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Fiction Suspense

This story contains themes or mentions of mental health issues.

Shoo Fly

   Logan Forsyth needed a break. His wife had told him, his Doctor had told him, and even his psychiatrist had told him. The stress of the job was catching up to him, and as CEO of Forsyth Industries he could not afford to show any signs of weakness to the vultures circling his corporate headquarters. The vultures were the consortium of competitors who had rallied their forces against him. He felt the pressure of staying in business as well as the pressure of keeping over 200 employees employed. After much persuasion he was talked into an overnight retreat at Illinois Beach State Park. He had drawn the line at camping, but the Park featured a relaxing lodge with all the amenities. Maybe a quiet night and a day at the beach on the shore of Lake Michigan would be a good thing after all.

   Logan was a tall man and accustomed to dressing sharply in a suit and tie. His concessions to his weekend retreat were that his collared button-down shirt was short sleeve, his khakis were shorts, and his new $300 Birkenstock hiking boots were fresh out of the box. As he opened the door of his Audi A5 on that Saturday morning, the cellphone in his pocket began to ring. He reached for it instinctively.

   “Whatever you do Logan, put your cell phone away or this will do you no good. The world won’t end if you are out of touch for 48 hours!” He had heard basically the same thing from his wife and doctors.

   He pulled the phone out of his pocket and glanced at the number, hesitating.

   “It could be someone from the office. Maybe there’s a problem?” He thought to himself. 

   His hand shivered with a tremor as he paused, finally switching the phone’s ringer to vibrate. He threw the device onto the passenger’s seat and revved the engine to life. It appeared to voice its displeasure by announcing another incoming call.

“Bzzzz...bzzzz...bzzzz”

   Logan scowled at his phone as he headed north out of the city towards the State Park.

   “I’m not going to let you ruin my weekend, no sir!” he said, more for his own reassurance.

   Illinois Beach State Park was once populated by Indians and has preserved the last stretch of Lake Michigan shoreline that was savable in Illinois. Winding trails, a campground, the resort, and the Lake Michigan shoreline are the main attractions. Logan planned to check-in to his room and then go for a hike to get the lay of the land. After dropping his overnight bag on the bed in his room he lay his cell on the bedside table and left for his hike. Halfway down the hall to the elevator he pulled up.

   “Damn, I almost forgot water!” He muttered as he reentered the room and grabbed a bottle of water from the mini fridge.

   Logan headed down the trail into the leafy shade of a stand of Black Walnut trees. The sunlight left a dappled pattern of light across the path, and the drone of insects was slow and sultry like the summer day it was. The path soon led into a sunny meadow with patches of wildflowers. A black insect flew in front of his face, startling him.

   “Bzzzz...bzzzz...bzzzz”

   The insect circled his head and landed on his shoulder. Multi-faceted eyes glared up at Logan and it rubbed its little clawed hands together.

   “Bzzzz...bzzzz...bzzzz”

   Logan raised his right hand as slowly as a snake stalking dinner, then suddenly slapped himself on the shoulder. He slowly peeled his hand away from his shoulder to inspect the oozy goo that must lie below. No fly! He was certain he had nailed it.

   “Bzzzz...bzzzz...bzzzz”

   The indignant horsefly zoomed straight at Logan, bouncing off the lens of his designer sunglasses.

   “Shit!” Logan declared as he strode quickly down the path. He kept a brisk pace for several minutes until he was sure that the fly wasn’t buzzing him. “At least there are no mosquitos!” he reassured himself. It was hard to relax despite the surroundings, because to Logan the sounds of the forested area had become amplified. Every hum or chirp seemed to strum his nerves like a poorly tuned guitar. He jumped.

   “Bzzzz...bzzzz...bzzzz”

   “Shoo fly!” he yelled as he waved his arms above his head wildly.

  “ Bzzzz...bzzzz...bzzzz”

   He couldn’t see it this time, but he could sense its presence as it zoomed past his ear. Suddenly he felt it land on his forehead, it’s six spiked legs grabbing the skin of his face. By instinct the female horse fly will lock into an animal, or human, slash the skin quickly with its mandibles and eat the blood from the skin. Luckily for Logan, he swatted it off just as he sprinted down the path, shrieking. He was slick with sweat when he finally reached the resort. His hand shook as he slid the keycard through the reader on his door and staggered into his air-conditioned room. After a cold shower he had composed himself enough to go to the resort’s restaurant to take an early dinner, with plans to sleep deeply soon after.

   The hostess seated him in a bright spot next to a large window that caught the late afternoon summer sun. It was the perfect balance for the air conditioning, which he felt was a touch chilly. There were only a handful of other patrons at this time, all but him and two others paired off with their significant whatevers. He ordered a glass of wine and started to look over the menu. 

   “Bzzzz...bzzzz...bzzzz”

   Logan jumped in his seat whipping his head around. His eyes darted right and left, then to the ceiling.

   “Shoo fly!” Logan yelled, turning all heads in his direction.

   Logan heard a tapping, and whipping his head around, saw the horse fly on the outside of the window, staring at him with bulging eyes. It seemed to have grown to twice its size from before.

  “ Bzzzz...bzzzz...bzzzz”

   “Shoo fly!” Logan screamed at the window. The waiter got to his table just as he slammed his palm against the plate glass window, making a loud booming sound.

   “Sir!” was all the waiter could blurt out through his astonishment.

   “Did you see him?” Logan grabbed the young man’s sleeve. “He was right here! On the window!”

   The manager had suddenly appeared, and he took over the questioning.

   “What was on the window sir?” He said in a smoothly calm voice.

   “A fly! A monumental fly actually. The damn thing is following me!”

   “I sincerely apologize sir. We do our best to keep the facilities,” he seemed to search for the word “pest free. Perhaps we could move you sir to another, more comfortable table?”

   Logan allowed himself to be seated again and sipped his wine. The dinner seemed tasteless, and he couldn’t keep his eyes from scanning the room constantly for his tormentor. He decided to end his day with shades tightly drawn buried under the covers. It wasn’t long before he got his wish.

***

 “Bzzzz...bzzzz...bzzzz”

   Logan struggled in his sleep. It felt like his limbs were too heavy and he was too slow. He was running down a hallway in the corporate headquarters of Forsyth Industries, checking each door as he went, hoping to find an open one. Door after door was locked, and Logan’s panic rose to a crescendo.

   “Bzzzz...bzzzz...bzzzz”

   He stopped running and turned to face his fears. A horse fly nearly as wide as the hallway itself slowly crept down the hallway, drool dripping jaws slashing at air. Closer, closer it came. He was frozen in terror and could not move as the horse fly closed in.

   ‘AHHH!” he screamed as he crashed through his dream into the cool dark of his hotel room. 

   “Shoo fly!” he shouted before the bedroom materialized before him. All quiet. All still. The bedside table held a clock that shouted 2:11 in bright red numbers. He sat stock still until his breathing slowed, and the sweat dried on his brow. Assuring himself “it was just a dream” he finally slipped under the covers and fell back into a dreamless sleep.

When Logan woke and rolled over, he stared dumbly at the clock radio. It insisted it was 1:03, but that didn’t seem possible. It seemed more possible when Logan ripped open the blackout curtains to show the sun high in the sky. He hadn’t slept a morning away since he was a young boy, but he admitted to himself that he actually felt pretty good. The only remainder of the dream were dusty cobwebs in the corner of his brain. After a quick lunch, Logan put on his swimsuit and headed to the swimming area. He laid out his towel and stripped himself of his shirt, realizing how little sun he actually got while caught up at the office every day. “Well,” he thought, “maybe that’s something that can change.” That thought brought a smile to his face that he carried into the chilly waters of Lake Michigan. He swam until he tired, feeling the good ache of a workout start to descend upon him.

The sun’s heat was welcome as he walked dripping back to his towel. Just as he reached for the towel to dry himself…

   “Bzzzz...bzzzz...bzzzz”

   He looked at his beach towel laid out neatly on the rocky sand. In the center sat the horse fly, at least double the size that it had been the other day. It seemed to rub it’s front two claws together in delight.

   ‘Bzzzz...bzzzz...bzzzz” It’s two huge eyes stared unblinking.

   “SHOO FLY!” Logan screamed as he picked up the end of the towel and tried to snap the tortuous insect off his towel. He snapped it back and forth and shook it violently, then held it aloft for a careful inspection. 

   “Bzzzz...bzzzz...bzzzz”. The fly was still clinging to the towel, and Logan could have sworn that it was laughing at him. He shrieked and dropped it, scooping up his bag he sprinted from the beach, leaving the towel behind.

   Logan fled Illinois Beach State Park with his squealing tires leaving rubber in the parking lot. He raced back to the city. Back to his normal life.

Along the interstate that day there were several alarmed motorists that steered clear of the Audi with the man screaming out the window and waving his arms out of the sunroof. 

   “Shoo fly! Shooooooo fly!”

   The following morning Logan had steeled himself for returning to work and all that that entailed. As he entered the massive lobby of Forsyth Industries, heads turned to greet him.

   “Good morning Mr. Forsyth.” bounced back and forth across the lobby as he made his way to the elevators that would take him to the 33rd floor and his office. 

   “Good morning Mr. Forsyth.” echoed the elevator operator.

   Forsyth acknowledged him with a grunt and a nod. At least he didn’t have to tell him the floor number, thought Logan. That would actually entail talking to him.

The doors opened and he exited without a word, missing the sour face the operator threw at him. The people on this floor could afford to be more familiar, so the “Good morning Mr. Forsyth”s were sprinkled with dishonest “Logan, good to see you's and uninterested “Did you have a good weekend?”s. The only smile he gave, half-hearted at best, was to his personal assistant, JoAnn.

   “What do we have on the schedule this morning JoAnn?” he paused at her desk just outside of his office door.

   “Well, sir, there’s that meeting with the Mercantile District representative, followed by the Union reps.” Reading his blank look she added, “You know, the representatives from the union regarding the employee compensation for Mr. Carlson. You cancelled them Thursday last week and promised them an early reschedule.”

   “Damn. Well, okay. Get me Carlson's personnel file early so I can look it over. And JoAnn?” He stopped with his hand on the knob of his office door. “Hold all calls.”

   “Yes Mr. Forsyth.”

   Logan Forsyth closed the door behind him. His office had a premium view of the Chicago skyline, and the glistening waters of Lake Michigan beyond.

He stood by the window, realizing how small everyone else seemed when he was here in his loft. “Top of the world Ma!” he said, quoting his favorite line from an old James Cagney film.

   “Bzzzz...bzzzz...bzzzz”

   Logan whirled away from the window, and before even seeing it, he grabbed a putter that he kept beside his desk and raised it. There it was, sitting in the middle of his desktop.

   “Bzzzz...bzzzz...bzzzz”

   He swung the putter with all his might at the desktop, but the only damage was to a paperweight.

   “Shoo fly” Logan roared as he took a swing at the flying insect only to destroy a desktop lamp. He tracked the flies' path across the room and raced to a shelf that it appeared to land on.

   “Bzzzz...bzzzz...bzzzz”

   “SHOO FLY!” he screamed like a man possessed, sweeping a row of framed photos from the shelf to shatter on the floor.

   Outside of the room JoAnn watched her boss in horror. Breaking from her spell, she called building security, and then ever efficient, she called 911 for an ambulance. The security personnel were hesitant to storm their employer’s office no matter how crazy he was acting, so they joined the rest of the employees on the floor watching their founder, CEO, and a member of the Chicago Chamber of Commerce obliterate his office with a golf putter. Finally, CPD arrived and restrained Mr. Forsyth with relative ease, as he had spent all his energy during his...melt down?

   The employees had crept closer as the situation came under control, but respectfully, and fearfully, parted like the Red Sea as their boss was wheeled out of his office. He was on a gurney, immobilized with padded straps, even across his forehead. His eyes darted aimlessly around the room, seeking what he would never find.

   “Shoo fly. Go ahead now, shoo fly.” He muttered weakly. “Shoo fly, pleassseeeeee.”

    They could still hear his cries as the elevator doors closed behind him.

JoAnn stuck her head into the office to survey the damage. She gasped at the destruction. Seeing something she went to the center of the office and stooped to pick it up.

   “Poor Mr. Forsyth dropped his cell phone. I’ll have to get it back to him.”   It came to life in her hand suddenly.

    “Bzzzz...bzzzz...bzzzz.”

The End

May 22, 2023 17:00

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13 comments

Topher Winters
18:30 Jun 06, 2023

‘AHHH!” he screamed as he crashed through his dream into the cool dark of his hotel room. - Absolutely love this line! I felt his elbow hit the night stand and heard the glass of water splash into his slippers. Very visceral and in the moment. Really felt like an episode from a modern Twilight Zone. Well done, you!

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Timothy Rennels
18:24 Jun 07, 2023

I've got a lot of "Twilight Zone" in me! Thanks so much for reading and commenting. Write on!

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Michał Przywara
20:43 May 30, 2023

Heh, it is at times funny and at other times deeply unsettling, very much a horror story. It's that kind of horror where you're the only one that sees the monster and nobody believes you. But it gets worse, because the "monster" isn't really all that monstrous (well, horse flies are incredibly irritating, but they're not really monsters). If we dig a bit deeper, the parallels between the fly and the phone are clear. Perhaps he's driven to madness by an antagonistic fly, or perhaps the demands everyone else put on his attention and time fin...

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Timothy Rennels
00:25 May 31, 2023

Thank you Michal, I'm honored as I'm a fan of your work. I appreciate your feedback. I was actually surprised when someone pointed out the humor, which was never my intention.

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Ace Baker
21:06 May 28, 2023

Love the rule of three used right away in the second line. That flow appears elsewhere through the story, too--you have an ear for pacing and fluency. Longer paragraph at the beginning, to create images for the readers, then later on again, but in between, short and quick to keep the pace of the story. Nicely done!

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Timothy Rennels
23:07 May 28, 2023

Thanks for reading Ace! I took a peek and I look forward to reading yours...

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J. D. Lair
22:28 May 27, 2023

Very well done! I think the comparison of the vibrations of our phones and an annoying pest is a great one. Really enjoyed this and best of luck to you. :)

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Timothy Rennels
23:35 May 27, 2023

Thanks for reading! I live in the same county as that park...and I've met that fly! bzzzz

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Unknown User
22:01 May 22, 2023

<removed by user>

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Timothy Rennels
22:04 May 22, 2023

Thanks Joseph! I appreciate the bzzzzz

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Mary Bendickson
19:47 May 22, 2023

🤣 laughing and crying at same time! Great story!

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Timothy Rennels
22:00 May 22, 2023

Thank you Mary! This is the first in a collection of short stories I'm completing called "Campfire Chillers". Write on!

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Mary Bendickson
22:06 May 22, 2023

Best success.

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