May 28 by The Running Son
by Jim Aldrich
There once was a bug. Ugly fracker. Hard as a wood-chip, and heavy. If he fell from a rock, he would make a sound. If he popped his wings open, it made a “snap”, heard by ants and cats. Any bug that was within branch-shot when he snapped, would hum and tick, and fly off.
Bugs are small and people like to step on them. Our bug liked to step on root-aphids and spider-mites. He stepped on random eggs, even of his own bug-kind, and was random in his bug-thoughts, letting them drift into little hard movies about eating any leaf he wanted to, and crawling on any soft cell that stopped him.
He crawled on top a moth still flapping, once. He clawed up human-steps, to doors, and inside dwellings farther than any other bug. At bug-meets, he told these tales of bug-bravado, and bugs chirped. They ticked and chirped and hummed at his stories. But they never believed him, and that made his wings rise and twitch.
He would twitch, then in bug-fury, drag off side-ways and eat eggs, and whole leaves like he was training for the bug chomp-a-round. He did not go to the grass anymore. In the past, he had eaten freely near busy grasshoppers, and waited for ant-openings so as to pass through. He had turned his bug-eyes up, towards big human-things. Houses, and big humans thundering by. He had been in bug-awe.
Human stuff was blurry from bug-perspectives, but majestic. Bugs of wood and wind lived in them, eating wood-fiber and living in colonies in steep and dangerous places. Then the tent-men came, and word spread through-out the grasses that disaster had happened. In the high regions, across the wide walk, and past the great gardens. Bugs, clouds of them, just gone. Tents were dropped in great events of men, and men-machines, and as it swirled around them, bugs of every color became the soil.
Grasses folded. Bugs lost direction and ran over other bugs, and fought with other bugs. Our bug began to ring very loud.
His bug-ears hummed until the frequency became a single tone. He flopped his bug-body again and again. His legs spun like man-wheels, and he flipped around for a tree and slid off. Across the long grass and across the great open walk. Deep in a crack, he maneuvered over rocks and greying butts, and made for the tree.
No tent would ever disturb him. Mountain colony disasters were facts only sensed in crossing winds. Tree bugs were safe to look down and chirp at blurs, and man-things.
Tree bugs waited for no bug, and surrendered to no leaf. Our tree-bug was his own bug, finally.
And the loneliest bug ever. Lowly. No leaf tasted sweet anymore. He didn’t pass through ant lines. He would egg-search, and leaf-mouth, and spin all his legs and snap, loud. No bug pleasure soothed his twitch.
Poor fracker. Left low and lonesome, safe on a long branch, burrowed and ringing. He flipped and spun. Clawed and drug his bug-unders to the branch-end and curled around it for bug moments.
Then, small hard bug claws let go. Through clouds of shimmer-leaves, and off twigs. Man-homes, great and distant, blurred slow. Our bug slowly unfocussed his bug-eyes for the last time.
The great walk. White, it loomed into bug-proximity, then–
Dropping wings and quiet, bug-eyes popped opened. Our bug lay, flipped and still. The thunder of man-legs and cycles made no difference anymore. Our bug was finally OK with all bug-ills, and had found a great bug-peace.
He flipped over, and walked directly toward the grass.
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