The Fly: A Short Story

It started when I woke up and heard the fly in my room. I did everything I could. I read, I meditated, I sang, I did push-ups, I typed on the keyboard, I even tried praying to relieve the burden of this fly. The fly was still in the room. Sometimes it would stop flying and land somewhere. These were peaceful moments. Most of the time, though, it flew around. Those were hostile moments. I left the house for a while and forgot all about the fly. When I came back I remembered. It was still alive and flying! I tried a few times to kill it, but I could not manage to do so. It’s hard to kill a fly by simply clapping your hands. Flies are elusive and exasperating insects.

I could have left again, let the fly buzz around until he got tired or died. I couldn’t do it. This was my house, not the fly’s house. It was cold and rainy, a day to sit contentedly inside and watch the rain fall down, not a day to be outside. But I could not be content with the fly in the house, it brought me to the end of my patience, I really couldn’t stand it. I couldn’t stand it or sit down with it in the house. I could do nothing but become increasingly irritated. I sat and tried to read again. Nothing doing. I could do nothing but think about the fly. It had completely taken over my attention. There was nothing else in the world but the two of us, the fly and me. I thought about why the fly had come. There had to be a reason. Flies don’t just appear out of nowhere without a reason. I thought about it some more and could not think of one single reason why this fly was in the house.

Was there no reason for this fly? If there was no reason for this fly, then did that mean there was no meaning in this situation? The dread!

The apparent meaninglessness of the entire situation filled me with horror and forced me into action. The meaning here would reveal itself, I was sure of it. I needed to be sure. I would learn what this whole thing meant by killing the fly. From the death of the fly the meaning of the situation would come to life. But first, the fly must die!

I went again into action. This time the fly would not get away. I followed him into the bathroom and shut the door. There, let him fly around in there, I thought. That settles things.

Before too long, I had forgotten about the fly and settled in to read. Sometimes I would stop reading and bask in pure contentment: the peaceful stillness of the day, the mix of rain and snow gently falling on the window, the warm cup of tea in my hand, I needed nothing else. The simple pleasures of life! What else was there to need? Needing was for unhappy people, the ones who were always intolerably irritated with absurdly minor issues.

Intolerable was the word. The irritability of other people always exasperated me to no end. How could anyone be so irritated! And how truly minor the issues were that made them so upset. I didn’t see a bit of sense in it. There was no meaning in it at all. What disturbed everyone all so much was as pointless as a fly. I was glad to be rid of those constantly irritated and discontented people, glad to be rid of all my burdens and worries. As the cold rain fell down on the window outside, I felt arise within me the warmth and sunlight of true contentment!

Soon, having drunk a pot of tea, I found I needed to go pee. Serenely, I opened the door and walked in. Immediately the fly flew out. How quickly the mind forgets of its troubles!

I forgot right away about having to pee and went to chasing the fly for a second time. Again, I tried to trap it in the bathroom, but it was too smart for that, so I was forced to look for another way to remove the loathsome pest from my presence.

I chased it for a quarter of an hour around my 350 square foot room. In such a small room, with such a small insect, such a vast and endless problem! It was madness, and it needed to stop. I chased it above the sink, I chased it under the table, and finally I chased it to my bed where it stopped flying.

I stood on the bed. The fly was in the far corner, on the ceiling, and I could tell it was afraid. The fear in the room was palpable. I stood there and waited, my entire attention fixated on the fly. This time it would not get away, I was sure of it. I thought about what I would do if it got away. I could not fathom the possibility. It was simply unimaginable to me that the fly would live for another minute. I pushed the thought out of my mind.

The fly took off again, while I clapped frantically like an epileptic at a piano concert. Did it hear my clapping? More to the point, did it understand the intent of my clapping? Above all I feared that the fly was under the misperception that I was clapping in support of it. On the contrary! I despised its very existence! I wanted to nip that misunderstanding before the whole situation got completely out of control. I wanted nothing more than to end this fly’s life, to kill its buzz, and not to give it my support by clapping, that senseless human form of expressing non-verbal approval. But the only way I knew to kill it was to clap it between my hands. That would be the last clap and the final curtain. Whatever misunderstanding my clapping might bring about would not matter after the fly was dead.

With the rage and fury fitting for such a critical and crucial moment, I roared at the fly,

“I clap to kill you, not to praise your efforts!”

Still, the possibility that my intent might be miscommunicated was too grave a threat. The complexity of the situation made my head hurt. I wanted the fly to know I was trying to kill it, and not be under the misperception that I was trying to express to it my approval. I wanted it to be in fear in its last seconds, not basking in unwarranted and nonexistent admiration.

I picked up a book. This way there could be no misunderstanding. I would kill the fly by use of the book. I tried that for a while without success. No, that could not be the way. I could clap the fly faster than I could hit it with a book. Anyways, what if the fly imagined that being killed with literature was more flattering than being killed by flattery? Misunderstanding be damned! It did not matter how this fly died as long as it was very shortly dead.

Well, what can I say? Something changed in the manner of my pursuit. I became more focused, more driven. I readied myself, I zoned in on my target. It became more of a chess match and less of a bullfight.

The fly took off away from me, and I took a desperate lunge. I clapped one time, opened my hands, and saw the fly fall below me to the ground. It twitched once, twice, three times, and then it was still. It would no longer torture me with its insane buzzing.

I took a deep breath and sat down again. Outside everything was the same. The mix of rain and snow was still falling gently on the roof, the trees shook gracefully in the wind, and the deer and coyotes roamed the hills. I waited for the contentment to come back, the way it had been hours before when I had forgotten about the fly in the bathroom. I waited to bask in the glow of a task completed, a job well done.

But something was not right. Why did I not feel more alive now that the fly was dead? Where was the freedom from every care, the loosening of all my burdens that I was sure would come when the fly was gone? I was free from the fly’s odious existence, so why did I not feel free? I had been sure the reason the fly had come into my life was because of the freedom I would feel after its death. But I felt no freedom! The dread!

In the fly’s absence I could still feel its presence. In death its hold on me was even stronger than it had been in life.

I waited.

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