Bloody Tree

“Lovely day,” said Mavis, sniffing the air and casting a glance at her fat neighbour.

“Yes it is, indeed,” said Lucy, also sniffing.

“How long since you hatched?” said Mavis.

Lucy thought for a moment, and said, “I’m twelve – God I feel so old! Look at those young ones having fun. Where do they get their energy from?”

“We were just the same,” said Mavis, but thought, maybe you were a little less so, my chubby friend; or maybe you’re carrying more eggs than me; I’d like to know, but we’ve only just met.

“You’ve got nice long legs,” said Lucy. “Does it run in your family?” She didn’t wait for an answer and continued. “My family is chunky; we have sturdy legs. That makes take off and landing easier, but sometimes walking on water is awkward; especially in my state.”

Mavis felt mean now. She decided she would be nice to her neighbour, and said, “I started feeling whiney a couple of nights back; surprisingly soon after my last batch of eggs. It was Saturday night so I would have gone out anyway, but was now a girl with a mission…”

“I know what you’re saying, Sister!”

“I have to say, I did feel old though. There were all these young lads flying around in circles, showing off, and full of juice. For a moment I lost my nerve. What would they see in an old girl like me – bigger and harder-bodied? But I know they have a fetish for older females these days. They call us MILF’s…”

Lucy interrupted, “Mosquitoes I’d like to F…” They both burst out laughing, their wings vibrating with a little whine. “Don’t you start that now,” said Lucy. “You’ll have one on your back again before you know it – double dipping!”

“I might not mind if someone did,” said Mavis. “What did I get on Saturday night? Ten seconds of glory? You’d think after all that wing-beating and whining, they’d do better than that!”

“They never have in my long lifetime, Sister!”

The trees in the forest were thick with their sisters; boys tumbled about in swarms. Mavis looked across at Mt. Alba; what a beautiful place, she thought, but something inside her knew that it wasn’t a good place to live; much too high and cold. She laid her last batch of eggs in a lovely, swampy area across the river. She’d started off laying them singly, jerking on the water, and once she’d got a rhythm going, then forming them into rafts. She’d waited to check the eggs were settled, and then flown away. She’d never see her eggs become wrigglers, or tumblers, or emerge as adults; but she’d love them all the same.

Mavis and Lucy had already detected the presence of prey – through smell and heat sensing – but were waiting till dusk, their feeding time. While Mavis was musing, Lucy had been scanning for a full blood meal. “Look down there,” she said. “That looks juicy.”

“Which one?” said Mavis. She saw two different preys: a fat white one and a thin black one, both laid out across the edge of a pool of flat water. How inviting, she thought: a place to feed, and a place to lay eggs, so close together. Rather than answering though, Lucy shouted, “Whoa! Watch out!”

An iridescent shimmer tore right past them into the crowd of males, which scattered immediately; but the dragonfly then hunted them individually till he’d had his fill. This seemed unfair as they lived only half as long as girls anyway. Mavis and Lucy returned their attention to the prey below. It wasn’t moving, just lying naked, sweating, smelling, beside the pool of flat water. “Well, we shouldn’t wait around all day,” said Mavis. “It’s getting dusky. Time to move in.”

“Ok sister,” said Lucy. “Shall I lead the warrior ritual?” Mavis nodded, her proboscis waving in the air. “O Great Liquid Mother, we thank you for this day. Bless our noble sisterhood which hunts life and creates life, and will continue until we die.” They beat their wings, making a light whining. “Grant us one drop of holy blood, which shall feed hundreds of new lives.”

They flew off together. Mavis headed instinctively for the fat white prey and Lucy for the thin black prey. Lucy flies beautifully for a heavier girl, thought Mavis; she has more weight, but also more strength. Look how she twirls and jives, working with the slightest breeze, like a swirling snowflake. But Lucy suddenly disappeared. Where did she go? She must have found a sweet spot. Hee! Hee!

Mavis homed in on her prey. She had species memory of feeding on these creatures since the beginning; and on many beasts that they herded; there had been a time of luxury; of fatted bellies; of excess. Mavis felt a swishing sensation. Her prey was suddenly on its feet, and was moving quicker than she was. Her final memory was the shock of slamming against something where there had been nothing before.

The naked humans jumped up without warning, brandishing large circular pans. In this world destroyed by radiation and disease, the only animals that flourished were insects, which grew to ten or more times their previous size. They provided vital sustenance for survivors still inhabiting the ruined homes of the Lucerne Valley, who regularly lay naked, sweating, smelling, to attract clouds of giant mosquitoes, and then caught them in steel pans. They mashed and roasted them into protein-rich burgers. There would be a poolside barbecue tonight, even though the old pool now stank and was being farmed for mosquito larvae.

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