By Bug Hartsock
My tiny wings beat furiously, tried to push against the air below and above me, fought hard to keep my clumsy body from falling to the ground.
I was not graceful.
Not like the beautiful ones who were mostly wings and barely body, whose careful maneuvers in the air made us ashamed to fly. We all came out at night to dance in the sky and find someone to love us—before it was too late. One who will bury herself in the soil so that your little creations could start the process over again. We find our flight after squirming our way out of the dirt. Food, water, nothing matters more than finding love.
Nothing, until the light.
An eternity spent in the dirt. In the deep of the roots, nothing more to do than live in the dark and grow. Grow into a large, writhing creature. Eat the roots and grow until one can’t grow anymore. And then if you survive the sharp beaks and tongues and the drowning poisons, you receive the briefest gift. You grow into a tough, shelled monster with strong, but clumsy wings. You crawl from the dirt and find your footing, and then you find your flight. Your brothers and sisters crawl out with you; in the warmest times, you all emerge to fly and find each other and create new little, writhing creatures that will eat the roots like you did.
This was what I craved. What we all craved. But I would find in my heart a small, shining desire. A risky feeling to encourage. I took refuge when the largest of the lights shone so brightly it hurt when it burned my skin and eyes and made me hide away, seeking shelter in the cool, familiar darkness. I could come out when the great light had secluded itself, replaced with a cooler shine that blanketed the ground, I flew high above. This brightest light, I knew, was deadly. But it also held within it a pull, like the pull when you find another like you, when you have flown to find each other, and now you have, and you must have her because every bit of your body screams that it was designed for this moment. But I never did find that.
My body stumbled in the air as I used every bit of energy I had left. I could feel myself weakening as I flew on, my goal seeming no nearer than when I had started. I hadn’t eaten in days, my purpose forgotten. I could still find another with whom to make young. But no, my function had changed entirely. The dragging of my new destination was all-consuming.
When we were small and living in the dirt, dangers came from the buzzing, black monsters that had a flight of their own, with sharp, paralyzing pointers at the end of their bodies. They would use us like one would use the soil. Laying eggs deep within our bodies—a meal for their own young. We did not escape these dangers entirely with flight; small, fast flitters and large beasts would swoop about to take us. It didn’t matter—we were to think the risk was always worth the chance.
The light pulled me in the way I expected a mate would. It was smaller, more comforting, than the excruciating brightness that crawled across the world while I rested. It seemed more tolerable.
When I finally saw the source of the light, I was frenzied and exhausted. Around me, I heard buzzing. I readied for attack, but none came. Rather, other flyers fixated on the light. Some of them were hard-shelled and shining like myself, but others were delicate and graceful. Still, others flew in a loud, familiar buzz, a signal of danger I remembered from the soil. None of them seemed interested in me.
In the tingling excitement of teasing danger, the rush of defiance filled me. Our lives were brief and with a single goal, but now this new goal lay before us. I saw no other options for someone such as me.
We all had the same purpose. We all flew towards the light. Pilgrims against the expected. We were not afraid. I could feel a warmth building throughout me, an assured feeling of camaraderie. I was going to find something in my short life, anything, that wasn’t a partner in flight. I was going to strike out headfirst into this, into light, into the very thing I shrunk away from so cowardly when it seeped out from the sky into the land around it. We all were.
No one said anything, all of us completely entranced by the light’s allure. Any warning thoughts of danger had long since dissipated, replaced wholly by the shining warmth in front of us. My wings beat on their own, moving me up and forwards, closer and closer. I couldn’t wait to let it embrace me, lose myself there, and have nothing else.
And I did.