Dragons in Hsinchu

This is Jean. During our 15-minute recess on Wednesday, she was bitten by mosquitoes a dozen times. Huge red welts covered her arms, legs, and this spot between her eyes. Mosquitoes here don't just bite; they launch a full-blown attack.

I’ve spotted her. She’s relaxing in the corner, oblivious to my ire and my intention to destroy her. Do I use my swatter, my hand? I know what happens when I fail, and it’s 1am. I don’t want to fail.

Deliberately, I step onto the raised section of my floor and stalk her, my chosen weapon, the jolly red and black swatter, firmly clutched in my right hand. I lift the business end of the swatter slowly, aim it perfectly, a mere foot or so away from the pterodactyl perched on my wall. The only thing that could possibly go wrong with this scenario…

…happens. I miss. I might as well be a Tyrannosaurus rex playing T-ball. She immediately begins to dip and sway through the air, and I swing both the swatter and my left hand in every direction as fast as I can; it’s a last ditch effort to stun her into falling to the floor so I can attack her there.

She taunts me by landing on the ceiling just above my head, having successfully navigated her way around my flailing arms and past the swatter whipping through the air. Immediately I smash my left hand upward into the ceiling with a resounding thud. I hold my hand firmly in place, waiting to see if I’ve managed to kill or trap her. There’s no telltale buzzing, no visible sign of her.

I hope I’ve gotten her. I want to go to bed, but if I haven’t killed her, she’ll bite me in my sleep. In case she’s simply trapped between my palm and the ceiling, I go up on my toes, toss the swatter to the floor, and use my right hand to flatten my left to the ceiling. I bring my hands down. And away she flies.

“No!” I shout, flabbergasted. I look at the ceiling, then at my left palm, astonished that she escaped, and I see a single leg stuck to the base of my pointer finger. Somehow I trapped her in the canyon between my pointer and middle fingers. “That’s just stupid,” I tell my left hand, like I expected more from it.

I’ve lost her. I stand, one foot on the raised floor, the other on my bed. Still, I move only my eyes and head, as though any sudden movements might alert Sucker of Life that I’m on the warpath. No sign of her. Stepping down, I turn on all the lights and pick up the swatter. I ruffle my jackets, the curtains, poke at the garbage bag. Nothing. I thump my suitcases perched on top of my wardrobe. Nothing. I sit in the middle of my bed, straining my eyes for the sight of her wiry dark body. Nothing.

An hour passes. I check email, stalk people on Facebook, watch a show on Megavideo. Every few minutes I look around, trying to spot her. When I go to the bathroom I open and shut the door quickly so she can’t escape; otherwise, I might still be looking for her, but she’s hanging out in the living room.

Another hour passes. It’s nearly 3:30 in the morning.

I’m sitting on my bed, laptop in my lap, bored and tired. Without a sound she passes between my face and the screen. I feverishly clap my hands together multiple times in her direction. She alights on my leg. I slap my calf so hard my skin tingles. She lands next to the logo on my shirt. Without a second thought I smack my right palm against my chest. I grunt in pain and frustration when she flits away.

I bound to my feet, standing threateningly in the middle of my bed. Five minutes pass, and I find her on my headboard at chest height. The adrenaline kicks in. I snatch my pillow, grip it with both hands, and swing it like a baseball bat. The hollow headboard thunders from impact. Upon anxious inspection, I find a blood smear on the headboard and a mangled mosquito on my pillow.

“YUS!” I bellow. I address the carcass and the small smear of my blood with a tissue and triumphantly throw the tissue away. The pillowcase goes into my laundry bag, and I turn off the lights and finally go to bed just before 4:00am.

During Wednesday's recess, I saw a mosquito tangled in Fiona's eyelashes. "Fiona! Kill it!" I yelled. It was too late.

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