“Oh, no,” Maggie thought as she watched the wasp crawl out of her ear, “Not again.” She’d been in the middle of brushing her teeth when she caught the movement out of the corner of her eye, and she stopped and stared at her reflection in the mirror as the creature emerged.
“No, no, no,” she thought as the wasp unfurled its wings. She didn’t want to startle it, so she held very still – her toothbrush in one hand and toothpaste in the other. She watched it for a moment as it flapped its wings hesitantly, as if to test their stability.
“Please, don’t do that,” she silently pleaded. “Just turn around and go back in.” Instead, it lifted off her ear and began flying around her head. It circled twice and then darted away, flying quickly through the open bathroom door.
Maggie set down her toothbrush and toothpaste, then grabbed her head and groaned. It had been years since the last time the wasps came – since the doctors told her it was an ear infection, since the doctors told her it was too much caffeine, it was brain damage, it was not brain damage, it was hypertension, it was acoustic trauma – it was irreversible, untreatable, indefinable. Maybe you should talk to a psychiatrist, Maggie. Are you having thoughts of hurting yourself, Maggie? I’ll prescribe something for your nerves, Maggie.
“Oh God, please no.” She looked at the bottles lined up in the corner. There were only two now. Once there were three, and then five, and then she didn’t want to take them anymore. Please don’t make me take them anymore. They didn’t make the buzzing stop – they didn’t put the wasps to sleep. There was only one way to put the wasps to sleep and it didn’t come in a bottle and she put the wasps to sleep but now there were new bottles and…
It had been years – years since she took the gasoline and the match to the wasp nest – the one in the gnarled tree out behind her house – the tree that the crazy old man who sold her the house told her to stay away from. She thought he meant that she was in danger of getting stung – that the wasps were aggressive.
“Just douse the thing with gas, light it on fire, and run,” her father had told her. So she had – and then she’d watched it burn from behind the safety of her screen door. The buzzing began a week later – and she’d gone through tests and more tests and therapy and more tests – but it only grew louder and louder and louder.
Six months later, just when she’d accepted that she’d have to learn to live with the buzzing inside her head, they started appearing – from her ears, from her nose, from her mouth. They crawled out in the middle of the night and built their nests inside the walls and under the floors and in the closets and under the beds.
They crawled into her shoes and fell out of her pockets; they clogged her pipes and infested her kitchen. Everywhere – everywhere – they buzzed and crawled and buzzed and flew and buzzed and stung. Finally, when she could take no more, when she’d been stung for the last time, when she could hear nothing else but the demonic buzzing, she took care of them the only way she knew how: she took the gas can, doused the house, climbed up on top of the bed, and lit a match.
The buzzing stopped.
After she’d put her life back together – after she’d made it through years of burn therapy, after the psychiatrists explained that she’d had a psychotic break, after she’d met and married the cute nurse, after she graduated from law school, after they’d had two children – after all of that – on some days she didn’t actually think about the wasps.
She peered out of the bathroom and looked at her husband, lying peacefully in bed. The wasp buzzed around the room, then slipped out of the door into the hall. She followed it, quietly, as it flitted about, and then saw it fly into the room where her two boys slept.
“Oh, God,” she gasped. She pushed the door open, and then watched as the wasp settled into the pillow of her eldest child. “No,” she pleaded, “Please, God, no.”
The wasp walked up the boy’s neck, onto his ear, paused for a second, and then disappeared inside. He whimpered quietly, but did not wake up.
Maggie stumbled back against the wall and slowly slid to her knees. She began to sob quietly. She knew what lay in store for her son – for her whole family – and she knew that she couldn’t bear to see them put through it. There was only one way to fix it – only one way to keep the wasps from buzzing.
The only way she knew how.