Finally, Third Person Thursday has returned to its rightful place in the week. And it does so with a flourish as we now proudly conclude our ongoing story, originally meant to conclude on Halloween, about two brothers. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, it's probably because you haven't read the previous chapters. So follow these links for part 1, part 2 and part 3 before reading any further. Then, I hope you'll enjoy the finale.
It was a very lucky coincidence that Oliver discovered his grandfather’s old beekeeper’s hat in the garage. His grandfather had not been a beekeeper. He had been an accountant. He had also been an avid fisherman.
Oliver remembered seeing him in the hat, mostly in pictures as he had not been old enough to go on many trips with him before he passed away, looking rather ridiculous. But he also remembered hearing stories about the hat. The rest of the trip-goers, the same ones who had ridiculed him for donning the hat, were swatting away mosquitoes and biting flies while he stood proudly, focused on his retrieval and confident that no bug could penetrate the mesh that hung from its brim.
The crown of that same beekeeper’s hat now rose slowly into the attic as Oliver quietly climbed the stairs. It was even darker in the attic since his last venture because it was night and he had to leave the lights off in the hallway so as not to wake his parents.
He lifted his hand, covered by a thick yellow kitchen cleaning glove and holding a flashlight, next to his face. He hesitated in turning it on and took a moment to look around in the dark. He did this for two reasons. First, he didn’t want to turn the light on before he had to in order to avoid waking his parents. Second, he wanted to test his resolve.
A few days before, Oliver would never have gone into the attic, even in the middle of the day. The mere thought of entering the attic in the middle of the night would have made his palms sweat and his heart start racing. He would have become so anxious that he might have become light-headed.
Instead, Oliver stood in the attic in the middle of the night, nearly in complete darkness, alone and he was far from afraid. He was focused.
Of course, to say Oliver was alone in the attic would be incorrect. There was certainly something there with him. It was this something that had brought him there in the first place.
Oliver switched his flashlight on and shone it directly at the box with the man-lion’s face carved in it, the box where the something was contained. Then he threw his backpack over one shoulder and walked toward it. With each step closer, he expected the lid to fly open and the insects to come swarming out at him. When each step was met with nothing, it caused him more trepidation. It allowed him time to think and anticipate what was to come.
“There’s nothing to be afraid of,” he whispered out loud. “They’re just a bunch of bugs.”
Oliver tucked his flashlight beneath his arm and plunged a hand into the open mouth of the backpack.
“Fffffear,” came a, low, hissing voice from deep within the box. “Not… bugs. Fear. Fear me.”
“I Googled you, stupid, I know what you are,” Oliver aggressively whispered through clenched teeth. “You’re Phobos, the god of fear.”
“Yessss, boy,” it hissed again. “I am fear. Fear me.”
“You know what else I found out?” asked Oliver. “I found out even though you’re a god, you need something to take control of here in the real world. You started with bugs and you tried to take over my brother. That was a mistake.” He produced a large aerosol can that read Kills Hornets & Wasps on Contact from the backpack and held it out in front of him. “Because now I’m here to kill you.”
During the resulting silence Oliver considered lowering the can of bug spray and opening the lid himself before he began to hear a distant buzzing. As it grew louder, he began to feel it vibrate inside him. Here we go, he thought and flexed his finger on the trigger button of the can.
When the lid burst open, the black hornets appeared in a tornado that swirled quickly to the ceiling of the attic and spread across it, passing above Oliver and stretching behind him like a great wave.
Oliver depressed the button and the spray streamed out at the opening of the box. The hornets that were emerging were met with the foamy jet and fell instantly back into the chest and about the attic floor. Oliver disregarded the insects that had already gotten past him and advanced on the box, never letting go of the button. He was intent on unloading everything he could into the deep darkness of the box.
After two steps forward, Oliver was hit from the side by the wave of wasps. The sheer volume of them caused him to stumble to one side. He dropped his backpack and his flashlight slipped from beneath his arm. Still, he continued to spray as the mass of wasps pelted him.
The portion of mesh in front of his face was covered with a layer of black, intertwined insects. Each one of them clung desperately to the protective netting and furiously attempted to sting him through the holes.
Up close, Oliver could see the wasps were much bigger than he had originally perceived. Rather than the size of the wasps and hornets he was used to seeing, these were the size of a sparrow with pulsing abdomens.
“Aw crap,” Oliver exclaimed and sprayed blindly in front of him, where he thought the box ought to be.
He used his free hand to grab clumps of bugs at a time from before his face. He smashed them in his hand before throwing them aside and felt their legs all over him, clawing and climbing, searching for a place to get through his self made armor.
“Fear me,” buzzed the voice. It was a single entity yet all around him.
“No,” Oliver shouted. “You fear me.”
He had cleared his view and now realigned his fire. There were piles of wasps beginning to gather on the attic floor around him. Their exoskeletons crunched beneath his father’s boots as he advanced on the box again.
Just as he came within arm’s reach of the open chest from which wasps continued to explode forth, the stream of frothy insect poison began to shorten and sputter. Oliver shook the can and tried again, but there was no denying it was quickly running out.
“You will learn to fear me,” said the buzzing voice, louder this time, “or you will die.”
The wasps pressed closer to Oliver in unison. He felt their tiny bodies pushing against him from all directions. They forced themselves against him in such great numbers that they smashed themselves against him. He could feel the inner layers of bugs crack against his wetsuit.
“Ewww,” Oliver said and grimaced.
He caught sight of his backpack on the floor beside him through the haze of flying insects. He reached for it and felt himself being lifted off the ground. He began to tilt sideways. His feet left the floor. The mass of bugs spun him into the air and as his arms swung around from the force, he managed to grasp a strap of the backpack with one hand.
Oliver tried as hard as he could to bring the backpack closer to him. He needed another can, but it was all he could do just to keep from dropping the bag again as the wasps circled around him, spinning and twisting him closer to the roof than the floor.
His position shifted. The insects were managing to hold him by his legs upside down and they maneuvered Oliver toward the chest.
“Oh no,” cried Oliver as he was nearly dangling above the seemingly bottomless chest.
“Yessss,” buzzed the voice again. “Now you fear me. Now I shall have you for my own.”
“No!” screamed Oliver. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath and dug his hand again into the backpack. “I’m not afraid of you! I’m not afraid! You’re just a bunch of stupid bugs! That’s all you are!”
When Oliver opened his eyes, he found he was directly above the chest. He knew nothing good could come of being dropped into the endless dark inside. He also saw an opportunity.
Oliver took two more cans from the backpack, dropped the bag to the ground and began spraying twin streams into the blackness inside the chest. The army of wasps was finally beginning to subside as he did so, but he also felt the grip on his legs loosening. He began to slip form among the insects and drop toward the open box.
Suddenly, he was released and plummeted toward the black void. Oliver closed his eyes, heard a thud and then heard two more as he saw stars. The second thud was his head and shoulder striking the lid of the chest and the third was his body falling to the floor.
“Ow,” he groaned and opened his eyes to look around.
“Give me some spray,” David called from atop the chest. He wore what appeared to be at least eight layers of clothing, several ski masks and goggles as the lid of the box jumped to try and open beneath him.
Oliver tossed his brother one of his cans of bug spray, but was once again lifted from the floor by the swarm of wasps.
“David!” he called for help.
David sprayed wildly at the constantly moving mass of insects that had enveloped his little brother.
“Let him go,” he shouted as he continued to spray at the cloud around Oliver.
The group began to dissipate and eventually not enough insects were left to hold Oliver up. He crashed to the floor again but the pile of dead wasps had grown so thick that his fall was cushioned. Instead of a thud, there was a sickening crackle.
Oliver rolled to his feet and shook himself off. “You sprayed me, you jerk,” he said to David and leapt onto the box beside him, helping to hold it closed.
“What was I supposed to do, twerp? They were all over you?”
“Whatever,” Oliver snorted. “Grab the bag. I have foggers.”
David reached and snagged the backpack without moving off of the chest’s lid. He handed it to Oliver who removed six bug fogger cans from inside. And placed each one on the floor in front of the chest. The boys lay on top of the box, covered with wasps that continued attempting to sting them.
“I’ll start all the foggers,” instructed Oliver, “then you open the lid and we’ll throw them in. Then we have to figure out a way to seal it.”
“The belts,” David suggested and pointed near the opening in the floor. “That’s what I was planning on doing.”
Oliver climbed off the box and knelt in front of it. He popped open each fogger and the smoke began hissing upward all around them.
“(COUGH, COUGH) Now!” Oliver shouted and David lifted the lid just long enough for Oliver to shove all the cans in before slamming it shut again.
The box bounced and rattled beneath David as Oliver ran around the attic, spraying and swatting the last of the loose wasps. He waded through insect carcasses like snow drifts, wanting to be sure he had finished off every last one.
Eventually, the noise from inside the box subsided. Oliver retrieved the belts he had used to tie David to his bed. Together, they wrapped them around the box and pulled them tight. Once the chest was secure, both boys fell heavily to the floor and breathed.
“You did it, Ollie,” David said. “I can’t believe you did it.”
“You helped,” Oliver replied. “I was almost in the box with them for good until you showed up.”
The brothers bumped fists as they lie on the attic floor amidst thousands of dead wasps.
“David?” Oliver said.
“Sorry I tied you up.”
“That’s alright,” David chuckled. “It’s a good thing you’re too much of a wimp to tie me down. Anyway, I’m sorry I sprayed you.”
There was a long pause. Then David said, “Ollie, I’m glad you’re my brother.”
“Thanks,” Oliver smiled. “So am I.”
“I never would have thought of all this, “ David added. “You’re a smart kid and you were awesome. You saved me.”
“Well,” Oliver started, “as I’ve been sitting here, I thought a little more about bugs and I realized they would have all probably died in a few days anyway, especially since the cold weather is coming. All I really needed to do was get that stinger out of you. But thanks, that’s nice of you to say.”
“Oh well,” said David. “It all worked out in the…”
“Boys!” shouted their father from the hallway beneath them. “What in God’s name are you doing up there? It’s three o’clock in the morning! Get down here right now!”
David and Oliver walked to school through the cold morning air, tilting their heads back and watching their breath rise upward like they were steam trains. They shuffled their feet as they did and pushed aside the piles of leaves.
“This kind of grosses me out,” David commented, looking down at the leaves.
“Why?” Oliver asked.
“Because it reminds me of you knee deep in those bugs last night.”
Both boys stopped and looked across the street. Fewer trees left that sidewalk clear. They rushed over to that side and continued to school. When they made it to the doors, instead of separating to go off with their own friends, they stayed together until the bell rang. Then they bumped fists and walked away.
“Good luck at try outs,” Oliver said and lifted up his pants at the waist.
“Thanks,” replied David as his pants sagged slightly as well. “I’ll see you after and we’ll clean up the attic.”
Meanwhile, their father raced around the house, opening closet doors and lifting couch cushions. “Honey, I’m gonna be late! I don’t see a single belt anywhere. It’s like they all just up and vanished.” He was completely unaware that they were all a few feet above his head.
So was a single living wasp. It climbed over its dead companions and struggled to flap its wings in the cold air. Occasionally, it would begin to climb the side of the strapped closed chest, only to fall back to the pile with the others with each attempt. By the time the two brothers returned home, it would be dead like the rest.