Bug God’s First Gift To Her People, 3:
Up… up… up…
The vizier felt the world turning below him, felt the onward rush of time towards midnight – towards the new day.
Who is that? Bug God wondered, but she could spare no energy for asking.
Up… up… up…
“We will do nothing,” Tiger God said.
But he did not take his eyes off the sky.
Bug God faltered, struggled, flapped her tiny wings in the cold cold dark thin air still so far away from the stars.
Someone said again.
This time, Bug God answered, sparing the tiniest amount of her energy from the continued, slow climb up to the stars.
“What?” Bug God asked
The bugs of the world were growing restless, concerned. There was no God in the tree, there was no word from Bug God, the vizier was merely sitting there, and it was getting on towards midnight. Nobody knew what would happen. Never before had Bug God left the tree, never before had Bug God’s carapace not simply faded away into dust on the branch of the throne.
The vizier could feel the sussurance of concern before he heard it or saw it: the rustling of wings, the clicking of jaws, the scraping of carapaces, the tapping of lets, all stirred the air and made it spin and dance and swoop around him, and in those breezes the vizier read the fear growing in the people.
Bug God, what have you done? the vizier wondered. But he walked to the edge of the branch, slowly, taking one small step at a time. He knew that his motion would be seen by those near him, that it would run the risk of converting fear into panic: what was needed was reassurance, now, and merely moving would not provide that – but moving too quickly would be certain to crest the wave of concern into a full onslaught of rioting, and he did not want to do that.
Nor did he know what he would say, yet. The flower from which Bug God had emerged last night was noticeably wilting. Each time before, each day at midnight, he had been there to see the old Bug God crumble into dust just as the new one emerged from the flower, her wings damp with night-dew, her eyes opening onto the world she would rule for the next 24 hours. Never before had the flower changed, other than the shifting of the pedals as the new Bug God emerged.
The vizier trembled a little.
Tiger God, without taking his own eyes of the sky, murmured to Bird God: “Where is she now?”
Bird God, too, stared straight up, keen eyes peering into the vast sky. “She is still climbing up, even more slowly now. I am amazed that she can still be going. I don’t know how she is doing it.”
Tiger God kept staring up as Monkey God said: “Something is not right.”
“I feel it too,” Bird God said. “Something wrong.”
Tiger God let their words die out, let the night again be taken over by the crackles and hisses and taps and shuffles of the billions of bugs gathered around the tree, bugs worried for their god and their home and their lives and their world. Tiger God could hear the vizier’s slow steps out to the end of the branch, so good was his hearing. His fur bristled with the air’s rapture as the bugs spun it around.
“It is fine,” Tiger God said.
The other two then took their eyes off the sky to look at him, startled.
“How can you say that?” Monkey God asked.
“Can you not feel what is in the air?” Bird God demanded.
“Yes,” Tiger God said. “A new day is almost here.”
Bug God, you have flown higher and farther than any living being ever has before, the voice told her.
Bug God could hardly keep her wings moving. She felt each tiny increment of height throughout her rapidly weakening body, felt it wrack her with the absence of anything around her. The stars! They were still so far away.
“I cannot reach them,” she said, meaning it as a question.
You can, the voice told her. But not the way you are going.
The vizier stopped to stroke the pedals of the flower. Two of them fell off and began to waft down gently below the branch. The pedals, as flower pedals will, drifted here and there and back again, sometimes lifting on an air current, sometimes pirouetting in place. The vizier, horrified at what he had done, stepped back, only two see more pedals flutter off: three four five ten, the flower was falling apart and then it did fall apart, seeming almost to explode into a white brilliance, the tiny iridescent shards ballooning out and then starting to fall down.
The vizier stood still as stone, trying to decipher this event.
The petals formed a slowly widening, lightly dancing cloud just below the branch, descending with tiny steps, hesitantly, as though afraid of where they might land and what might be waiting for them.
Monkey God held himself tightly with his long furry arms, alternating between watching the flower on the branch suddenly puff up into a cloud of pedals, watching the sky where he could see nothing but stars and darkness, and watching Tiger God, who calmly stared up into the sky as though he had said and felt nothing.
Bird God plucked several feathers from the edge of his chest in annoyance, lifted his left claw, lifted his right, then settled back in. He flapped his wings and shook his head. Having done all that, he finally said: “She has no right.”
“We are gods. We each of us do what we want,” Tiger God said, softly.
“We should have done something,” Bird God said.
“Perhaps it is not too late,” Monkey God said hopefully.
“We need to act!” Bird God said. He tried to make it sound commanding but it came off as a plea. Both Monkey God and Bird God were aware that they were not actually talking to each other, but to Tiger God.
“She can’t do this,” Monkey God said.
Tiger God looked away from the sky then and at them.
“We are gods,” he said. “What can’t we do?”
Bug God it is time to turn away the voice said.
Bug God could not speak; even if she had had the energy to spare, the air was gone and she could force none of it through her tracheae. But in her mind she said I will not turn away from the stars.
The stars do not lie that way, for you, Bug God.
I can see them Bug God thought desperately. Her wings buzzed in a frantic motion as she sought any purchase in this emptiness.
You have gone as far as you needed to, she was told.
Bug God folded her wings.
You have done what you needed to do, she was told.
Bug God let her legs go limp, stopped clawing for purchase.
See what you have wrought, Bug God.
Bug God let herself turn downward at the world, saw in a billion facets the curve of the earth below her, the oceans spreading out endlessly to either side, glowing silver with moonlight, saw the dark continents anchored to the core of the earth by pillars of rock, the trees and flowers and mountaintops each shimmering here and there with tiny flecks of light reflected back into the sky.
She saw the tree she had lived on her whole life, saw the massive gathering of bugs there, saw the vizier cowering, saw the flower gone, its pedals spreading out in a canopy over her people.
You have reached the stars, Bug God, she was told.
how, Bug God wondered. how is that true when I am not yet at their level?
You are at their level, the voice said. For you have become one.
The words echoed in her mind as Bug God began to fall.
“See, there,” Tiger God said.
He was pointing towards the tree, where the first of the flower petals were starting to land on the bugs below. The immediate reaction was alarm, and the fear spread through the bugs almost visibly. The flower the flower the flower he flower the flower he flower the flower he flower the flower he flower the flower he flower the flower he flower the flower was repeated by a billion tiny voices as more and more petals landed.
Monkey God and Bird God could not speak: they were enraged and fearful, far more so than the bugs. Their minds boiled with thoughts of what could be done even now to stop what was happening. Bug God… Bug God… she had given up her post and left the world, and once one god falls, they knew… neither Monkey God nor Bird God wanted to admit they were aware of what this meant.
“It is a new day,” Tiger God said. He looked up.
The vizier looked down at the ground, saw the bugs begin to race in circles and rise up in clouds and trample each other. He did not know what to do. The flower was gone! Bug God was gone! He could not look at the apocalyptic vision below, did not know what to do, and cast his eyes upward, the last place he had seen his salvation.
They will not need you anymore, the voice said, and it was like a blanket was wrapped around Bug God. She felt warm and safe and secure even as her body fell faster and faster and faster. She saw with surprise and pleasure that her legs, her body, her wings were beginning to glow.
You have reached the stars, Bug God the voice said and wished her farewell.
“They will not need us anymore,” Tiger God said, and because he was looking up he saw it before the other two gods, before anyone except
The vizier’s eyes locked on it at once: A brightly glowing speck that grew in intensity rapidly even as it began to trace a line across the sky, a trail of glimmer behind it stretching off into the night sky.
“Look…” the vizier said, and something in his voice carried enough power to reach the bugs nearest him, who – dazed and distressed already by the disintegration of the flower and the events of the night – paused a moment and looked where the vizier was indicating with his antennae.
They stilled and pointed, too, and one by one by one through a billion bugs, each bug stopped worrying about the flower, about its neighbors, about its life, and stared up into a night sky speckled with a thousand different tiny glows, and one bright arc of a golden light stretching from directly above the tree out across the immensity above them.
As the bugs watched, the line grew and grew and grew, and they slowly understood what was happening, knew that Bug God was up there, was the one making the glow, was slowly burning away and leaving herself behind in this thrilling flare.
The trail, they realized, was coming almost directly at the tree, making its way more directly tan it seemed – the shimmer seeming to be a curve only because of its height and the immense length of it, and the bugs were frozen in that moment, every eye watching Bug God’s final flight, watching as the last of the Bug Gods slowly pierced the night sky, glowing with the intensity of a new star even as she faded from the world.
The bugs felt, as their god scintillated from the heavens, a sense of freedom blow over them. The flower petals were stirred up and drifted away. Had someone asked them – but who would, ever? – each bug would have said that it felt suddenly like it was the master of its own fate, that it was able to determine what course it might take. Around the world, every other living thing felt a slight stirring of this same feeling: that perhaps it was their own destiny to make for themselves, and they could decide how their lives would unfold, rather than having each moment dictated to them by some unfathomable force. The bugs stared up at the sky and saw their god giving herself back to them and everything else in the world began to ask their own god to give itself up to them, too – to let them be the gods of their own selves.
The trace burnt so brightly over the world!
And then it was over. The coruscating line stopped growing longer. After a moment, then, it began to fade, little by little, until it was gone.
Only the stars remained, as they had been before: beautiful, cold, and somehow both impossibly far away, and closer than you could imagine.