Mosquitoes have never bothered me (except, as my father will be quick to point out, in North Dakota, where the things are as big as hummingbirds and bleed me like an over-zealous, rookie lab technician). In the quiet, northern Shire-like suburb of Chicago where Ken and I lived, where the air is often more moist than the ground, the mosquitoes are thick and relentless, but they ignored me in favor of Ken, whose Yooper blood must be sweeter and flow easier than mine. Often in the early evening we would take our two Goldens, Nikki and Ashley, out to one of the many nearby swampy forest preserves for an quiet walk along the tree-lined trails, only to find ourselves drowning in swarms of frantic, biting bugs. Ken would hurry ahead, the dogs running along beside him, his arms and legs flailing while I merely brushed them aside, away from my mouth and eyes, without worrying about my exposed arms and legs, an amused smile on my face. I'm quite proud of the fact that they find me unsatisfying because I never have to worry about their irritating and itchy aftermath.
Tonight, after the sun had set and the world was busying turning from blue to grey, after the air had cooled from 95˚ to 88˚, Duncan and I trekked down The Run hoping the moist grass on our feet would cool us off. Despite the unmoving air a low bank of dark clouds had moved down from the north, trapping the day's heat and cooking us slowly. There was little relief and so we hurried through the long grass. Almost instantly we stepped into a thick cloud of mosquitoes. Duncan dodged below them, but I felt them brushing against my face, sliding over my glasses, hovering near my ear, alighting briefly on the back of my neck. I paid them no heed, brushed them away and pressed on in the hope of passing through their city-sized population once we reached the clearing below Brady's balcony.
We paused a moment for Duncan to run his snout along the line of shrubs and through the fresh, red mulch which had been spread out just last week. I stood nearby, watching him and looking out on the last of the day's light when something big brushed along the top of my head, barely stirring the hair. I swatted at it and turned as a dark shape swept down from one of the three aspens that grow there. It buzzed past my chest, close enough to feel the passing of its wings and then spiraled awkwardly back up into the night. I followed it as best I could and was shocked to discover that we'd stepped from a cloud of mosquitoes directly into a swarm of bats.
They were small things, jittery and even less graceful than the hovering mosquitoes, but their numbers seemed just as vast. Duncan sat back and watched them spin and collide around us while I stood dumbstruck as they circled and brushed against me. I could hardly see them through the dark until they were right before me, in my face, stirring the night around me, snapping at the insects that seemed to have lost interest in disturbing our walk. I could hear them, their high-pitched voices rising like strange, synthesized harmonies, nearly inaudible around us. Eventually, though, as their numbers increased and they came closer, I tightened my grip on Roo's leash and pulled him from our spot under the decades-old aspens and out into the parking lot, which was warm but clear, tame and silent. We walked slowly home, Duncan focused on each and every pebble before him while I scanned the dark sky and listened for strange melodies.