Suspense, Short Stories -Aaishah Mayet



Inhaling Mosquitoes

By Aaishah Mayet


Tzzzzzzz...Tzzzz, tzzzzz, tzzzzzzz...


The heat was oppressive in the enveloping darkness. She shuffled deeper down the mattress, the sheet lodged firmly under her dependant ear. The air would soon grow stale.

Maybe CO2 narcosis would help. Tzzzzzzz. A sweat droplet was quickly gaining momentum on Hannah's neglected eyebrow arch, her skin as uncomfortably clammy as...Tzz,tzzzzzzz- wow, not only was sleep eluding her but it seemed impossible to string a complete thought together.

She clenched her jaw, whipped the sheet away, slapped the overhead light on and launched to her feet. Enough. Nights tossing, nights weeping as though pain had lanced through her sternum and shattered in her chest, nights ruminating on the bilious leftovers of the past years, and now nights with bugs. Just enough.


Splat! Her hand came down hard on wall. There was an odd satisfaction in the stinging cold of the impact; in the blood stain left on the PVA. There, the culprit lay on her upturned palm. The justice of it teased the corners of her mouth into a semblance of a smile. "You heard correctly- I said enough!", she hissed.


Hannah had never been the superstitious type, but there was something about the juxtaposition of the events of that year that made her retrospective lens repeatedly wonder about omens. Coincidence? No. She shook her head as if the idea might dislodge itself. It felt more like Fate opening a chapter with one of those cryptic-crossword-type clues that always made her want to scream "Why?!"


Omens. Even the word sounded like it was churning in a cauldron spewing some kind of shapeless sulphuric smog. It would have been so much easier to have received a letter spelling it out to her: Yearly Forecast: Terrible. Recommendation: DNLH (Do Not Leave the House).


The parallel was just uncanny. The year dawned with promise- a two week opportunity to explore a part of the country she had not yet traversed, to breathe its rural air, bathe in its culture and taste of its people. A six hour road trip later, and the sun had started to dip, dressing the sky in magnificent garb- an apt welcome. She allowed the sight to soothe her body, wearied by the monotonous drive, and disembarked the minibus.


Ambushed. That's the word. It was an ambush of exponential proportion.


Tzzzzzz. Tzzzzzzzzzz. Tzzzzz.


Miniscule mosquitoes in the hundreds assaulted her senses. She scrambled in her handbag for her pashmina and hurriedly flung it around her ears, nose and mouth. The air was thick with the swarm. They seemed to be rising from the reeds and collided with her swinging arms as she walked. She was sure her eyes were stunned into proptosis. The accommodation host chuckled, "You'll get used to it. Don't worry. The rooms are sprayed regularly, but more on that tomorrow. Why don't you fix yourself something to eat and call it a day." Right, she was quite peckish come to think of it.


She lugged her cooler to the kitchen- an open-air gazebo for a kitchen. Rural: Check.


Tzzzz. Tzzzzzz. Tzzzzzzz. They were incessantly undeterred in their pursuit of her flesh, any flesh... “Please let there not be mosquito pesto in my pasta,” she thought as she raised her fork to her mouth amid the soundtrack of the distant hyena cackle.


Hannah awoke the next morning to a commotion outside- the earthy scent of the thatched hut quickly reorienting her. "Snake! Snake!", came the shrill shrieking of a woman's voice. She opened the door, and sure enough, dangling from the camp host's hand was a dead baby snake. It seemed to have made its way under the gap of the woman's hut door.

"Remember all- Propheeelaxis," he stressed. "Familiar concept to y'all I think. Roll up an old towel and block the door gap when you retire each night. You never know what's lurking out here. Now, since we're all up, guess we're off to an early start today."


It was an ironic herald to the day: first stop- Snake Park.


Discoloured glass enclosures lined the paved walkway. The midsummer heat was unrelenting, imparting a sticky shine to Hannah's face. Colours. Patterns. Forked tongues.

Hissing. Slit eyes. Venom and antidotes. Plots. And prey- lots of it.


Then there was the Boa interaction. Hannah was not bowing out of this one. Besides, the photo would be an epic keepsake. All thirty kilograms of snake was draped on her shoulders- much heavier than she anticipated. She hoped the Boa didn't sense her butterflies, or smell her fear. She carefully gripped the snake’s head at a safe distance. The Boa was not satisfied. She thought she caught a flash of curiosity in its eyes, as it writhed to get closer to her face. “Say Cheese!”.

She broke eye contact with the Boa and composed her face into a toothy grin. “Right, next!”- the muscular burden was lifted from her shoulders. Thank God.


“Aedes, Anopheles...”, Hannah gulped down some water at the promised Mosquito talk later that day. Tzzzzz. The surgical precision with which the creature stung fascinated her.

They had “a proboscis of six needles”, he said: two serrated blades to saw through the skin; two retractors; a sensor to locate blood vessels; an injection needle to anti-coagulate blood and an inbuilt shield to protect themselves from viruses while possibly leaving you with more than an itchy wheal: Malaria, Chikungunya, Zika... Hmmm, pure evil, Hannah thought, Long term scars. Sociopath parasite.


Hannah recalled the talented beadwork, the intricate wood carvings- one of which now sat on her coffee table, and the abundant papaya and mango groves they walked through in the community.


On one of these walks, on a tour to visit the local Traditional Healer, a chestnut-hued mohair teddy lay in the field, seemingly caught on some barbed wire. She wondered which child had had the happy memory of playful abandon and of comforting companionship snatched.


They arrived at the Healer’s mud hut. An intimidated stillness overtook the group. The hut was painted a deep indigo blue. Inside sat a slight woman, draped in beadwork, she gestured for them to be seated, her velveteen complexion impressive considering her existence so remote from Urban anti-ageing advances. The translator pointed at the dried snake skin collection which hang as a tapestry on the wall, the herbs and bones she used in her craft.


While the ingredients and practice disquieted Hannah, the Healer’s presence was intriguing. She seemed to draw a certain self-assured calm from the knowledge her years had imparted impervious to judgment: emanating a quiet power; eliciting respect.

Back home, with a rather interesting journey behind her, Hannah remembered being keen to get into the work flow. She also remembered her sweet oblivion that year- Omens were for flights of fiction.


She was dressed in a sprightly white shift dress that day- he wore a white shirt. Omens?- No; Summer?- Yes. Except, he kept shooting glances her way. Awkward. Just make notes

Hannah, that is what you’re here for, you don’t need monkey business. Besides, there is some seriously suffocating overuse of that Hugo Boss cologne- what is up with that?!


She remembered getting home to a text. From him. Right, her phone number was on the colleague list on the notice board. She could play it cool- Ice Queen territory was like a well worn shoe to her- “curt reply, say goodbye”: her message rule. It worked every time.

02h00: No don’t go

02h05: Tell me about yourself

02h10: Where are you from? You seem foreign?

02h20: Did you fall asleep?

02h40: Okay sleep tight

05h00: Good morning Sleeping Beauty.


Oh dear Hannah, how are you going to work like this.


She remembered trying to avoid him, as actively as possible- even resorting to a sprint in the car park that morning to avoid having to walk with him in the name of politeness: they were headed to the same meeting.

“Why are you being so harsh on him Hannah? He seems like a really decent guy. Everything in life doesn't’t work on your pre-determined timeline. Yes, I know you’re not looking for a relationship. Maybe he just has gotten to a point where he’s got his ducks in a row. Maybe he just saw you and the lights went on in his mind. Maybe a relationship is all that is missing for him. Why don’t you give him a chance?” Hannah did not have a response to her colleague’s advice, except, Maybe. Maybe she was right. He definitely wasn't’t wearing a ring. It’s just a chat anyway.


Tzzzz: it was her phone message alert.

10h00: Busy day today. How are you doing?

10h20: Busy this end too. Good Luck with the workload.

20h00: How are you? What’s for dinner?

20h30: Broccoli

20h35: “Lie like broccoli, staring at the stars” he quipped back

“Cute”, Hannah thought cheerfully.


23h00: What’s more important: success or happiness?

23h20: Did you fall asleep again?

24h00: Happiness is part of my definition of success.

24h05: “See, you’re witty. What’s your favourite movie?”, he wrote back

24h10: Harry Potter

24h12: “At least you’re not watching How to Lose a Guy in10 Days” he joked

24h15: Him again. “But seriously that was a good movie. There’s a song in there that really speaks to me. Can you guess it?”

Hannah remembered trying to decipher the answer from her Empathic nature.

24h20: Feels Like Home to Me

24h22: Spot on

And how long I’ve been so alone; If you knew how I wanted someone to come along and change my life the way you’ve done.

“Stop reading into the song lyrics”, Hannah remembered saying to herself.


Tzzzz. He was back at his serrated blade use the following day. Unbeknown to Hannah, he was priming her.

08h00: Hey you. I’m in the car listening to Jordin Sparks: No Air

Tell me how am I gonna breathe with no air...

In spite of herself, Hannah could feel herself softening. It seemed as though her colleague had been right.


She recalled how he became so much a part of her daily chatter so quickly. As time went on, there seemed to be something lurking in the background that she remained ignorant of though. There was an inexplicable change in tone in his messages of late.


03h00: Hey. Thinking of you. Listening to Celine Dion: Colour of my Love

I’ll paint my mood in shades of blue; I’ll paint my mood to be with you; I’ll trace a brush, so light, so fine; To make you real; To make you mine.

03h15: Why are you awake? Is everything alright?

03h25: I was just thinking society is judgemental and unaccepting

03h30: Of?



08h00: Sorry I caught your Narcolepsy.

My Narcolepsy- no. Your Insomnia- maybe.


12h05: I was listening to a talk on air this morning regarding Polygamy. You’re smart: What’s your take?

Odd question.


20h30: So you have always described yourself as complicated and don’t want to go into it. I don’t intend any offence but, are you currently married? No offence.



20h35: Yes... Please don’t go! Please let me explain... Please!


Hannah remembered the thunderous jolt in her gut that sent her running to the Water Closet at the sight of that reply. The nausea persisted for days. She could not process the facts: caught in the long-term effects of a Zika-like fog. Something was dying. Something was shattering. Was it her? What is said and not meant? What is meant and not said?

Who? WHAT? How?


Months passed but the fog did not. It was as though Hannah was limb-locked in mosquito netting and still stubbornly attempting to be productive. Just get on with work Hannah. It will preserve your sanity.


TZZZZZZZZ- zzzzzzzzzz...


03h00: She found my old phone with my messages. She took your phone number. I tried to delete it on her phone but did not manage in time. I’m sorry.

It’s a nightmare Hannah. How did you get here? Go back to sleep.


08h00: (Unfamiliar Number): You don’t care about my children. He is a good man. He HAS done this many times before, but he’s a good man. I will find your friends, family and colleagues wherever they are AND I will drag your name in mud! Society will side with me. We both know they always lay blame on the female. I intend to use that so it percolates your young, tender life and that of your loved ones with grime for years to come.


The effects of the rationale-damping neurological effects of the Zika-fog were clearly not limited to Hannah. That much was clear. The parasite seemed to impart something in addition to the fog however: A type of Stockholm Syndrome born of overwhelming denial, resulting in misplaced ferocity, ineffective treatment regimens and endless costly cycles riddled with collateral damage.


She shook her head. Dislodge it. Bury it Hannah. But don’t ever enter the arena again. Do you hear me? Look at you! Respect you! Protect you! Protect your peace! Your life depends on it Hannah.

These days, she found herself blissful that she had survived the onslaught. Aedes. Anopheles. Many types. Different threats. Her shield was going to be a simple one from here on.

Her Mum called this afternoon. She loved their tea chatter. The clink of porcelain, and the gurgle of the warm golden brew amid birdsong was unparalleled. There was always that piece of conversation she would dread though. “He really wants to meet you honey? He seems nice. Not everyone is the same...”
“Different subtype Mum, same species...”


She had purchased beautiful gem-hued Citronella oil lamps to place between their tea cups for when these discussions danced towards dusk.


Tzzz. Tzzzzzzz. Tzzzzzz.

Oh no – Hell no!




Aaishah Mayet was born and brought up in the City of Gold, Johannesburg, South Africa. She works in the Healthcare sector which, for her, has bridged the frontiers of our shared human experience. As a self-confessed bibliophile of many years, literature remains her teacher and her sanctuary.




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