A Fly In Tea

It started so simply.

A cup of tea, sugar and a spoon, light slicing off the edges of the silverware, glossing the rim of the cup where lips had met and dragged tea over the edge, marking it as a contact point. The cup was green, a pale shade of green with white draped over the inside and a little white star printed by the handle.

The flies had come in. It was summer, heat rising in waves over a sharply blue sky, shimmering over asphalt, the sun switching between ramping up the colour saturation and washing everything out in a blaze of retina-searing white where it bounced off glass.

It was a fly on the counter, a fly on the wall. A fly landing on the fridge, hovering about the drying pots and plates, a fly smacking against the mesh stretched across the window, frantic and unable to escape, even as the sugar in the tea sent its little siren call to the fly, temptingly sweet. A fly, just a fly. Not so big, but black, and desperate to get out into the world of moving air currents and flower scents, and other smells that were so attractive to the fly-brain.

But now the sugar called. The sugar in the tea, suspended in the liquid. The fly, crazed with a need to get out, out, outoutout before something bad happened – the fly found it irresistable. The sugar. The fly whacked itself against the unyielding mesh one last time, then wobbled over to the table.

Air currents, vibrations, sound. The fly understood nothing save that trouble was here. Quickly, quickly! It launched itself up and away in panic, latched onto the ceiling. Through a fractured world that made perfect sense to the fly-brain, it saw Them. Them, big and deliriously smelly, sweat and pheromones and a strange smell that was like flowers and yet not. The fly shifted, lightning quick, rubbed its legs together, cleaning. Again and again and again. The scent of sugar drifted up to the fly, even as They started shoving at each other, the sounds They made turned into massive sonic vibrations that made the fly jittery.

The sugar, the sugar was calling. Again. The fly craved it, wanted it.

But They were there, wild gestures, wilder sounds that translated into horrible, horrible vibrations.

Them. Sugar. Them. Sugar. Sugar. Sugar.


The fly kicked off from the ceiling. They were so big, surely They would fail to notice. Never mind the vibrations. The danger. The fly was fast, very fast, and They were very slow. Yes.


Down, bobbing along an invisible flight path, the fly descended. The sugar scent grew stronger, along with another stranger smell that the fly didn’t quite know. They increased the volume, the vibrations shattering the air and the fly’s nerves. The fly bobbled, wove, in and out and all over as the waving gestures of one of Them turned onto the fly, swatting furiously as a horse tail.

Panicked, the fly shot away and upward again. It occurred to the fly-brain that They were fighting. Like a territorial fight. Dominance fight. The fly knew the this fight would end only one way. And then, maybe… the sugar.

The sugar.

Now down again. If the timing was right, just right, maybe… sneaky, fast enough. The sweetness would be there, a feast.

Down. The white curve in dozens of pieces clicked together into a well of sorts, only more slippery. The fly scrabbled for purchase, got it, and then! Then, the sugar! The sweetness! The fly couldn’t have been more satiated. Nevermind the oddness in the taste. Sugar. Delightful.

Over him, They still snarled, roared. The fly could feel it. They had begun the final fight.

A shadow! Overhead! The fly-brain screamed in protest; the fly shot away fro the surface but – then – disorientation! The well tilted, the liquid shifted. It moved! Moved! The fly slammed against the smooth white of the well. No grip! No grip! The legs motored frantically, the liquid sloshed, the well.. it tilted, rocked, wobbled, it slammed down, the liquid caught the fly!

Panic, need safety, but the wings were wet! Heavy! Cannot fly! No safety, no safety, MUST GET OUT, OUT, OUTOUTOUT -

The well collapsed, the world tilted, the sonic vibrations were at a level that was creating horrible levels of anxious panic in the fly, and the fly was trapped, trapped by the sugar! But it swept out, a sudden rush, no longer deep, the fly no longer knew up from down, but it thinned out, shallow, and the wings! Free! The legs, free! Busily, the fly jerked away from the liquid, creating a thing trail of shimmering sugarlaced trap-silk behind it. Heavy slams rocked the ground the fly struggled on. They fought. Fought.

Then, one of Them rushed around, striking faster than a frog’s tongue. One large… leg… landed on the ground beside the fly with a force that the fly could almost see, in addition to feel. The shocks were very unpleasant and the fly was terrified.


The fly had no way of knowing the man was in a paroxysm of rage. The fly didn’t know it had been spotted. All the senses, all the sparks in the fly-brain were focused entirely on cleaning away the liquid and making the wings flight-worthy again. The fly didn’t know the man had accused the woman of many terrible things. The fly didn’t know the man believed the woman had deliberately dropped it into the cup of tea with the silver spoon, to choke him, embarrass him, introduce a legion of bacteria into him, kill him, subtly underhanded.

The fly didn’t know everything, but it knew when another smell suddenly assaulted the fly-brain. This smell was far richer, thicker, and spoke to the fly of damp, cool secluded caverns in which eggs could be laid and protected, and later feast upon, a readymade storehouse. The fly knew something had died. The fly knew the young would have food.

But for now, the fly flicked its wings, rocketed into the air, seeking the cooler air currents, bumping up against the strange invisible barrier that kept it from here and out there. Was it time to mate? Perhaps so. The food was right here. The young would be safe. Continue. But every other fly was there, not here.

A Fly In Tea


Melbourne, Australia

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