The Season of the Moth

A dark grey weight pulled down on the city, washing out the color and light. The air was dry, and a suffocating heat wafted between the buildings and over the streets. A reminder that beyond the ashen sky, the summer sun still defied the encroaching autumn.

Upon each door, were depictions of face-coverings. Upon each floor, were measurements of exactly two-meters; six feet. At each threshold were stations with dispensers. And in amongst it all, clung to those windows, walls, doors, floors, and lights, were moths.

They drifted through the streets, hid beneath leaves, and fluttered from sill-to-sill. A curious swarm, oblivious to all that they encompassed. An impossible swarm, unlike anything the city had ever seen. Countless dusted wings carried with them an air of awe, amusement, and creeping dread.

Upon one side of the harbor, in a bus mostly empty, rode a young man dressed in black and white, from shoes to mask. The only highlight, a pair of large, round, copper-rimmed glasses that matched his bronzed hair.

Over the harbor across from him, was another man of similar age. This one had just boarded a similarly barren train. He was dressed in blue plaid, and grey. He kept his golden-brown streaked hair tied back.

It was just past noon when they met in a dimly lit foyer under the skylights of a sparsely populated mall. While grins were hid under masks, they were conveyed by tone of voice, and outstretched arms. They strode quick to greet each other, but lurched to a stop after a moment, correcting and reminding themselves to maintain two-step-space before resuming their greetings. Soon after, they would stride out into the blaring noise of the streets, the heat hitting them as a wall of wind. A dozen small brown and white forms fluttered a moment on either side, disturbed by their passing.

The two friends still engrossed in their conversation, continued on their way. Soon, they sat outside a small café, the shared distance maintained. The pastel paint on the walls was a rare contrast to the concrete towers that surrounded it. Covered, though it was, by a dozen winged forms.

They sat there awhile, sipping their tea, a London fog each. It was here their conversation began in earnest, as they addressed the current state of affairs. The one in glasses was exhausted and weary, a consequence of having just recently arrived in the city. He was still settling into his new abode, along with a new school year’s schedule. His companion was glad to hear he was already adjusting to his new environment.

In contrast, said companion was just finishing his program, his class’s graduation had been delayed several weeks. He maintained an air of positivity, but it was clear the situation was a source of anxiety. His friend in glasses emphasized with him in hearing this, and responded by expressing greater optimism paired with an assurance of faith in the capability of the other’s character and skill. After another moment’s rest, they stood and continued their walk through the city.

The ocean waves could be heard as a dull, rolling roar that grew louder the closer one went to the source. Echoing over that ebb and flow, and through the towers beyond, were the sharp cries of seabirds. One would sound off, then a split second later many more could be heard calling in, a distant, desperate chorus. Beneath the swooping wings, that were the origin of those cries, were many more that stood grounded, grouped in huddled, chirping clusters upon the rocks, just above the waves. A shock of life, feathered in black, white, and blue. A lively contrast against the bleak roiling grey backdrop of the surf and stones beneath.

The afternoon was starting to fade into evening, and after much conversing, both young men could feel the exhaustion of the day starting to weigh on them. Though they still felt there was far too much left to catch up on. They didn’t need to walk far before finding a bench looking out over the water. They sat themselves on either side of it, still maintaining the distance between. There, it seemed the brisk sea wind had deterred the harmless swarm.

Again, their thoughts turned to the events of their time. The one in glasses, though chipper, was resigned to whatever may come. The other had high hopes for entering the workforce, and held a satisfied sense of completion in regards to his past year’s work, but was also deeply concerned about the holidays. He already knew that he wouldn’t be able to attend that year’s thanks-giving, but he was also now considering not even being able to go home for the Christmas.

The one in glasses considered this somberly a moment. He knew how important such things could be to people. The value, and weight, of tradition. He expressed this understanding by relating his own concerns. He talked about how he was the last of his siblings to leave home, and that for the first time in decades, he knew his parents would be alone that fall.

But, he countered himself as he leant forward; The way things were made these connections all the more important. They lived in an age where no matter what might come, they would still be able to call home for the holidays. That’s a luxury not many people in history had.
The one with his hair tied back let out his breath, and let himself relax as he nodded, adjusting his perspective. All the stress of the past year, the rush to graduation, the lockdown, the graduation complications, all that stress and anxiety had been starting to get to him, he admitted. However, being able to just talk to and enjoy the company of someone familiar, was enough.

The one in glasses smiled and leaned back at this, folding his hands behind his head. As ever, he was happy to help, but he too had needed the company of an old friend. The past two weeks had been chaos for him. To be living on his own for the first time, in a new city, in a new school program...All that at once, with the greater challenges the world was facing as a whole, it was easy for it to feel surreal. But to be able to sit there, talking with an old friend? It was enough to ground it all back in reality.

That evening, after the two had parted ways, the moths would rise from their hiding places as they always did. They would gather at the window panes, and be tossed around by the wind. They would flow out from the alleys and the crannies, leaving behind those too weak to carry on, so that the rest might swarm round’ the street lamps and bus stops. Countless fluttering specks, each casting chaotic, dancing shadows upon the ground beneath them. Over the next few weeks, their numbers would dwindle, and each night fewer would join the swarming dance.

In the skies above, the smoke would ebb and flow with the winds, and the rise and fall of those distant fires. Eventually, the thinned blanket of dust would mix and mingle with the first rainclouds of autumn. Shortly after, the skies cleared with dying of the fires and the falling rain.

Later still, when the trees had begun to turn, and the mushrooms had begun peaking through the mulch; Tables would be set, and numbers dialed as many of the people in their scattered rooms sought the company of family, no matter the distance.

By then, the last of the swarming wings had stilled. The evening streets, freed from their wild shadows. Their only remains scattered upon window sills, alleyways, and underbrush. Their only legacy hidden away from prying eyes, in wait for the next year’s bloom.

Thus ends, the season of the moth.