CHAPTER 3 PART 3: GWEN




As she became lost in the buzzing drone, her gaze was drawn further into the darkened corner where the fly was presumed to lurk. Gwen’s head vibrated with the sound of the insect’s wings that beat rapidly in the air, and her surroundings faded into so much smoke.

Time passed around her, but she was unaware of its passage. It didn’t matter.

Nothing mattered.

Only the fly.

Always and forever.

Then it emerged, floating gently out of the dark, fat and lethargic in its flight.

Did it grow? Gwen thought. Does it look bigger?

Maybe. She wasn’t sure.

It glided toward her in a leisurely fashion. It obviously had nowhere it needed to be in a hurry. Gwen could almost imagine the chorus to Low Rider playing along with the casual manner in which the fly meandered across the room. Then she realized that she actually could hear the song. It was coming from her phone. She’d just made it her ringtone two days ago.

This thought slapped Gwen back into reality and a louder than normal commercial roared into being around her.

“. . . MESSING ABOUT WITH DANGEROUS SHARPENERS ANYMORE. THE READYCUT STAYS SHARP, EACH AND EVERY TIME!”

Gwen tore her eyes from the fly and picked up both her phone and the television remote from the bedside table. She thumbed the mute button on the remote, silencing the carnival barker, and dropped the remote to the bed. Then she gave her phone a bit of attention and could see by the screen that Amanda Staples was on the other end of the wireless line.

Gwen smiled. Amanda taught Art at Perry-Lecompton High School, Gwen’s school, and was one of the few friends Gwen had.

So, she thumbed the screen and holding the phone out before her said:

“Hey, Amanda. It’s a little late, isn’t it?”

Gwen glanced at the clock, thirty minutes past Eleven. She’d lost over thirty minutes.

The reply from Amanda was one that Gwen had not been prepared for.

First, through the phone’s speaker, came a moan of pain, then a grunt, followed by an uncontrollable burst of coughing.

She sounds like crap, Gwen thought.

“Amanda?” Gwen said. “You okay? You sound like crap?”

Another pained moan issued from the phone’s speaker before Amanda spoke:

“I feel like crap.” Her voice was thick and stuffy.

“You need to be sleeping.”

“I was, I will, but I need to ask you a favor,” Amanda said. This was followed by more coughing.

“Sure, anything.” Gwen wasn’t just blowing smoke. “You know, as long as it doesn’t involve listening to more of your Barry Manilow records.”

Amanda replied with another fit of coughing before:

“I’m too sick, won’t make it in. I need you to take my fifth hour tomorrow.”

Gwen hadn’t heard. She was back to looking at the fly. It had glided in near her and hovered just above her left hand that rested on the bed.

“Gwen?” Amanda said between coughs.

“What?” Gwen shook herself back to reality. The fly landed on her hand, but she felt no desire to brush it away.

“I need you to take my fifth hour tomorrow,” said Amanda a bit more firmly.

“What? Art class?” Gwen watched the fly as it did nothing. “Why can’t you take it?”

“I’m not coming in tomorrow.” She began to sound a bit put off.

But Gwen failed to pick up on Amanda’s annoyance. She was too busy with the fly. There was definitely something off about it, something about the eyes; she just couldn’t make herself see it.

“Listen,” said Amanda. “I’ll have a sub tomorrow, but fifth hour is my advanced class.” Amanda coughed. “They’re working on the mural in the gym. I can’t let a sub be in charge of that, they won’t get anything done. And it has to be completed by the end of the month.”

Something about the eyes. The color, maybe? No, that wasn’t it.

“I need you to be there and make sure they actually get something accomplished,” said Amanda.

“Yeah,” Gwen said, bringing her hand, and the fly, closer. “I can do that. No problem.”

“Thank you,” Amanda said, the relief in her voice more than apparent. “Now, I think I’ll sleep till the New Year.”

“Good idea,” said Gwen in a robotic sort of way. She had the fly at eye level now. It hadn’t moved. “You take care of yourself.”

“Yeah,” was all Amanda could say before she hung up.

Gwen dropped the phone onto the bed as she studied the fly.

It had to be the eyes, she couldn’t explain it but there was something seriously odd about the eyes.

Then it hit her.

It had only one eye.

The muted sound of a siren seeped in through the closed window as she contemplated this.

A fly with a single eye? Was that uncommon? She had to admit to herself that she wasn’t an expert. She’d never studied a fly up close before. Typically she’d swat at them when they came close. But she couldn’t stop studying this particular fly. She wondered if there was anything else odd about it.

Did it have more than six legs? How many wings did it have? What was that curious yellow circle on its back?

She rotated her hand to inspect the insect closer when the thing suddenly bit her.

She screamed and slapped her other hand atop it, squashing the fly into so much pulp.

She stumbled into the bathroom to wash the remains from her skin, and when she did so, found that she was bleeding.

Here ends Chapter Three





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