Call of Cicada
The strangeness began with a moment not unlike any other and yet so terrible and clarion in it’s urgency that I could bear no longer the crisis of continued stasis. Deep within the viscera of the dampened earth, my sleeping horde and I, infantry of millions, defender of nothing, felt the ancient stirrings. We awakened.
For the entirety of my life, I’d been burrowing down, reaching further and further into the hard, wet darkness that encircled me, demanding bigger and bigger roots to sup, to calm my creeping hunger. Pressing my form against the source of my need, my mouthparts urgently taking nourishment from the benthic tendrils of the mighty One above, what I sought was deep and pure. The xylem flowed into my wondrous rostrum and I, in turn, served my deciduous Elder with steadfast, creeping aeration of her musty soils. But the confusion had set in and a voice - that voice! - from the scant murmer whence first it appeared, to the shrieking orders it demanded of me - instilled in me a sense of duty so magnificent that I became consumed with nothing but the inkiest of a thinly articulated dread.
At first a quiet, murmured secret, as long a legend as the Old Ones, sang softly into the impulses of my being, its persistence growing into a horror that resonated so sharply in my core, I could do nothing but obey. All of this ache and rage, boiling beneath my unseen exterior, demanding of me something so impossible I dared not contemplate its conclusion. And when my pain became too mighty, the swirling darkness of my earthen womb now choking my swollen, trembling body, I dared not stay any more than I dared listen to the impossible chant thundering inside my exoskeleton.
Up and up I climbed through the dankness and rot. I knew not why or how or I moved nor did I understand my blinding need, but the voice was insistent and I, helpless to resist. My years beneath the surface, seventeen in all, had made my exoskeleton hardy, my insect legs clawing the soil with motions practiced, and in spite of lengthy dormancy, my legs spurned a legacy of sedentary luxury, defying the ache of stillness that had so defined my six appendages.
Ceaseless climbing consumed me, so long did I toil that my want of stopping and fearful wonder of my destination quieted to nothingness. I climbed and I climbed and I climbed until one day, a day like any other climbing day, the dirt above me gave way to a foreign gas so thin that I sharply toppled from my tunneling pose onto the unspeakable. The end of dirt. Crossing over to the new world was as easy as it was startling, new sensations rippling across the tan of my body as I tumbled across a mat of roiling brown.
The dirt moved beneath me and I, recoiling at yet another blasphemy of nature, felt the turmoil of bodies and dared turn my gaze below, for I was being swept across a sea of my brethren! Joy upon recognition filled my oppressively tight fifth instar exoskeleton, my sensitive ends registering the presence of the brood. There are other broods, of course, of which the prophecies do tell, but they sleep on different cycles, entering and exiting the dirt in moments not of my brothers and sisters. I will never see them; of this I know. But they will be coming. Reveling in the comradery of belonging after so many years below, my bursting happiness itched further still, my thick abdomen becoming ever more distracting.
But the high of belonging was truncated, as climaxes are wont to mark the pivot towards darkness, not herald the entrance of a new era. The relief that flooded my thorax upon surfacing proved fleeting, swiftly cast aside in horror when, with only the slightest pause in urgency, the voice began again.
Forward I marched, trudging heavy and fat over the warmth of surface. Clumsy in my motions, I learned to move onward, seeking my passageway to rise, navigating this strange and disconcerting world full of obstacle and dried decay. I marched and I marched and I marched, a sea of my people rushing across the land like sap gushing from an Elder wound, leaving behind hundreds and hundreds of open portals into the soul mouth of our tree lord. The primacy of my need to rise, the tightening inside the chiten that so encased me, each propelled me onward in search of relief.
Reaching the base of a strange, naked tree, my senses registered its barkless cover and smell of death. There was no xylem here. Placing my legs atop the carcass of a felled Old One, is dry flesh devoid of moisture, I climbed its covering, a thick, waxen smear of aroma foul and color dark. I climbed slower and slower, inching forward, legs moving to the canopy of my elders, as the voice chanted softer. More quietly. Slower in pacing.
The voice stopped.
Perched atop this infidel tree lord, legs stuck into the sickness of her degradation, I no longer heard the instruction that had so insistently driven me out of my home and into this foreign and terrible place. My exoskeleton, which had carried me through soil rich and land confused, felt wrong and hot, a restraint unto what I feared my soul’s authenticity to be.
Being very still to stave off the molten, searing pain of the tumescence that so fought my constriction, I thought small thoughts, but it was no use. The tearing began.
On the dorsal plane of my body, splitting the very center of my thorax, my body opened like a hideous maw, submitting to the unendurable pressure of my internal growth. With terror unmatched, I felt my body lean into the void in my protection, away from my legs anchored and sense of being. Pressing upward, my head splitting further the shrieking disturbance in my corporeality, a new me burst forth and up, with flesh of boiled egg and eyes as red as the blood of the dark ones. The perversity of my white, soft body spilling out of the hardened sanctum of my final nymph instar was matched only by the terrible realization of my exposure. My paleness a clanging dinner bell, my paralysis a nightmare. I could do nothing but wait to emerge, the helplessness of ecdysis trapping me against this bastard tree-form, my body teneral, my form callow.
And then, a tugging. Or maybe it felt a heaviness most odd. As my body emerged, up and out, away from the translucent brown container of my youth, a new fear pulled away from my body. An unfurl most slow, the wetness of this strange new appendage softly drying in the warm summer air, spreading as the wind caressed my newness. Minutes passed, hours perhaps, and the structure of my insect body firmed like the sapling branches of a tree across the seasons. Color, then, appearing elsewhere than my garish redness, began to touch my body in patterns most obscene to my once dirt-dwelling soul.
The cuticle of my sexual awakening, the exoskeleton in which I will become not a root-sucker, but a sky-dweller, ripened in the intrusion of the sun. A greenish hue across the arch of my expanding wings seeped into a darkness, spread across my body, my legs, my head turning into blackness most cold. My thorax and abdomen, the lattice of veins so thickly hatched across the translucent panes of my transport brand new, all turned to the hue of wet earth, a strong and shiny black imbued with the power of virility yet untested, of wanting yet explored.
As I hardened, my exoskeleton stiffening in the dryness and surreality of air, a stirring began. To my ultimate delight and horror, the voice returned. At first, make of it a meaning I could not, the sound of the request grotesque in its novelty. But as I worked motion into the stiffened shell of my body, the logistics of my orders began to congeal into kinetic knowledge.
Upon each side, nestled into the first segment of my abdomen, my body contained two membranes, ribbed and firm and tension strong. Tymbals. The voice, growing in urgency, jolted my tymbal muscles to contract, hard and fast and unexpected. My membrane, buckled with the strength of my demanding strangeness, popped inwards towards the cavities of air that so abruptly defined the sides of my masculine form.
Shocked by the sound most cruel, my tymbal muscles relax, and to my growing bewilderment, it happens again.
The vibrations travel from my secret sachets of air throughout my body, the sound coming from my depths and my surface and the core of my being. Pulling my muscles in eager succession, I buckled and snapped my tymbal with growing abandon. My body, learning! My needs, growing! A thrill, coursing through my body, harsh and fast, bzzz, harder, buzz, faster, bzzzzzzz! Until I could take no more but oh, for the want of it! I leaned hard and back, away from the casing of my immaturity and thrust myself into the expanse of nothingness, my thickness and clumber soaring down towards a death so certain I sought to welcome it! When, then, oh then, a magic most profound I did not fall, nay, I did not fall! The strong sails of my novelty summoned themselves on my behalf, fluttering awake in a roar of vibrum, steering me not towards the base of the ancients, but to the heavens of their lush, green sky parts!
I have become a sky-dweller!
Soaring unencumbered through substance thin and clear, I turned my vermillion eyes towards what could only be conceived of as rising screams most terrible! A growing cacophony of men obsessed with the noise! My brothers! Oh, my brothers, I am coming! We are small but we are legion and I shall bzzz amongst you as the prophecy so foretold!
Sluggishly navigating the food makers of the Elders, their shiny green clusters who worship the sun in return for the Nourishment, I land on a root of strangeness and slim dimension. Like the woody tendrils upon which I had supped so sweetly for so long, this oddity, thinly connecting the food makers to the Elder’s heartcore, seemed at once familiar and presence most strange. Upon this sight, from its position pressed secret and safe against my robust abdomen, I pulled from myself a beautiful labium, tubular and sharp and aching with the thirst. I plunged myself into the skyroot, the four needle-like stylets piercing my beloved Elder, slurping her liquid nourish in earnest.
But then the Voice returned.
With the ocelli atop my bulbous head keeping watch for menace above, I began to feverishly click my membranes with such demand I would have felt shame, were it not for the howling insistence of the Voice. Buzzing my body, vibrating every gram of my fertility, I fought to click louder and faster than all of the brotherhood! A chorus arose from the forestlands, drowning out all else, raising its urgency to the heavens despite all knowledge of fear and death and dread! For I, Magicicada can sing so loud as to harm the ears of the hairless tormentors who walk amongst our worlds on legs of two! My song, painful to the birds of the air, sends daggers into their hungry ears, keeping them away from the brood of which I have sworn the seeds of my loins and song of my tymbals! We sing together in sonic resistance, our weapon not the joy of song, but our devient and perverted need, the search for a mate so overwhelming to all else and deafening those that mean to do us harm!
I sought, with a fervent symphony of lust and chaos, to draw not one - nay, scores! - of eager counters to my filth, my most depraved and unholy shames. Oh! To press myself against that of another, to spread the knowledge of my cells into the lush, pale ova, so tantalizingly removed from my probing, red eyes! I had not known the fire of desire, trapped cold and below, mouthparts pressed firm and deep into the roots of my Nutrientor. But in the hot air of the burning sun, wings sharp and thickly veined and achieving the long-foretold prophecy of flight amongst my brethren, we - the thundering brothers of the second brood - have become dense with need and wanton confusion.
With each visit of desperate copulation, my life sap wanes, drawing through and out of my genital pore the future days of my legacy and precious hours of my life. Deep in the dark pit of my absent soul, the churning need to fornicate is met with the not uncertain knowledge that each meeting of bodies hastens my return to the bowels of the earth whence I emerged. But still, I want for it, needing and yearning and howling with tympanum so begging to be noticed. The screams of my body, drawing the fairer sex closer and closer, and my ultimate demise drawing faster and faster with each deposit into a turgid, glorious abdomen. Were I to wait, to stretch out my deposits, might I live to see more days or might I meet my unseemly, nearing end within the jowls of a slobbering beast, plucking me in my vigor and musicianship from atop the leaf upon which I so dare to boldly perch?
The Voice continues, ceaseless and violent within the clanging perversion of my body, and has taken over in complete entirety. My tymbal muscles contract against the growing exhaustion that pools in my shell, my seed spread again and again and again, each female more beautiful and swollen than the last. I watch, as I mate another, as my favored and loveliest of lady fair, pierces a slender skyroot with her ovipositor most gruesome, perfection in its construct. Guiding her gravid abdomen towards a holy divot in the flesh of our Elder, her tender swellings slip from her waning body and into the wet fibers of the slit.
The fever rages evermore as I am forced to spread my seed in a futile race against the cruel limitations of my moments in the sky. I am warm and I am tired and the dread of my pending demise is bleeding into each moment of conjugation, seeping from my body like the promise of the Futures for which I am ensuring.
I think of the the ova, like the ova before them, that will hatch within the safety of our Protector and sup and grow. They will fall to earth, as their forefathers before them, and as their offspring to come, and they will travel, clawing the wet compression of their new, earthen home, seeking the sweet comfort of my beautiful Old One.
I extricate myself from she, my final love, her red probing eyes searching my form to validate her decision and I feel the weight. My wings, sputtering and cold, pull me through the sweet, warm air in these, my final moments. Drained and worn, I soak in the last rays of warmth from the glorious burning in the sky as I fall down, down, down, ready and eager to sleep in the shade of my beloved Elder for all of eternity. It has been so long and it has been too short and oh, how little did I know, whence 17 years ago I entered the soils of my fathers, just how beautiful and painful these moments on the surface would be.