Death On The Lake

Prompt Day #166: Begin a piece by describing something large and deadly on the horizon

 Death On The Lake

                We call them “no-see-ums”; the small little gnats that inundate the Upper Peninsula in late spring. It was late summer though and the mass on the horizon was bigger than any swarm I had ever seen. I watched the writhing black curtain unfurl out across the sky. I watched it advance across the lake, others gradually joining. It was a living entity made up of billions of tiny creatures and they were cloaking the sea.

There was no end in sight, it was a blind being pulled across the sky. Night fell over the town at three in the afternoon. So many of us stood then, commenting on this mass of what we still thought was the no-see-ums. Mimicking waves, they rolled onward towards the shore where we stood. Many of us retreated to the bait shops where we bought out all the fishing hats with attached nets. We said things like “must have been the wet winter” and “It’s gonna get ugly when they get here, that’s for sure.”

It moved slowly, this collective cloud of miniscule beings. Many of us lost interest. Yes, it was the wrong time of year for them and yes, it was the biggest swarm we’d ever seen, but you can only watch for so long before even the most unusual becomes mundane.

Many of us who went home instead of staying to see the arrival, checked the local news first thing the next morning. What was the state of our town now? Where were the pictures of the business fronts covered in the bugs, or the car grills? Where were the interviews with those who stayed or the fisherman who battled with the insects?

The station was off the air though, the silence from all local sources was unnerving and we all gradually left our homes to go back to the shore. The scene was horrific. Skeletal figures lay scattered through the town, wet and gory. Deer, squirrels, and other unidentifiable animal remains were being picked over by vultures. Scant soft tissue was devoured without discrimination, it was obvious the human remains had been the first to be eaten.

The trees, bushes, and flowers had been picked over in the same way. In fact everything organic was just gone. There was no grass. The landscape was barren. It was a scene from a cartoon. The skeletons crawling across the desert; vultures circle overhead. Those of us who had escaped the massacre could only stare in shock. What had become of our town?

And then we saw it; the black curtain shimmering at the edge of town. It was waiting for us. It had devoured the town and was waiting for the rest of us. It was readily apparent that these were not your average no-see-ums. We watched in horror as a man broke from the crowd and walked up to the living wall. It bulged out towards him and like some carnivorous locusts, it devoured him. If you could see someone being power sanded slowly away until there was nothing left, that is what we experienced just then. The man, now bones and gristle, dropped to the dried, rocky ground.

Gaining power from its meal, the flesh eating swarm began to advance towards the few of us who had, out of curiosity, come back. We ran then, no one chancing a look back, leaving behind our homes, out town. Always running now, pretending we could outrun death. But death is always there, on the horizon; a black blanket that will in time wrap itself around each and every one of us, leaving nothing but our bones behind.

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