Author : J.R.Blackwell, Staff Writer
“I just can’t believe they dumped me!” Relex squealed into the Audio Tube.
“Relex, Silkstring, Bloodpuff, you have to calm down.” Relex mothers voice chimed evenly through the Audio Tube. “It’s been three sun cycles now, and you need to start the process of healing, move on, maybe try to find another mating group.”
“Mom, I’m forty three seasons old, I don’t have a job because I spent all my time caring for my Hive, and now I’m living in a stick cell in a public Hive with a bunch of weirdoes.”
“I’m sure it’s not all that bad.”
Relex waved two of her limbs in the air. “One of them is missing half his eyes!”
“Darling, this is just a transition period. You weren’t really happy with your Hive anyway.”
It was true, though Relex hated to admit it; her old Hive had worked her hard. Relex had spent hours cleaning the Queens chamber, removing sterile or rotten eggs, and spinning the fine clear string out of her abdomen that allowed her to make repairs to their home. The rest of her seven partners worked outside the Hive to support the Queen and each other.
The Queen of their Hive lay in her room, eating and laying eggs. Relex would sort through the eggs, looking for fertilized eggs. The broken and dysfunctional eggs Relex would discard, crushing them to make a fine paste that would feed the great tree that held the Hive in it’s branches. It was hard work, but raising young with the Queen was exciting, if exhausting.
Then She came.
Her name was Astrill, and she was a youth from the lower branches of their tree. Her abdomen was full of bright glistening fluid, healthy and bursting with youth. Relex’s abdomen was flat and her fluid dull, as she was constantly emptying it to repair the house. Astrill’s hundred eyes shone like the color of the sky at sunset, and her eight legs were youthful and strong. Relex had lost ten of her eyes while defending the Hive from an attack of the Bris bugs, losing eyes to their stingers. Next to Astrill, Relex felt like a broken egg.
Astrill came home with Elex and Lillx from the hunt. She needed a place to stay for a while, they said, until she found a Hive. Relex had always supported the idea of community, but actually letting Astrill into their home was like a breach, like a Bris bug has accidentally crawled inside their Hive. After a few sun cycles, everyone but Relex was infatuated with Astrill.
Then the Queen told Relex that she had to leave. There was only eight to a mating, and the Queen said that Astrill was more suited to their youthful Hive. Relex felt like a Bris bug had stung her in the stomach. She left, going to a public Hive where unattached singletons went to try to find mates. She talked with her mother on the Audio Tube daily, complaining about her old Hive. Mother was starting to become frustrated.
“Relex, you’ve got to pull your strings together! So, you got dumped by your mates, that’s awful, but you’ve got to move on!”
Relex slumped in a corner of her cell. “Are you mad at me?”
“Oh, my little egg, I just want all of my young to be successful. I love you, but if you can’t pick yourself up and move on, than no one can help you.”
There was a scratch on the Hive wall. Relex sighed. “Gotta go Mom, I’ve got a visitor, probably some creep starting a Hive.”
Relex went to answer the door. Elex stood outside, his abdomen twitching. “Hey Relex, how are you doing?”
“What do you want Elex? Did you come to tell me how unattractive I am? Well, thanks, but I don’t want to hear it.”
“No Relex, I came on behalf of everyone back at the Hive. I, we, want to apologize.”
“Absolve yourself of guilt? I won’t be giving you the satisfaction, go back home to your new tramp.”
Elex scratched his forelimbs together. “Well, the thing is Relex, she’s gone.”
Relex’s antennae snapped to attention. “Left you, has she? Good for her.”
“Actually, we had to throw her out. We just, we had no idea how much you did around the Hive. After you were gone, Astrill wouldn’t lift a limb to help with the eggs, the Hive repair, anything. Things got to be a mess, Lillix stayed at the hive all the time, which she hated, but then we weren’t bringing in enough food and the Queen stopped producing eggs. It was terrible, and Astrill wouldn’t help. We made a mistake.”
Relex felt a pang of sympathy. To imagine the Queen in filth made her cringe. “The Queen really isn’t producing eggs?”
“We need you Relex. We need you to clean for us, to repair the Hive.”
“So basically, you just want me back to clean.”
“No, that’s not it at all.”
“Elex, take a message back to the Hive. I’m not coming back. Not ever. I’m going to start my own Hive.”
“You can’t, that’s crazy, you’re too old!”
“You know what, that is the last I want to hear about that. I’ve heard they are looking for elders on the colony ships, I think I’ll sign up, get as far away from here and you and the others as I can, and I will start my own Hive, and maybe there I’ll even be Queen.” Relex turned around and aimed her abdomen at the door, sending a spray out of her back, sealing the door closed. In your face Hive, she thought, I’m headed for the stars.
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows
365 Tomorrows Merchandise: The 365 Tomorrows Store
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow