The whining beasts of the air

The whining beasts of the air

I never complain about the mosquito situation, however bad people say it may be from time to time.

I never complain about the mosquito situation in Cranbrook, however bad people say it may be from time to time.

I have in-depth experience with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of species of mosquitoes — on the prairies, the sphagnum swamps of Northern Ontario, and the endless spruce forests where bloodsuckers the size of golf balls drive even the moose crazy.

At the crack of dawn, again at dusk, and most hours in between, the mosquitoes are out, seeking blood. They are crafty — they settle just out of sight and reach on the back of your shoulder, almost as if they had some territorial arrangement with the other great biting insects of Canada, like the horseflies, who rip the flesh out of the back of your hand; or the deer flies, who get all tangled up in your hair; or the black flies, who take bite-sized chunks out of your sanity — but anyway, you don’t know the mosquitoes are there, on your shoulder, until that particular itch catches your attention, but by then they’re flying away, bloated with your precious AB Negative, or Type O, or whatever, and as you start to scratch yourself raw, you want to utter maledictions after them, that they may immediately end up in the jaws of a dragonfly or the belly of a bat, but here comes another swarm of mosquitoes, and the distraction of batting them away weakens the power of your curse.

Back in the day, during peak mosquito hours, we kept cigarettes smoldering non-stop between our lips as some kind of mosquito deterrent, and even though I knew it didn’t work AT ALL I did it anyway, and went through a pack a day.

But that’s all outdoors, what I’m talking about, and mostly in the light of day, when you can see these tiny hematophagous creatures we share the planet with. Mosquitoes, like people, are more annoying individually than in swarms, especially at night, in a darkened room, when you’re so weary from the day that all you want to do is close your eyes and have hours of black, undisturbed sleep, but there it is, that high-pitched whine, like a dentist drill off in the distance, and it could be one foot away from your face or across the room — it’s hard to tell, like a dentist drill it’s a sound perfectly pitched so that you don’t know how close it is but you know it’s homing in, and you lie there in the dark, waiting for it, deciding to do one of the two things you have as options during this situation, where a rogue mosquito is exploring the airspace in your room, getting hungrier, as a hematophage, for your blood.

The first option you have is sitting up and turning on the light, and waiting for the mosquito to fly close enough to clap your hands over it, so you crush it between your palms, even though you know that a) the lone mosquito flies such a complicated trajectory through the airspace towards you that you’d have to be able to see a few seconds into the future to have any success at all of crushing the tiny, whining beast, and b) even if you did manage to clap your hands over it, more through sheer fluke than anything else, the mosquito would likely just stagger away, half crushed, and re-inflate itself somehow, this being one of the many skills mosquitoes have.

The second option you have is to lie there in the dark, patiently, like a hunter, controlling your breathing and movements, with the kind of discipline that you only get through long training and experience, and wait for the mosquito to land on you, and even giving it a second or two to settle in and start working its proboscis into your skin — this mosquito tool, by the way, isn’t just one minuscule spear, but a complex arrangement of six needlelike mouthparts, called stylets, each of which can penetrate your skin and find your blood vessels, and then let the bloodsucking begin! — but as you wait for the mosquito to land, suddenly you’re not sure if you are really hearing that high-pitched whine or is it just tinnitus, or an hallucination; but there it is, suddenly the mosquito has landed on your face, and you swat at it with catlike reflexes, giving yourself a good bang on the eye, and when you do that, as I can attest, a big flash of white light appears behind your eyelid — and did a mosquito really land? Is there even a mosquito in the room?

There is actually one other option, which is just to roll over and go back to sleep, and let whatever is droning around in the air land on the back of your neck and suck up its hematophagous fill, and in the morning you’ll see it hanging from the ceiling so swollen with rhesus factor that it looks like a red Christmas tree light, which you can then swat, or just ignore, as the case may be, before going about your day. This is the option that I, for one, usually take.

So you won’t find me complaining much, about the mosquito situation in Cranbrook, however bad people say it may be from time to time.