The Harvestman – short story

mosquito hawk taps
nervously at window pane
escape within reach

The mosquito hawk is a slender-bodied non-stinging insect that feeds on mosquitos and other insects, mostly mosquitos.

She knew this from the dictionary, but could not remember the genus and species. Did it matter? In any real way, did it really matter?

How could it?

But there it was. That gap in knowledge, once so easily recalled. A pain, sharp white–mental and emotional–in the gut. Reminding her, she was slipping.

Nothing worse for a writer than that gap. Pretty soon, or soon enough it wouldn’t be so small. It would be a chasm. A fucking gulf that could not be bridged with assurances of “everyone forgets things,” or “I just have too much on my mind.”

No. That wouldn’t be enough. It would be obvious.

This was age creeping up. Right? It could just be an aging thing. That sly gypsy sidling up beside her, seductive in his own way, but oh so destructive.
Whispering in her ear, “It’s okay to take it easy. Really, it’s okay.”

And how much disappointment did one need in a life? Was there ever enough? Does it get better with a little self-delusion?

She made a small movement with her body, sitting up straighter in the chair. Thinking, thinking, attempting to recall some obscure fact she had read about global population shifts.

How to reduce populations quickly without alarming the public. Something like that. The title was different. The solution was food. Yes!

It was in the food. What had they done? She tried to remember. Grasped longingly for the answer, but the more she sought, the less tangible it seemed. She let it go.

Let it go, she thought. I don’t give a shit. Then it was there, sitting on the table in front of her, staring her in the face. Slapping at her. Fucking gypsy.

Not the mosquito hawk. Daddy Longleg. The grandpa longleg. The great-fucking-grandpa longleg. She almost laughed aloud with the realization, but caught herself. She covered her smiling mouth, not allowing a sound to  escape. Sat back in the chair relieved.

The chemical makeup of the venom was the answer. Phalangium opilio. The harvestman. Harvestman indeed. He did his job well.

She moved forward tapped it out quickly before it disappeared again.

The Phalangium opilio is a spider-like arachnid, with long, thin legs. One of the most poisonous insects on Earth. Enough venom in one tiny bite to bring down an elephant.

With a bit of tinkering, they brought down almost the whole of the human population. Ninety percent. Those who haven’t died are blathering idiots. Or nearly so. Alzheimer’s induced.

She smiled at that. At least she got that much. She looked at the contraption in front of her, trying to understand why she was sitting there. What had she been doing?

She read the first sentence. Mosquito hawk taps. The mosquito hawk. Yes. She knew this. It was an insect that fed on other insects. She could not remember the genus or species. God. That fucking gypsy.


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