The trail is inaccessible.

We recently hung some Edison lights out back for nights exactly like these, perfect summer evenings that serve as a sweet reward for nasty, lingering winters like the one just passed. 

We planned to sit behind the house sipping glasses of wine and beer as the sun sunk in the west and the amber of sunset was met by the low glow of these old-fashioned little bulbs, my wife and I and our slumbering baby in his bouncy chair and the very goddamned enjoyable quiet of a suburban back patio.   

But that is not what we’re doing. 

Not a bit.

We are housebound, trapped. The windows are closed but they should be sealed! 

Crack a window or door even a little and the sound is deafening: A maddening buzz of tiny wings beating in biting, hideous unison, a Luftwaffe of black flies and mosquitoes and foulest green flies.

They come in waves and crash against the panes of our rear windows like a meaty rain, sortie after sortie, splatting in a torrent of spite as though shot from a hell hose. 

We watch from the front windows in terrified stupefaction as they set upon squirrels and rabbits in a grotesque of ravaging abandon. It’s a horror, and the piteous furry creatures disappear in a cartoon puff, their chalky skeletons hovering for a split-second before clattering to the ground like pick-up sticks. 

The swarm moves on, a dark, swirling, malevolent cloud and zooms toward a neighbor who parked on the street and opened her car door. 

How could she have been so careless? 

The insects are on her with frightening speed. She falls back into her Grand Marquis, clawing at the door handle, the swarm calling up reinforcements that come streaming over the trees in a torrent of shimmering death and engulf the car. 

Our neighbor’s terrifying screams are drowned out by the dread droning. 

Look away!

My wife reaches for the phone but who would we call?

From the kitchen window, a dog is seen dragging a leash, bounding toward a front door that will never open because the man with the key has vanished. 

And so too the dog: Poof!

These killing hordes are otherworldly, demonic.  

My wife consults Revelations, the I Ching, and the personal letters of Heaven’s Gate leader Marshall Applewhite. 

Good God, what fate awaits?

On the settee, an Old Farmer’s Almanac. 

Of course! We fall upon it, rifling pages. 

Oh, yes!

First frost is around Oct. 21, and the Bears are playing the Pats at Soldier Field that day.

Everyone’s invited out back for wine and beer under the lights. We’ll make a fire.

Until then, pray for drought.

Trail Conditions explores the woods, waters and trails out our back doors. Brett McNeil lives in North Riverside. Write to him at

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