It was like a termite hurricane; hundreds –or even thousands, of termites attacked every light in the building, seeking for warmth and confidence. He thought it was raining at first; the low drizzling sound in background, very similar to the rain’s sound. He was not suspicious until the first termite flying in to his room, from the open window. Suddenly the buzzing sound didn’t feel like the rain anymore, and when the second, and the third, and the fiftieth (who the heck knew) termites came in; the reality hit him like a truck.
He closed his laptop, literally slamming it shut, and walking across the room with one wide step, to reach the lamp switch, and turned off the lamp. In the darkness of his room, he still could hear the low buzzing sound of thousands small wings flapping, rubbing with each other; the small but persistent sound filling the room like a nightmare.
He opened his room door, meant to turn off the corridor lamp so that the termites wouldn’t come in to his room. But the time he pushed down the handle and swung the door open, he was greeted by a lot more termites outside; bustling, flying low with each other, finding mates, and literally filling up the small corridor in front of his room. There were thousands swarming near the lamp, and thousand more hanging lazily (and perhaps, he pushed back the thought, cosily), blocking up the way like literal hurricane. If their body size was slightly bigger than ant size, perhaps it would be more terrifying. It almost like a zombie apocalypse: the way that they were actually blind and deaf, but with one trigger, they could eat you alive. It was not that termites were more deadly than zombies, but their small size was insanely more disturbing than the moving dead bodies.
He closed the door in an instant. Who the heck wanted to walk through a termite-typhoon? He wished he could close the window, but it was broken, and it took a great deal of energy to make it close. So he didn’t close his window and sat down on his bed; unsure of what would he do without the light.
He dared to lie down on his bed. Some of the termites managed to find a mate and plucked off their wings and fell to the bed, and he could feel it squirming under his body. He easily brushed them off with one hand, crushing the delicate bodies. They were the ones with unluckiness, they couldn’t manage to hooked up (he laughed at this thought) and produce thousands of baby termites. He blinked to the ceiling he couldn’t even see.
Someone from the next room managed to turn off the lamp, and now the darkness was doubling over. In the vast darkness, and silence, his tinnitus felt even worse. The ringing sound was bursting on his brain like he was standing under a waterfall; steady and endless. While his tinnitus slowly taking over half of his hearing, the low, vivacious sound from the termites took over the other half. He could manage with the ringing sound; he had learnt from his experience for years, and he almost heard nothing now, compared to the early years. But the darkness seemed doubling over anything: the ringing sound, his awareness of the thousands of termites outside.
Somewhere between the ringing sound from his ear and the termites, he caught another sound. It was someone’s voice; whispering, muffled-like sound, as if someone talking with their mouth covered. He thought it was from the people next door, or perhaps people upstairs, talking about the termite attack. But when someone actually talking upstairs, the voice was different: the people upstairs were talking loud and clearly, and it obviously not muffled.
He listened again, curiously and carefully this time. The muffled voice came from everywhere; the ceiling, the wall, under his pillow. Perhaps, he thought disturbingly, perhaps it was the termites that talked.
He didn’t sit up; he kept lying down with his ear open. It made sense, though, with the termites practically taking over the space right now. He could even make out the words from the termites outside, talking quietly, like some coffee shop ambience. He tried to shake over the disturbing image of the insects talking, and tried to listen to the words now.
De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine;
Domine, exaudi vocem meam. Fiant aures tuӕ intendentes in vocem deprecationis meӕ.
Si inquitates observaveris—
If it was not from the choir concert he attended months before this, he wouldn’t make out the words clearly; heck, even he wouldn’t understand the meaning of it. Not like he remembered each sentence’s meaning, but he still remembered the soprano’s voice when she explained about the song and the meaning of it.
Sin. The termites were crying out about the sin; or, even, their sin. Of what, he didn’t really want to know, but he couldn’t help thinking about it as he had nothing to do.
The quiet voice from the termites was faint, and muffled, like he had thought before. It was gentle, very, very humble and soft; like a bunch of sopranos singing with piano dynamic. If it wasn’t for the singer’s form (which was some insects) it could lulled someone to sleep, driving them into a dreamless sleep. The tune was disturbingly perfect and in-tune, even that each of the termites was yelling the psalm in different timing. It was frighteningly soothing; no one (or, rather, no insect) was louder than the other, they complement each other’s voice, making it perfect. Above all, he couldn’t help thinking that the soft voice they made was because they were asking for help, asking for forgiveness. To whom, he was thinking about everything that could forgive someone. Or, technically speaking, forgive some insects.
The termites were still singing harmoniously, with their wings agitating, like they would sing until they died on the next morning. Singing until their death, that thought was tremendously horrific. He closed his eyes, trying to not thinking about what each of the termites had done on their previous life. Perhaps it was like some kind of condemnation, so they were a termite on their afterlife, until they confessed of their sin under the pressure of austerity of being a termite. The redemption, he thought after that, was how the termites found their mate and died.
He shook the thought. The termites’ singing was already a disturbing fact; he didn’t want to terrify himself with the thought of their sins. He squirmed inside his blanket, ushering the small, tiny sound from under his body, detecting that some termites fell to his bed again and being crushed down by his body. He didn’t care; he tried to act like he didn’t care. Perhaps these termites’ sins were bigger than the other so they didn’t end up well. Who knows? Who cares?
Bothered by these thought, he tried to sleep away the problems, and hoped that he wouldn’t turned into a big, messy termite when he woke up tomorrow.
The title is the Bahasa Indonesia’s translation of termite.
The Latin word is from Penitential Psalms or Psalms of Confession, and it was from Psalm 130 exactly. It called De Profundis, and it is true that I had listened to the choir version of it before the termite attack last night (thanks Cantabile Chorale). Copying Wikipedia, The Penitential Psalms are expressive sorrow of sin. You can search more of it in Wikipedia (just like me) and perhaps google it, or if you want to know more about it, you can just ask someone who is more expertise in this area.
Kafka’s Metamorphosis reference in the end! Anyone noticed?
Cough; this story was probably the after-reading influence of Kafka’s Metamorphosis (because I just found the podcast about it in Spotify) and I was still amazed and slightly disturbed about it until now.
Anyway, this just a thought of mine because of the actual termite attack that happened in my boarding house last night. Turned into a very short story, why not? The actual attack was not as bad as I described in this (I was just obviously dramatizing the whole experience for the story sake), but, well, it was horrible to lay down in your bed in the darkness.
If any of this was offensive, feel free to let me know!