Mosquito by S. Faxon
The stairwell that led to the attic was unnerving even of itself. The seemingly innocuous items left along the side to the sides of the unfinished steps looked out of place in this space. To think that a victim to be recovered was somewhere behind that white door at the top of the stairs, chilled the hustling firefighter to the bone.
The gear that he bore was not what was weighing down the young first responder. He was a Southern California kid; attics were things you only heard of in movies and usually, they were in thrillers. People only ever found ghouls, goblins and ax-murderers in the attic. It seemed ridiculous for these fears to be creeping into an adult’s mind, but given the circumstances for bringing him here, Michael found the goosebumps on his arms to be fitting.
Shrugging away his childish thoughts, Michael opened the white door at the top of the attic stairs.
An oscillating fan was all that moved inside the room. A single, lone light from the spinning device shone down upon the scene. On the floor lay the woman in her night-gown who had made the frantic call to their dispatcher. Her eyes were wide, her gaze unfocused, but across every inch of her face was the touch of fear.
Michael fell to his knees and immediately rushed into the procedures given for addressing a downed victim. His own fears abated for the moment, he checked her pulse, he called out to her.
Michael’s partner came to the top of the attic stairs and seeing his partner’s outstretched arms begin their attempt to rejuvenate life into this woman, he called on his radio for aid. The following ambulance was but moments away. He could already hear the sirens.
The unprecedented levels of heat and humidity in town tonight made the confined space and the unrolling situation stifling. The fan did nothing to help.
“Why would she come up here?” Michael’s partner wondered as he ran back down the steps to bring the gurney bearers to the location. “She oughta have known that heat rises.”
As the partner ran by a variety of religious artifacts nailed to the walls of the house, he failed to realize that they were skewed or upside down. In his haste to rush out to the ambulance, he did not see the strange shadows moving about the house.
Sweat rained down from Michael upon the lifeless woman. The more compressions he did, singing, ‘Staying Alive’ to keep in rhythm, the more Michael began to realize that she was gone. The cracked-screen iPhone that was a few feet away from her outstretched hand had brought them here but in vain. And yet, Michael did not give up. He stared at the cross that dangled on a golden chain from this woman’s neck. It was tangled within her hair and the more he stared down at her, he began to realize the burn marks upon her neck. They looked to be in the shape of fingers. In the center of her forehead, Michael could see what looked like a welt – like a growing, inflamed mosquito bite.
Michael was suddenly re-galvanized with an intense desire to save this woman’s life. She had clearly endured an ungodly collection of hells to have run up here to this oven to find salvation. He could not accept her demise.
He was getting light-headed from his efforts. He could not wait for his partner to return to help carry this woman out of this pit.
The hum of the fan above began to change. The sounds devolved more and more into that of a buzz.
With steady, heavy pulsations, Michael continued his locked armed attempts to restart this woman’s heart. However, the song he sang to keep him in rhythm began to fade as the buzzing increased. The sound was not that of any fly or insect that he had ever heard in San Diego before. Looking up and around, in the soft light of the fan, Michael could see no bugs immediately around. ‘Is there a hive up here?’ he looked back to the woman’s forehead where the inflamed bite upon her brow lay. Her eyes were still empty of life yet wide with fright. ‘Was she stung? Was that what scared her so bad?’
No sooner had the thought passed, a swooping buzz flounced by Michael’s ear. The sound was so intense that he ducked to the side, half expecting a mosquito the size of a hawk to be after him. Wide-eyed himself, Michael looked all around. The buzz continued, but it was in the far corner of the attic where the light was void.
The adrenaline pounding through Michael kept him vigilantly trying to revive the victim. “Where the hell are you, Tim?!” Michael shouted.
No answer was returned. The rest of the house below was heavy, as if not merely empty but dead.
The horrible buzzing in the corner grew louder and more powerful as if feeding on his fear. But Michael knew that he had to keep at the CPR until his partner returned.
Though they had initially thought this woman to be on her own in this house, Michael’s heart and his head were quickly deducing that they were not alone.
Again, the wretched swooping ripped forward from the darkness. Once more he ducked, assuming that this time he would see the swarm coming for him, but there was nothing. What he felt, however, was far more disturbing. Through the bulwark of his gear, Michael swore he felt the sting of jagged fingernails ripping across his skin.
With one more look to the cross on the victim’s neck, Michael knew as if it had been shouted to him by a sky full of angels that he had to get out.
And he was not about to leave her soul in this trap.
In one herculean transfer of his fear to strength, Michael swept the woman from the floor, carrying her over his shoulders like a shepherd a lamb. With the effort of a hundred men, Michael ran out from that place, trumping down the steps of the attic, through the torn home and down the second flight of stairs. Every step felt like ripping his legs out from a mire of mud. The hellish buzzing chased him from the attic, down the stairs, and through the long haul to the front door.
A lion-like shout pushed Michael out from that place, sending him diving across the porch to the sun-dried lawn. The second his ribs struck the hard ground, with the woman on his back, the buzzing halted.
Neither Michael nor the rushing ambulance responders would know if it was the efforts of Michael in the attic or the shock of the fall that filled the once motionless body of the woman with life. The woman was too quickly taken away to the tune of screaming sirens and a speeding ambulance to be questioned by Michael about anything.
Soaked through with sweat, Michael sat in silence as his partner asked him a litany of questions, the least of which, being, “What the hell happened?”
Seeing his partner unresponsive, the firefighter used his radio to call their dispatcher to alert them that they were also going to the hospital.
In the moment that his partner turned away, Michael looked to the eye-shaped window atop the house where the attic glared down upon him. There was no face, no shadow, no silhouette that could be seen, but Michael knew that whatever infested that house was looking straight at him.
Crossing himself, Michael kneeled before that accursed house. The poisoned energies inside would not go home with him, but the memory of this night would remain with him for the rest of his days.