Image of Short Story
“This is a tale about how all things end, the story given by his ladyship who will watch us go. It is an epic on the reunion bathed in extinction and consummated by sorrow. So make your beds, and brush your mandibles, for this tale is what gets you, me and mine out of the home, to live each day for what was already taken from us.”

Pop-pop’s brood swiveled their antennae at the low warble of his voice. Each set aside their preoccupations except those who dressed and prepared meals. He always raised his voice so that all might hear if they wished to listen.

“There was a dark and daring human who ate pomegranates at the lips of coastal caverns. The waters were his favorite seat and the echoing crash of sea on stone his personal amphitheater. Even as the waves would soak his garments and stones cut his barren feet, did this leave him concerned? Not a wink.”

Some of the younger kinfolks had finished with their cleansing and began forming a semi-circle round Ol’ Pop-pop.
“You see for him the body was only an implement, a bottle for the mission he carried. It was a fleshy, vulnerable thing and he wore it with little concern. It was hairless and filled with fluids and tissue that could leak at a moment’s notice...

The children scrunched their outer teeth at this, most likely reminded of their own squishy nature

“So why did he keep this suit on?” Asked Helia, she had snuck in midway and excused her interruption by bringing in Pop-pop’s resting seat.

“Why? To walk the worlds he visited. This was not his first nor last suit but the occasion called for the correct one. You see, on this marble known as Earth, he was not needed, nor had anyone called for him. His mission had simply come and adopting the form most suitable, seemed polite. His ladyship had an impeccable sense of manners, this came from a lifetime of missions that always carried importance in communication. So for this circumstance, he chose skin like the bark of magnolias and soft curly hair. The hair was like strands of silk and curled into a bulbous shape” He spun his upper legs in circles, starting near the base of his antennae and winding round and round until he reached its tip. “In times past, he sometimes fancied the form of arthropods, similar to you and me.” At this the younger children stirred, possibly imagining themselves as his ladyship, while the older ones snorted at the ridiculousness of this “hair” concept.

“Over time immoral, he had experienced the passing through many senses. He once had felt the collapsing of a star through outer skin receptors, its zenith was fire coursing through his pleasure zones,” Pop-pop ran his claws lightning-fast and feather-light across his mandibles’ plating. A storm of sparks sent the children into shrieks of joy and some attempted to replicate this with varying success.

"Hoping to learn, he wandered and was led to a town. He met all manner of instructors but his favorite were the looters. They taught him how to feel liberation through a single stone’s throw, which he mimicked on a market when no one was looking, his first experience with exhilaration and violence, this time. He left with a few of his prized fruits and gave one to a young girl and together they sat watching the town spiral plucking one ruby pellet after another.”

He took a moment to breathe then, his body had known the story for eternity and yet it was not old age that tightened his larynx.
Emile rustled in his packs woven around his sides and produced a small pod, already split and ripe with seeds. He hurried to deposit some in Pop-pop’s outstretched bowl and made an irritated clicking when he noticed his siblings’ bowls in a silent request as well.

After sliding some along his gullet, Pop-pop continued, “So it came that the sun’s rays became choked beneath a crawling, pulsating dark and he began to feel appreciation for the way in which a world ends. Swallowing the tangy fruit he had come to love during his travels and providing comfort to at least one, he felt his heart settle with peace.” He shucked a few more seeds and picked through them with his innermost teeth for effect. " Eventually, he was changed from a young, agile man drunk with sensation to a shriveled husk filled with fruits and stories. However, he never once left Earth, he believed in equal trade and he owed each passing this much and so...”

Another leg raised another interruption. His was a curious brood but he calmed his own temper. Helaye, their squeaky voice vibrating like the horn of a work day done, shot back,

“How can that be? The invoker came and the scripture says this, World-Eater," skepticism glazed his voice, “only takes moments to swallow galaxies. What is the truth then?”

Pop-pop sighed at their impertinence, these days a story needed time for fact and proofs, time he did not have judging by the lessening of the night through the leaves.

“The World-Eater, seven seals to his name, is as we are. All life shares fundamentals, your impatience is but one of the many ways it is demonstrated.”

Helaye huffed at the overt jab, antennae twitching sideways. “Meaning?”

“Have you not watched the meadow flies feast on the corpse of a rotting plains devil? Every scrap, every ounce is taken and washed from the frame by animal, insect, and maggot. The sun bleaches bones so the soil might take its gift, enriching itself and gorging on them even as bacteria stores itself like treasure inside the marrow within.”

Helaye clicked their mandibles with crossed legs. His eyes filling with distaste, then understanding, “It’s savoring them, its meal.” The last part he spits out.

Pop-pop nodded grimly and then raised his eyes to the sky. The roof tarp had been pulled back sometime during the night, this winter had been too warm. Calling their attention above, he gave a snort at the last leg of stars in Leviathan’s claw, a brief memory reminding him how beautiful it once shone, a swirling mass of twinkling gems traversing throughout the deep expanse of infinity. Now it sat limp, just a mass of spoiled grapes, lost among the sky.

“Whatever it may be, the World-Eater seeks life and that is what sustains him.” They all sat in sweet silence for a time, listening to the hysterical warble of a tree tick colony waking nearby. Perhaps finally he could continue with no interruptions.

“We are the constellations above, acting on one another without intention but with effect nonetheless. His ladyship acts and the World-Eater responds, we react and his ladyship seeks to understand. Nothing exists in isolation, and with connection brings change.”

The morning began to break over the forest. A beam of soft golden light transfused Pop-pop’s carapace with the heat of supernova’s and his legs began to dance out in front of him. As blossoms, his voice sprang up from the soils of his chest, vibrating through their canopy home and into the valley beyond, and he sang,

“There was and is a lady with robes stained red and gold.
Recognized by timeless tongue on which this tale is told.
People, beast, and gods have left him all aside.
His soul left all alone to walk the great divide.
Barbs, rot, and flesh he wore most becoming,
This so enticed his mate into gusto, quickly coming.
It is he who brings collapsing, his love who exacts the toll
Their hunger known through cosmos in ways most manifold.
So bring your pomegranates, wine, and share with allies.
If his ladyship is pleased, he may share no lies.”

The light from the nearest star began shining through the foliage, Pop-pop passed the message through a steady chirp and they all scattered below to the forest floor with renewed purpose taking with them shards of light he had sang over them.