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agent A

the autistic flower mantis
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anyone else here write stories??

this is the first Novella I've written, it's about Luna moths and their less prosperous second brood

without further adue, i present "Second Brood"

Second Brood

By Agent A

Chapter 1:

The late July sun shone on the tree in the early morning hours, glistening on the morning dew, making colorful reflections with the small water droplets. The morning air was still, the tree was quiet, and the mood was calm, but the events of 9 days before were anything but. Now, as the ground warmed around the thick roots of the tree, the heat crept up the trunk and the moments went by, lazily.

A small egg, brown with a whitish speck and dark dots, perfectly round, lay on the underside of a leaf, but the pure, smooth texture of it was breaking. A tiny green insect with dark bluish stripes along the sides of its slightly fuzzed body emerges. She begins exploring the world she knows as a branch high up on a shagbark hickory. She isn’t alone. She is met by another small larva as she travels up and down the leaves. “Hello fellow caterpillar!” she calls out to the stranger, who obviously was in a rush to get to another leaf in the vast expanse of leaves.

“I take it you are new as well,” replies the second larva, somewhat arrogantly, “You mustn’t be so friendly, because there are many killers on this tree, such as fanged balls. They call themselves spiders, but this is no place for leisure. The name’s Luna, everyone is afraid of me. They think I know too much.” “Who thinks you know too much? Other caterpillars?” inquires the first larva, nervous. “There are at the very least several caterpillars on this tree. I never got your name.” replies Luna, hoping her new friend isn’t about to flee. “My name’s Lena, I think we need to sort out what’s going on here and find a place for you. Why do you know all this stuff I don’t?” replies the tiny larva, shocked at how much she’s learned in the first 13 minutes of her life.

The day progressed on and brought some intense heat, Lena and Luna sought refuge on the underside of a leaf. Lena, who was not quite hungry, yet parched, looked over at Luna, to ask “I’m thirsty, but I don’t feel like eating right now.” Luna simply replied “Hack into the petiole and suck the moisture from it.” Lena complied, surprised at how much relief it brought. The once firm leaves were almost wilted themselves, which made Luna even more worried. “I think it’s going to rain soon”, she acknowledged as the tone of the sky grew ever more dark and intimidating.

Chapter 2:

The next 2 days passed without any water falling to the drying ground. The shagbark hickory was faring well, and the luna larvae ate and interacted with each other without any regard to their surroundings.

Luna was finishing a leaflet when she noticed something amiss, a caterpillar was upside down but oddly, stuck to the bottom of the leaf. “Lena!” she called out into the vast sky, but no response came. However, Luna did notice the air was becoming moist and there was something moving on the leaf she’d been eating from. Luna saw a fast moving, yellowish round object charging at her. The ugly creature had 2 black protrusions on its hideous head and easily 6 menacing eyes. She was looking at a fanged ball!

The fanged ball was fast, but Luna was clever. She spat and dropped from the leaf axis, leaving a shiny trail of hardened silk behind. If the fanged ball tried to climb down her silk, the strand would break and Luna would be lost in the tangle of grass and weeds below. If it stood there, it could be waiting for hours, the time it could use to find and easier meal. Just them, the leaf contracted and then bent, flinging the fanged ball high into the air. Luna held onto her string of silk for dear life, and she watched a drop of water, perhaps the very one that pelted the leaf and saved her life, drip off the terminal leaflet. Luna climbed up the silk strand and rushed toward the tree’s center, where she found Lena, quivering underneath a woody stem.

“What are you doing?” shouted Luna at the obviously freaked out larva. Lena, still shaking, replied, “I heard a crash and, since you told me the strong wood of the tree was the safest place in an emergency, I huddled here. What’s going on?” Luna, trying to reassure her friend, replied, “That crash was thunder! Great clouds full of rain are crashing together; soon the tree will be drenched!” As Luna was explaining the issue to the traumatized caterpillar, a huge line of illumination darted through the sky and zapped the tree, hitting an upper branch and pulverizing it. The shock nearly jostled the 2 out of the tree, who were a mere 3 feet under the site of the strike. The branch lay on the wet ground in blackened shards, splintered and cooked. Thin silvery grey smoke rose from it, but it was quickly choked away with the water coming down at an alarming rate.

There was water running down the trunk of the tree, and rivers of rain cut through the channels made from the texture of the bark. Wind was forcing rain at cutting force onto the bark. “Let’s hide under one of the strips of bark,” suggested Lena, but Luna was quick to throw the plan out the window. “It isn’t safe,” she reminded, “the fanged balls like to hang out under there with their sticky silk traps and their friends the predatory beetles. It’s safer to secure a mat of silk onto the branch and hang on with all extremities.” Luna was right. There were fanged balls and thin, shiny beetles with powerful jaws being washed out from underneath their bark hideaway. These predators were only the ones hiding under upward facing strips, the areas where the strips faced downwards barely got moist. Lena was shocked at how the beetles, even with their sharp, pinching jaws, couldn’t hold on to the wet bark. The storm persisted through much of the night before letting up, but by mid afternoon, it was still raining.

“I think it’s safe to leave our makeshift shelter,” advised Luna, “The rain is barely falling anymore, but we must still be careful.” The first place the 2 caterpillars inspected was the injury site, the bark was stripped from the burnt wood, and a deep gash in the trunk was visible, showing where the branch had been torn out by the strike of lightning. Golden orange sap oozed from much of the wound and was becoming hard resin. “This sap is the tree’s blood,” started Luna, “it’s dangerous however. We can get stuck in it if we get too close. This sap also will attract dangerous insects. We must get away from here as soon as possible.” As Luna was explaining this to Lena, other survivors gathered around. The 7 caterpillars explored the tree together, looking at further wreckage. Bodies of caterpillars that didn’t make it were on some leaves, obviously drowned, some still entrapped in the water droplets. “We need to get rid of these,” exclaimed Luna, “or they’ll attract ants. Grab a body with your back claspers and flick it off this tree. The longer we hide from ants and wasps the better.” The young larvae tentatively search the tree, tossing a total of 11 bodies onto the wet grass beneath.

Chapter 3:

As the next 2 days went by, changes began to take place. July shifted to August, Luna, Lena and the other larvae shifted to their second instar, and the hickory nuts were growing more rapidly. The caterpillars observed as armies of black ants rushed up the tree and collected resin. On their way up, many were captured by the fanged balls and beetles waiting for them. The caterpillars watched in amazement as large, yellow and black flying insects lapped up the running sap and its ant prisoners. Panicked, Lena asked of Luna, “What are those things?” The other caterpillar, still in awe, replied “They are thin buzzers. They are more vicious than thick buzzers, who shove their heads in flowers. Thin buzzers eat meat and sugary materials, but some thin buzzers lay eggs inside caterpillars, and their grubs eat the caterpillar alive. Some thin buzzers live alone; others build huge structures just like the thick buzzers. Either way, thin buzzers are caterpillar killers. Some stuff you in a cold pot and lay an egg on you, you’re paralyzed but live until the grub is through with you. Others drag your lifeless body into a burrow for waiting grubs. Some will chop you up and regurgitate you directly into their grubs’ mouths.”

Lena was learning a lot from Luna. She learned how to drop off a leaf when a predator approached, how to jump off the tree and get back on, how to spot the sticky traps of the fanged balls, even how to destroy the traps set by the elusive fanged balls. Lena and her counterparts were eating at least a leaf every day, and with the intense August heat, were growing quickly. At just 11 days old, Lena, Luna, and 4 other caterpillars were already in the third instar. The rest were quick to follow. There were now a grand total of 8 larvae on the tree, and as they were getting larger, they were becoming more vulnerable.

Chapter 4:

Deciding that the fanged ball problem was getting out of hand, Luna had an attack plan. A hickory horned devil who shared the tree with them offered his old skin from his molt to the third instar, although the luna moth larvae were about to molt to the fourth instar. Luna was quick to explain that adult regal moths emerge from cocoons about halfway through the luna moth first brood.

Luna took the skin, wrapped it over once, and attached it to a strand of silk. She swung the heavy skin that collected air easily. She threw it onto the trap of a fanged ball and began to tug and twist, stirring up the silk of the trap. The fanged ball rushed to the chaos, nearly startling Lena off the branch. The horned devil started across the silk bridge Luna previously placed over part of the trap. He coiled his head under his body, burst forward, and thrust his head up. His horns speared through the fanged ball’s fat body, who previously had been preoccupied with the fake prey. Luna spun some silk over the head of the fanged ball and plucked it off the horns of the horned devil. She threw the heavy beast off the tree, collected the skin, and went to the next trap.

The sun began to set, sending stems of violet, orange and red across the sky. At the end of this day, Luna had, with the help of the horned devil, killed off 16 fanged balls. “This is the world we live in,” she told the horned devil, “we must accept that. If we can’t protect ourselves, we won’t be able to survive to adulthood. You are better protected than me and you’re the only one of your species left on this tree.” The horned devil, in disagreement, was quick to reply, “You must realize regal moths grow larger than luna moths. We need more food than you, and thus instead of laying 20 eggs per tree, we only lay about 10 eggs per tree. It’s the only way we can eat and grow properly. We do what must to survive.” Luna looked up. The horned devil was right.

“I’m still confused about how this Luna caterpillar knows what she knows,” rants an angry male caterpillar, who had gathered 3 other larvae up for a meeting. Another terrified larva screams out, “She killed all those fanged balls, what if she pulls the same thing on us?” The mob of larvae march over to the branch Luna and the horned devil are on, demanding answers. Luna explains, “I have a strange ability. I can look at different scenarios and piece together exactly what they mean. I can interpret this world and understand how things work. I myself still am not sure how I know these things. I can sense you all are a little shocked by it. I’m shocked we made it this far as a species. With humans around, destroying our homes, polluting and poisoning our forests, and taking us for a collection of killed insects, we are being pushed to the brink. Those humans now call us endangered, but they’re the reason for that in the first place. What’s more, they destroyed a once valuable hostplant of ours.

Long ago, luna moths would feed heavily on American chestnut. Almost 50% of caterpillars grew up on these trees. They were once everywhere. More common than hickory and sweetgum combined. But then a horrible blight came along and killed off a lot of them, making them too small for us to eat from. The blight doesn’t kill all of these trees; many still grew back after their main leaders died. But the blight doesn’t allow these new shoots to get any taller than 12 feet before killing them off yet again. The trees will never be able to reproduce again. Once the last tree dies for good, this species will be extinct.”

Haunted by Luna’s words of the night before, the 4 luna larvae, as well as Lena and the horned devil, spent the day in silence. When the day was through, the lunas had all molted once more, now fourth instar, and slept under the same branch. They were now 24 days old.

Chapter 5:

The larvae were now getting quite large and the hickory horned devil, though younger, was beginning to surpass them growth wise. Luna reminded them of how hickory horned devils were supposed to get very large. Luna herself admitted to being somewhat tired of hickory, although the stinkbugs on the tree who fed on the nuts begged to differ. Even the predatory stinkbugs, that were no longer a threat to the caterpillars because of their huge size, agreed that hickory was the way to go. Lena herself couldn’t get enough hickory, and Luna acknowledged that the horned devil coevolved with hickory.

August was a month full of heat, yet the daylight hours were diminishing. All 8 larvae quickly agreed that there would not be time for another brood. But there was something Luna didn’t like on a high branch of a neighboring tree, and she had good reason. All of the 9 caterpillars on the shagbark hickory looked at a clearly woven structure. Flexible, thin sticks wrapped and twisted around each other in a reverse-taper form, creating a circular bowl shape. Entering and exiting were large, winged creatures with large, menacing eyes and yellowish triangular mouths. The 2 creatures carried insects and sometimes fruit and seeds to the structure at regular intervals, stuffing them into the greedy mouths of what were presumably their babies. Luna called them caterpillar hoarders, as their main food source was polyphemus moth caterpillars. The curious horned devil approached the intelligent caterpillar with a question, “Why don’t those things go after us on this hickory tree?” Luna took only a few moments to think before saying “Because this tree is so much smaller there are less caterpillars and we usually only feed at night, so I assume they don’t even know there are caterpillars on this tree. However they might one day check so we must be careful.”

After a few days, Luna had had it with the caterpillar hoarders feeding their fattening young hundreds of insects. She, Lena and the horned devil descended the shagbark hickory and were standing on the soft, moist dirt at the base of the tree. The ground was littered with severely decomposed leaves from previous years of the hickory’s life, and a messy tangle of grass and weeds poked up from the ground everywhere in a random pattern. Luna could see that there were many trees lined up together in the distance about 8 feet away, and she could see the oak close by. The 3 cautiously made their way over to the tree, traversing around open areas and using the low-lying plants for cover. At last they made it to the base of the oak tree.

The 2 adult caterpillar hoarders were nowhere to be seen, and a polyphemus moth larva came up to the 3, greeting them. “You guys shouldn’t have left wherever you came from. We are under attack by some weird things that kill any caterpillar they find. There were almost 50 of us on this tree at the beginning of the brood, and in a little over a week, our numbers have diminished to just 4.” He said. Luna, who noticed the caterpillar looked somewhat identical to her and Lena, replied saying, “We are here to exterminate these caterpillar hoarders. Leave it to us!” The scared polyphemus caterpillar backed off in respect for the brave larvae he was convinced were doomed. Lena, Luna and the horned devil made their way up the tree and found the structure made by the caterpillar hoarders.

“Got the wad of skin?” asked Lena to the now 5th instar horned devil, who was nearly fully grown. He replied, “Why certainly, I even had a polyphemus caterpillar wrap it in silk on the way up.” Luna proceeded to take the wad of spiky, filmy exoskeleton. She hopped in the structure, encountering 3 nightmarish baby caterpillar hoarders, who were fat and cheeping and defecating in their home. The ugly creatures looked at her and one bounded towards her clumsily, drooling and flopping. Luna took the wad of the horned devil’s shed and shoved it into the hideous thing’s throat. She rushed out of the structure and waited. The animal’s pupils dilated and it began violently jerking its head forward and back in an attempt to clear the obstruction. The 3 caterpillars watched as the trembling caterpillar hoarder thrashed about before suddenly collapsing onto the floor of the structure, no longer moving. The 2 minute struggle was over, yet there were still 2 more babies to handle.

“This one is the runt!” shouted the huge horned devil as he charged into the structure. The intimidating horned devil scared the smallest baby hoarder to one edge of its home before thrusting it out of the tree. His strength was incredible, and the young caterpillar hoarder tried to flap its stubby wings in a vain attempt to avoid the ground. It didn’t work. The small creature hit a root of the tree and its head folded over its back. The ugly thing was still, its eyes bloodshot. “Alright!” shouted a polyphemus caterpillar who had been watching the whole thing. The horned devil left the structure, thinking of how to exterminate the final baby. Luna came up with a plan.

The trio found what they were looking for, a long, strong, thin stick. Retreating to a leaf tent made by a polyphemus moth caterpillar, they began biting the stick and shredding it on the horned devil’s horns. They made a perfect spear and went back to the structure. The horned devil distracted the hoarder as Luna placed the spear in the middle of the nest. She then got a lasso of silk and put it on the hoarder’s foot. Lena then ran around the structure, the horned devil ready to pull the polyphemus silk. When he did, the baby hoarder fell right onto the spear. It began to seize and cough up blood before finally dying. Just then a full grown caterpillar hoarder holding a fat earthworm returned to its home. All 7 caterpillars on the tree then knew this meant trouble.

Chapter 6:

The caterpillar hoarder stuffed the earthworm into the skewed baby’s mouth. It then noticed the 3 caterpillars in the structure and pecked at them. The 3 ran as fast as they could and ducked as the flying hoarder swooped in on them. The hoarder’s mouth was wide open as it charged straight at the horned devil. It just missed, but the horned devil was plucked off the branch. Luna looked and saw he had stabbed the beast in the eye with his horns and was stuck inside its skull. The injured creature was spinning in circles and eventually crashed into a branch. The horned devil got off in time before the animal tumbled to the ground. The 3 were now tired and hungry. They left the oak and promptly crawled up the hickory once more.

Lena, Luna and the horned devil wolfed down many hickory leaves as the sun set, then ate more throughout the night. The mid August heat lingered through the late hours, getting progressively hotter by the day. The next week was very emotional. The horned devil gave his final goodbyes and left the tree to burrow and pupate. The luna moth caterpillars reached the 5th and final instar of their larval lives and began eating voraciously, during both day and night. September was rolling in now and so were somewhat heavy rains and cooler temperatures.

Lena and Luna went out on a branch and began to pull leaves together. Spitting out long strands of silk, they weave it in a figure-8 pattern. They work night and day on their cocoons, talking as they work. “So we still can talk until we pupate you know,” says Luna, “So why don’t we? It’ll be fun! Just make a loud rustling sound that lasts about 10 seconds when you’re about to pupate. I’ll do that too, just so we know when we’re pupating. I must warn you about the adult stage while we still can talk. First off, there will be little time for interaction; we must dedicate our short adult lives to reproduction. Give males 3 days before giving up, and when you finish mating, the next time it gets dark go out there and lay eggs. You must watch out for rain, it will waterlog your wings. You also must look out for caterpillar hoarders by day, hide well when you don’t fly. Bats fly at night, but if one chases you, fly in a zigzag pattern to deter it. Owls will also chase you, and they’re pretty hard to deter. The best way to get away from one is to go into dense foliage. Any questions?”

Lena, who was happy to be informed, replied, “What if I forget all of this?” “You won’t, and the reproductive stuff comes instinctively” says Luna. The 2 caterpillars, whose cocoons were mere inches from each other, were ready to seal themselves in their cocoons. They turned around in the flimsy cocoons, leaflets covering the latitude of the cocoons. The 2 simultaneously closed off the end of the cocoons and relaxed.

3 days passed, the silk of the cocoons turned brown, and the leaflets desiccated, curling back to reveal the cocoons. Luna then heard, from the neighboring cocoon, a distinctive sound. A rapid shaking that lasted exactly 10 seconds, then silence. She knew then that Lena had pupated.

Luna was quick to follow with pupation, and as her new form took on, her consciousness was barely there. Only about 2 weeks later, Luna heard a slight snap, and could feel a free lift below her. She then felt the sudden stop. She realized the leaves were falling and she was on the ground.

Chapter 7:

Luna sat in her pupal casing, inside her cocoon, day after day. The daylight hours were diminishing, and it was getting colder. The cold pinched at the cocoons, but both Luna and Lena found time on the warmer October days to explore the walls of their cocoons, scraping against them, turning and doing tricks in the roomy cocoon. Late October brought the first frost, and by November, killing frosts were a nightly thing.

Lena felt herself slipping away, going into a full diapause as the temperature plummeted. As the weeks went by, snow began to fall. The tree’s wounds had healed on the hickory tree and a thick, scabby tumor of sap covered the whole top of the tree. The ice made the thinnest twigs weep, and the tree’s shaggy bark had snow wedged in every nook and cranny. The spreading, tapered crown looked like a tree skeleton without its leaves, and although a few hickory nuts remained on the twigs, the rest of the tree was bare. Winds roared and carved dunes from the snow blanket covering the landscape.

Lena’s world was totally dark. She was covered by 3 feet of insulating snow, but couldn’t tell because she was diapausing. In her mind no time had passed between the killing frost and now, but things were soon to change. It was now February, and in just 3 months time, she’d be out of the cocoon as a moth. March quickly took control and after a few weeks, the ground had thawed and the snow had melted. The now drenched ground still froze at night, but Lena was coming in and out of consciousness with the temperature.

Chapter 8:

By mid April, the temperature was more settled. The daytime temperature was up in the 70’s and it barely got below 40 at night. Warm, golden, welcoming rays of sunlight shone into the cocoons, as if to say “I’m here for good”. Luna was fully out of diapause and developing into a moth. The events of the last brood were still clear in her mind, the fanged ball, the storm, the buzzers, the horned devil, the mob, the hoarders, the spinning of cocoons, everything up to the killing frost. That was a blur, and Luna quickly realized she may never recall any of what happened. She entertained herself by replaying the second brood of the season in her mind, sometimes warping the past or predicting the future.

About 2 weeks later the hickory was budding once more. The buds broke free of their tough brown film and then extended and unfurled. Dark, drooping catkins were quick to follow. By mid May, the tree was in full growth. At the nodes of the highest branches, new shoots to replace the top portion of the tree burnt off were already growing.

The pupae of the moths were undergoing much change. The indentations on the pupae were getting deeper as well as tighter, the pupae darkened, stiffened, and the moths inside were visible. The pupal shell softened, and one morning, she was ready.

Chapter 9:

Luna used her head and legs to push on the front part of the pupa containing the indents for the antennae, head and legs. She hurled herself to the front of the cocoon and pushed her head against the silken wall. She fizzed out a brownish fluid from her vestigial mouthparts. The soggy silk was now much easier to break through. Thrashing side to side, she eased herself out of the hole she made in the cocoon. She pulled out her severely inflated abdomen and scurried towards the tree.

The soft, dark dirt crumbled beneath her feet. She dragged herself and her stubby, wet wings up the warm tree trunk. She climbed 9 feet to the nearest branch and took cover under a wilted leaf. She rapidly pumped blood into her wings and let them spread. After nearly 25 minutes, her wings were fully expanded. She released her leftover wing and metabolic fluid through her abdomen onto the absorbent ground beneath. She sat still in the sun to dry her perfect, lime green wings, with their purple, brown and yellow bordering and the eyespots on each wing, as well as the long tails, she hardly imagined being so beautiful. After almost another half hour, she saw Lena scamper up the tree and settle close to her. The 2 moths dried their wings throughout the day, and when night was approaching, they hung on a low-lying branch together.

The beautiful sunset was quick, but the yellows and blues were eye opening. Lena had never seen something quite like it before in her life. The moon was small this night, and Luna wondered how big they’d get to see it become. As the night progressed, the 2 moths slightly curled their white, furry abdomens and let down a yellow protrusion and released airborne pheromones into the still night air.

Chapter 10:

At around midnight, several shapes, flying in erratic patterns were visible. As they zoomed into the hickory tree, it became clear what they were, males. Male luna moths were swarming the tree, having picked up the scent of 3 females on the single tree with their huge, feathery antennae. There were at least 10 of them; fiercely racing each other to the branches, knowing only 3 of them would get a mate on this hickory. Not to worry, however, as there were several other hickory trees in the nearby forest, as well as birch and sycamore. Finally a male landed near Luna and wasted little time doing his biological duty. Lena too had hooked up with a male. Once a male had won the prize, the pheromone flow stopped and the other males followed pheromone trails from somewhere else. The cloud of males would get thinner and thinner. The males raced in large mobs to the scene of a calling female. The females would rip off chunks of the cloud, the fastest males would settle down on a tree to mate, while the others would fly away, and soon only a single male would be left, the slowest one, and if he was the only one left within 7 miles, the next female he smelt would be his.

Luna, Lena, and the males stayed together for the whole day. The sun shone and began, at last, to set again. The males released the females from their grips and flew off. They would not likely mate again, as most females were already taken, and since they had just mated, their drive and determination was fading, much like the burning branch in the thunderstorm, and they were slower and had less energy now. After about 2 hours, Lena and Luna released the rest of their runny metabolic fluid and hopped off the branch. They strongly flapped their large, heavy wings and floated upwards into the night. After just a few minutes, they had the hang of it.

Luna laid 3 eggs on a leaf of the tree she grew up on. “Stay strong!”She whispered to the eggs as she rappelled herself off the leaf to lay eggs elsewhere. She flew into the forest close by and found several different trees to lay her eggs on.

Meanwhile, Lena, who also laid a few eggs on the shagbark hickory, decided to go a different way. She flew off, flying at 17 miles per hour. After 90 minutes of flapping, she reached a distant forest. She heard a branch break and could sense an eerie presence. Above her, a sharp shadow appeared. She’d been spotted by an owl!

Chapter 11:

Lena curled her wings upward and pointed her body downward, darting down into the forest beneath. The owl was just as athletic, and it too made a sharp turn, cutting through the branches with its thick, feathered wings. It made hooting noises and Lena found it quickly gaining on her. She swerved left to right, performed mid-air tricks, and even dropped to the ground. Nothing could deter this owl, who was keen on having a dish of luna moth tonight. The owl hurled itself off of branches and propelled itself at her. Lena had tried almost everything. She had one last chance to get this owl off her tail.

Lena started to pick up the pace, and then she slowed, did some glides, and finally, she gunned it. She had her target in sight, but she realized just how dangerous what she was about to do really was. She flew straight, then, at the last second, shifted her body into a sideways glide, cutting through the air like a machete. Her wing tails scraped against something rough but she made it. She heard a bloodcurdling screech and realized her plan had worked. The owl had flown straight into a pine tree. She watched the helpless creature flop aimlessly among the ground. It was bleeding profusely and she knew it was only a matter of time.

Lena propelled herself away from the scene and reached a nearby broadleaf forest. At first, all she could see were oaks; she even laid a few eggs on an oak leaf before coming to a clearing. The clearing offered odd looking trees. She landed on a leaf, tasting it with her feet. She didn’t recognize it, but it was oddly appealing. It was like a distant memory of something, if it were to be seen again, it would be recognized, but recognized as nothing more than something that were seen a long time ago. The trees were about 10 feet tall and had thin trunks. There were also many tall wooden sticks that had no bark and were split perfectly in half but kept in one piece at the bottom. Lena realized she had found a stand of American chestnut trees.

Chapter 12:

Lena’s thoughts were racing. She remembered Luna’s words, “Almost 50% of caterpillars grew up on these trees. They were once everywhere. More common than hickory and sweetgum combined.” She also remembered Luna talking about destructive humans, “With humans around, destroying our homes, polluting and poisoning our forests, and taking us for a collection of killed insects, we are being pushed to the brink. Those humans now call us endangered, but they’re the reason for that in the first place. What’s more, they destroyed a once valuable hostplant of ours.” She thought to herself, ‘if I lay eggs here, maybe our numbers would be on the rise’. But then she suddenly remembered Luna’s chilling warning, “The trees will never be able to reproduce again. Once the last tree dies for good, this species will be extinct.” She asked herself, ‘is it really worth risking one species for the good of my own?’ She suddenly thought of how the humans had harmed her species, collecting and killing luna moths for their own enjoyment. She also recalled Luna’s objections to using it as a host, “making them too small for us to eat from.” However, upon closer examination, the trees, though small, were dense. Many were grouped together, if a caterpillar were to run out of food on one of them, it could hop a branch to the next. Had Luna overestimated the devastation? Either way, there were easily 300 chestnut trees all around where Lena was and she could see no clear reason not to lay eggs on the leaves. She laid 2 eggs on each tree, finally resting before dawn. She was tired, and had laid over half of her eggs, but satisfied that she had decided to help her own species, coming to an ultimate realization. Every species does what it must to survive, and the only thing that saves 1 species from being destroyed by another is the more destructive species’ dependence on the other.

The next evening, Lena went to a different forest, flying up and down amongst the leaves, tasting them, and if they were a hostplant, she would deposit 4 eggs on the underside of the leaves. After 8 successive nights of egg deposition, Lena was empty, and she went back to the original forest. Luna was waiting on a shellbark hickory. When Lena arrived, Luna was very weak. She herself had just noticed her own fatigue, and realized the end was near. The next evening, the 2 lost the strength to grip onto surfaces. They lay on the ground next to each other.

“So I found a pure stand of American chestnut,” proclaimed Lena, “and I realized something. I realized that we all must work with nature, not against it. The thin buzzers, the caterpillar hoarders, the owls- they all rely on us for food. They can’t possibly kill each and every one of us, otherwise they’d run out of food. I laid eggs on the tree, but I still wondered, why did you say the trees were too small for us to eat from?” Luna had an epiphany, and shared it with Lena, “I said they were too small because I was referring to a population. If a female luna moth lays an egg or 2 on one of these trees the caterpillars will have plenty of room, but if 7 female luna moths decided to use a stand for food, there’d be a problem. I also meant that if a female luna moth were scanning the forest for hosts, she wouldn’t be able to find chestnut. When we fly through the forests, we’re at least 15 feet off the ground, maybe more; an American chestnut barely reaches that height, there are definitely American chestnut trees everywhere, and we just hardly notice them because they are so small. We are all on this earth for a reason, whether it be to feed another species or ensure the good of your own. We all try to be the ones who help our own species, which is what keeps us going. If we all have the attitude of becoming food for other species, we’d quickly go extinct. The thought of dying at the hands of a predator is scary, and perhaps the fear comes from not knowing if your death will harm the good of your species, but like I said, we all have a purpose. I’m glad you have finally seen the way things balance in our life and existence, that was my goal. I can die comfortably now knowing I’ve done some good. I may be on a forest floor, beat up and old, but I still consider this a dignified end. I’ve done my job of reproducing and ensuring a new generation, and our species only needs stored fats to do this. I’ve contributed, and I feel guilty about killing the predators as a caterpillar, they were only trying to fulfill their duties to their species. However I can forgive myself because my mind was not as mature at that time and realistically, many of my young will not get as far as I did, because it isn’t meant to be. We can’t run from death forever, but we can accept it as a part of life.”

 
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here is a poem I wrote (if anyone thinks its too triggering or upsetting I will remove it)

The Face of Depression

Agent A

Half past nine

Far from fine

All the while

Faking a smile

While deep down

A silent frown

A deep mess

A tangle of distress

Inevitable worry

Death wants to hurry

A voice starts to speak

Life is once again bleak

Rebuilding to stand tall

Only to once again fall

Energy level shrinking

Very quickly sinking

Crying without reason

Night taken by demons

A toss and a turn

A cut and a burn

Under the grip of sleep

In the merciless world of grief

Blood and death display

Compulsion to obey

There must be an end in sight

Of the terrible night of fright

Only to once more be struck

As if ran over by a truck

Starting to escape the heat

Wanting to avoid defeat

And when it seems the happy will click

There is an ambush with a large stick

Falling down another ditch

As if under the spell of a witch

Not all who fall will get back up

And those that do will again fall

And some may make it out

And escape the oppressive face

While others are still held to it like a magnet

Never to know anything better than it

 
I was debating whether or not to post this story

it's rather graphic and scary but i'll put it up anyway

it's called "Brood of Uncertainty", takes place in the future and it's basically about an attempt to rekindle the failed Cynthia moth American silk industry from the 1800s and a group of radicals trying to end the industry

Brood of Uncertainty

Agent A

Chapter 1:

After a heavy bout of rain, the late July heat wave finally arrived. The temperatures were well into the 90’s and the land sweltered with the intense sun. The Ailanthus field had nearly doubled in size over the course of 8 years, and it looked to be about time for the annual mass emergence. Henry got up early one morning and saw the first moth hanging on an old stem.

The Cynthia moth was large, and Henry thought it was a female, but when his father examined it, they both came to an agreement it was actually a male. The moth’s wings were spectacular, brown with beautiful bright crescents, and the white fuzz that covered the body was incredibly distinct. The creature had large antennae and flapped about quite violently. It was only the beginning of another year on the farm, and it looked to be off to a great start.

The year was 2073, and just 61 years ago the Cynthia moth had become absent from North America. Meanwhile, Ailanthus had become so invasive it wasn’t uncommon to see the trees growing straight out of the pavement of highways, and even with the man-made Ailanthus blight, the trees still continued to engulf the continent. They developed resistance to heat, cold, drought, and now, blight. There wasn’t much anyone could do anymore. Forests were overtaken by this rapid growing tree, and local Saturniids were beginning to feel the effect. The cecropia moth had still thrived but became a pest in orchards, and the polyphemus moth had developed a taste for this invasive plant. Luna moths were almost unheard of, as they resorted to feeding off of the sumacs growing near the Ailanthus on highways, but traffic was becoming a huge enemy.

The economy of the U.S. deteriorated over 50 years ago, there was no longer a stock market and most people earned little more than $12 each month. Funding for research of diseases had ceased, and many deadly diseases such as cancer, HIV and diabetes afflicted over 82% of the human population. The region was overpopulated, and civil order was lost. Homicidal maniacs roamed the streets, and a new religion had formed from them. Their belief was that by killing people, they were helping to handle the population, similar to the way hunters keep deer populations in check. Although there was not a court system and the white house had been destroyed, vigilantism was practiced by most everyone. The country was in turmoil.

Chapter 2:

In 2062, a break was granted to the struggling country. Scientists in China discovered something unique about the silk of the Cynthia moth, but only the U.S. had the technology to utilize it. China offered an economic boost to the U.S. in exchange for further experimentation on the silk. By 2069, the economy flourished in the U.S., and after winning a war against China, the country had an attack plan that would put the Cynthia moth to use.

It was discovered that if you strip the strands of silk from the moth into tiny threads, they could be used as stitching in robotic microsurgery as well as open heart surgery. Also the moth could be used to control the growing Ailanthus problem. Lastly, some people used the silk to make clothing for people in poor areas in the Caribbean and Africa. The U.S. was getting rich and gaining a lot of power, and some nations became concerned. However, while the government had their problems with the United Nations, the common people carried on with their own daily routine. Huge Ailanthus forests in China were destroyed in the winter of 2068, and workers removed any and all Cynthia moth cocoons from the chopped down trees. Immense shipments of cocoons arrived in the U.S., and many people started Ailanthus fields. First, they would buy as many acres of property as they could afford, and afterwards remove all but the naturally growing Ailanthus. They fenced in the area and pinned cocoons to the branches of the Ailanthus. Within a few years the Ailanthus would take up the bulk of the soil.

Henry’s father was a very rich man, and it intrigued him that his father could make such a high profit on their Ailanthus field while putting seamlessly little effort into caring for it. He wondered how his father did it, and he was hoping to get some pointers for when he took over the Cynthia silk business. Although it was a bit puzzling how Henry could wake up and smell fertilizer on the fields in the spring and fall, even when his father may have been 6 miles away the whole day before, and neither Henry nor his mother placed any fertilizer down. His father always explained to him that before leaving, he placed some pellets on the soil that were activated by the morning dew. It made sense, and it wasn’t really his place to question it.

The next few weeks would be crucial for the moth farm. First was the calling period, where Henry and his father refrigerated males and set females out to call. When the majority of females mated, the males were released. Then they watched the females lay eggs in bags. Late to emerge females were still given the chance to call. The aluminum mesh domes were pulled out. Large mesh sheets that seemed to have infinite folding power were laid out next to each tree. A hot iron was pressed against them and the metal turned orange, and it looked more like a giant waffle than a metal sleeve. Then the hot metal sheet would be unfolded into its normal circular shape and fitted over the tree, forming a cup around the Ailanthus, which were trimmed regularly to keep them dense and exactly 6 feet tall. The dense leaves were unharmed by the heat of the aluminum, but the procedure wasn’t finished yet. 3 egg bags were stapled to an old branch and sliced open, and then the dome was nailed to the ground. The whole system got a mist of cold water, and they were off to the next tree. 11 days after the first moth emerged, all the trees were set for the caterpillars, which had already begun hatching.

Chapter 3:

Henry was wandering in the fields when something was awry. Frass the size of a pea littered the ground under one of the trees. Henry looked up, and there was a huge green caterpillar on the Ailanthus branch, and it wasn’t a Cynthia moth. The yellow stripes and brown on the claspers gave it away. Henry was looking at a polyphemus moth caterpillar!

Henry saw more of the same setup on other trees, and he realized a hatchling Cynthia moth caterpillar could not fit through the mesh, how could a polyphemus caterpillar enter? This wasn’t an accident, and when his father saw, it was evident someone slashed open part of the dome, placed the caterpillar in, and used a torch to weld the mesh closed again. A total of 85 polyphemus caterpillars were found by the end of the day. Henry’s father had an important lesson, “These are things you must watch out for, my son. People will want to vandalize your farm, I’m not sure who did this, but the security cameras didn’t catch the culprit. They must’ve moved in between the frames of the camera. Remember that a video camera rapidly takes pictures; it isn’t one constant picture, so they must’ve been good with technology. These would’ve destroyed the Ailanthus as they grew larger. You must be ever-vigilant. It isn’t easy as place the eggs on the trees and waiting for cocoons. You must monitor them to be sure they are doing well. The trees are big but competition from larger moths is not welcome.”

The August heat was rolling in, and the caterpillars were growing large. They were getting fat and the domes were accumulating a 3 inch layer of frass at the bottom. Yellow jackets wanted in, but they couldn’t access the larvae or even the Ailanthus. The trees began to smell horrible with all the running sap from stem and leaf wounds. The whitish larvae didn’t seem to be able to get enough of their hostplant. Henry went back to school a few days later, but he kept thinking of the riches he’d inherit as he grew up.

The harvest was coming up. The nails were removed from the ground and the domes were stacked and placed in the shed. Henry’s father typically handled folding them up. The cocoons were clearly visible on the branches that were now nearly bare from the voracious larvae. The thin cocoons were suspended by a long handle of silk, these were snipped off at the branch and the cocoons were placed in buckets. The top branches were chopped and the trees trimmed to a bush like shape. The mid-September cold was rolling in, and the season would soon be over. The frass was burned and washed into the soil to fertilize the trees. Ripewood cuttings were taken and set in a greenhouse for propagation purposes. After 2 weeks, all cocoons were harvested. 6 cocoons per tree were saved, while the rest were to be used for silk or wild release purposes. The cocoons to be saved were pinned to foam lengths running up a permanent aluminum dome. They would develop in there and they would be harvested next July as adult moths. The next morning, the ground was coated with crates, some which contained just silk and some were addressed to clothing companies, while others were addressed to medical labs. Then there were crates of cocoons to be placed in the wild for wild Ailanthus control. Henry looked in awe and marveled at the prolific overnight work his father had completed.

Chapter 4:

It was time for the Ailanthus seed harvest. 20 selected trees in the field were allowed to reach maturity and produce seeds. As the seeds develop, paper bags were placed over the heads. Now the bags had fallen, as all the seeds had matured and were ready for planting. Large pots with seed compost were prepared and the seeds were sown, Henry came home from school noticing there was no more work to be done. How did things happen that quickly?

There wasn’t anything else to do in the current season except collect the profit from a hard season’s work. The winter would come and go, and all spring and summer up until the emergence period would be dedicated to getting the Ailanthus as large and dense as possible to feed the next generation of larvae. The Ailanthus field grew each year. Large, empty plots of land filled with young trees that would be ready for use within a matter of years.

Winter was hovering over the country now, and frost lined the doors and windows of the house. The desolate landscape was bare, the field looked dead. The shed remained unlocked, but it wasn’t used. The metal of the fence shrunk, and white covered every tree. If one were to look down on the field, it would look like small sticks floating in milk. The temperatures plummeted below 0 on some days, and barely crept above 30 when it was warm. Henry thought it was amazing how the moth cocoons could survive this.

The winter wasn’t in any sense a break period. Henry and his father spent the weekends scouring the fields for good branches to take hardwood cuttings from. The winds were unforgiving, and they both got bad chapped skin on their cheeks and lips. Henry still had to go to school, and there was only a brief holiday break.

Chapter 5:

February came swiftly, and the temperatures were beginning to rise. It still was very cold, but not as bitter as before. Henry came home from school one day and noticed something out of the ordinary. His father wasn’t home, and there was movement in the field. He went outside and noticed blood in the snow. He saw his father on the ground, barely conscious. Just then a branch snapped and Henry felt a sharp pain in his arm. Wood splinters flew into his eye. The projectile responsible for this lay in the snow several feet away.

Henry picked up the object. It was large and rigid, like a peach pit, but it was much too big to come from a peach. It was also too dark, and more spherical than a peach pit. The object seemed to almost be split in half by a shallow line, and it was frozen. He saw several more and many holes in the fence. Some Ailanthus trees had things embedded in the trunks. A potato shooter or similar device must’ve been used to fire these objects. Henry cracked one open with a rock. It became evident what these were. Someone had fired hickories through the fence.

His father had been hit in the spine by one of the hickories. He must’ve cracked a rib; why else would he be coughing up blood? A frozen trail of blood hung from his mouth. Henry called 911, and his father was taken to the hospital’s ICU. He was taken into surgery after an X-ray revealed a small pignut hickory had been shot, perhaps by a sniper, into his pancreas. Henry himself needed 7 stitches after the hickory grazed his arm. There was a problem with the pignut hickory, it had been coated in some unidentified toxin before being shot and Henry’s father’s spleen had swollen to the size of a cantaloupe, and his heart had 3 aneurisms that were ready to burst. The hospital staff had to figure out what was causing the man’s demise before they could do anything to save him.

A man-made superbug had been cultured and Henry’s father was under attack by a mutated form of Meningicocous. The bacteria were resistant to any modern antibiotics and the only way to stop it was to infect him with a mutant Enterococcus and give him an immune booster. He was in a coma for 9 weeks, and it wasn’t until Memorial Day that he was able to come home.

Spring was the time for root cuttings, and the family wasted no time starting them. The outer roots and runners were dug up and chopped off the tree. They were planted into the ground along with the small trees started from cuttings, air layers, and seeds. The temperature was getting warmer, and the native Saturniids were flying around now. Henry and his father set up a blacklight and attracted polyphemus moths, which subsequently went into a blender to prevent them from laying eggs on the Ailanthus in their field.

One night, Henry was up late catching polyphemus moths and tossing them into the blender, which was set on puree, and he noticed a fat female flying towards him. He swung the wooden net down towards the ground, and as he looked at the moth he was housing in the white mesh, he was relieved he caught such a large moth. ‘If this had gotten on the trees, it would’ve laid at least 300 eggs’ he thought as he transferred the flapping moth into the blender. He turned it on and placed on the lid. The blade chopped into the abdomen and Henry saw a red string. A few seconds later the string ignited, and Henry ran. The blender exploded, and the blast sent shards of glass and plastic in all directions. Large bits of glass wedged themselves in the flesh on Henry’s neck, and he collapsed. He tore out a triangle of glass and noticed a fine gray powder stuck to it. After removing various components of the blender from his neck, Henry realized what the powder was. The glass was supposed to go into his throat, and the powder was an anti-coagulant meant to induce bleeding out.

There were several similar moth bombs planted at other Ailanthus fields in the area. Henry and his father decided to place the mesh back out over the trees to discourage the polyphemus moths from laying eggs on their trees. A security guard was hired, and it was determined that last season’s polyphemus caterpillars were placed on the trees by a person who took a freeze frame snapshot of the security camera and put a mirror reflection of it in front of the camera. In other words, they made the camera see the same thing over and over again by putting an exact picture of what it was originally looking at in front of it. The next few weeks came and gone without incident.

Chapter 6:

The moths, once again, were emerging. The same cycle was occurring again. Henry went back to school within a week of the caterpillar hatch out, and there was an unusually rainy period of time, which made fertilizing the trees very difficult. Furthermore, the sun wasn’t out as much and the caterpillars were growing very slowly. Fortunately, nobody planted any polyphemus larvae, but nothing could’ve prepared Henry and his father for what was to happen next.

It was a clear night; the moon shimmered in the darkness and the temperature was high. The crickets outside sang a medley. Henry was having trouble sleeping. He had just been out with friends and came home late, neglecting to do his homework, and he skipped dinner. The hunger caught up to him. He lethargically proceeded downstairs and grabbed a few cookies. He looked out the window upon the vast Ailanthus field. It was very still.

Henry was about to go upstairs, when he heard a bottle land in the field. He heard the glass crack and saw a sudden, overpowering flash of light. He looked out the window and saw the whole field was on fire! He woke up his father and they turned on the sprinklers under the dirt. The field crackled and sizzled as it cooked and burning branches flew through the air as they were reduced to charcoal. The sand in the dirt turned into glass as the heat changed its form.

The blaze wasn’t settled until morning. Henry and his father walked along the hardened ground, still hot from the 4 hours it was on fire for. There were still many surviving trees with healthy caterpillars on them, but almost 60% of the field was in ruins. A crime team arrived, the shed, which for an odd reason had a large padlock on it now, was misshapen by the heat and was also the area where the bottle was found. An investigator explained to the family, “Someone packed this glass bottle with arsenic and hickory resin. The resin reacts with the anti-blight property of the Ailanthus bark, creating an out of control fire. This fuse was lit by the impact of the bottle breaking after being thrown into the metal shed, and the heat of the fire was likely over 12,000 degrees. You guys are very lucky nobody got hurt. I would recommend buying bark block, a chemical you apply every winter to protect the flammable Ailanthus bark. It’s flame retardant but be sure a professional installs it, you don’t want to get it in your lungs.”

Henry did an internet search later that evening to determine who would’ve done such a horrible thing. One thing was for sure, it was a malicious attempt to reduce their inventory. He figured it was a competitor at first, but his father was a member of the Ailanthus Alliance, and so were many other Ailanthus field owners. When he was about to give up he stumbled upon a website known as WLALS, or World’s Largest Actias Luna Site. He noticed something; comments on the homepage gave the group cruel nicknames, such as Moth Terrorists or The Hickory Helper Radicals. The word hickory stood out like a sore thumb. Henry found what he was looking for.

Henry looked and saw that the next meeting of the group would be in a few days, and he only would have to travel a few dozen miles to get to an area of Hartford Connecticut. He decided to leave a note and take the car, however, he had barely driven before, and the GPS on the car wasn’t working properly. He still managed to find the building and he entered. There were many people and along the walls he saw framed collections of these green winged moths with white, furry bodies. He proceeded to a large room with a table and almost 200 people. They were discussing hickory propagation, as well as modified rearing sleeves to conserve some luna moth. Henry didn’t know what a luna moth was, let alone why this moth created a whole terrorist group that was after people who reared Cynthia moths.

When the group’s meeting dismissed, Henry approached a member. “What is this whole group about?” he asked. The person he talked to referred him to the group founder, and as a courtesy, drove him to the house. There was a dirt road in a dense forest; ironically, Henry saw no Ailanthus trees, an otherwise dominant tree in the country. The trees were taller and had funny bark. The leaves were huge and had few leaflets, and many hickories were growing on the branches. There were signs on a few trees, and Henry made out pignut hickory, mockernut hickory, shellbark hickory, as well as some staghorn sumac and a few sweetgum trees. Hickory was the main tree, and the ones with the smallest nuts were most common. He walked up to a resin-colored house with vinyl siding. The house was large, and there were several large glass hallway bridges sticking out of high windows. There were doors and balconies coming out of the sides wherever there were trees. The trees were topped with many cloth-like coverings, and there were systems of wooden bridges in the tree canopies around the other areas of the forest. Henry looked around and marveled. This place was amazing!

Chapter 7:

Henry pounded on the door. A light went on and the door opened. A large man stood with a gun and inquired who Henry was. After a few minutes of explaining himself, Henry was allowed in. There was a large hallway with many framed collections of luna moths. A plaque explained that these moths died of old age and were housed in cloth cages to prevent wing damage. The stitching on the abdomen told Henry that something was stuffed in the abdomen to make them look fatter. The years were on plaques above the collections. The frames were huge, almost 12 feet tall and equally wide, with black edges. The year 2074 collection still had a curtain over it, as the season wasn’t over yet. The collections went as far back as 2028, and the numbers of moths in the collections steadily increased with the years. He walked into a room where a man was sitting, transplanting a hickory seedling. “Um, hello? I’m looking for the founder of WLALS” Henry inquired. The man, who was 78, but looked fit and younger, turned to him and replied, “That would be me! How can I help you young man?”

“Who are you and why have you created a terror group?” Henry shouted. “Why I am Alex Baranowski, the founder of the website and group you asked about. I assure you, I did not create a terror group. I will explain all. First, World’s Largest Actias Luna Site is a side branch of the World’s Largest Saturniidae Site, started way back in 2020 when the luna moth was declared by all North American countries and states a critically endangered species. I, at the time, was still a quite small scale rearer but this house, which I had built with a small team, had a huge plantation of hickories I started 3 years before from air layers and seeds. We fed them and got them to maturity, and planted them here. I decided to make my own website, inspired by the WLSS, and devote it to conserving the luna moth. Meanwhile, a tribe in Mexico who built their lives around Actias species contributed a chemical to control the Ailanthus. I injected it into the cambium and it prevented the leaves from growing on the Ailanthus. Unable to make its own food, the trees around here all died. This tribe is no longer in existence, but they were quite prosperous. When the tribe elder died, they had an unusual ritual of cutting them up and eating his brain, burning his body and burying the organs. They died out after this ritual created a massive parasitic infection, but their help was what made this house what it is. I had 5,000 hickories and 300 sumacs, as well as 200 sweetgums planted here. In 2026, I was able to get enough rearers to help in a nationwide conservation effort. I place large tree sleeves made of nylon on the trees to rear the larvae. What brings you to my abode?”

Henry was irritated, “Your group has been trying to kill my family and business. What is so wrong about rearing Cynthia moths to save lives?” The man was baffled by the accusations before him, “I never created any type of terror group, what some radical members of my site do is their choice, my only instructions were to try to reintroduce a luna moth population. You people have wreaked havoc on the native Saturniids by reintroducing an alien after a war and doing a whole population transfer. My group has created over 700,000 acres of Ailanthus free forest that has self-sustaining populations of luna moths, this forest here has at least 87 bloodlines of lunas, and we have created genetically mutated lunas that have a simple gene change that prevents them from inbreeding. How does this work? The male’s antennae don’t pick up the pheromones of his sisters. I raise several hundred larvae each year on only 1/12 of the trees here, the rest is free forest. I have a friend lower the sleeves over about 42 trees each spring, and my females are placed in those to lay eggs. I also release many to lay eggs on the free trees. I only rear some to ensure that they don’t die out here. We use half cloning, which is where we take 4 different cells, split them in half, and mix the genes, to create new genetic variation. We trade unrelated cocoons each fall so we have unrelated stock in the spring. It’s the most simplistic complicated system of conservation known to man. All because of what you people did. But no, I did not tell anyone to try and kill you.” Henry replied, “We tried controlling the Ailanthus with the man-made blight. Isn't that enough?” “My friend, you forgot one important thing, the blight was only introduced to a small, isolated population of Ailanthus, and by the time it spread, the Ailanthus built up resistance. You must be an heir, soon to inherit a huge Ailanthus plantation in a disorganized system of people looking to make a quick buck. Am I right?” “Yes, but I don’t see the relevance in that.” “Your father isn’t the man he seems to be. He’s hiding a dark secret, and it’s only because he is looking for money. Nothing good ever comes from people trying to make profit from 2 invasive species.”

Chapter 8:

Henry was angry at the elderly man for making him feel like a monster. He was angry at him for accusing his father of being one. He was angry because he knew the man was right, he just didn’t want to accept it. When he got back home, he told his parents that the group was a bunch of crazy people who couldn’t accept change. He didn’t want to give anything away, just in case his father really did have a secret. He lost sleep over the concept. He was hoping the strange man was wrong, but he somehow knew he was right. Henry and his father were businessmen; they did everything systematically while exerting as little energy as possible. WLALS members, on the other hand, did things in an appropriate way while still getting pleasure from it. They spent weeks each year high in the trees, and were very fit despite many of them being in their 70s and even 80s. Their intentions were to restore natural order; they lived on the basic tenet that nature must be left in as untouched a state as possible. They were working for the greater good; Henry and his father were just part of a long line of people destroying ecology by taking what isn’t rightfully theirs.

Though Henry was 19 and already graduated high school, he felt like he only had a 7th grade education. How could his family go nearly 2 generations disregarding a basic biological concept? How could anyone let this happen? How could the U.S. destroy another country for an alien moneymaker? Why didn’t they solve the inflation problem by fusing platinum and hydrogen to create gold to back up money production? Why did the Ailanthus become such an unstable, dangerous tree? What made most of the country forget and stop caring about the nature that belongs in the U.S. and support a poisonous, non-native invader? These questions puzzled him, and he felt like his head were about to explode.

The bark block had been applied, and the trees could no longer be set on fire. The field recovered, and it was business as usual. At the end of the season, the cocoons were harvested and sorted. The crates of cocoons were packed in the shed for later processing.

Chapter 9:

Henry was sleeping in a tent in the field one night, hoping to catch a meteor shower. His father was away at a reunion, and the night was simple and slow going. Suddenly, the sound of water spilling and a bloodcurdling howl pierced the air. Henry got up and proceeded toward the shed, where the sound came from. The large metal shed was padlocked, but Henry had a friend who taught him how to pick a lock. The huge door swung open and he peered inside the barrel shaped shed. It was dark, and he saw a figure rush from one end of the shed to another. He flicked on a light and saw a very disturbing image.

13 young children, wearing almost no clothes, were handling the harvested cocoons. They were skinny and many had severe burns and other injuries. They had chains around their necks and were tied to the wall. They didn’t like the overhead light and covered their eyes. A few were staring right at him. Henry realized what was going on. His father was harboring child laborers!

The sound was a child who dropped a pot of boiling water on his arm. He was processing the silk when he spilt scalding hot water on himself. The children were dirty and barely spoke. They kept working, shaking from the cold and in fear that they may be harmed. Henry could hardly contain himself. He closed back up the shed and left the house. He got in the extra car his father had in the garage and drove off with it. He drove all night and then pulled into a dirt road in the forest of tall hickories.

Chapter 10:

He went to the house and rang the doorbell. The man who had talked to him a few weeks back answered. “What brings you back here? I thought I told you to stay away!” he shouted. Henry apologized, “I’m sorry but I need your help. You were right about everything. I was so selfish! But we have a huge problem! I found out my father’s secret!” “I knew it! Now we have to consider the huge task ahead of us. You must be willing to do exactly as I say, got it?” “Anything, I trust you, but we need to hurry. My father comes back home at the end of the week!” “We need to end the reign of the Ailanthus, the only thing that can kill Ailanthus is drastic climate change, but we can’t create that! I have something better, hang on!” The man, though fairly old, ran fairly quickly down the hallway and down the basement. Henry speculated the man was very hyperactive. He came back with a syringe full of an odd green goop and an Ailanthus tree. “Now,” he explained, “if I inject this into the cambium, the plant will lose all its leaves, as well as its power to regenerate them. When winter comes, the plant won’t have the energy to sustain itself, and it will freeze to death. The only problem is it would not be ethical for me to do this to any Ailanthus trees that don’t belong to me, which is why I have not told the recipe to WLALS members, as some of them have mental issues and would do anything to harm people who inconvenienced luna moths. But if we can get enough land and create enough Ailanthus free forest, we may be able to stop the spread in its tracks. We can reintroduce the Cynthia moth to Asia, and hopefully it stays that way.”

Henry was getting the vibe that the elderly man had a long life of mental insanity, but he didn’t want to say anything. This man was the only human he could trust now. As it would turn out, many of the WLALS members owned an Ailanthus field that would be used for a reverse population transfer. About 11% of the Cynthia moth population in the world was now in Asia, but Henry wanted it to be 100%. The economist in Henry concerned that removing the Ailanthus from the nation would cause another crumble, but the economy was stable and food production was a huge economic activity in the country. Luckily, the 2 men had one thing on their side, the government.

About a year ago, several WLALS members had become important government figures, and the senate, the president, and the military had begun a campaign to use Ailanthus farming as an economic booster in third world countries, especially in Africa and Asia. They figured if Asians farmed the moths and Africans processed the silk, they would become very wealthy. Henry and his newfound friend thought the Ailanthus situation in the U.S. was getting out of hand.

Chapter 11:

The entire eastern U.S. was coated in a blanket of Ailanthus. The blanket was ragged and torn, its holes were large forests planted by luna moth rearers. There were strips ripped through it where the highways lay, and its fibers stretched and constricted towns and cities. Canada had outlawed such trees and all the other Cynthia moth nonsense, and their border control was world class. If soil was moist, Ailanthus could grow. Henry’s father was arrested on several felony charges related to the child laborers. The police inspected all Ailanthus farms over the course of a year, and they found that 91% of all Ailanthus farmers had some form of illegal labor in charge of the farm. The other 9% had barely taken off with their business.

“This should be a lesson to you, my friend. The American silk industry failed many centuries ago because there was no labor to assist with it, and now, there is no legal labor to support it.” The luna rearer told Henry. There was much more to come, but neither man could anticipate the drastic turn their fate would take.

The luna moth now lived in almost every Saturniid forest in the eastern U.S. and these forests were making a comeback. Since most hickories took hundreds of years to mature from seed, canopy layering, the air layering off of the top 20 feet of the tree, was the main method for propagation. Shockingly, Ailanthus couldn’t be reproduced this way. Henry joined WLALS, and soon there were laws passed prohibiting the further cultivation of Ailanthus. Henry and his neighbors, as well as everyone in the states of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, and New Hampshire, dismantled their Ailanthus farms. Henry’s yard was full of young hickories and he even was rearing his first brood of luna moths.

Henry had tracked down 3 WLALS members who started the hickory helper radical group, and requested a meeting with the leader, Eltridge Burnsermeyer. When Eltridge entered Alex Baranowski’s house, he was greeted by him, as well as Henry and 4 other people who were rearing lunas in Connecticut. “Have a seat!” proclaimed the man who had started it all, “And prepare for a good reprimand! I started the WLALS to conserve the pieces of natural beauty that we know as the North American Saturniids, the very beauty that preserved this country in a time of war. You have made a mockery of this group by going against my peace notion and harming the people who damaged the foundation of our goal. I do agree that the people who repetitively encourage an alien species should not be considered worthy of life, but it is neither you nor I who is entitled to act upon it! I don’t know what the heck your problem is, but all I asked of you was to encourage the species that belonged here in the first place. This forest around you contains Actias, Automeris, Hyalophora, Callosamia, Antheraea, Citheronia, and many other hickory, sweetgum, and poplar dependent Lepidopterans of the contiguous United States. And no violence was used in creating it! You and all the members of your radical group are hereby banished from WLALS!”

A shiver went down Eltridge’s back. He gazed at the old man, who raised an eyebrow, casually sipped on his wine, and began silently speaking to Henry and the other members of his club.

Chapter 12:

They found the body 3 days later. 2 fishermen had pulled a large, black, plastic garbage bag out of a lake. Inside the bag, the pale, rotting body of Eltridge Burnsermeyer lay with eyes open, staring at the men. Also in the bag as a cinder block with an oily stain, this was beginning to protrude from the bag. The police were called, and the area was deemed a crime scene.

The medical examiner, Melina Bornopolitz, and her assistant, Gregory Dumpulons, were performing an autopsy. “No sign of foul play, no clear cause of death,” acknowledged the examiner, “He did have a lot of wine in his system. He may have died of alcohol poisoning, no other abnormalities in his tox-screen, what did you get on his whereabouts the night of his death?” The assistant looked up from his paper and stated, “Well he did have a meeting at Alex Baranowski’s house, he started a violent group and wasn’t very well liked. This could be a homicide. Why else would the body be put in a bag and dumped in a lake?” “Well,” pondered Melina, “the people involved may not have known what to do with the body. Maybe they panicked, or maybe his last minute death wish was to be dumped in a lake. I have no evidence of murder.” “Isn’t it very possible somebody placed the bag over him while he was still alive, suffocating him, in his alcohol-dazed state, he probably wasn’t able to fight back or even predict the attack. It’s possible he panicked when the bag was placed over him and sealed so he hyperventilated, speeding up asphyxiation. There were a total of 7 people over at that house the night of his death. There was drinking and there may have been a verbal altercation.” “The problem is, if your theory is true, the murderer would likely have to have had very little to drink in order to be able to do something so meticulously. I do agree that this is plausible, considering there was no forensic evidence of anyone involved in this. No fingerprints, hair, or anything from anyone other than the victim. I did a blood analysis; he had a lot of carbon in his blood, if he kept breathing in his own breath, then that would explain this. I need you to investigate the night of his death more.”

The investigator came up to the house where Eltridge was last seen alive. The 6 people who were last with him met him. The investigator requested a urine sample from the sewer to determine who was drinking the night. Since cars have alcohol detectors that will turn the car off when they sense alcohol, the person who dumped the body would logically have nothing to drink. There was a problem; nobody in that house used the toilets that night. The investigator came back empty handed. “I’m sorry,” proclaimed Gregory, “but I couldn’t figure out any possible suspects. Can’t we find out who dumped the body and charge them with accessory to murder or obstruction of justice?” “No, not unless the person who dumped the body explicitly knew who the murderer was. Did they tell you anything useful?” asked the examiner. “Well they all said they dispersed throughout the house to look at some of its features. I know what happened! The victim was hazed, he drank too much, and his reaction time was slow. The killer wore gloves and likely was influenced by little or no alcohol. The killer placed the bag over the victim and sealed it. The victim couldn’t escape and soon suffocated in the bag. The murderer either dumped the body or had someone else dump it the next morning. They all stayed there that night because of the alcohol in their blood, they obviously couldn’t drive. Now each of the 6 men had at least 2 hours the next morning they were unaccounted for. It could’ve been anyone there. Whoever did it was clever; they took advantage of the situation. There is too much doubt for any jury to convict any of them, and we can’t charge every single one of them. It’s the perfect murder.” “I have no doubt it was Baranowski, he had the most reason to kill the victim. The problem is the other 5 men could have just as easily done it. Since they are all keeping quiet, we can’t really do anything. We’ll have to declare it a homicide by undetermined means. I hate these kinds of cases!”

Chapter 13:

Henry was pleased at the progress of his luna larvae. He spent much time at the Baranowski household, but one morning, a knock came on the door. It was his mother. “Henry, you need to get ready to testify in court today. Let’s go, you need to shower and dress nicely.” She said to him. Henry went home, dressed, and drove to the courtroom. His mother, who filed for divorce weeks after his father was arrested, did not attend the trial.

The courtroom smelt like wood polish, and the jury was staring at Henry as he walked up to the witness stand. “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?” inquired the judge. “I do,” replied Henry. The prosecutor walked up to the stand and engaged in conversation, “Henry, please tell me what occurred on the night you came across the child laborers in your father’s shed.” “Well I heard a scream, and when I entered the shed, there were several emaciated young children.”

Testimony went on for several minutes. Other articles of evidence were pictures, black market receipts for the children, and DNA. The jury took just 2 hours to decide the verdict. Henry’s father was found guilty on all 9 charges. Just days later, at sentencing, he got 57 years in prison. Henry grew distant from his father, and spent much of his time in the hickory forest. The luna moths were much easier to deal with than Cynthia moths.

Though winter was approaching, the luna moth life cycle was not quite over. Henry spent many of his days at the Baranowski house, and he was about to learn the intensive winter preparations. He was so used to having barely anything to do, as his father and his child laborers had usually done all the work. The sleeves were opened from the bottom and 30 pounds of leaf litter, cocoons, and frass poured into a bucket. A helicopter came around and hooked onto the sleeves to remove them from the trees. The buckets were emptied out into a large metal tank and the vibrating floor was turned on. There was a mesh plate in the tank. All the frass and smaller organic matter fell through the mesh. The leaves and cocoons still needed to be separated. The cocoon and leaf mixture was poured in cool water. The cocoons began to bob up and down in the water, and they were quickly picked out of the water. The leaves just floated, lifelessly. The dead leaves and frass were ground up and spread outside as fertilizer. There were thousands of cocoons in the house, and Henry’s stroll in the forest area where the trees weren’t sleeved turned up nearly 13 times more cocoons in the huge forest area.

“I have a question for you!” proclaimed Henry as he entered the house, “How does your system work and the Cynthia moth system fail?” The busy man looked at him and answered, “My group is not rearing these luna moths for profit. We have our own methods of rearing these moths for conservation. We rear a much smaller volume of moths and since lunas are native, we don’t have to try too hard to simulate natural conditions for them.” After answering the question, the man went back to his work. He sorted out the cocoons. He had a group of cocoons he would send to people looking to start their own conservation effort. He had a group of cocoons he would use for bloodline exchanges during the next WLALS meeting. Lastly, there was a group of cocoons for his rearing use. The cocoons he would keep were placed on a tarp under a net tent on the forest floor.

Henry noticed the lunas weren’t the only moth in the sleeves. Since the trees weren’t sleeved until all the eggs were laid, other hickory eating moths were on the trees. The cocoons were all rinsed in a clear, steaming fluid. The fluid was a liquid absorber of DNA that boiled at 60 degrees. The liquid ran over the cocoons with little issue and was collected in a shallow tray. It was then poured into a beaker with a metal probe and the computer analyzed the DNA. The idea was the old caterpillar shed in the cocoon would provide DNA and tell how many of which species were in the sleeve. “It was an optimal year for Hyalophora cecropia!” proclaimed the man. The results of the total cocoon harvest were that 88% of the moths in the sleeves were lunas, 6% were cecropias, 2% were polyphemus, 2% were ios, 1% were prometheas, and 1% were non Saturniid moths, mainly Geometrids. A few regal moth pupae were pulled from the discarded frass during the harvest and Henry managed to talk 4 out of the man who was trying to plant them back into the forest.

Chapter 14:

Even though it was now winter, the forest was still, the cocoons were distributed, and the luna moths were not to be heard from again for at least 4 months, Henry still spent many days at the Baranowski household, not knowing what to do with himself. He confronted a demon that had been troubling him for months. “I need to talk to you about the night of the murder,” he said to the elder, “I’m beginning to feel bad about my role in it.” This statement opened a whole new door. The old man looked at him and began to talk, “What happened that night is in the past now. The victim of that night was nobody important or worthy of living. Nobody did anything wrong, and none of us can be arrested for it. We both know who the murderer was, that’s between us, as far as the authorities know, I know it wasn’t you and you know it wasn’t me. Let us put the past behind us. If we linger in the past too long, we cannot secure a stable future.” The old man was tipped over the edge. What did Henry have that gave him a right to question the way the conservation operation functions? He still was unemployed, and his friend was quickly becoming annoyed with his presence. Finally the man broke and shouted, “You know what? I’m beginning to think you feel insecure without being around me! You are afraid to explore the world and as a result, you are bothering me so much! You need to go do something with yourself! I’m tired of being your babysitter!” Henry was a little upset by all of this. “I don’t know what to do!” he screamed, “There is nothing that I can go out and do right now! What do you expect me to do?” “There is plenty to do. Roadways damaged by the Ailanthus must be repaired, the Ailanthus must be extinguished, forests must be replanted and managed, we must reimburse China with the Cynthia moth population; the list goes on and on! This country is a mess, and young people like you should be taking advantage of the job opportunities to fix it!”

The next morning, Henry did an internet search for an acceptable job. He never attended college, but he found a decent horticulture job that would help regrow native trees and required only a 4 month training course. He left for the building in Georgia that evening. It was a long drive, but he decided he needed to do it for the sake of ecology. Little did he realize that he would not see Connecticut again for over 3 years and that he would lose everything.

It all started with the training course. Henry did exceptionally well and landed a big job in forest management. However, his careless nature caused a huge decline in the cultivator hickories, the hickory trees that would be used to top layer off new trees. He forgot to fertilize the trees in the fall, thus, the tops of the trees were not strong enough to grow into new trees. These trees got infected with beetles after the tops of them rotted. He overwatered the sumac root cuttings and caused them to decay, and he froze the tulip poplar seeds too long and they desiccated. Bottom line, he got fired.

His father and 500 other prisoners were poisoned, which made Henry go into a depressive state. He drank and ran himself so far into debt, he had to give up all his old property in Connecticut, which resulted in the dismantlement of his hickory forest and the eviction of his mother. He was confined to Georgia and became homeless. After being pulled off the streets for illegal weapon dealing, Henry was sent to a rehabilitation center.

Meanwhile, in Connecticut and many other states in the Northeast, the second attempt at an American silk industry was completely dead. Very few Ailanthus trees remained, and life before 2023 returned for many. Artificial gold was made to back up the money printed by the government, and people were living in more favorable conditions. For the first time in decades, the luna moth was taken off the endangered species list. Native flora and fauna thrived, and the future seemed bright. A solution to the American chestnut blight was discovered, adding yet another hostplant option for the native Saturniids.

Chapter 15:

In 2082, Henry returned to Connecticut once more. He met back up with Alex Baranowski, and this time he had a family. He had a wife and 3 daughters, and had put his life back together. The Baranowski house was engulfed in a flourishing forest, there were 3 shotguns, 1 near each entrance, in case a bear is threatening anyone. The natural world was now a huge concern to everyone, and people who were previously called “environmental freaks” were now considered normal. Henry announced he had started an organization that was working to restore natural habitats in many regions of the world. Although the organization only had 51 members, he was working on hiring people to spread the word. Saving endangered species was number 1 on his list, along with his family, who was preparing to welcome a son into the world. Alex Baranowski looked up from the table he was sitting at and marveled. “It’s not much right now,” he whispered, “but it’s a start.”

 
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hot off the presses!! it's a story about a cecropia moth who tries to defy her nature and brood again, may I present to you, Forever First Brood

[SIZE=22pt]Forever First Brood[/SIZE]​
[SIZE=18pt]By Agent A[/SIZE]​
[SIZE=14pt]Chapter 1:[/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt]The early sun shimmered as it peaked above the clouds, following torrential downpours, and as the morning progressed, the water droplets coating the grass retreated, waiting for the next night to arrive so they could attack the landscape again. If one were to look up at a lone chokecherry tree, they’d not only notice the shimmering leaves, but also the developing fruits. June was in full swing, even if it had only been around for 6 days. The fruits and leaves of the chokecherry are not alone, for a large, silken sack has just forced out a strange creature. White and red fur cover the body, wings, with their red and brown shadings, contain 4 white spots, and the large moth has not only a fat body, but nasty brownish white fluid to go with it.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] The newly emerged cecropia moth has trouble drying her wings in the humidity, but somehow manages to get a hold of things by the evening, and after looking at her home, she begins to wonder how long she had been tucked away in a cocoon. The landscape was changed dramatically. How had the fruit of the chokecherry gotten smaller? Last time she saw them they were twice the size and swelling even more. She was utterly confused. Where had she been all this time? What’s more, there were dead chokecherry leaves on the ground that looked fresh, not the old and rotted ones she saw before spinning up. Why was everything in reverse? Was it really in reverse? [/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] A sudden thought occurred to her. ‘What if everything happens in a cycle? What if the chokecherries start out small, but grow as it gets hotter? What if the dead leaves rot, but when it gets cooler, a fresh layer of leaves fall? What if the cycle was just repeating? Where did the time go?’ She wondered and was confused; she distinctly remembered a long period of time in her cocoon where it was warm before it cooled down. It seemed like there was enough time to eclose and lay eggs a second time, but why didn’t she? Why couldn’t she force herself to do that? Did her mission fail? She thought back to last year’s brood.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=14pt]Chapter 2:[/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] The afternoon heat had subsided and the sun was setting. The restless caterpillar began running around the circumference of her crowded eggshell. As darkness swallowed the tree, the larva decided to bite through the egg. She pushed out of the hole and squirmed out of her egg. She wasn’t used to the sudden space and was terrified. The fear quickly passed, but she needed to escape the proximity of the shell. She ran up the leaf and onto the adjacent twig. By morning, the need to run around maniacally had died down and she settled onto the other side of the tree and took her first glorious bites of a chokecherry leaf. As she ate, she saw unusual, orange, spiny caterpillars eating leaves on a nearby branch. The other cecropia larvae joined her and stared at the odd foreigners. “I hear they are called io moths,” one of the cecropia larvae blurted out. [/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] By the time she built up the courage to confront the io moth larvae, the cecropia’s siblings had lost interest in what they were. It seemed as though the 2 species would ignore each other if they kept at a distance. Unable to grasp the concept of boundaries, the young cecropia causally shimmied over to the group of io larvae lined up single file on branches, grabbing nearby leaves, and stuffing them into scissor mouthparts. “Umm, hello!” shouted the young cecropia from a few inches away. The ios gave no response. The cecropia drew closer until the io at the back of the line stirred. He reared up on his pseudopods and shook his bulky body. Startled, the cecropia larva took a step back and stood, staring at the ios for several minutes before crawling under the branch towards them. “Go away alien freak!” proclaimed the furthest back io. The other ios shifted their focus from the smooth chokecherry leaves and stared straight at the cecropia caterpillar. “What do you want?” inquired one of them, “what are you doing here?” Another one obnoxiously shouted “She wants to disturb the natural order of things!” and little did anyone know, she really did.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] The whole group of ios was now staring at the cecropia larva. They gave her menacing looks and one finally proclaimed “if you don’t want anything from us, get away from us!!” The bold cecropia finally said “Who are you? Why are you so different from me?” The ios were now beyond confused and silence wrapped itself around each larva. One finally was able to speak up, “listen, I don’t know where you are going with this, and you are scaring us with your questions. Let’s put it this way. We are the way we are for our own reasons and it’s not your position to question it. Does that satisfy you?” “That’s not good enough!” screamed the cecropia larva, “I need answers!! Why aren’t you in my image?” A spiky io larva set itself in front of the cecropia and with a quick motion, the world went black.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=14pt]Chapter 3:[/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] When she woke up, the cecropia larva was on the ground. Her side was numb and her legs were throbbing. She had no idea what happened, but she was starving and slowly lumbered up a rough, grayish brown trunk. The world was spinning around her still, and different colors were flashing and throbbing in her vision. A dab of hemolymph was hardened behind her head, and she was taken from her trance by harsh clanking sounds. Frass was falling off the branches of a tree and very large, round, green caterpillars were feasting on leaves that were remotely different than chokecherry. A light-brown headed larva moved toward the new resident on the tree. It had lovely purplish red dots on its side and tiny, flimsy white hairs on its back. The waxy green exoskeleton of the caterpillar shimmered in the sun. “Greetings fellow Saturniid!” the larva suddenly exclaimed. Stunned, the cecropia replied, “Who are you? Where am I?” The aroma of the leaves was suddenly arousing to the hungry cecropia and she took a bite, quickly recognizing the hickory she was standing on. “You are in our sanctuary,” yelled the green larva, “usually we only see luna and polyphemus larvae on this tree, but these huge creatures with moist flesh and separated heads and split-ended legs put a structure near the tree that scares away birds. That’s why we are so populated.”[/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] The tree became alive. Crunching became overwhelming, and frass fell from branches like a pouring rain. The smell of cut leaf veins overpowered all other sensations and the cecropia was taken aback. Petioles fell, devoid of any leaf matter, and green bars backed up to reach another leaf. The ground was littered with fresh frass. A worm peeped out from the spaces the particles made before diving back into the mess. After a quick run around the trunk of the hickory, the shiny, porous bark of the chokecherry was suddenly evident. “I must get back to the chokecherry!” proclaimed the cecropia. “I can help you with that!” yelled a nearby luna as he hurried up the tree.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] In a display of altruism, the luna larva traveled to the bottom of the hickory trunk and spun a large silk pyramid from the bark just above the ground. A stiff silk pole jutted from the tip, and he sat on the pyramid to extend it. As the pole gained length, he crawled farther out onto it to add more silk. In just 40 minutes, the line was 50 feet and had effectively been met with a small silk triangle on the chokecherry branch. The luna larva ran back and his dwarf guest took position on the line. [/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] The thin white silk of the luna was held tight to itself, and the cecropia wedged the line between all of her legs. The little step of the ground for the luna was a huge gap for the young cecropia, who was trying not to look down at the beaten, deadly landscape below her. Sharp green blades of grass jutted up from the pebbly ground, and decomposing frass was runny and attractive to many gnats and other small insects. A large jumping spider scampered across a stone and leaped at a purple flower just inches from the silk line. A harvestman walked right under the cecropia, its knee joints gently strumming the silk. The cecropia pressed onward. The sandy sunspot where she had landed was now under her. She was nearing the chokecherry when she saw something unusual. The io moth larvae were now huge and green. They bore rows of sharp spines and red and white dashes went down their sides. There were still orangeish larvae on the chokecherry, but the green larvae paid no attention to anything that wasn’t a leaf on the ground.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] Once at the desired leaf, an io larva would rapidly move its head up and down. Silk would gradually show, standing up in a fence formation. A second leaf was pulled over the formation and the caterpillar was no longer visible. The leaves would twitch occasionally, and the silk thickened and browned. The ios wouldn’t be heard from for another 18 days.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=14pt]Chapter 4:[/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] Darkness once more fell over the chokecherry. The cecropia caterpillars were accustomed to seeing the occasional promethea moth female flying around the area, but little would prepare them for what would occur in the coming days. The third instar caterpillars had seen a good deal of io activity, but were shell shocked to see a cocoon open up and reveal a fuzzy orange body. [/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] The fluffy io scampered up the chokecherry. Her fat body pulsated as her tiny wing stubs grew. They became dome shaped; the red forewings stiffened and moved forward, revealing orange hindwings with large, yellow-ringed black spots. More shocking yet was the coating of such creatures on the base of the trunk. Some had pure yellowish orange wings; others had red forewings like the one expanding her wings. The sun was at its hottest now and the moths had to work quickly to expand their wings. One moth crawled up onto the bark with his wings and legs in a tangle. Hanging from a bent foreleg, he twisted and turned in an effort to get his bearings. His efforts were in vain. He shifted his weight forward, and in doing so, fell right off the tree. He flopped about until an ant noticed him. After a quick tap of the moth with its antennae, the ant circled him and within seconds was surrounded by other ants. They piled on him, flashes of yellow orange visible under the black, biting, stinging mass. Ants reared their heads up and backed away, taking with them large chunks of fuzzy material. The moth was quickly reduced to a small pool of hemolymph and meconium. The other ios looked in terror, clinging to the branch that much tighter.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] As the evening sun crawled lower into the horizon, the cecropia caterpillars noticed a large compilation of luna moths gathered at the base of the hickory trunk. They appeared about to dispatch, and within an hour, they all took off. The green flash of 100 fluttering wings consumed the air. The moths swiftly dispersed, while the caterpillars stood on the droopy leaves of the plant they were being tightly bound to. The lunas ignored the tree, but the io moths bombarded the branches. The bright yellow moths hurdled themselves into the branches, bouncing off the flexible wood. In a swift motion, the moth spun upright and grabbed the branch, landing. As he made his way to a calling female, he noticed the cecropia larva perched on a petiole.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] “Hey, don’t I know you?” he asked. Stunned, the cecropia replied, “It’s a possibility. Must you hit the branches so violently?” “What kind of moth are you going to become exactly?” “I am a cecropia moth caterpillar. I must say you guys grow quickly!” “I’ve never seen a cecropia around, and not all of us grow fast. When the eggs are laid, about half of us will grow twice as fast as the other larvae.” “Well I guess I won’t get to join you or the lunas in flight, but I look forward to flying with the polyphemus moths. They are about the same instar as us I figure.” “Yes, they are, but I doubt you will get to see them.” “And why is that exactly?” “Well I was talking to a luna earlier this evening, mingling with some male ios from that hickory, and apparently, you cecropias are never seen flying.” “Huh?” “Spring arrives and about 3 weeks later the polyphemus fly and lay eggs. It will be 8 weeks before they are seen again. The week after they fly, the lunas fly, then us ios fly the week afterwards. The lunas fly again 6 weeks after their first flight, us ios fly again just 5 weeks after the first flight. So right now we are at that second flight of ios and lunas. Next week the polyphemus will fly again, and 5 weeks after that, us ios and the lunas fly a third time. There will be a few io flights in between from the slower larvae but nobody has ever seen a cecropia flying. The polyphemus may have a few more fliers a week or 2 after the io third flight but otherwise we finish up for the season. It’s all written on the hickory tablet, closely guarded and maintained by luna moth larvae.” [/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] The cecropia had difficulty wrapping what she had just been told around her circular head. Why didn’t her species fly multiple times, if at all? The moth flew away, but the cecropia dropped from the tree and charged at the hickory. Even the largest jumping spiders in the grass stayed clear of the rippling caterpillar as she reached her goal. As she walked along the twisted root of the hickory tree, she saw records spun in silk on the flaky root bark. The records appeared to go infinitely along the lower portion of the massive tree, and the cecropia was overwhelmed as to where to start. A pile of frass near the tip of a root indicated this was likely where the current season’s records were kept. The silk read out “SEASON 48. DAY 1. FIRST LUNA HATCHED, 10 DAY OLD POLYPHEMUS LARVAE OCCUPY TREE. IO ADULTS SEEN FLYING. DAY 28. FIRST LUNA COCOON. DAY 40. LUNA AND IO ADULTS FLYING. She scanned the previous seasons. “SEASON 47. DAY 1. FIRST LUNA HATCHED, 12 DAY OLD POLYPHEMUS LARVAE ON TREE. IO ADULTS SEEN. DAY 22. FIRST LUNA SPINNING, IO LARVAE SPINNING WITH ADULTS FLYING. DAY 34. LUNAS AND POLYPHEMUS FLYING. PROMETHEA ADULTS FLYING BY DAY. DAY 45. LUNAS HATCHING, IOS FLYING. DAY 60. LUNAS SPINNING, POLYPHEMUS FLYING. DAY 74. LUNAS AND IOS FLYING, POLYPHEMUS LARVAE SEEN AT MANY DIFFERENT STAGES. DAY 82. LUNAS HATCHING, POLYPHEMUS FLYING. DAY 100. LUNAS AND POLYPHEMUS SPINNING. IOS FLYING. POSSIBLE PROMETHEA FLIGHTS. DAY 112. LUNAS AND POLYPHEMUS FLYING, NO SIGN OF IOS. DAY 130. LUNAS SPINNING. THIS MAY BE THE LAST RECORD OF THE SEASON. PLEASE BEGIN NEXT SEASON WITH AN UPDATE STARTING WHEN THE FIRST LUNA HATCHES, SEASON 48 DAY 1.”[/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] There was much variation between seasons. Some were faster, but the lunas never offered reasons as to why. The cecropia thought it may’ve been from the weather. She feels hungrier when it’s hotter outside. She kept reading until something disturbing caught her eye. “SEASON 29. DAY 1. FIRST LUNA HATCHING, IOS AND POLYPHEMUS SEEN FLYING. DAY 6. UNUSUAL GREY MOTHS WITH RED AND WHITE WING MARKINGS SEEN FLUTTERING ABOUT. DAY 18. POLYPHEMUS LARVAE APPEAR. DAY 27. LUNAS SPINNING, REGALS AND PROMETHEAS FLYING. DAY 40. LUNAS AND IOS FLYING, POLYPHEMUS SPINNING, REGAL LARVAE GROWING…” She couldn’t take her eyes off of day 6. Who were the unusual grey moths? Were they cecropias? Were they so unknown that the species who keeps records of everyone doesn’t know who they are? What is a promethea moth? The cecropia figured the large brown larvae with big horns behind their heads were regal moths. The next thing she would read scared her.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] “SEASON 33. DAY 1. FIRST LUNAS HATCHED. POLYPHEMUS SPINNING, IOS FLYING. ANISOTA NOW UNRECORDED FOR 8 SEASONS.” “SEASON 4. DAY 1. FIRST LUNA HATCH. RARE ORANGE ANISOTA MOTHS FLYING.” Would cecropia end up like the Anisota? Alarmed, the larva set out along the wet grass back to the chokecherry. The night was ripe and large beetles were scuttling along the ground. A high pitched noise resonated through the sky and a projectile hit the ground and a small green sheet fluttered to the ground. A bat had attacked a luna up in the air and parts of the meal were littering the dirt. The bat swooped toward the ground at the larva. The larva saw the bat and was trying to dodge the assaults of its fierce teeth. Suddenly the bat was being pelted by io moths. She rolled into the grass to avoid the predator. As she surged through the groovy bark of the chokecherry she wondered to herself why the ios would try to save her.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=14pt]Chapter 5:[/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] The sky burned with the oncoming sun. The heat was almost unbearable. Birds gave up their searches for insects to stay cool. The clouds were wisping into each other and turning darker. The cecropia larva was desperately trying to summon the other cecropias to listen, but they seemed more intent on filling their growing bellies than on hearing her out. “Pssssst! Over here!!” a voice shouted to her. A mangled luna moth was resting his battered body on a chokecherry leaf. He had only eclosed a day ago and his wings were already torn up. The edges were chipped away, both tails unseen. The margins had creases and tears along them, and the scales had worn away. Tufts of white fur were missing from his smooth, green body. He seemed drained of energy, but he was perfectly capable of communicating with her. “You need to create a very loud noise to capture everyone’s attention,” he said, “perhaps we can disturb an animal.”[/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] Hanging about a branch barely a foot from the moth was a fearsome shape of fur. The short fur was mainly white with brown and gray patches. It was hanging from a long, pink appendage and at the other end was a long snout with large teeth showing. Remnants of a luna moth were glued to the nose of the creature, and the cecropia thought the luna may’ve been attacked by the thing. The creature didn’t seem to notice her, and it remained listless. [/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] “This has to be done in one swift movement,” proclaimed the luna male, “and when the thing falls you must let it go.” The cecropia led the way up the trunk to an overhead branch. The damaged luna slowly followed, and in doing so, lost more wing fragments. She began to toss loops of silk from a pivot point on the branch, and as she prepared, she signaled to the luna. In an amazing display of strength, the luna pulsed off the tree and flapped his battered wings. He regained control of his body in seconds and in a bouncy flight, sent himself to the hickory. After no more than 4 minutes, he returned with an old shed of a regal moth larva in his legs. He hovered over the scene and the cecropia let the silk drop. Dangling, she maneuvered it around the creature’s head and pulled. The creature began to hiss. As she continued yanking, the creature became louder. Suddenly the luna rammed himself into it with the regal shed, and she animal howled and screamed from the pain. Red stained in dots on the fur and the creature fell, taking the luna with it.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] The other cecropias were startled by the vehement display and came bounding over towards the lone larva. She seized the opportunity to make her announcement. “All cecropia larvae, we are in serious danger! We may end up like mysterious orange moths, only seen once a year but then gone! Nobody sees us fly so we must only do it once a year! The only other ones who flew once a year are long gone! We must save ourselves!” she desperately pleaded with them. “What makes you think any of this?” shouted another larva. Other larvae were beginning to get mad. The whole chokecherry was becoming an uproar. Screams of “we demand answers” and “what are you trying to pull?” lifted from the branches. The frenzying continued and resting io moths decided that they needed to bail. A few gave themselves to the birds who were noticing the activity. The chokecherry was instantly transformed from a peaceful plant poking off of the ground to a war zone where the conflict was escalating.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] In anger the injured gray creature grabbed a bird, plucking him from the trunk where his pecked-up io prey was stashed. As the bird thrashed in the prison of teeth, small black wasps battered against leaves in search of caterpillars. Other birds sought the wasps, and caterpillars had to duck or be pecked by birds. The other cecropia larvae were still screaming as the casualties mounted. Caterpillars were banging into each other as they rushed across twigs and branches. Some were biting under ripe chokecherry fruits off their stems. The fruits pelted the ground and other birds came to the scene to investigate. Larvae took leaves from their petioles and began hitting other insects with them. Someone cried out, “GET THAT LIAR!” to the other cecropia larvae. The female cecropia who spoke about the orange moths hid on the tree, but had to keep moving to avoid being found by her rushing brethren. The other caterpillars were blindly stabbing at each other with plant matter and arguing over who was right. Spiders tried to make quick snacks of the large yet exposed larvae, only to be spun in silk, stepped on, or knocked off a tree. Wasps began to turn on each other, and the birds that normally ate several caterpillars in a day were being scared off by the clamor. Ants rushed to the scene to clean up dead insects hanging from limbs. Birds frantically pecked at the branches, leaving notches in the bark. After what seemed like ages, the birds finally decided that they had enough. They took off as battered bodies of io moths beat the ground. They flapped frantically to scare off the ants nipping at them. The wasps were fatigued but a few managed to either sting or deposit eggs on some caterpillars. All the surviving larvae decided to gather on an old branch stump of the chokecherry tree. [/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] The chaos was over but the riot was still going on. The single larva, all 2-1/2 inches of her green guilt, who started it all, had the floor. The other caterpillars, both cecropia and io, formed a massive ring around her. Very calmly she began, “The luna moths on that hickory over there have been keeping track of records for many seasons. It’s an unimaginable effort spanning back longer than any of us can fathom. Our luna brethren have given us a one-up as far as early warnings go. There once existed an orange moth who, like us, only flew once in any given season. One season, they weren’t seen and haven’t been seen since. They have the hickory tablet for a good reason, and I can show it to you if you don’t believe me. We cecropias must not face the same fate as the other mysterious moths. We must fly again this season! We must! We must!!!” [/SIZE]

[SIZE=14pt]Chapter 6:[/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] The other larvae stood stunned at what they were beholding. Any hint of skepticism washed right out of their gleaming bodies, and they were trying to take in all the information set out to them. “Are we destined to be the next orange moths?” preached one larva. “We have to do something about this! We’re next! We could all be gone next season!” one larva shouted, going crazy, “We need someone to save us! Who will it be? Oh great hickory tablet, what ever shall we do? Why must this world be so harsh?” “Chill out,” started the female larva, “this thing can’t respond to us. I hope you realize this is all just the records a luna moth started for other luna moths. Maybe it really doesn’t mean anything to us. The problem is all of the orange moths are gone and they were so similar to us. The lunas are onto something. They’ve detected a pattern.”[/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] “What are we going to do about this?” demanded a caterpillar. “Well we can’t just let this all play out!” added another. The mumbling continued. Suddenly however, an idea occurred to one larva. “Hey I have an idea,” he started, “what if we were to eat from this hickory tree? Maybe if we don’t eat the chokecherry, we can fly again this season! This tree has the tablet for a reason!” A few caterpillars seemed to follow this logic, and they followed him up the hickory. The remaining larvae looked to the female cecropia who had brought them here for her input. As she watched the others ascend the hickory, she began, “The ios fly many times and they eat chokecherry. What if food doesn’t have anything to do with flying? Lunas don’t eat chokecherry, but they eat hickory. Ios don’t eat hickory, but they eat chokecherry. We will eat both. What does that say? Does our inability to choose a staple host cause us to only brood once?”[/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] The persuasive cecropia managed to get the remaining caterpillars to follow her across the drying grass back to the chokecherry. As they made the journey back to the nearby tree, they could see the carnage on the ground under it. Trails of red coated the yellow grass blades, and 2 birds coated in dust lay mangled at the roots. One bird had a head and a wing a few feet from it and the other seemed to have all its feathers stripped from it, making a bed underneath its body. Severely pecked caterpillars, some cecropia, some unrecognizable, littered the ground bent and soggy. The smell of hemolymph was everywhere. Ants were making quick work of the battered io moth adults, moving fallen leaves aside. Flies swarmed the red stains and the dead birds. The cecropia and her followers clambered back up the chokecherry without issue. The riot had satisfied the ground’s need for death and they were spared.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] The cecropia’s thoughts were spinning. She couldn’t decide if she had been given a warning sign or if she was overthinking things. Who was right? The lunas never offered explanations for things but they were surely good observers. Could they just have missed something? For 23 seasons? Were the cecropias trapped in a perpetual first brood? One brood a year, how unimpressive. Did food have something to do with it? If she just stuck to the chokecherry, would she be okay? Did it matter? Maybe you have to only eat chokecherry or maybe you couldn’t at all. Maybe the lunas just ignored the cecropias.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] Now the cecropia had the eyes of every one of her remaining brethren. If she walked near them, they immediately turned toward her. She summoned them all to the branch stump. Standing on the moist, crackly wood, she said “Listen up everyone. We need a second brood. We must force ourselves to make one! We must all rush ourselves! Stuff yourselves to the maximum capacity! Eat the chokecherry fruits and drink its juices! Defecate quickly, not too quickly or you could get hurt, but quickly for maximum efficiency! Tell yourself constantly that you must emerge this year! Then spin your cocoon and do so! We can do this!” [/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] The campaign was already off to a great start. The larvae were constantly eating, their frantic behaviors causing quite a stir on the tree. Predators what were still big enough for the larvae were afraid to approach, and the larvae thought up and sang songs of continuing broods. “We’ll work hard now so we won’t have to later! Save ourselves from certain doom! Diligence here will secure the future! Protection in its fullest plume!” was all that came from the cecropias mouths when they weren’t occupied with leaf or chokecherry material, and even then some caterpillars had managed to multitask. Frass bombarded the ground at all hours, and decomposers rapidly dragged the beady material into the soil from below. [/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] The fourth instars came and went in all the larvae, and within a week everyone was a fifth instar larva. “Good work everyone!” the cecropia shouted, again as she periodically had been all week. The warmth of the next few days was helping the larvae assimilate their food. It wasn’t long after that the cecropia felt an inner beckoning. She no longer wished for food and her skin constantly felt tugged at. Something needed to remove itself from her. She released runny feces and realized it was time.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] “Farewell for now my brethren,” she announced to the tree, “it is now time for me to spin my cocoon. I trust the rest of you with our mission. I will see you all on the other side of this brood, whenever it may be.”[/SIZE]

[SIZE=14pt]Chapter 7:[/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] The now very huge caterpillar lumbered her oily body to the underside of a twig on a sheltered branch of the chokecherry. She pulled a leaf to her and made it into an arch. A few figure-8 movements of her head made a silky strand exude from her mouth. She anchored the leaf to the twig and began to make lengths of silk across its surface. The lengths started to extend beyond the reaches of the leaf, and soon a pear shape encompassed the twig. The reddish white silk glistened and completely concealed the still busy caterpillar. [/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] Even though she had bagged herself to the branch, the larva was still wisping silk into an egg shaped inner cocoon. Its fluffiness comforted her as she continually crowded herself into her prison chamber. She still felt a bit of extra silk inside of her, and she made a small lacey bag to go against the walls of her cocoon.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] The cecropia larva was somewhat restless. She rolled around a bit but couldn’t fully rotate herself. She couldn’t see much light through the browning silk but could smell the aromas of leaves being bitten up by the remaining larvae. She could hear birds and the movements of ants crawling over her cocoon. She swore something tried to peck or scratch her cocoon.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] After a few days of being confined to a space much too small for her to stretch, the larva started to lose her ability to move. She started to shrivel and took on a roundish form. She was losing her mind. ‘How much longer in this wretched hellhole?’ she thought. She so desperately wanted to force herself into flight and was worried even the slightest delay would jeopardize this. [/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] At last the moment came. Her body shook and she began to wiggle. Her back split open and a green creature swam away from its old shell. Cradled by the lace inside its holder, the creature settled down. As the days passed, it hardened. The warmth dragged on and the creature inhaled the limited air passing through silk and touching it. Within weeks, it was able to detect light again. It sensed the activities of the world going by without it. Other insects chewed leaves; something tapped itself against the silken cocoon once in a while. Wind made the branch move sometimes and the air somehow pulsed through the silk layers. The highlight of summer was here, and the trees were vehement homes of crying insects, chirping crickets and buzzing cicadas. [/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] More time passed. The earth was slowing. The noises stopped and stillness was descending upon the landscape. Everything was quiet and still. Daylight started to recede and the air grew bitterly chilly. A few more days passed and the world went blank.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=14pt]Chapter 8:[/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] At long last, the air warmed again. The creature in the cocoon was still alive, and it became darker. Its softening shell silently revealed the miracle it was containing, unseen by anything as more than just a brown bag on the bottom of a twig. The creature had no care for any of the activities going on beyond its silken home, and until it was ready to show off its work, the outside world had no need for it.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] With a few forceful pulses, the lace inside the cocoon broke and the fully transformed moth crawled away from the shell of her former self. She pulled out of the valved cocoon and crawled away, ready to take on her world.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] This was the extent of the cecropia’s memory. The attempt must’ve been a failure, since it was clear a new season had begun. As the morning progressed, small orange moths flew around. They were too small to be ios and didn’t seem at all interested in the hickory or chokecherry trees. A smaller, brownish moth was near the cecropia on a branch, and she assumed this was a promethea moth.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] The afternoon urged on. Soon, the obnoxious fluttering of male promethea moths filled the tree, and the cecropia noticed the promethea female was calling in broad daylight. Could that have been why the orange moths were flying during the day? If the lunas only record night activity, maybe the orange moths weren’t noted because of their flight times. But why were the prometheas being recorded?[/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] Dusk was approaching, and as it did, the male and female prometheas both went out on their separate ways, offering themselves up to the dark night. No orange moths were noticed, and the cecropia was starting to see what the lunas were seeing.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] ‘Even though I don’t know the exact order things occur in, I’m sure the lunas, polyphemus, and ios have already flown,’ she thought, ‘maybe I’ll see some io larvae on this tree later. The orange moths fly by day and don’t like hickory, so the lunas don’t note them. Only the luna larvae can ever contribute to the tablet, so anything that happens when no larvae are present won’t be recorded. Once enough eggs are laid, there will always be larvae from later hatches to finish up what the ones who have already spun started. The prometheas are flying now and so are the cecropias. Soon the regals will as well as anything else that hasn’t yet.’[/SIZE]

[SIZE=14pt]Chapter 9:[/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt]Within a few hours of sunset, a yellow gland extends from the cecropia’s body. Out of this come pheromones with the capacity to travel 25 miles. The night urges on and in the distance, a faint battering can be heard. A large insect is flying towards the cecropia, moving up and down in its flight. Soon he is inches away from her, examining her and waving his open abdomen. He locks onto the gland with his abdomen and lands on the branch.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] The mating lasts all through the night and the following day. Then, as if being summoned by some force, the male cecropia flies away as the sun once again sets. Relieved of her first reproductive duty and handed her last, the cecropia disembarks from the tree. After circling it a few times, she deposits her first eggs near where she hatched from. As she expected, the other side of the tree is covered in io larvae, all congregated on the bottoms of leaves. Their neat rows and columns stun her. Why couldn’t her species be this organized?[/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] The moon is being somewhat shy this night. Spotty clouds cover it invariably, and the gentle washings some clouds offer up relieve the heat left from the sun during the day. The cecropia must land on a birch in order to stay dry during one particular shower. As she deposits some eggs on the birch, a few luna larvae look over from their leaf hideouts. ‘I didn’t know lunas ate birch!’ thought the cecropia. The cecropia thought up an inventory of her hosts, ‘cherry, chokecherry, hickory, birch, maple, sweetgum, poplar, willow, apple, pear, peach, plum, and crabapple.’ Before long, the thin birch twig the cecropia was on was struck by something and the cecropia toppled to the base of the birch tree. After a stumble, she felt silk touch her feet. She pushed out and saw there was writing on the birch tree as well.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] “LUNA-HICKORY, BIRCH, SWEETGUM, WALNUT, SUMAC, PERSIMMON, ALDER, POPLAR, HORNBEAM, WILLOW, CHESTNUT.” read the writing on the first part of the trunk. It went on, “POLYPHEMUS-HICKORY, BIRCH, SWEETGUM, WALNUT, SUMAC, HORNBEAM, POPLAR, WILLOW, OAK, MAPLE, ALDER, PEAR, PLUM, PINE. PROMETHEA-CHERRY, CHOKECHERRY, APPLE, PLUM, PEAR, SASSAFRASS, SPICEBUSH. CECROPIA-HICKORY, BIRCH, SWEETGUM, MAPLE, POPLAR, WILLOW, APPLE, CRABAPPLE, CHERRY, CHOKECHERRY, PLUM, PEAR, PEACH. REGAL-HICKORY, SWEETGUM, WALNUT, SASSAFRASS, SUMAC, POPLAR. IMPERIAL-HICKORY, BIRCH, SWEETGUM, WALNUT, SUMAC, OAK, POPLAR, JUNIPER, CHERRY, CHOKECHERRY, APPLE, PEAR, PLUM. ANISOTA-OAK, SASSAFRASS. IO-SWEETGUM, CHERRY, CHOKECHERRY, OAK, BEECH, MAPLE, POPLAR, APPLE, CRABAPPLE, PLUM, PEAR, PEACH, HORNBEAM. CYNTHIA-AILANTHUS, CHERRY. BUCK-OAK. PINE DEVIL-PINE. TULIP TREE-POPLAR. ” [/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] Some of these moths were unheard of by the cecropia. What was a cynthia moth? Or a buck moth? Pine devil moth? Tulip tree moth? Had she found some sort of birch tablet? The luna larvae obviously wrote it, but what other information could she find? If she went around to every luna host from the list, would other information be found?[/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] The cecropia decided she should first deposit her eggs out onto hosts before going out on any extraneous missions. She actively sought out fruit trees, apples, pears, cherries, and others. She began to damage herself. Her wings were chipping and her hair was falling out. The sun rose and her activities were paused throughout the day. When night fell again, she sought out more egg laying hosts. After 4 nights, her body was empty, all eggs laid.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] It was her general observation that all birch trees had the same lists, and all hickories had tablets describing what the occupants of the tree had seen. Some were more complete than others, and the younger looking trees only had the last 6 seasons or so on record. The hornbeam and alder trees held no new information. The persimmon were just meant to record weather and daylight patterns. Sumacs weren’t written on, presumably because of the lack of bark on the wood. A weeping willow tree offered up an appearance guide to the different moths, both in larval and adult form, with silk drawings of each made into the bark. It wasn’t until the cecropia reexamined a sweetgum did she find anything of value.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=12pt] Written in the silk, the tree read out, “BROODS PER YEAR OF DIFFERENT MOTHS. LUNAS-4. POLYPHEMUS-3 OR 4. IOS-4. ANISOTA-2. BUCK-1. CYNTHIA-1. PROMETHEA-2. TULIP TREE-1. IMPERIALS-2. REGALS-1. PINE DEVIL-1. CECROPIA-1, AND ONLY 1.”[/SIZE]

 
Scarcode:

Each scar has a story behind it

The distruption on the skin left

After something, anything

Each one tells something different

What was once there

What it did

How it got there

Like a barcode

Some of us have eyes like scanners

We can read the code

We can see beyond the skin

View previous accidents

traumas

pain

We can see if someone made their own

We can find out why

maybe use that to heal them

Our scarcodes remind us

of what we had

and what we still need

 
Weary men would whisper the tales’ of old;
Of the deluded, hopeless, and northern’s fold.
Whilst I sat whittling, chipping aged wood, and speckled grits
Tales of gleaming antlers, ragged fur, and empty pits,
With sockets darker than a hollowed gourd
The beast skulked away in an ancient fjord

Tired men told of summer months and christening snow
Of spiraling suns and rot on the wind did blow
Under the midnight sun, the meek would collapse
Dreading moments that would be their last

I was a hearty fool to disregard this tale
To ignore my past warnings and future wails
I traveled far north where time’s heart froze
Hibernating pines and secrets only North Wind knows
Spruces trapped in mist’s eternal spell
Still parted ways as my dog’s paws fell

Steady mountains give way to rocky out cliffs
Water outstretching towards horizon’s abyss
T’was a time-worn river carved from by-gone glacier’s trickle
For only the truly hardened could survive, never the brittle

Determined to make a life
Through sea and strife
I looked towards the spiraling sun
Frostbit-fingertips had just begun
Sól’s chariot raced, circling the dial
Sköll in pursuit, promising her trial

My breath crystallized in air
Lifting to heaven’s stair
Dots began to cross through my vision
Sól’s horses near avoiding their collision
They danced and galloped away from Sköll’s harsh teeth
The bite of frost crumpling the sun’s wreathe

My dogs had all but fled from the ice’s call of death
For the beast had appeared in all its haggard breath
Sól’s light reflecting off crackling antlers
The sheen of a skull as death’s lantern
Skin and bone, with towering form, and empty sockets
I was shaking, trembling hands, reaching for empty pockets
The beast glided through fog with savage hunger and crassness
As it stumbled forth, I could only ponder the midnight sun’s madness

I stumbled across this old thread and figured I'd post some of my poetry! This is a little Gothic narrative poem I wrote about a year ago. If you can actually figure out what's happening to this guy, let me know. Gothic stories have supernatural elements but don't actually contain anything supernatural.
 

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