric did. He felt she was getting bored. But there was nothing he could do. They couldn't go anywhere since most establishments closed for lack of customers who were afraid to go outside for fear of the flies.
As the television programming continued, Eric sat next to the sleeping Jocilyn and watched the proceedings. All you had locally and now nationally was about the flies. The governor now announced martial law. The national guard was headed this way and no one was allowed on the streets. Eric was just about to awaken Jocilyn to suggest both of them getting into the car and leaving the city. That would be difficult now and dangerous.
The latest breaking report came over the television as Jocilyn awakened and sat up to watch with Eric. It seemed a helicopter used to dispatch a newer, stronger insecticide crashed in its attempt. The flies evidently attacked the helicopter and stopped air from getting to the engines causing it to stall. The craft crashed with the pilot still alive and they immediately pulled their trick of suffocation. The hoards of flies were increasing exponentially in numbers and they were beginning to spread outside the area. The decision to start using flame throwers from helicopters to burn the swarms in the air was made as the only immediate solution to the problem.
“Great!” exclaimed Jocilyn,” you know how that's going to turn out. It's so dry out there for lack of rain, they'll set fire to the entire state.”
“I hope they're careful. The possibility of the copters being attacked and crashing with a load of that stuff, as explosive as it is, could also cause fires,” he surmised. “But I don't know what the answer is any more than the authorities do.”
“Maybe we should get in the car and just run,” Jocilyn suggested.
“No...they just announced martial law a little while ago. The national guard is coming. If we got caught out there we'd be in serious trouble and possibly shot,” he told her.
“Is it any better than starving to death? You don't have any food supplies to speak of here, Mr. Bachelor and we can't go get any for who knows how long. If we left right away before the national guard got here and take back roads we might get away,” Jocilyn theorized to Eric.
She had a point. They just called out the national guard. It probably would be a couple of hours before they were in place. He doubted if even the police put up barriers yet on all the outgoing streets due to their limited numbers because of defunding. Waiting could be disastrous, making them prisoners in their own home.
“You've got a point. Let's go. Leave everything and let's go. I have almost a full tank of gas. We can get through the state easily on it and halfway through the next. That should be far enough. We'll get out of the city and take all the back roads. The direct routes are probably blocked by the few police in place. We'll get out before the national guard block the other exits.
So they left, only grabbing jackets and ran to the car. There were a few others on the block that appeared to have the same idea as the two of them they noticed as they jumped into the car. Eric sped away from the curb and headed a lesser traveled way from the city. A couple of miles out he changed direction eastward down a road that quickly became a rural route through some of the orchard country. A few cars in panic, passed them also leaving the city. Eric carefully watched the road ahead for any signs of a road block but saw none. They were five miles outside the city.
“I think we may have gotten out,” he told Jocilyn as they passed a family trying to flag them down. They had run off the road in their hurry to leave and smashed their car into a fruit tree. Eric skirted around them not about to stop.
“Maybe we should stop to help.” Jocilyn suggested as she turned to look behind her.
“I don't think so. With the state of mind people are in right now? They could be armed. What would we do if they took our car and left us behind. It's not a question of morality...it's a questions of survival,” he reasoned.
“I suppose you're right. I hope the flies don't bother them,” she mumbled.
Further ahead, her last comment was fortuitous as they watched in horror a car that ran off the side of road being inundated with flies. The two occupants had left the car in an effort to escape but they were overpowered by a cloud of their assailants.
“I'm stopping ahead to spray the car down with cologne...and ourselves again. There's probably enough left from earlier but I want to make sure. I have no idea how much area these things are covering,” he told her.
“Maybe we shouldn't stop. That might attract them or more of them,” Jocilyn warned.
“Go ahead and spray both of us down before I stop, and the inside of the car. That's the best we can do anyway,” he demanded before he stopped.
Stopping the car he sprayed all around the windows and the hood of the car. The stuff was smelling better all the time. A few flies buzzed by, probably scouts for the rest of them but they ignored them. Maybe they had a chance.
Eric got back into the car. This time he stepped on it speeding well over the limit as they went down the road.
“Maybe you shouldn't go this fast. If we have an accident, we'll be stuck like that other car,” Jocilyn complained, worried speeding may not be the solution.
“I'm more afraid right now of road blocks being posted and having to turn around. Every minute that goes by the likelihood is greater. They could try and turn us around at the state line. I'm hoping to get off this road too and take another rural road when we get closer to the line,” he informed her feeling better about where they were but not a hundred percent positive about being in the clear.
They drove a few hundred miles on the rural road, passing only two cars. There seemed to be no flies out here so Eric was feeling comfortable that they had made it past the infestation and any national guard posted out here. They were only a few miles from the state line and it was time to keep heading east on an even more rural route. He found one on his GPS and took it. They'd have to travel about fifty miles on it but then they could jump over to an Interstate and hopefully from there go to wherever they wanted until things got better.
“I think I'm getting used to that cologne. I know one thing, when all this is over I never want to smell it again,” Jocilyn wanted to dispel any affinity to the substance.
“Aww, Jocilyn, I was really getting to like it. I thought I'd add it to the bathroom cabinet for when I shaved,” he kidded her.
“You do that you may have to get a separate bed to sleep in,” she warned jokingly. The stuff was irritating and had a cheapness to its odor that was overwhelming. It was something a little kid would buy his dad for Christmas thinking he really had something that he found in the drug store. You couldn't deny though that it most likely saved their lives. Maybe there was a purpose to her and Eric's meeting. If she hadn't met him when she did she might have been hiding at this moment in her apartment or worse yet, a casualty, with her room mates.
They were both starting to get sick of driving. They stopped a couple of times to stretch their legs during the monotonous drive. The countryside was beautiful and under normal circumstances would have been very enjoyable. Now it was a tedious execution of survival with the only end in sight, the border, if they could get across...well, not the end but nothing to stop them from getting to safety at that point. Hopefully they would be far away from the vindictive flies to chose where they wanted to stay awhile, safely.
Jocilyn had fallen asleep with her head on Eric's shoulder, difficult to do with modern cars and their bucket seats. That little canyon between the two seats made it uncomfortable to sit on but Jocilyn had stuffed a pillow Eric had in the back seat in case of emergencies and he had to sleep in the car.
“Wake up Jocilyn. I think it's the end of the road for us. This must be the border but it looks like a road block up ahead. They would have seen us by now so it's no use in turning around and running,” he told her shaking his shoulder at the same time to get her awake.
“Crap. Maybe we can negotiate my feminine wiles to let us through,” she sleepily joked. She always joked. Wakening from unconsciousness was no deterrent to her personality.
They slowed as they got closer. There were men there seated in the vehicles but no one came out and tried to stop them or wave them on, like they hadn't been noticed.
“Maybe these guys have been drinking out here or something. They certainly don't seem to be concerned about us. We could be armed and ready for something like this,” he mentioned to he, a little puzzled about it all.
Finally. Eric stopped the car. Both he and Jocilyn got out of it to walk over to the one Humvee and talk with its occupants. As they got closer something was wrong. The men didn't acknowledge them. There were three in that vehicle and two in a jeep. No one said anything but just stared. When they got really close the answer stared them in the face. All the men were covered in dead flies...in their noses and loaded in their mouths, asphyxiated as all the others.
Eric looked around backing up pulling Jocilyn with him.
“Let's get out of here,” he commanded fearfully.
As they turned to go and stepped towards their car they stopped. The car was covered in flies and the inside of it was full of them. Then as they watched a large shadow covered them, the sun blocked by a hoard of flies. Jocilyn grabbed Eric's hand tightly until he thought she would break his fingers. Then there was that deafening din of flies buzzing as they encapsulated the two of them. The last thing crossing Eric's mind before unconsciousness was the cologne had stopped working.