Sunday, November 06, 2005

Chapter 16

Henry was the leader of the pack of wasps. Henry was his name, and that’s what the others called him, or they called him H, which didn’t refer to Henry, but to Helmet. This was on account of his head’s unusual markings. Instead of being yellow on the top of his head, his head was black, while his high cheeks were yellow. This gave him a helmeted look.

He liked this name, but pretended the H was for Henry. He knew that if his underlings got familiar with him, then this could be his disadvantage.

If you were to ask Henry, or H, what the best moment of his life was, he would tell you easily. He would tell you about when he found The Sweet.

He and his brother were flying into the woods one day when they caught the smell of The Sweet. Henry had never smelled such an aroma before or since. It was just a pure sweet smell that captivated them with its strength and simplicity. It was so strong that it seemed to give the air a taste.

It came to them from a pasture, and when they flew towards it, it got stronger. Within the pasture, they could see humans.

Wasps are confident creatures, as is anything that wears loud colors, but humans give even confident creatures pause.

Henry was young and especially confident. Any pause he made was made with the knowledge that his brother was beside him to see and note that pause. His brother, meanwhile, knew the same, that Henry would see and note the slightest hesitation on his part. And so neither paused for even a moment.

Meanwhile, the scent grew even stronger, until it filled their minds. It became the only thing they could perceive, blocking out the humans as a strong light blocks out vision.

The Sweet came from a red object, which you and I would know as a soda can. Each, ignoring the humans, crawled inside and found purchase upside-down on the metal sides to drink deep from the sweetest nectar either had known. If the smell of The Sweet gave taste to the air, then the taste of The Sweet gave ecstasy to the soul. They drank deep. And then drank deeply again.

Henry could still feel the liquid as it bubbled off his opposing mouthparts. The bubbles broke the surface inside the can, which was curiously cool. He could still recall feeling normal for a moment, savoring the taste, simply relishing the pureness of sensation offered by The Sweet, before the effect began to work.

At the onset, he was such a fool as to not know what was happening. He simply felt good. Then the main wave crashed upon him. The chemical mixture, in a perfect note, struck a chord of euphoria within his thorax.

Never before, never since, had he felt like that. The thought came to him unbidden, that the same must be the case of his brother. He looked at his brother and looked at the liquid and took another sip. He knew it could clear his mind for what would come.

His brother could steal The Sweet from him. This had to be prevented.

That’s exactly when the sensation of movement broke through the taste and smell of The Sweet. The human had picked up the can and tilted it back. The next events were difficult to recall, like a hole filled in with dirt. The liquid sloshed and Henry became mindful that the liquid could drown as easily as feed. The hole above closed off. Henry pushed his brother down while stabbing blindly with his stinger into the soft flesh that obstructed the hole.

Things happened fast after that, but his next memory is of flying, outside the can, in the sunlight, flying away, with the taste of The Sweet still on his chitin.

He didn’t see his brother again. And he never so much as smelled The Sweet again.