There is no room for mercy in the months of the nightly murders. Either you dole out death, or be devoured. Mercenary, bitter from being bitten, I slay with no pretense of a conscience, pausing to admire each corpse for just a moment before I prepare myself for the next attack. There’s blood on my hands, and most of it is mine.
These are self-flagellating times. I slap my own face, strike my own flesh, and render lifeless with one tight hit another freshly blood-drunk perpetrator. Sometimes, spying an opportunist, I stretch a limb out and wait for it to land. On especially tormented nights, I don’t even bother to wash my hands afterwards. There are too many to count. It’s a talent, the technique of killing without spillage. When executed perfectly, the mosquito drops from the skin gracefully. When botched, it splatters like modern art in miniature.
Let’s discuss weaponry. I’ve killed a cockroach or two with my copy of 2666, but the size and speed of the mosquito keep it from succumbing to such obvious boulder-dropping. The bare hands are the most convenient; but they’re limited by their small spans. Enter the electric racket. Wielded one-armed, and with a satisfying pop of voltage to mark the kill, they turn slaughter into sport. My sleight of hand and that little bastard’s twist of fate meet in a spectacular little blue spark. Witness the diabolic glee with which anyone brandishes an electric racket. It’s irresistible. How marvelous to be able to assassinate with just a flick of the wrist. It puts the “cute” in “electrocute”.
I’m not a natural executioner, though you’d think the bout of dengue I suffered in childhood would’ve taught me. Instead, already irascible with chronic insomnia, yet somehow ignorant that what was on my hands was no less than an invasion, I started out with gentle methods: eucalyptus oil, plug-in repellants, incense and candles. Obviously, the menaces were romantics: they couldn’t keep their hairy claws off me with all that low lighting and sensual fragrance. I would sprinkle, switch on or set alight, climb into bed, and turn into a blood buffet. Believe me when I say I was driven to this.
I couldn’t even find mythology – the mainstay of my conflicted existence – to support a reason for the mosquito’s conflicted existence! It’s not totemic – unlike creepycrawlies like scarabs, earthworms and scorpions, all of which are ascribed noble and beneficial traits. Why, the dragonfly, the mozzie’s mortal enemy (not counting me), is positively sacred. Even the pesky but docile housefly has a constellation – the musca australis – named for it. But not a shred of decorum for the mosquito. It’s been around since the Mesozoic era, yet no one in the recorded history of humankind (as filtered through Google) has ever felt that it deserved it.
This is the price of rain. The season of mosquito massacres, itches, bumps and bruises, is also the season of constant drizzle and pacifying breeze. How could anyone bear to shut out weather like this?
Still, even in war there is fair play. So when twilight begins to descend, I close the windows for a while, knowing deep down how futile this is. I crack my knuckles. I recharge my racket. And then I wait, a venus flytrap with a vendetta.
An edited version appeared in The New Indian Express. “The Venus Flytrap” is my column in the Zeitgeist supplement. Previous columns can be found here.