Author : John Kinney

The soldiers walk down the empty street, bathed in red sunlight. A gun falls from above them and clatters to the ground. A body follows it.

“Scan!” Says the Captain. He looks at the man who fell. 

“Tick! Scan!”

They scan. Two men watch north, two men south. Two aim up at the building where the man had jumped.

“Clear,” says the Captain, and the group falls in. They watch the man on the ground. 

“Oh Jesus,” a young soldier says. “That’s James.”

“What’s happening,” James says, his head moves slightly when the tick does. His eyes stare blankly upward. His shinbones protrude from his skin.

“Jesus,” the Captain says.

“What’s happening?” James says. He stares up at the red evening sky. The young soldier sobs.

“He can’t feel it, can he?” One soldier says.

“No,” says another.

The Captain sighs and raises his rifle, but as he does, the tick digs deeper. It digs down until James’ head cracks open slightly. His eyes roll back and he breathes his last breath. The soldiers all stand silently in the red light, listening to the suckling sounds of the tick.

“Well?” Sobs the young soldier. “Kill it already! He’s dead now, so kill it!”

The captain aims his rifle at the tick’s round, brown back and pulls the trigger. In a spray of yellow mess, the tick falls to pieces.

They walk silently down the road, their eyes scanning for the scuttling bodies of more ticks. Their ears open for the shrill chirp of the mantis.

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