“The boy with fair hair lowered himself down the last few feet of rock and began to pick his way toward the lagoon.” (First line of Lord of the Flies, 1954)
The aging veteran with little hair lowered himself down the last few inches to the seat of the RV cushion and began to pick his way through his sandwich. (First visit to Bruneau Sand Dune, this weekend)
It began innocently enough, the three campers situated at a remote campsite at the foot of the “highest single-structured sand dune in North America,” known as Bruneau Dunes State Park. At first, the trio (and dog Angel) delighted in the isolation. As far as they could tell, they were all alone (except for the forty other RVs camped nearby) and the feeling was invigorating.
The flies were a bit annoying, but tolerable.
After setting up camp and exploring their surroundings, they began to set up for lunch. The flies, understanding this, began to increase in number. So the family moved into the camper.
As they sat down, they noticed more flies. “Keep the door shut,” their leader ordered.
Then he looked up. This is what he saw:
Only instead of birds, there were flies perched above the table.
Within a few minutes, it looked like this:
They were everywhere. Never before had any of them seen so many flies in one place – scores, maybe hundreds of them perched on every surface their sticky little feet could grasp. At first the campers tried to shoo them away, to no avail. They tried opening the door and scaring them out of the vehicle, but that only allowed the few remaining flies hovering outside to find their way in as well.
Flailing about, the elder’s hand brushed something soft and pliable. It was a hand towel. He picked it up, and something deep inside him – something that had laid dormant since the humiliating days of the high school locker room wars – was awakened.
He flicked the towel, and a fly was vaporized. In an instant, like a shark smelling blood, the hunted became the hunter. His blood lust overpowered any sense of dignity or compassion. The flies must die. The hand towel became a mighty war axe and nothing in its path was safe (including the other campers). The others joined in as well, and soon all three were bellowing the tribe’s battle battle cry as they struck blow after blow. “Gotcha, fly!” “Got another one!”
When the last insect died, it became quiet once more. Little carcasses littered the floor. The RV was in shambles – the battle had not been without collateral damage. Curtains dangled sadly from the windows. Utensils littered the chamber, and someone had knocked over the mustard bottle.
The three looked at each other, ashamed and out of breath. What they did there, what they had become, must never be known. It would become a family secret, locked into the vault forever.
But burning inside him like the glowing embers of a dying fire, the elder felt a deep satisfaction. If only for one day, he had risen to the top. He had become Lord of the Flies.
At least until he had to clean up the mess. Then the feeling pretty much disappeared.