Exodus 8:21 The Plague of the Flies
Mr. Withers pummeled the alarm clock with a closed fist. Every Sunday the resentment churned in his stomach. Faith had long since left him, and a seeping boredom had oozed into the space where it had been. He knew of better ways to spend a Sunday morning.
His wife woke every Sunday at the same time, without the use of an alarm. He thought of her down the stairs preparing their breakfast. He thought he’d rather take her to a park today, or the museum, but for the 35 years they’d been married they had only missed one day of church. Mrs. Withers, although not in the church choir, was one of those parishioners who sang with such passion and vigor that her voice rose over the rest when she sang. It was of no consequence to her that her voice was no longer beautiful. Age had put an edge on it that dignified her speech, but was not compatible with song.
In the car they spoke little. Mrs. Withers donned her usual air of solemnity and Mr. Withers pouted. As they pulled into the parking lot Mr. Withers thought of the lemmings who faithfully follow the little lemmings in front of them only to plunge to their deaths, a fountain of lemmings propelling themselves over a cliff into the churning sea, or the rocks below, or whatever end the first lemming succumbed to. And why? Was it faith? Did the lemmings in back believe the lemming in front would lead them somewhere reasonable? And if the leader was simply suicidal, did the other lemmings perish simply because they kept their eyes on the tiny rear end of the lemming in front and did not see the looming cliff’s edge? A mistake? Or was it really the cultish dedication of a sad species whose very name was now the definition of blind allegiance.
A Meal Purloined
Raindrops scurried down the window’s glass and pooled at the bottom as she sat in the dim room. There was no electricity and she had not bothered to light the candles. She turned her neck uncomfortably to peer out over the window sill, her nose just coming to its edge, for she was small and thin and some might say she had beady little eyes, too dark eyes, the pupils perhaps too big, and her nails too sharp. Now she giggled as she looked out over the toadstools and mushrooms flourishing in the mulchy side yard. The season had been moist, as it somehow always had been around the dark little cabin with the mossy roof. The ground was covered with little fungal trees. As raindrops struck them they jiggled obscenely or wobbled and shuddered if a particularly plump drop bounced off of their brown-white blotchy tops.
She turned, giggled once more and then moved from the dark bedroom to the dark living room where she looked into the oval shaped mirror by the front door. Her thin blonde hair hung flat against the sides of her head and her grin, her nearly constant grin, was highlighted by two rows of very small white teeth. Some would say, in the right light, the teeth were perhaps too pointy. The teeth made one uneasy, a discomfort not readily explained. It was a subtle thing that in other cases could be overlooked, but within that face, the context of that face as a whole, the teeth looked as if they could prick, had an undercurrent of menace. Her skin was nearly translucent and speckled in places by clusters of pinkish freckles, especially around her nose, rather like the top of an anemic mushroom. Her pinkish-yellow dress hung straight down her body, revealing a childlike figure, only the slightest bulge of a belly, and two legs jutting out shapelessly from beneath the scalloped edge of the tired old frock. She grinned back at herself.
The rain pummeled the roof and she glanced upward, a giggle sneaking out of her slender throat. It sounded more like the peep of a small, glistening tree frog than the sound of a girl, so she did it again and the grin grew wider. She lived alone.