The world always ends with a grace period. For some, it is unnoticeable besides a smell like a lingering fart and an unseasonable warmth inviting shorts, light jackets, and airing out the in-betweens of toes. Others sense a churning, tiny larvae squirming free from green pod rafts the size of soot specks—something on the way and the sound of tearing.
Mosquitos do not hatch with wings. The larvae have bodies shaped like miniscule snake rattles, with bulging heads and tiny hair-like legs on every segment. They live just under the surface of their water, devouring algae, plankton, fungi, and the larvae of other mosquitos. They use their tiny fan-like mouth brushes to gather the particles into themselves, like a broom and a dustpan, like someone sweeping, just this moment, who is tired, with sore feet. They have patches of damp where their shirts stick to their backs and darken under the armpits. There is not enough room for them to move the way they want, and they begin to molt, squeezing from their exoskeletons until they can breathe a little easier.
At this stage, they look like commas, punctuation marks many find as irritating as mosquitos. They are a nuisance. They are unnecessary. If left unchecked, they would take over everything. They would bleed us dry.
Only female mosquitos feed on blood—a fact some will delight in. Here are some alternative facts: The first thing they want is not blood. They are thirsty for nectar and sweet dew. They could live their whole lives on sugar, and no one would ever have to scratch at the reminders of them, the red evidence of their theft. But there are other angles to consider: It is not theft. The female mosquito needs the protein in animal blood to develop her eggs. Without blood, the mosquito would eventually cease to exist. Some would argue that that is a good thing, but they are forgetting that mosquitos are intertwined. If they disappear, so do the purple martins, the swallows, the waterfowl, the bats, the goldfish, the guppies, the bass, the bluegill, the catfish, the frogs, the tadpoles, the dragonflies, the damselflies, the turtles, the spiders, and the others who will go hungry.
Commas are great for lists. They give pause. They clarify. They emphasize relationships. They are not as final as periods. One would think we would welcome them at the end of the world. But then again, maybe not. The sun is still out. It almost feels like we’ll never have winter again.
Some people are afraid to look out windows. They say there is something unnatural about the pale shade filling the sky. Some people are still insisting that it’s fine, that there’s nothing to worry about, that the sky has always looked like that. One woman felt an itch, like tiny legs scuttling inside her sleeve even though she swatted her limbs, took a shower, burnt her clothes.
“It just won’t stop,” she said, staring at the contour of her forearm and wondering when her body had been made alien.
Sarah Marie Kosch earned her MFA in fiction from Oregon State University. Originally from the Midwest, she now lives in Corvallis, OR. Her work has appeared most recently in Grist Online, Rappahannock Review, Gemini Magazine, Knee-Jerk Magazine, and Print-Oriented Bastards.