Perhentian Short Story: Death by mosquitos or by mosquito repellant

Waking to Mosquitos

On one of my first nights on the island, I went to bed. I sprayed some Deet on my skin fairly liberally then crawled into my sleeping bag liner inside the mosquito net. I had pointed the fan directly at me and hoped it wouldn’t get too hot.

The hope was short-lived because it got very hot, very quickly. But that wasn’t what bothered me.

I could hear the all too familiar, high-pitched fluttering sound whizzing straight past my ear.

I tried to ignore it at first. Periodically waking up and waving my hand to brush the mosquitos away before they bit my ear.

In the end, I couldn’t take it. I reached over for the Mosquito spray that was next to my head. I sprayed my arms and legs again. I sprayed some on the back of my hand and then dabbed the back of my hand against the back of my ears, forehead, and then a bit on each side of the face.

Once I was protected again, I completely immersed myself inside the sleeping bag liner. I closed the top and pinned it underneath an arm from the inside to seal myself in. There was no way these blood-suckers could get in.

After a minute or two of not being disturbed by the familiar high pitched sound – I fell asleep drifting off into a dream.

The Dream

I can’t remember exactly what the dream was about. I think it was one of the more sensible dreams where things weren’t too weird or fictitious.

Something happened in the dream and my heart began to race wildly. It sped up to the point where I could feel my heart beating. The feeling past.

Everything in the dream became fuzzy. I was struggling to concentrate. My brain, thoughts, the dream itself was marred with a hazy malaise. Details became fuzzy. Things became a lot more confusing. I couldn’t work out what was going on. Then I noticed my heartbeat was slowing down. My chest became heavy and breathing became difficult.

My dream-self desperately tried to make sense of everything. My dream-self tried applying logic to the problem but couldn’t focus enough, or struggled.

Then it clicked. I remembered spraying myself with DEET and sealing myself inside my sleeping bag liner.

“Shit, I’m asleep dreaming right now. But in the real world I’m suffocating myself inside my sleeping bag liner with DEET”.

Hazily, I thought I needed to wake up. Repeating that thought a few times achieved nothing.

My dream became hazier and breathing even harder. I could feel my heart beating, but increasingly slowly.

I was now in a more semi-lucid state. Things were hazy, but at least I was thinking. I needed to move my arm or leg. It was the only way I would be able to wake up. Physical movement.

At that moment, a slight worry crept into my brain.

An explanatory digression

On a few occasions over the last few years, I had been asleep in my conservatory. Usually, it’s on a summers day when it’s very hot in there. The heat makes it awesome to quickly fall into a mid-afternoon slumber. But if I slept more than 15 minutes the heat would become too much.

Most the time I would just wake up – easy. But, sometimes I would have a sense of real discomfort and my body would feel too heavy. I wouldn’t be able to wake up. I would become aware that I’m asleep and dreaming, aware that I was feeling uncomfortably hot, but I would be completely unable to wake up. I would try my hardest to move a muscle or something to wake up, but it was almost impossible. My vision in my dream would become blurry and hazy and my body would sink to the ground. I would realise I’m asleep, and that’s I was in my conservatory where it was really hot. But, I wouldn’t be able to move in my dream.

Eventually, by focussing on moving an arm or leg, I would wake up. I would take a few steps to shake everything off before realising – sometimes immediately, sometimes after a while – that I was still sleeping. Still dreaming. Still trapped on the sofa in the heat.

This would repeat a few times. After the second time, I would know that there was a possibility of waking up in a dream. So, with each succession I would wake up and try and formulate increasingly elaborate tests to work out if I was awake or not. By the 4th or 5th time I became a lot quicker; I would work out within seconds whether I was awake or not – of course, my reference and awareness of time in a dream can’t be trusted really – then try again to wake up.

It usually would take about 7 or 8 attempts to finally wake up. Sometimes it can take longer. The feeling of exasperation by the 10th attempt was usually quite overwhelming. By that point, I would try shouting out for help to my brother but, of course, I would be unable to move my mouth or invoke my vocal chords.

When I would finally awake, I would instantly know that I was actually awake. I would shake off the jumbled thoughts, shake off the idea of challenging reality – having to ponder whether I’m actually still sleeping or whether this was just a more elaborate dream just didn’t feel healthy or feel like it’d lead to any promising conclusions. Then, I would continue with everyday life.

Meanwhile, back in my sleeping bag liner…

So, there I was in the sleeping bag liner – which was, somewhat ironically, about to become my body bag – with a slight worry in my mind as I was desperately trying to move a limb. What if I wake up from my sleep straight into another dream. If it took me 7-8 times to get out of this would I have enough time for all of those iterations?

That was out of my control so there was no point thinking about it.

I felt my hand twitch. Success! I woke up. I jumped straight out of bed and started walking around as the relief started to surge through my body.

Except, relief wasn’t surging through my body. I was expecting it to. But it didn’t happen. Breathing was still difficult. My limbs still heavy. I was in another dream.

That happened 2-3 more times. On what became my final attempt, I concentrated hard to move my right hand. All of my thoughts focused solely on my right hand and nothing else. My hand lifted up about 5 cm, as it did my eyes opened and I saw the familiar white interior of my sleeping bag liner. My right hand shot straight for the top. Almost instantly, it found the opening of the bag. It punched straight through and pulled it open. My lungs filled deeply with ‘fresh air’. I drew two or three more deep breaths. Relief surged through my body, the lethargy that had overwhelmed my muscles vanished. Back to reality.

Happy that I hadn’t at best pass out in my sleeping bag or at worst made it into the newspaper with the silliest and most embarrassing death, I continued to breathe in and out and tried to get back to sleep.

My glee was short lived as a high-pitched fluttering whizzed passed my ear again. Mosquitos!

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