by Serena W. Sorrell
The roar of the summer cicadas was almost deafening. Even from inside the chrysalis, though perhaps made all the more deafening thanks to the wretched space inside the crystalline cavern. Maybe their calls echoed off of the cocoon into the yet frail body curled up upon itself inside. Whatever the cause, the noise was excruciating. With appendages not quite arms, not quite legs the larvae tried to cover its ears; unfortunately the privilege of hands had not yet grown fully. One more night still remained. One more night of heavy, sticky heat and the piercing screams of the cicadas before it could finally, once again, taste air. And other treats.
It loathed summer the most. Unable to move. Just waiting helplessly while the outsiders scuffled or glided by. Some gazed in awe, others out of fear, and others still tried to destroy the unhatched chrysalis. Foolish. Even in the current state of blind, limblessness it had more power than those outside could ever hope to attain. The outsiders knew that. It knew they knew that.
In just one more night freedom and life would be granted once again. The power to reign over all the outsiders, and all the others, too. Gossamer, ebony wings, still not fully formed, shuddered at the memory of the seductive caress of winds from another life. Its followers already gathering in the trees around the chrysalis. Waiting for their master’s return, eager to bask in its presence once more.
Time and rebirth meant little, but it couldn’t help but wonder how the world might have changed since last it flew. Blurred visions of horned armor, men in topknots, and women in lavish robes flitted behind still fused eyelids. Those had been wonderful times. So much rampant turmoil aided its kind and made life all the easier. After all, who would miss a few courtesans or samurai, or any number of rebels? Such power and freedom had it enjoyed in those days. Though the year had been long forgotten. It had little need for numbers or names; unlike the humans who insisted calling everything something. One more thing they thought to control by giving it a word.
Even with a name, a shadow or curse upon their lips, humans had never controlled it. And they never would.
It was the tsukimono.
For many inhabitants on the mountain, deep in the forests, ensconced in hot shadows this would be the first tsukimono they would ever see, and most likely the last. At the next sunset it would break out of the hard chrysalis to feed for the first time in centuries. And it was ravenous.