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Protect the flock! From JP and Hachette!

Requested by someone on MDW. I typed it up in under an hour, so it's doubtlessly riddled with spelling and grammar flaws. Hope you find it interesting regardless.


You don’t need monsters or ghosts to trouble you. Some of the worst things in the woods are very real, and much smaller than you’d expect.


It started with just one bite.

Hannah firmly slapped the small mosquito away, but it was already too late. The spot was itchy.

“The mosquito repellant doesn’t work,” she complained loudly.

“It works fine,” Brandon replied flatly, walking up behind her, his face obscured by a mosquito head-net, “But only in the towns and suburbs. Out here, you could paint yourself with DEET, it wouldn’t make a difference. You should have packed a windbreaker and head-net.”

“And wind up all sweaty and stupid looking?” She heard another whine as yet another mosquito whizzed by her head, “Why are there so MANY of the darn things?”

“It’s the forest, there are mosquitos,” Brandon shifted his backpack back up onto his shoulders, “You wanted to go camping in the national park—the real deal you wanted. This is the real deal. Should we head back to the car?”

Hannah sent him a dirty look and replied, “No, let’s keep going.”


By the time they had set up camp, it wasn’t much better. The light had dimmed, but the number of mosquitoes had quadrupled so that now Hannah’s ears were filled with a constant hum of tiny insect wings.

“There has to be some way to gepffth—augh” she spat a mosquito that had tried to fly into her open mouth onto the ground, “to get rid of these things.”

“They’ll be gone when the sun has fully set,” remarked Brandon, who was in the process of hanging their food bag from a tree, to keep the bears from taking it.

“I can’t wait that long, there has to be another way.”

“Steam from a campfire might work, but it’s dry out here at the moment. No fires.”

“I’m paying you to take me on this hike so Ellen and her friends can’t get the last laugh.”

“You could be paying me a million dollars. No fire.”


There was only one, but it was enough.

Hannah watched the single mosquito bounce around in the top of her small tent, it’s annoying buz keeping her awake and alert.

The sun had ser hours ago, but this little insect had somehow gotten into her tent, and once it had found her journal-writing flashlight, it wouldn’t leave.

“Go away.” She whispered at it, as if expecting some kind of coherent response. If anything, it buzzed louder.

“Go away!”

This time the insect dive-bombed her. She let out a shriek and swatted at it, missing, and again, until finally she slapped the thing just as it lit upon her shoulder.

The sound was gone, but what it was replaced with wasn’t much better. She had been bitten at least sixteen times over the course of the day—the repellant had truly done nothing at all—and this manifested itself in the form of a powerful itchiness on her arms, legs, and back.

The new bite on her shoulder was particularly itchy, she gave it a small scratch, and for a moment, the feeling was relieved.

But then it returned, and worse.

There’s a funny thing about humans and scratching. Humans are good at controlling lots of things about their bodies; breathing, heart rate, need to use the rest room, but god forbid you should ever feel that feeling of a hundred littlelegs scampering up and down your arms and legs, getting entangled through your hair and drifting down to that one terrible part on your back that you can’t reach. You need not even be bitten. There are plenty of fun little words like “itch” “scratch” or even that old favorite “lice” that will automatically trigger that terrible demanding need for relief.

And so the cotton inside of her sleeping bag didn’t help Hannah that night as the bites on her arms and legs shouted at her, calling for her to reach to them and make herself stop the feeling. She lay awake for another hour, damning herself for leaving anti-itch cream at home, when she felt a sudden pain in her left arm. She hadn’t even noticed, but she’d itched herself strongly enough to draw a drop of blood.

Hannah decided that she’d had enough. She needed relief, anything would work.

She leapt out of her tent and glanced around. Brandon was still asleep in his own tent, snoring loudly. He had shown her a small stream nearby that they had used for cooking water. That ought to do the trick, she thought to herself, starting off in that direction, itching a bite on the back of her hand as she went, cold water, that should work perfectly.

The walk felt like ages—“But I am going the right way” she insisted to herself—and finally came upon a stream. She could hear it, it was maybe a foot down, she edged closer and—


Daytime. Hannah shot awake and suddenly winced at the pain in both her head and her left leg. She was splayed half out of the creek where part of the bank had collapsed into the water. The sun was already somewhat up, but the mosquitoes were out in force again.

And like a bad memory, the itchy feeling of her bites from the day before returned.

Hannah groaned, pulled herself up out of the water, and looked around. she was at a bend in the creek, almost U-shaped. She didn’t recognize it as the place that she had gotten water from the day before.

“HELLO?!” she shouted, “Brandon! Where are you?! Help!”

No answer

She tried to stand up, wincing against the pain of her strained leg. A pair of mosquitoes dropped into her face and she waved them away, followed by another pair, and another.

She couldn’t see very well, there were so many trees, she couldn’t even make out a clearing or area of higher ground she could go to, just dense trees.

The water, she realized, the water goes to the ocean, right? That’s what they said in that fish movie. No way the water wouldn’t hit a road or town. If I can just—

Her thought were broken off as yet another mosquito flew into her right eye. She batted it away, rubbing it, trying to get the feeling out. It was a different kind of itchiness, sort of like the one now crawling across the top of her head…

She gave it a scratch, and started following the river.


“Oh god, no! No! No! No!”

The water didn’t lead to a river after all. It lead to a bog.

By now small lines, like from tears, wound their way in read down her arms and legs. The mosquitoes hasn’t left either. Now they seemed to travel in great swirling clouds that would move with the breeze, but always return, and then arrow for her.

Her muscles were sore from swatting and itching, and the blood on her limbs only seemed to attract more of the insects in a vicious cycle that left her itchy all over.

She spun in place. There had to be a way out. There had to. She couldn’t take any more. No more.

Then, a bright pain. She’d spun too hard on her injured leg, and it collapsed under her, pitching her sideways into the bog. She collided with a tree root, then hit the mush with a wet splat before sinking up to her thighs in the mud.

Hannah reached up and grabbed the tree root. Pulled. It was no use, she couldn’t move. “Help!” she shrieked, “Someone! ANYONE!”

Her only response was the helicopter hum of millions of mosquitoes circling towards her from across the bog, traveling like a black mat. All the while, Hannah shrieked, pleading, begging, her arms tiring against the tree root. She wasn’t sure how much longer she’d last.

And she needed to itch. Badly.

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