The sunlight bathes the scene around you, making the grass greener, flowers more colorful, and errant clouds brighter. A cool breeze weaves around the hammock where you rest while sipping refreshingly chilled lemonade. On this spring day, you’re immersing yourself in the fantastical world of a novel you’ve been dying to crack open.

Your immersion is interrupted by a mosquito on your forearm. Smack! There’s a smear of blood, possibly a concoction from your neighbors and their pets. You grab the mosquito repellent, shake the can, and move the dark mist along your arm. Dark mist? It stings like crazy. Close examination reveals dozens of mosquitoes leaving the can and embedding in your skin.

You drop the spray, vigorously swatting at the insects. Blood smears across your skin. The repellent won’t shut off as thousands of mosquitoes erupt from the canister. They swarm you in a dark, blinding cloud. Swinging wildly at the air and various parts of your body, you try to reach your back porch. Which way? Eyes are squeezed shut. The bloodsuckers pierce your eyelids. Your head, neck, back, arms, legs, and even the inside of your mouth itch profusely. Shaky knees send you crashing to the ground.

Your puffy fingers dig into the soil beneath the lush grass as you claw your way toward the deck. With your eyes swollen nearly shut, the sensation of sliding forward over the lawn is your only salvation. Inch by inch, you pull and drag your dead weight over the turf, feet sliding against something wet and slippery.

During the arduous trip, you occasionally roll onto your back to squish the winged marauders. The bloody mass of insect guts clings to your clothes but does little to stop the next wave of assailants. Their bites no longer bring pain and itching. Numbness dominates your extremities.

Your finger eventually hit something solid. The steps! You strain to lift yourself onto each level. Thankfully there are only three. Friends and family kept telling you to build a higher deck with five steps. You’d probably die out here if you had listened to them.

Once on the deck, you stiffly crawl to the chair where you left your phone. You feel for it and collapse with relief when you detect the narrow slab in your hand. You know you can’t see well enough to unlock it, but voice activation is on.

“Dholl nang ong ong,” you say with an enlarged tongue and itchy gums.

The words are alien to your ears despite the certainty that you said, ‘Dial nine one one.’ The phone doesn’t respond because it can’t recognize the language you’re speaking or your voice. “Dholl. Naaang. Ong ong.” Nothing.

Before you can say anything else, the phone rings. The suddenness of it causes you to drop the device. You frantically swipe where you believe the answer button to be. Someone is on the line, so you press your ear to it.

“Hi, there. This is Chad calling on behalf of Bug-O-Way mosquito spray. How are you today?” The cheerful announcer’s voice is thoroughly inappropriate for your current dilemma.

“Ughf,” is all you manage to say.

“Today is your lucky day. You’ve been selected for a special offer. We don’t do this for every customer, so you should feel super lucky.”

“Ah nee henp. Ah nee–”

The recording resumes talking before you can finish. You start to hang up but realize it might be an opportunity to leave a distress message on the recording.

“We understand that you recently left a review about our product. You apparently weren’t satisfied with its effectiveness. Is this correct?”

You try to enunciate your words. “Henp. Neee.”

“I’ll read a portion of your review to refresh your memory. You said: This mosquito spray a piece of crap. Half the time, I get bite by at least one mosquito. It says 93% effective on the can. What asshat thinks that’s a positive selling point?? Only 93%! Like, wtf!”

“Henp nee.”

“So in appreciation for your contribution to our quality assurance, we sent you a special package. It sounds like you may have already opened and used it. Suppose our product was only 7% effective. In a blinding swarm of mosquitoes, would you even notice the 7% that weren’t biting you?”


“Probably not. So what moron would complain about a product that does its job 93% of the time?”

“Fungk ooo.”

“Well, that’s not a positive attitude,” the announcer responds. It’s clearly not a recording.

You desperately try to tell the man what happened and that you apologize for the post, but the words won’t come out right. During the phone call, you hadn’t even noticed that the swarm was gone.

“Guess what. I’m going to give you one opportunity for redemption. You can retract your review. If you decide to leave another one, that’s all up to you. Do you want to retract your review? Press one for ‘yes’ or press ‘two’ for no.”

You move your pinky to the spot on your screen where you think the number one should be. The finger is swollen enough to press two buttons at once. The tone sounds then you put your ear back to the phone.

“You selected two. That is very unfortunate. We do understand that some people like to stick to their guns. What an admirable quality. We also like to stick to ours. Thank you for your time, and have a nice day.”

“Nah. Nah. Noh! Ahnublurggerpa!” You try to scream, but your voice has grown too hoarse. When you turn around, the one eye that can barely open picks up an image that creates a sinking sensation within your bowels. A dark cloud thicker than before slowly reemerges from the Bug-O-Way canister.

Copyright 2022 Darrell Winfrey

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