The electricity failed and the house sitting on the shore of Lake Qarun was plunged into pitch-black darkness. He counted on the reflection of his familiar surroundings on the still waters of the lake to allay his fears of hidden perils, but when he went out on the balcony, the moonless night revealed itself as more inclined to favor those with dubious intentions. An ominous silence prevailed. For a while, he just stood there, straining his senses to detect any sign that might point him to the proximity of the little beast that had fucked up his life before it loomed out of the darkness. He didn’t want to be caught off guard, because, not only had that ruthless bastard killed his father, who both him and his mother had loved dearly, by infecting him with a fatal disease, it had also set off the chain of events that had left them heavily in debt and had forced them to sell all their possessions, but for the house and the small plot surrounding it.
His mother had passed shortly afterwards as well, and he wondered whether his devious adversary had had a hand—or, in this case, a snout—in her demise too. Now, he was on his own; nobody would come to his rescue.
At the funeral of his parents, which had taken place just a few days earlier, his extended family members had, out of pity for him, refrained from calling him out on his mounting paranoia, but judging by the looks on their faces, he had been able to tell that they thought he had lost it. He didn’t care, though. He’d rather be safe than sorry. Thus, he made a habit of, as soon as the sun went down every night, hermetically closing all the windows and spritzing pesticide all over the house, careful not to stint on the amount he sprayed in his room, where he would lock himself in right afterwards. He knew that his war tactics would exert a detrimental effect on his health in the long run, but he already had too much on his plate to start fretting over the future.
After making sure all his precautionary safety measures were in place, he switched off all the lights, climbed into bed, threw a thick blanket over his head—in spite of the high summer temperatures—and tried frantically to fall asleep. As was to be expected, he dismally failed at shaking the feeling that he wasn’t safe and that it didn’t really matter how hard he tried to keep the malevolent vermin out there at bay, for it would always be able to reach him. That night, he didn’t get a wink of sleep.
As the night wore on, he started mulling over how many critters there are out there, and how most species aren’t necessarily of the friendly type. Suddenly, he realized that he was getting all worked up and that the only way to allay his fears was to face the nightmare he was most afraid of. All things considered, he thought he stood a good chance of beating his opponent.
As he was about to stand up to fight for his peace of mind, he thought he heard something. First, he reckoned that his senses were betraying him and that what he had hastily interpreted as the midnight bogeyman’s announcement of his arrival could just as well have been a combination of different factors, including his predisposition to feel him everywhere and the ticking of the old wall clock that stood in the living room. But no, there it was again, droning more distinctly than ever: the soft buzz he had picked up the first time. It was, without question, him, that sneaky little skunk! How had he managed to break into his room?
There was no escape, his fate was sealed. Fear and confusion were clogging his cognitive circuit conduits and he needed to be able to focus or else, he wouldn’t make it out of this one alive. Thus, in a conscious effort to calm down, he started thinking about his parents. It worked. His body stopped shaking. Also he became more determined than ever before to show his true mettle and exact revenge. He could feel the abominable creature hovering around him, looking for a spot to strike. He didn’t feel like the thick blanket over his head would pose much of an obstacle for his adversary. The baleful buzz got louder. He poked his head out from under the blanket and stared defiantly into the dark. It didn’t take him long to discern him, as he inched toward him, geared up with sharpened tusk to deal head-on with the nuisance our hero was bent on making of himself. At the last minute, he managed to suppress a shriek of terror. He knew his enemy’s thirst for blood was unquenchable. His reflexes kicked in the second he felt him land on his skin, and, without a moment’s hesitation, he swatted at him with his hand. With one blow, he took out the beast and succeeded at eradicating the source of all his sorrows. He was jumping for joy, for he had killed two birds with one stone: he had overcome his fears and avenged his parents. He wiped off the remains of his nemesis from his arm and pulled the blanket back over his head. For the rest of the night, he slept like a baby, without a care in the world.
The Author, Hatem Mohammed Asseyid Abdullah:
He was born on the first of January 1976 and has a PhD in Law (both Islamic and secular law). He is a member of the Association of Egyptian Writers based in Cairo. In 2005 he published a compilation of short stories called Today’s Stories. He has also published several other stories and newspaper articles over the years.