Rainbow Pillbugs and Their Value
The Dopediddley Adventures of Norm & Norm
“When you find a rainbow pillbug, ya’ see, you don’t just look on as it waddles by. You mount that colorful shell like a saddle, and ride it to better days,” Nergus explained. “These two worms are the best find we never imagined boys, our rainbow pillbugs. They’re our tickets to an early retirement. They’re a stroke of luck right across the face.”
The top-hat-wearing mosquito spoke with conviction, and her two accomplices, the grizzled earwigs, listened. The worms slept lightly atop the fat fly who was still bound and gagged, carried by two mute silverfish. The procession had moved far from the orange puffs, slowly inching toward the corner of the table top.
“Boss hasn’t ever laid eyes on specimens like these before. Their heads are worth more than the sum of our careers. Look at them: soft and slimy, long and wiggly, and no legs! Did you see the way they move! Incredible.”
“Incredible, unthinkable,” echoed one earwig. “Our own rainbow pill — pillbug,” said the other.
A blurry shape appeared just a few inches from where Norman sat. The blur shrunk and became a shadow, then it contracted and became a spherical silhouette. It was hard to see all this through the hazy cloud engulfing them both, but Norman peered on with diligent curiosity. Finally, the sphere unfolded into a crescent, and rocked back and forth like a boat on water.
“You sir! I’m in need,” called the crescent through the haze. Norman, without hesitation, abided the call.
The rocking figure was, after all, a pillbug. On his back, he squirmed as a sea of legs waved frantically from out of his rainbow colored shell. Norman had met many pillbugs in his life outdoors, usually finding them to be too shy and anxious to make good conversation. He had never met one with a rainbow colored shell before, this was something new.
“If you could just provide some leverage for me,” requested the bright bug. “Yep, just wedge yourself under my side there.” Norm wedged himself under the shell and noticed the colors were luminescent. “Yes, yes, right there. Now, lift!” And pop, the pillbug flipped over.
“Thank you kindly sir,” continued the bug after dusting himself off. He looked around seeing nothing but darkness and haze. “Awfully drab here. Shall I light it up?”
“I don’t see why not,” answered Norman.
“Right away then,” and the pillbug’s rainbow shell began to vibrate, almost imperceptibly. The luminescent colors went from a muted glow, to a dazzling show of radiance. Approving of his own work, the pillbug continued, “Lovely. Now I can thank you properly.”
“Oh shucks, there’s no need for thanks,” replied Norman.
“Nonsense,” the pillbug signaled for Norman’s silence. “First, I have a pair of tickets for you.”
“Yes, tickets to the Re-Tire-Mint. It’s a lovely place, you’ll be astounded by the infinite variety of rubbers to taste.” The pillbug reached under his shell, pulled out two rainbow colored tickets and handed them over.
“Hmmm, okay.” Said Norman, perplexed. As he took the tickets from one hand of the pillbug, another swung around aggressively from the other side. Whack! Norman took a heavy slap across his left cheek.
“What was that for!” he growled.
“That was a stroke of luck, and you can’t find a luckier stroke than from a rainbow pillbug like me,” he cooed. “I’m quite rare.”
“Ouch man, that hurt.”
“I have one last piece of thanks for you, and it comes as advice. Listen close.” The pillbug leaned in, and Norman protected his face. “Friends aren’t always friends, rainbows aren’t always bright, and sometimes worms can fly.”
At this, the light from his shell began to flicker and quickly cut out. The hazy cloud resurfaced and separated the pillbug from Norman, as his form lost shape and quickly receded into the dark.
“Norman, hey Norman,” Norm nudged his friend as he slept. “Norman wake up, I’m starving.” Norman, who had managed to cuddle up with both supply packs, twitched and flinched in his sleep as if being struck by an invisible hand.
“Worms can f-fly. Whoa, wha — ?” Finally he woke and wearily asked, “You been awake long?”
“I just woke up and I’m starving, let me into those packs,” replied Norm.
Nergus heard their chatter, and turned to greet them, “Hello fellas. Feeling refreshed? You guys were out for a good bit, and guess what, we’ve just made it to the fun part.”
The cavalcade had arrived at the table’s corner. Next, Nergus explained, they would shimmy down the table leg to the grimy carpet below. Once on the floor, they’d head for the rectangular metal tunnels in the wall. These tunnels were well known to Nergus and her band, and were indeed known to all insects of the indoors. It’s through the tunnels, the mosquito went on, that they’d find the “sunshine”.
“Lucky for you gentlemen, me and my boys here are expert guides. Hell, I know all about the labyrinth, I even know how the winds in the tunnels work. Trust me, you don’t just venture in blindly. I’ve seen my fare share of lifeless shells in them cold dark corners. But you needn’t worry, you just stick with us,” Nergus finished.
The worms had little choice but to stick with Nergus and the earwigs. Norm, who was previously guarded, was warming to the mosquito’s disposition. Her stylish dress and talk were growing on him. Norman, on the other hand, found himself uncharacteristically cautious. Shock from recent events and remnants of a strange dream were creeping into his blissfully ignorant conscious.
“Open those packs up Norman, let’s grub,” said Norm, who was still starving.
“Food break, that’s a good idea fellas.” Nergus whistled to the earwigs, “Eat something and rest for a bit. I’ll find myself a quick meal and will be back shortly.”
Nergus revved up and took off into the dim air overhead. The earwigs, who hadn’t tasted the orange puffs yet, bit into a couple large morsels pulled from their satchels. Their eyes rolled back in their heads and their faces melted with glee at the taste. The worms spread their pack’s contents out on Donny’s stomach.
Surveying the options, Norm dove right into an orange morsel, but Norman was eager to try something new. Among the pellets, pills, and puffs were some dry shriveled mushrooms that had mold creeping out of their crevices. The mold made them more attractive to a worm like Norman. He grabbed a chunk, bit down, chewed, and swallowed.
“Dammit,” yelped the wily young man who sat on the couch next to his plump friend. The two humans sat hypnotized by the glowing box across the room. Attention interrupted, the wily one continued, “Mosquito just bit me.”
Nergus gently landed in the exact spot she left from. “Ahhh!” cried Norm in reaction to her arrival. She had forgotten to wipe up after her meal, and bright red blood covered her proboscis, face, and abdomen.
“Oh, pardon me,” she turned around to wipe herself off. “I’m not normally with such proper company,” she said, winking gayly at the earwigs. They were too engrossed in their cheesy meal to notice.
“Now that we’re all fed, let’s get this show on the road. It’s time we cut the fatty loose,” announced Nergus, tapping Donny’s abdomen. At this last sentence, the earwigs stood up straight, looked her way, and ran a sharp finger across their necks from one side to the other.
“No boys, that’s not necessary. This dummy is no threat to us.” Then to Donny, still tied and gagged, she said, “Fly away fat boy. Don’t come back. If you come back, or any one of your gang comes looking for us, you’ll quickly be dead. I’ve seen my accomplices tear bugs like you apart, limb by limb, scream by scream. It plays just like music in their ears,” she exaggerated. Donny nodded with conviction, and Norm slid off his stomach to the table. Norman moved slowly after Norm, carefully finding his way down. He was suddenly feeling odd, and his perch on top of Donny felt much higher than before.
The earwigs defiantly untied the fly. Feeling the lashes unwind, Donny sprung to his feet. He backed away from the edge of the table, and away from his captors.
“Y-You — You’re in trouble now,” blasted Donny. “The flies run these parts. Bulky runs these parts.”
Norman’s head was suddenly playing tricks on him. As Donny spoke, the sounds and syllables entered his ear holes, but words didn’t form. It was as if Donny was lip syncing an alien drama. Time slowed down and above Donny’s head Norman witnessed the dim air as it began to swirl. Every particle shimmered and danced in his pupils. Then, in slow motion, a huge flat object pushed the swirling air away and forced it’s way through the atmosphere. The object moved aggressively down, down, down through the air.
Donny lifted slowly off the table top, continuing his angry speech, “Just wait and see, when I find Bu—”
Swat! The flat object hit the table at speeds so fast the mosquito and earwigs barely saw it.
Splat! The fat fly was crushed under the object’s mass, his guts spewed every direction. The force of impact ejected the other travelers from the table top. A mosquito, two earwigs, a couple silverfish, and a pair of worms flew over the edge and out of control.
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