Word Count 500
Deceptions of Translucence
By B.A. Sarvey
Howard watched the translucent objects floating to the ground. He wasn’t sure what they were. They looked like gigantic jellyfish. Perhaps they had come to colonize the river–missing their mark, landing in the big field, instead. The field was littered with well over a hundred.
After a billowing poof, came a plop, the pale, balloon-like creature flopping over, giving up its lungful of air; collapsing on the ground. Writhing and shaking in death-throes, every one of them shimmered in the early morning light. Howard marveled at the breath-taking beauty, the luminosity with which they died, as though their very essence clung to light. Was the light. Then, in their last moments, each spit out a dark seed. Each seed was jettisoned forward and continued to advance, whether by its own volition or on the wind, Howard didn’t know.
As they came closer, Howard realized they traveled on two sticks which churned back and forth, propelling them. He soon saw that the seeds had faces and upper appendages. Not unlike enormous beetles, their arms and legs pawing the air, they clawed their way to the river and the base of the cliff where Howard made his home.
Eventually they swarmed beneath a stand of river birches, no longer resembling seeds, as Howard had first thought. Clearly, they were related to those on the other side of the valley. Their speech was rapid and several spoke at once, so Howard couldn’t understand their words. His chest tightened, however, with the urgency and vehemence of their voices. Silently, he stepped backwards, away from the cave opening. A trembling began at his knee, spread up and outward, to his toes; the tip of his ear.
Howard was no longer merely curious about the intruders; no longer thought their manner of arrival marvelous. Or beautiful. They were an angry swarm of hornets. Threatening. Combative without justification. Whatever their purpose, whatever the harsh words imparted, Howard knew their arrival signaled change, for him as well as for those on the other side of the valley.
Small, insignificant Howard. The situation exceeded his experience, yet he had to try. Had to warn, to defend, to defeat. Clutching at his chest, he fought down his desire to flee. Translucence imparts an air of fragility and Howard had always suffered from this notion. Now he knew that translucence was nothing of the sort. Just look at all those glimmering carcasses strewn across the field. They were not free from disguise—guileless—as he was. Perhaps somewhere within, Howard, too, could be bold, deceptive in his innocent appearance. Shifting his weight from foot to foot, right, then left, right again, he formed a plan. Shy became sly. The element of surprise, lost to the invaders, belonged to him.
Howard hovered near the entrance to his cave. The translucence of his wings, as he spread them in morning’s soft warmth, gathered the glow of dawn, released it tenfold: a muted beacon above the river valley. It was time to act.