A few years ago, in the middle of a Florida summer, Lena and I decided we wanted to find some new places to go walking. We liked to walk early in the morning while the heat was only oppressive and not yet murderous, and we had all the streets around our home burned into the memory of our feet.
I hit the computer to find listings of walking trails in our area. The best sounding one was at the University of North Florida. It wound for miles through the woods and had many different paths and branches, so you could take lengthy walks every day for a month and not go the same way twice. We resolved to check it out early the next morning.
The next day, a Sunday, I believe, we parked in the lot beside the entrance to the trails. There were no cars around, which while we found unusual, we considered overall to be an auspicious sign. We would have the place to ourselves. A more astute observer might have questioned why we there was no one else on the trails early on a Sunday morning, but we had apparently left that fellow at home.
We crossed the lot and entered the woods. The trail was mostly pine straw over packed earth, about ten feet wide, with railroad ties laid to mark the sides. Perfect for walking through the woods. Far above our heads the trees kindly blocked the sun and heat, preserving the cool of the evening a bit longer from the hot, muggy breeze that had already begun outside. We smiled and remarked how happy we were to have found this place, and even while there, looked forward to many return trips.
Maybe sixty feet into the woods, I was fully appreciating the idyllic and unspoiled nature surrounding me. Ignoring the irony, I absentmindedly swatted and crushed a yellow fly that had landed on my arm. Sixty-five feet in I waved another from in front of my face. I turned to look at Lena.
“Run! — NOW!”
I led the way. To her credit, Lena didn’t stop to ask why, but before she had taken more than two steps, she no longer needed to. The literal cloud of yellow flies following me, identical to the one I had seen converging on her, told her everything she needed to know. There were hundreds surrounding us both.
(A quick aside for any readers who may not be familiar with yellow flies. They look much like a normal housefly except that they are larger and a sandy yellow in color. Some people call them sand flies. They have however, two distinguishing characteristics that make them unique in the insect world. One is that the females are the most merciless and rapacious creature alive when it comes to bleeding their victims. They will come from hundreds of yards if they sense movement, and will follow their prey into hell itself for the privilege of inflicting their painful bite. Two is their painful bite. A yellow fly can and will happily bite you right through your shirt, which makes spotting them more difficult since they can so easily get you from behind. Being bitten by a mosquito is easy to miss until it’s over — not so with a yellow fly. Their bite feels like getting stuck with a needle at the doctor’s office… and the doctor in question really hated you. Having one yellow fly buzzing around your head is irritating. If you know it’s there it’s a little easier to deal with, since they are kinda slow and die quickly when you roll them. Two is problematic, it’s hard to keep an eye on both at once and the stress factor goes up geometrically. Three is downright distressing, and four is enough to send anyone running. Sun-blotting numbers entails full-scale panic and a change of underwear.)
We burst out of the woods with our eager dark clouds buzzily in hot pursuit. For all the terror they had caused, we might have been being chased by bears. We ran straight across the parking lot, momentarily gaining a bit of ground on our looping and winding pursuers. Killing the last few flies still on me as I opened the doors, we threw ourselves into the car, slamming the doors in the hundreds of faces of our enemies. Frantically we searched the car for signs of vampire yellow flies that had made it inside… but we were safe. We giggled, hysterically at our situation, as in my mind I heard frustrated and angry insects bouncing off the metal skin of our car.
Out of curiosity we sat and waited in the lot until the last of the yellow flies gave up and retreated back into the woods. Almost three full minutes.
We have a nice neighborhood. I like walking there. Forever.