The flies have invaded our country. They move, through the sky, as a mob, bunched together like plump dark grapes, black buzzing clouds so large they block the sun. Some masses are balloon size, but more often larger, the size of buildings. They gather on windows, obscuring the daylight, the outside. Their buzzing’s so loud, prolonged exposure provokes headaches and, for the unfortunate ones, emotional disturbances. The insects fill the sky like bad weather settling over, refusing to move.
They cover everything. People cannot go out in fear of being obliterated. Deaths have been reported. Mostly animals—birds, cats, dogs—and even a few larger animals like cows, horses and zoo animals have been killed. There have been human deaths. The flies zero in on anything living and drive it mad until they consume it.
The news agencies report on this epidemic, bringing in weary entomologists to comment. The entomologists don’t know where these flies have come from, how they multiplied so greatly that the researchers were not aware of them before. The entomologists overlap each other saying, “It’s a deadly mutation.”
The numbers are so great, they have already stained our cities. Current insecticides don’t work, and the country’s primary health organization has already issued warnings against using them and stronger ones for fear of poisoning all other life. The government’s trying to find an insecticide that will kill the flies without harming humans.
So far, the government has failed.
We feel powerless. The only thing we can do is watch as our country seemingly falls apart. No one leaves his residence. No one goes to work. The flies clog up the engines. Cars are grounded. Airplanes are grounded. Even boats.
Susan bangs her hand on the window in the living room. The vibration causes the flies to alight for a few seconds before they land outside on the glass again, so intent to come in. We momentarily see the world and then it goes dark again.
We wonder how long we’ll have power and running water. We still have food in the house. That should last a few more weeks. I’m sure others across the nation aren’t as lucky.
To address the situation, the president of the country says words that don’t really mean anything and returns to his bunker to watch television.
Susan stares out the window most of the day. Either that or she stays in bed, her head turned to the wall. Sometimes her eyes are closed.
I’ve tried to cheer her up. R‑rated comedies on television or music she likes. I’ve gone through our family photo album a couple times. I’m not sure anything is working.
I’ve heard her crying in the bathroom. Her eyes are red and moist when she comes out. I always ask her if she needs something, anything. She shakes her head, goes back to bed, and returns to staring at the wall.
Some pundits have said it’s the end of the world. That it was prophesized in one religious text or another. A few seemed rather giddy about it. We hope that’s not true.
Susan clears the window for a few minutes and spots a dead mourning dove on the grass in a nest of its own pale feathers, still covered by the flies. She sobs and, not knowing what else to do, I finally close the curtains.
“Michael,” she says and then stands, walking to the bedroom. I hear the door close behind her.
Weeks pass. She refuses to talk.
We now keep those curtains closed, having grown afraid to look out at the world to see what is happening. I live on social media and news reports. I have a stack of books I’ve been meaning to read for years so that helps me keep my mind off the flies, who eat and shit and slowly ruin our world.
To get away, I often go into our attached garage and sit. I can hear the flies climbing around on the outside of the garage door, their constant song a wordless threat. That’s when I see it. I pick it up and bang it against the cement floor. I slam it again and again into the cement, and the pickaxe chips it away, crumbling the cement until I finally get to the earth underneath. I’m covered in sweat. My back hurts and my t‑shirt and jeans hang loose, soaked with perspiration. I pick up the shovel.
Susan opens the door from the house into the garage. The sound must have been reverberating through our entire home. I dig, throwing one shovelful after another behind me, where it hits the wall. Susan walks across the garage and over to me. She wraps me in her arms, the first time since the flies came, and kisses me on the cheek. I hold her until she takes the shovel from me and drives it deep into the ground, the clang reverberating off the walls, breaking the dark buzz of the flies under its relentless steel blade.
Ron Burch’s fiction has been published in numerous literary journals including Mississippi Review, Eleven Eleven, PANK, and been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His novel, Bliss Inc., was published by BlazeVOX Books. He lives in Los Angeles.