Friday, May 08, 2015

Midge Drapes

(The seismic results of the 2015 General Election remind me that the concept of a Virtual Scotland - a nation that exists primarily in the imagination - is as much with us now as in the 90s when I first conceived of a book of intermingled short stories and prose pieces. For me, the evanescent, unhamely nature of that Scotland not only infuses this short short, but, perhaps, the neglected slumbering nature of this blog itself. Scottish Informationism is, perhaps, the ism that got away. Here I think it's operating if only in the sense that this piece borrows a discourse from journalism - the lifestyle piece - in order to interrogate/poke fun at both it and a subject matter normally thought of as inappropriate to it.)
Midge Drapes
I was bought my first set of midge drapes by an enthusiastic climber friend who explained, “It’s just like being on the islands but with none of the inconvenience.” Fired by his enthusiasm I hung them in my bedroom and lay down to admire the effect. Each curtain consists of thousands of thin strands with innumerable small carcasses of Scotland’s most feared insect attached to them by glue. Apparently lengths of this gummy thread were dragged behind vans moving slowly across the Isle of Skye. More than six hundred thousand midges, the packaging assured me, had gone into the six foot curtains I was now contemplating.

My windows were open, and the impression was of a shimmering semi-solid mass of insects grouped just inside the room. I found this a little alarming at first, but soon had to concede the drapes gave off a soothing, meditative ambience. At least, this was the case while the lights were on. When I retired that night I left the windows open as the manufacturers claimed midge drapes prevented other insects from entering, while allowing a cool flow of air. The night was warm, and I soon dropped off to sleep.

I woke up abruptly at about two with an overwhelming sensation that the room was full of insects, and snapped the bedside lamp on in a panic. All seemed well. The drapes swung coolly in the window, no mosquitos were visible on the walls. I switched the light out and closed my eyes. Instantly the sensation returned, and it seemed a great swarm of midges was hovering over the bed.

I put the light on again and got up, fetching my dressing gown from the back of the door and getting a pocket torch from my desk. Then I pulled a chair over to the window, put out my light, and went and sat down. This time it seemed as though the cloud surrounded the chair, but when I flashed the torch on the drapes everything seemed intact. I put it out, but was so overwhelmed by fear I had to go and put the light on. I passed the night sitting up in bed with the light on, and experienced no further attacks.

Several conclusions came to me in the course of the night, and when I packed up the drapes in the morning to return to the manufacturers, I included a brief note:

“Either your midges are not as dead as they seem, and are capable of extraordinary acts of light-activated coordination, or these drapes are in fact haunted by the tiny spirits of six hundred thousand midges. In either case I would like my money back.”