Not as Bad as We Thought

26 Jan 2022

There were flies everywhere!

My sister-in-law and I stood horrified, as the buzzing filled our ears and black bullets dive-bombed our heads like a hundred miniature Messerschmitts. Flies darkened the window, and the carpet beneath was black with their corpses.

We backed out of the attic room and shut the door quickly. We looked at each other; when we had set about clearing my parents-in-law’s house, we had thought clutter, not flies.

My sister-in-law is made of sterner stuff than I. “Raid,” she said, firmly, and hurried down the two flights of stairs to get the can of fly spray. I stayed put on the landing, horror stories filling my head.

The scene that came most vividly to mind comes from a novel by Patricia Cornwell, Blowfly; where flies from a jar are released into a room with the corpse, thus speeding decomposition and confusing the time of death for the police. I didn’t really think we would need to call 999, but I did wonder if an animal had become trapped in the attic room and if we would have to deal with something very dead.

We opened the door once more, sprayed furiously, and retired downstairs for a restorative cup of tea.

Later, flies all vacuumed up, we cautiously looked for their source. Noses twitching, we investigated, peering behind and under furniture, even venturing into the cupboard where the water cistern lurks; the sound of its dripping setting a sinister echo along the eaves. We found nothing.

Later that day there were more flies and more fly spray. And still, we could not find the source.

Then I thought to look them up.

These were cluster flies, so named because they have a habit of forming “clusters” when hibernating. They are also known as “attic flies” as they are usually found in roof spaces and lofts. They live outside in the summer but crawl inside to hibernate during the winter months. Once we opened up the attics, the heat confused them, and they all woke up, thinking it was spring.

In the end, they were nothing to worry about. Our imaginary horrors were unfounded. We were able to chuckle at the gory film-scenes that had played through our heads.

How often does this happen? We torture ourselves, imagining the worst, only to find things are nowhere near as bad as we feared. Sometimes we delay finding out the facts because of what we might discover.

Even if the facts are not what we might wish, it’s always better to know. As it’s said, “Ignorance may be bliss, but it’s damn’ poor life insurance.”

My daughters both love horror films: they find them amusing and like spotting how the scary special effects are produced. Perhaps we should laugh at our imaginings and then try to find out what’s really going on.

It’s rarely as bad as we fear. And it almost certainly won’t be as bad as that other horror film, The Fly.


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