“Um … just so you know, I know I have a kind of an unfair phobia about bugs—” Brandon began.
“Oh, I know. They creep and crawl through your subconscious and scare the bejeezus out of you, all those long legs and chitinous shells and multifaceted eyes and bristly hairs …”
He felt himself going a bit green at the mental imagery. “Uh, yeah, that’s exactly right. Hey, you can’t … um, read my mind, can you?”
“Nah, I was looking over your artwork on the internet the other day. Reading minds is tough. I save it for the really important stuff.” She smirked at him. He couldn’t decide if he was relieved or even more concerned.
“Get down there.” She pointed straight toward the edge of the small pond where the largest concentration of bugs were gathered.
“Go!” She shooed him off.
He snapped his mouth shut and found himself moving automatically, almost unwillingly. Sorcha stayed where she was and watched as he made his way down the gentle slope to the water’s edge.
The path down to the water was a beautiful one, as long as he kept his eyes away from what he was headed into. The grass—no, not grass, he thought; it was more like a low-growing, ground cover fine-frond fern of some type—was a lush, deep green and spotted here and there with large, bulbous flowers that reminded him of sunflowers, only nearly spherical. Many were almost dripping with nectar.
As he got closer, he got a better look at the bugs, despite his best efforts. They were big; they came up to almost his knee, and their bodies, shaped like enormous beetles, were almost as long as he was tall, not counting the legs or antennae. They were milling about the water’s edge, ignoring him completely.
His artist’s eye started spotting patterns immediately, even while he was focusing on ignoring the queasy feeling in his stomach at the site of all of those legs shuffling huge insect bodies around. The ones right at the water’s edge were the ones moving … almost uncertainly, he thought. They’d approach the water, but hesitate and back away, wander about, and try again.
Those further out from the edge were behaving quite differently. It looked more like what he’d have expected from insects, even ones that apparently built rather human-like houses. They were harvesting clumps of the spherical nectar-rich flowers he’d seen earlier. They’d approach a bloom, snip the stalk off a few inches below the base of the flower, and then neatly catch the falling blossom as it fell. Each time one of them did this, a small spray of nectar and pollen would fly into the air and onto the bug. Collected flowers were moved off in a line back to one of the huts he’d seen.
He was grateful he didn’t have allergies.