I am in the power of a mosquito. Were he so inclined, he would probably kill me. Luckily, until now, he has not abused his power. In the exercise of his sway over me he is moderate, not the least bit capricious, and, one might even say, constitutional. It must, however, be understood that my obedience derives not from a recognition of his qualities or virtues but from the fear he instills in me.
Were he to consider it expedient, he would kill me, and his crime - or execution - would go unpunished. In the event that the legal institutions could prove incontrovertibly that he was the murderer, they would not be able to punish him, not only because of the subsidiary fact that there is no provision in law for this type of offense but also because he would not allow it. To my great good fortune, I have common sense enough to see that he has once and for all dismissed the idea of doing away with me - so long as I give him no cause.
He has taken up residence on the wall, near the top of an oil painting that depicts an improbable landscape in which two seemingly Spanish shepherdesses with great big crooks are deep in conversation about some topic or other, surrounded by a flock of mildlooking sheep, one of whose straight back falls in with the line of the horizon in an unpleasing way. There is an abundance of topographical detail: a green plain, two purple mountains crowned with white, and a blue river that empties into a grayish lake. I know next to nothing about fine art, but this picture has always seemed to me to lack all aesthetic value. The mosquito, however, appears to have no interest in aesthetic values - or, for that matter, in any other sort of value. At least he has never shown either approval or disapproval.
He prefers to fill his time with other activities. In the morning he enjoys an examination of the house, perhaps without set purpose. But the fact is that, from the dining room, where he has established his seat of office, he goes first to the kitchen, where apparently - but doubtless it's my imagination - he takes a special interest in the sparkle of a small saucepan with a long black handle. Sometimes I wonder what attracts him about such an utterly vapid object, but then I reason that when all is said and done he is only a mosquito. It's in the kitchen that he spends most of his time. Later he wanders through the hall, the bedroom, and the spare room, never lingering noticeably anywhere special. I think his aim is less to supervise the running of the house than to affirm his authority over his domains.
At midday - on the dot of half-past twelve, to be precise - he lunches. His diet varies little. Every day he dines on a slice of Spanish blood pudding, which I serve him on a little china dish (he won't consider any other). I still remember the day he indignantly rejected a slice of Argentine blood pudding which, in my desire to please, I served him so as to curry favor. I had to rush out to the butcher's for his favorite and exclusive dish. As soon as I've left his meal on the table, I have to withdraw, since he doesn't like anyone there when he's eating. I am not altogether without wit, and occasionally - when I have nothing more important to attend to - I spy on him through the keyhole. In point of fact, this is a rather foolish thing to do, for I have to admit there is nothing especially remarkable in what I see. The moment the mosquito is certain that I have left the dining room, he descends in the unhurried manner that accords with his position and alights on the china dish. Then he sticks his snout into the pudding and slowly and eagerly sips the blood (disdaining, paradoxically, the bits of nut that distinguish Spanish blood pudding from Argentine). No part of this activity differentiates him from any other mosquito in the world. Lunch usually takes two or three minutes. (Actually, I lied when I said that I watch him only when I have nothing more urgent to do. The truth is that I spy on him every day. It is a source of fascination to glimpse into the private lives of those in power.)
Once he has satisfied his hunger, he is overcome by lassitude and heaviness and, apparently, canriot return to his residence beside the sheep picture. At this point he prefers a bit of a nap on the baseboard at exactly the spot where the paint has begun to flake. He wakes up at around five, making no further sorties through the house at this time. He sites himself beside the picture and stays there until dinner.
With regard to these details, I assumed - wrongly - that my precise knowledge of his daily habits would prove useful in ridding myself of him. I tried it only once; it turned out so badly I never dared try again. Events - it shames me even now to remember them - transpired in the following way:
On that occasion it seemed to me that his lunch had lasted longer than usual and that the mosquito was particularly bloated. I slipped off my shoes and, arming myself with one of them, approached as noiselessly as possible, my heart in my mouth, until I stood over the baseboard where he slept or pretended to sleep. Blinded momentarily by arrogance, I honestly believed I could easily crush him against the wood of the baseboard with my shoe. But just as I was in the act of delivering the fatal blow, he took to the air with a speed not devoid of majesty and hurled himself in my face. Screaming with fear and half out of my mind, I set off in flight through the house. How quickly he flew, how skillfully he disguised himself against the dark background, how silent was his persecution, how many the obstacles that prevented my moving with the speed my perilous situation demanded. I tried to turn the key in the lock so as to open the door and flee my house forever, but this simple operation was impossible. The mosquito gave me no time, the key wouldn't turn, my fingers seized up. I ran, I ran right through the whole house, I ran unable to put a closed door between him and me. I ran colliding with furniture, knocking over chairs, breaking vases and mirrors, tearing my clothes, barking my shins, and stubbing my toes. I ran and ran and ran until, overcome by exhaustion and terror, I fell to my knees.
"Forgive me! Forgive me!" I cried, my clasped hands raised in an attitude of prayer. "I swear, I swear by everything holyl I'll never try it again!"
The mosquito paused and began to revolve in smaller and smaller circles, while 1, weeping torrents, repeated the above and similar expressions. I don't know if he heard me. He seemed to be wondering what to do with me. He had to make an important decision, for which, doubtless, he needed the reflection that only calm and quiet can provide. I, on the other hand, instead of remaining silent, kept whining, gasping, and panting, my clothes drenched with sweat, and, with all this, beginning to notice that the veins of my hands were swollen and blue, almost purple, almost black. The mosquito was thinking, meditating, deliberating. It was clear that he was in no haste to come to a decision he might later regret. He circled and circled, each time more slowly, as if he were going to stop, but the irritating thing was that he did not stop. This state of affairs lasted for more than half an hour, while I (with dejected countenance, eyes full of tears, and trembling from head to foot, awaited his verdict and sentence, which would be delivered at the same time) looked through the window at the blurred shapes of the bricklayers at work on a construction site across the street, thinking that they were enjoying a world of sunshine, fresh air, buckets, and simple bricks, a world where there was no place for a sinister, all-powerful mosquito who was about to deliberate on my,life or death. In the end the mosquito was merciful. With unutterable relief I saw that he was slowly making his way back to the baseboard. He displayed not a trace of self-importance, but he could be sure that never again would I dare harm him.
After this episode, I realized that I must resign myself to my fate, To be honest, he demands very little of me - only his two daily slices of blood pudding and the china dish. I have, nevertheless, one reservation. It upsets me, it wounds me, it humiliates me to be dominated by such a tiny creature, a creature that weighs less than a fraction of an ounce, when I weigh close to a hundred and eighty pounds. At the same time, I don't feel in the least humbled by having to bow to the control of an irrational being - one who has, literally, the brains of a mosquito. Perhaps my resignation is owed to the fact that I have often been bossed about by individuals who haven't the sense of a cat and a great deal less beauty.
But just as I have this one reservation, I also have one hope. I know that the life of a mosquito lasts but a few months. This is why each morning I cast a furtive glance at the calendar, waiting for the moment I can circle with my hidden red pencil the date the mosquito expires. On the other hand, tomorrow marks twenty years to the day since he began his reign. Apart from contradicting the laws of nature, the notion that the mosquito may be immortal engulfs me in a dimension of unreality.
If the mosquito is not immortal there are two possible ways of accounting for the above facts:
The first is that the mosquito has not always been the same one, and that during the night, while I am asleep, the dying mosquito is replaced by a younger, stronger mosquito. I was brought to this supposition one day by coming upon the body of a mosquito at the foot of my dining-room table. To be sure, this is not conclusive evidence. I have no proof that this dead mosquito is the one that holds me in its power. It may have been just a common, everyday mosquito, like the ones so easily brought to heel with fly swatter and insecticide.
The second possibility excludes the first. The all-powerful one might be the dead mosquito, and the mosquito beside the sheep picture a mere usurper with no power whatsoever, whose authority is based on the simple fact of the office he holds and his resemblance to his predecessor. But, since this argument does not explain my twenty years of domination, I must assume that the usurper mosquitoes are many and effect their substitution in an orderly fashion. Anyway, be that as it may, I cannot afford to be entirely convinced of this. It could prove fatal.
Meanwhile, as I can do nothing, days, months, and years go by. Growing old, withering away in the grip of my own anxiety, and to this very day dominated by a mosquito, I am still waiting for a resolution.