Author: Jae Miles, Staff Writer

I used to watch the fireflies, seeing how they flitted and settled. They seemed to go everywhere, but never intruded on the air above the still waters of the mere. Just like the fireflies above that mere never strayed anywhere else.
As time went by, I noticed the fireflies of the mere were unusual in other ways: appearing all year round being the main thing. I also came to the strange certainty that there were a fixed number of them. But I found a peace like nowhere else, sitting on the shore of the mere and watching those fireflies gather near me.
Before I could follow up on the strangeness, the onset of puberty and life in general distracted me. Thus it was many years before a breakup led to a trip home and an evening of melancholy. As heartache often does, it sought nostalgia to dwell upon: my memories of the fireflies.
Which is why I found myself sitting on the shore of the mere tonight, watching as the fireflies came closer.
They seem quicker. Eager, even. But the peace is still here.
“Bertha.”
I lurch to my feet, spinning to put my back to the water. I’d prefer a wall, but this will have to do. The eerie light of my flying companions shows me very little, until he moves.
“Dunc. What are you doing here?”
I know, but I need him to acknowledge it, or confirm my worst fears – or both.
“You never brought me here. You talked about it, but never invited me. So I invited myself. You know, to be with you. To be us, in your special place.”
He comes closer.
Both, then.
“Dunc, we’re over. It wasn’t working.”
“For you! Not for me!”
He’s got a knife! Too far to anywhere from here. That’s part of the appeal. This isn’t good.
“What’s with the knife, Dunc?” Keep the tone casual.
He looks at it. Then looks at me, at the mere, and smiles.
“Thought we could go together, you know? Show them we had something special.”
His other hand dives into a pocket, emerging with a crumpled envelope.
“Did us a letter. So they’ll know. They’ll all know, those sad fucks who said I was bad for you. They’ll know and be sorry they didn’t have what we had.”
His obsessive streak appealed to me at the start. Big mistake. How do I…?
“Dunc, let’s go get a drink. We can talk about things.”
“No! The time for talking is over. You said that.”
I did.
“So it’s time for action.”
The knife comes up as he steps towards me. I back into the mere. Maybe it’s got a drop-off: I’ll disappear before he gets me.
I’m still backing up. He’s in the water too. It’s only up to my knees.
“Help.” It’s whisper, but it’s the best I can do.
Fireflies dive into the water. A glow spreads between me and Dunc, getting stronger with each bug that hits. He wades straight into the glowing patch, then stops.
He drops the knife. Reaches for me. It’s not hostile. It’s pleading. His eyes start to glow. He topples into the luminous water and sinks from view.
The fireflies come out of the water. They’re brighter. One hovers right in front of me. A gem-like body, shining wings that don’t move, and eyes like orbs of mercury.
A reedy voice. Hissing, crackling.
“Never come into the water alone. We’d have no choice.”
I sprint from the place, screaming my thanks.
It’ll still be peaceful.
But never for me.
Not now.

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