I confronted pure terror this week.I was walking through a mossy spruce forest when I felt the fear. It started as a crazy, zinging noise, one high note blending into the wilds behind me. Against my better judgment, I stopped.
Sound off on the important issues at
A cloud of them had descended in a ravenous mass on my rain gear.
I looked down and saw them on my arms, my torso, my legs. Mosquitoes worked their little claws into my jacket and sucked at it, trying to find blood. They clung to me no matter how fast I ran, always hungry and exploring and invading.
I wiped them off my eyelids, the only part of me that wasn't clothed or slathered in DEET.
The horror, the horror.
Dozens of them crawled up my shoulder, jabbing their little mosquito faces against me in a crazed search for blood. They creeped toward the warmth of my neck, advancing in millimeters.
But they weren't biting. My impenetrable sheen of DEET was keeping them at bay.
While I watched, they gathered at the cuffs of my jacket, searching and creeping and seeking. But the bare flesh of my hands was toxic. Mosquitoes dive-bombed my knuckles and bounced off after detecting the repellent.
I continued my march through the forest, along the creek, crossing a bridge. Wind rushed along with the silt-gray water, and for a moment the insects were blown away. But they fought their way back.
I walked faster, more urgently, my backpack bouncing with the weight of a rod, reel, waders, wading boots, water, lunch, and other impedimentia.
I rounded a bend and found myself in a more open forest, with taller trees with more expansive branches. It was a perfect chamber for the hordes. I could see their numbers seething above the devil's club, choking the empty spaces between the ground and the tree canopy.
I breathed through my mouth so my teeth would strain them - I was afraid to breath through my nose. The DEET was still holding fast, but my resolve was fading.
I crossed another bridge and missed the unmarked side-trail to the partially hidden fishing hole. Unaware of the blunder, I kept the pace until I reached the darkest point of my afternoon.
A bog within a marsh within a bog. Balanced on a wavering plank, I saw blankets, sheets of mosquitoes rising from the muck. They hovered at an unbearable closeness to my face, stymied by DEET. I could feel their humming and craving.
I was lost. I was lost in a galaxy of insects.
I couldn't think straight. Should I backtrack? Bushwhack? March on?
I resorted to a little of each. When the mosquitoes finally got me, I didn't feel it. But I woke up the next morning with a line of bites on the very top of my left ear.
Ken Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 523-2263.