The Reclaimers

by Stephen Mabe

Oh that pain annoyed him so. That stinging feeling he got every time a bead of sweat rolled into his eyes. Allen tried his best but no matter what it seemed utterly impossible to catch every pestering drop of perspiration. And when it wasn't burning his retinas it still found a way to annoy with the flies that accompanied it.

All he wanted to do was finish the task at hand before his boss came around and realized how much work he hadn't accomplished, but those flies, and those drops of sweat. Finally Allen thought of a way to catch the sweat drops, a bandana. He pulled a handkerchief from his lunch pale and tied it around his forehead. Unfortunately, that didn't stop the miniscule pests.

They were everywhere by that time, so Allen decided to make a little sport of it. He picked up a stick about three inches wide and began swinging at every one of them that would land. They were falling left and right, or like the saying goes, they were dropping like flies.

Every time he killed a fly he'd make a mark on the stick. Before he knew it thirty minutes had passed and he hadn't touched his work, but he was up to sixty-one flies he knew he'd gotten and three he wasn't sure about. He was on a rampage, a fly killing spree, and was enjoying it probably a little too much.

Just as Allen was about to reach the hundred dead mark there came a voice that nearly scared the life out of him,

"Mr. Kennison!" His boss grunted. Allen quickly jolted around. He still held the dried, gut stained stick.

"Yeah Boss?"

"Is this what you're doing on company time, on my time?"

"Um, well, I was just getting rid of some of these flies. I find it hard to concentrate when they're"

"You find it hard to concentrate!" The boss quickly interrupted, "Well I'm finding it a little bit hard to pay you at this moment! I just watched you for the last ten minutes do nothing but kill flies and you never even knew I was back here."

"Yes, I understand, Sir. It's just that"

"I don't want to hear about it, I just want to see you working. Now get to it!" he interrupted again.

"Yes sir."

Allen put the stick down and began working again. His boss stood over him for about five more minutes and finally walked off. He kept working and the flies kept coming. Only this time more were landing on him than was to begin with. He tried his best to ignore them but he just couldn't stop thinking about it.

Eventually it got to the point that Allen counted the seconds between each landing. He would swat at one and five seconds later another would land. It was almost like they were on a timer or something, and sure enough they never missed a beat. One one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand, four one-thousand, five one-thousand, swat.

Such a bogus claim first had to be tested though. No person in their right mind would be so loony as to say flies were strategizing. And even if they were, it wasn't like it was for battle or anything, or at least Allen hoped not.

Then his somewhat intellectual common sense kicked in.

"Come on," his mind spoke to himself, "That's the stupidest thing I've ever thought of in my life. I mean even if they did attack me they're just flies, how much damage could they do?"

Just as his sentence ended a fly the size of his pinky fingernail bit him on the neck. He cried out in pain as the chills ran tingling down his neck, through his spine, and down to the very tips of his fingers. Once again he took a swat as he tried to shake the chills. Now surely his pain filled "Ahhh" was a little over dramatized but I don't blame him the slightest. I mean think about it, when something like a horsefly or a sand gnat chomps into your sensitive flesh the first initial reaction is to let it be verbally known that it hurt. So I do not see him as a wimp or weakling and if you do then I suppose you need to hop off of you macho high horse.

Luckily when his rage infested hand smacked at the pest it made contact. The abnormally large fly crashed into the ground. One little wing buzzed around while the other lay dormant. Only two legs remained in their proper place and four of the others, along with some nasty black goo, stuck to the palm of Allen's hand.

"Ha, ha." He proclaimed victoriously without regard of anyone else that may have been watching. And sure enough when Allen turned around to continue working he noticed several of his co-workers looking at him kind of strange.

"I killed it." He told them.

"Whatever you say, Allen." One of the ladies replied as they walked off.

It wouldn't have been a bad situation at all if it had been men, but it was three women. Three very attractive women and he was an eligible bachelor. That wasn't quite the impression he wanted to leave with them, even though they saw each other every day.

Despite the embarrassing situation he continued with his work. The flies seemed to be gone now that he thought about it. Then he looked on the floor where the fly he just killed was supposed to have been, but it wasn't. Nor were the other flies from earlier. Once again the thoughts of an uneven attack by the flies popped into his head.

"What happened to the bodies?" he asked himself, "They were there a minute ago. Man, if they're cannibals they sure do eat fast."

He put the thought out of his mind and was able to work for about twenty-five minutes before the pests tried again. This time was a different offense though. He never even saw what bit him, but knew what it was as soon as the itching whelp swelled up. All he could think about was how the flies were sending in their mosquito allies as a reconnaissance team. Before he knew it there were two more whelps forming. And then, they returned, only this time with a few more.

Two and three were landing at a time. He could see about four flies and about ten gnats swarming around his lunch bucket. They were coming from everywhere. There were swarms of them around a trash barrel about six feet behind him. Everywhere he looked there were tiny black dots buzzing around. One took a kamikaze dive toward Allen's forehead. He didn't even think to duck and the miniature jet smacked right into his hairline. The crazed fly made sure to take a nibble right as it made contact.

Allen just shook his head as the fly fell to the ground. That one didn't hurt nearly as bad as the bite on the neck did. The forehead isn't as tender. A couple more horse flies feasted on his arm. He flailed his arms about to get them off and grabbed for the stick all in the same motion.

In a killer instinct manner he flung the stick around madly trying to hit whatever he could. Unfortunately he never hit a single one of them. And luckily the whistle for break went off. It snapped him out of his war trance and the flies scattered. Panting he tried to catch his breath as he sort of jogged out of his workstation. He didn't even think to put the stick down.

Allen knew he shouldn't, but he just had to talk to someone about it. He wasn't even sure if he was looking for advice or an ally or what, he just needed to inform somebody. Maybe even as a warning that killing them only peeves them off. So he went to his crew leader, Johns.

"UmJohns, ya busy?" He timidly asked.

"It's break time Allen. I don't work during break." He took a drag on his cigar.

Johns was the type of guy you would want on your side at a time like this. He was the guy that if you gave him a gun at six years old and told him that his favorite uncle had betrayed their family in some horrible way, he would put a bullet not in his forehead or between the eyes, but in both temples. He was the type that would always have your back in arguments or combat, as long as he believed in the cause. And he was also the type to laugh right in your face if he thought what you'd told him was horse hockey or just plain stupid. He had no regard for feelings or straight up BS and he would be sure that everyone else within a mile's radius knew how stupid your comment had been. So needless to say Allen was going out on a thin limb here.

"Ya know what, never mind." Allen realized what kind of embarrassment this could cause and decided to let it go and handle it himself, but Johns wasn't going to have that.

"Now you wait a minute, don't leave me hangin' like that! You start somethin' you finish it. Now what is it?"

"Why, so you can just laugh it up with everyone else? No, I made a mistake by even thinking it."

"Okay look, no matter how stupid I think it is I swear to ya I wont say nuttin' ta nobody, alright." Johns insisted.

"Okay" Allen paused to collect all that had happened to get all right, "I'm over there working this morning and all these flies are swarming around me. I mean they're coming from everywhere. They're landing on me left and right and I start having trouble concentrating on my work it gets so bad. So I grab a stick"

"You mean that one you're holding right now?"

"Well yes, actually, I didn't even realize I was. You see how messed up they've got me? Anyways, like I was saying I grab this stick and just start having some fun with them. You know, play a little fly ball. I even made a mark every time I killed one so I could keep count."

"How many did ya get?"

"Almost a hundred, but that's not important. Before I could reach one hundred Boss comes around and gets on my case about it and makes me stop. So I stopped and started working again. Well about thirty minutes after that this gigantic horsefly bites the fire out of my neck and I smack him before he gets a chance to fly off. I didn't realize it but Janie, Susan, and Evvy were watching the whole time I did my victory cheer. They didn't see me actually kill the stupid critter, they just saw me yell out like an idiot."

"That sucks."

"Yeah, tell me about it. Well they walk off and I look down to see if he was completely dead and he was gone, and so were all the other flies I had already killed. Oh, and I forgot to mention, I started counting the time between each landing. It was five seconds every time. Then after I killed the one big one they stopped for a while and the next thing I know mosquitoes are biting me all over the place and the flies come back. Only this time they got gnats with them."

Johns just looked at him with this blank face that he always had. Allen continued talking.

"Next thing I know more horseflies start biting me and one even does a suicide dive into my forehead like one of them Comanche's or whatever they were."


"Yeah that's it. Then I'm swatting at them with everything I've got trying to kill them and not hitting one of them. Luckily the whistle went off and they all scattered. And I know you think I'm crazy, but man I'm telling you I think they're reclaiming their dead and coming back with a vendetta. I think I've made them so mad that they're waging war. What do you think I should do? I mean I can't go back over there, it's no telling what'll be waiting for me when I do."

Johns just kept starring at him with that empty face.

"Well, what do you think, Johns?"

"Well, Allen, I tell ya if it gets too bad over there and Charlie becomes too much for ya to handle then just run right over here and get me and we'll take care of 'em. How 'bout that? Sound like a plan ta you?"

"I knew you'd mock it. You might not be telling everyone else but you still don't believe a word I said do ya?"

"Oh no, it's not like that at all, of course I believe you. It's just that I've got so much work to do over here that I can't possibly stop unless it's absolutely necessary. So that's why I say if it just gets too awful bad then ya come get me. Now you go right ahead on and see if you can't reclaim your little territory, the whistle will blow any minute now and you can wage holy hell on 'em. Now like I said, don't forget I'm over here."

Allen knew that he was still mocking him and figured that the whole plant would know about it before the lunch whistle. So he decided to just suck it up and do his job. He knew Johns had probable cause to jar at him, he wouldn't have believed such a far out story either. And he pretty much thought the whole idea was just a little nonsense and paranoia by this point.

"Like I said before, that's the stupidest thing I've ever thought of." He spoke to himself again.

A few minutes later the whistle to go back to work blew. Allen had the idea that he was just going to walk right over there and do his job. He wasn't going to let any flies scare him. And that's exactly what he did. He acted as if nothing had happened and he'd pretty much convinced himself that everything that had happened was mostly a big fish story of his imagination. And for about an hour nothing happened.

But then, without any warning of and kind, they pounced. Hundreds of them flew straight for him. The only thing he could do was to grab the stick and swing as violently as he possibly could. The only problem was they were too thick and he couldn't find the stick. He frantically felt all around his area, rubbing his hands across anything, just as a blind person would do. He felt the sharp blade of his knife slice the palm of his hand but continued his search.

Finally he ran his hands along his table and found it. By this time he'd been bitten a good thirty times and others were crawling in his ears, hair, and shirt. Some had found the open knife wound and were feasting on the blood. It got so bad that he had to close his eyes so they wouldn't nibble on them. He gripped the stick tight in his fist and swung as hard as he could. He knew he was hitting some of them but they just kept coming.

In all the blind madness Allen didn't even realize that they all had scattered. They were hiding, but still watching. And he just kept swinging.

"Mr. Kennison!" His boss shouted, but Allen never heard him.

The flies watched from their little perches as he continued to swing and his boss continued to yell. All the shouting attracted many coworkers. They looked on in shocked amazement. This perfectly sane man that they had worked with for years was going crazy. He was spinning in circles and karate chopping thin air as if he were really hitting something. The only thing any of them knew was that Allen had lost it.

"Mr. Kenni" His boss tried to yell one more time but the flailing stick made contact with his chubby, red cheeks. The short little man fell to the ground. A few of the other workers ran to his aid, but in his heightened anger he only pushed them away.

"Get off of me! I'm gonna kill him!" He shouted. His pudgy, short physique hindered him from getting to his feet so he just sort of rolled around hoping it would help.

"Would somebody help me up? Now!" He bellowed.

The same two that helped earlier grabbed him by the arms and lifted him to his feet.

"Now would somebody get that darn stick from him?" He shoved one of the guys as he spoke.

The guy practically tripped into Allen and tackled him, snapping him out of his trance.

"Did I get them?" Allen asked.

"What are you talking about? You're just swatting at air?"

"No, there were flies everywhere, ask Johns. I told him about it." But Johns was nowhere around.

"That's it Mr. Kennison, you're fired! Now get your stuff and get out of my plant!" He stormed off and the bystanders followed. They all had the same estranged look on their faces, and everyone was afraid to say anything to him. He still didn't see Johns. Allen thought that he must have believed him, that's why he didn't want to watch what had just happened. And now that he thought about it, Johns had wanted his job for quite some time. Maybe the boss had talked to him about Allen's bad work habits and he knew that he was on his way out the door. Whatever the reason, he had no way to be sure, he could have been in the bathroom for all he knew.

Allen climbed to his feet and tossed the stick away. He looked all around for the flies but saw none, so he commenced to gather his things, and that's when they won their battle.

They swarmed him once again, this time going for every possible hole they could find. All Allen could do was scream. They crawled down the canals of his ears, up into his nostrils, down his throat, and into every other that I do not wish to mention.

This time nearly every coworker came running, but still did nothing. They just stood there and watched as the flies covered him. They were all afraid of the same fate if they tried to help.

After about two minutes the swarm flew off, but many remained internally. Some walked across his brain, some remained in his genitals, giving him a constant erection until they would be removed by surgeons, and a few flew around in his lungs.

Allen just lay there and laughed. He wasn't bloody or dying, the flies knew they couldn't kill a human, but instead they drove him crazy. The constant tickle on his brain drove him insane.

When the surgeons operated they removed thirty-eight flies from his body, all dead from acids or suffocation. But it was too late for Allen Kennison. And now he is in my care here at Saddlebrook Mental Institution.

His day consists of sitting in a padded room with fly swatters by his bed and clinched in his hand and those sticky fly traps hanging from the ceiling. He makes us change them every three hours because he sees them as full, but they never are.

So far he's been here three years and hasn't made half a step of progress, and honestly I don't believe he ever will. Allen is going to die in Saddlebrook and there's no medical attention or procedure that can change that fact. His day is soon.

August 10, 1999

Dr. Edward Hammitt

The story above was written by the late Dr. Edward Wayne Hammitt, my father. He passed away a week ago today of congestive heart failure and I happened to come across this short story in one of his personal journals. Though it is a short story and seems fictitious I assure you my father never lied. He was a very respected and admired physician who helped many people through Saddlebrook, and many others within the community.

My father and a man named Iris Weatherton first opened Saddlebrook as a men's institution in 1962. In 1970 they opened the east wing, which would be for women. Dr. Iris was murdered in 1976 by one of their female patients. She was a schizophrenic who believed Iris and my father had a hand in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. She even claimed that she was with the CIA and used the insane alias as a means to infiltrate Saddlebrook, thus stopping the unknown criminals that were my father and Dr. Iris.

Along with the short story I also found the last record he kept of Allen Kennison.


August 17, 1999

1:33 p.m.

Despite our efforts to calm his heart, there was nothing we could do. Allen was heavily sedated three separate times within fifteen minutes, all without affect. After twenty-one minutes of fighting to keep him with us, his heart failed as he screamed himself to death, ranting on that there was still one fly left in the middle of his brain. In my professional opinion I thought he was going to last at least another year. One less tortured mind, God be with you Allen.


I am uncertain of what my father's plans were for this story, but I'm sure he didn't want it hidden away forever.

The End

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