Feature 8 - October 31, 2000
It happened every fall in these central Maine hills as the nights cooled. Cluster-flies gathered in the windows above the kitchen. They would embed themselves and hibernate in the walls between the lathes and boarding boards on the outside of this old place. At dusk I would get out the Electrolux. Suck them bugs right up into the bowels of dust within the stomach, of this electric wonder.
If I were not right on it, the cluster flies would gather big, burrowing deeper into the woodwork and crevices of this antique New England stick-frame building. Often there would be a hornet sentry, or two guards flying around or standing watching. It was the same every fall.
Ladybugs collected within the mix of bugs when the nights begin to chill. Thousands of flies would come in. All the bugs would hide in the clusters of flies. If you looked carefully all kinds of bugs could be spotted in the mass of flies.
There could be mosquitoes, lacewings, small moths, earwigs and beetles and other smaller flying insects in the same community. The hornet sentries would only show when the group of flies and bugs became large. Spiders would stand watch at the edge of the group after a few days in gathering, to feed. They would cull dinner from the edge of the group. The spiders guarded egg-clusters. The future generation of eight-leggers.
When I got lazy and did not vacuum for a few days, fly skeletons would pile up on the floor beneath the windowsill. The spiders' sucked the life right out of the flies leaving their frames in tumbles with the dust along the floor molding. The most biologically active window was on the second floor, in the in-between room. This room was between the lived-in space, and storage area. The clusters could be great in this section of the rambling farmhouse.
No one stayed in this particular room for very long. A few guests did in the warmer months. A desk was in front of the window. A friend, Ronald Spotter stayed in the room for a short while. He was between places at the time.
The bugs and cluster flies would gather into great heaps in this room especially. One time I pulled out an old storage box from a corner. A pouring mass of cluster flies came tumbling out, as molasses flows. A slow moving liquid wave. This was a living mass of insect life.
The bugs lived in the barn and foundation walls beneath the house too. They would get between the granite, fieldstones and bricks to hide. Behind cabinets and under the floor tile they also would be found hidden out of view. They burrowed into hollows in the wood timbers even. There was quite a mix of bugs that collected in the unused parts of the house.
Since the place was first settled until now the bugs formed a bond with this farmstead ca. 1850. A cycle started over a hundred and fifty years ago. This was more than a vacuum cleaner could control. It was a nature thing. A force beyond mere annoying bugs and buzzing flies.
In the past I would get this over powering feeling when in the room. Something on par with going to church when prayerful. When feelings start to slip into the supersensible. This was a place where words got in the way. Each sentence about the experience tended to confuse what was being said. Only those knowing could understand what was meant about the feelings. A few times, and this room in particular, I had drifted off into a dream space.
Ronald was a regular guy. He listened to the ball games, hunted, liked beer and was reasonable. Don't get me wrong he had his times. What he really liked was playing computer games like Doom or Cyberation. Ronald worked pumping gas in town. I always got my gas there to say how you do. He needed a place to stay since his father remarried. So he came out to the farm for a few months.
I told him that the flies were a problem in the room. He said that this was nothing that he hadn't lived with before and it would not bother him. Central Maine has cluster flies and other hidden things. Every barn had them. And if they could get in, they were in the houses too. After being in the room for a few days, Ronald said that they were as thick as he had ever seen them. It was something right out of a Hitchcock thriller he commented. Birds would fly and dart at the window when feeding on the flying insects outside of the windows. They would grab the bugs right out of the air.
Ronald mentioned that he watched the birds darting around the window when surfing on the net sitting at the desk in front of the window. Birds darted by all the windows and occasionally bumped into a pane of glass. “Thump,” then there would be a flash out of the corner of the eye and a flutter. An unseen fluttering.
One day he said to me; “Have you seen different kinds of bugs in this room?” “What do you mean?” I asked him to go on. “Lady bugs and other kinds?” I had. He went on. “What about those ones with the horns on their heads?” I was not sure about this. He did not say anything else about it. We finished our cribbage game. He had to be off to work. He told me to try to figure out how to kill the Wizard of Thorgg on his computer. It was driving him crazy and couldn't get a clue how too get to the next level. He usually could figure out these computer games. This one was giving him trouble. I would give it a try.
There was a lot to do in the morning after he left to the gas pumps. Margaret a neighbor stopped by to borrow my cassette recorder. Her's had gone on the blink and she had to listen to a tape from a meeting that needed to be transcribed. She stayed long enough for coffee and was gone just after 10 AM. The sun was hot that day, and the flies were buzzing in Ronald's room. I could hear them from the kitchen below through the ceiling vent in the floor above. “Buzz.” “Buzz.” He said that he would leave his computer on at Level IV where Marsee was in Thorgg. There were always places to get clues.
The screen saver was on when I went up. I sucked the bugs away first. There were just a few ladybugs in the clusters of flies and a few bigger insects. The clusters came right back, within minutes. Before long I was engrossed figuring out the game. Just outside my field-of-vision, there was a flickering, a bug or . . . . It could not be.
The hair stood up on the back of my neck and spine tingle. I booted off the computer and went downstairs. What was it that I saw? It was not a bird, or another of the bugs in the bio-mix. It reminded me of something different that had horns and a tail. It seared into my brain branding my thoughts. I felt a presence for the rest of the day. I swore to confess my sins and attend church regularly. Idle hands and minds . . .. It was enough.
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