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Story #5: The Youngling

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The youngling looked up, high in the sky. Its large eyes saw the fire monster in the distance, click-click, it was coming closer, click-click, slowly. Today was the day of rest. It was the day when families got together, when celebrations happened, when the weary rested. Today was the day after the younglings fifth shedding. He was still a nymph but yearned to be an adult. He went for a sojourn over the hill and into the berry fields with his father, to help him recover from the ardour of the shedding. His shiny new carapace was heavier, but he enjoyed the challenge of growing into an adult. The youngling turned around, he didn't see his father, click-click, click-click, he didn't see him anywhere. The grass and bushes were too tall for him to see his father, unless he was standing on his hind legs.

The youngling turned back towards the fire monster in the sky, click-click, it seemed to be heading right for him. With the fire monster approaching, however, he was timid about standing up. The youngling stamped his back legs and his arms excitedly, click-click, watching it approach, click-click, it would not be long now. He was both excited and scared. The fire monster got bigger; the youngling thought he could hear it roaring.

The youngling's father was a builder, therefore, the youngling was a builder. That meant his family was in the larger proportion of their kind. There were those who hunted and gathered, there were the builders, there were the caregivers, and there were the breeders. Such was the make-up of their race, a race of four casts, in that pecking order. As the hunters and gatherers were at the top of the cast structure, they were the most revered ... and feared. The builders, however, were respected. The builders gave their kind everything they had. From structures to live in, to the simple furnishings of their homes, to the tools that everyone used, the builders were responsible for those things. The youngling was too young to have the responsibility of building large things, but he did build small things. The youngling was already being called upon to help with small projects in the different homes of their tribe.

He turned around and called quietly to his father. One never made much noise when one was alone, it was too dangerous. There was no response from his father. Not even a tingle on either of his cerci. The youngling turned back again, looking up, click-click-click-click, the fire monster was almost there! The youngling realized that he might be the one to first meet the fire monster. He thought about the fire-bellies, the ones that flitted around the wetlands. They appeared briefly when the big sky's own fireball was going to rest, after a long day. The fire-bellies would flit around the edges of the water. Sometimes, when cajoled and jeered by his friends, the youngling would quickly rise up and snatch one of the fire-bellies to eat. He was always surprised that they didn't burn his mouth; the world, he had learned, was full of wonders. As he watched the fire monster approach closer, he thought that perhaps he should turn and leave the area, leave the fire monster.

The hunters and gatherers always went out in large groups; they always came home laden with food, supplies, or building materials, depending on what the reason was for their group to go out in the first place. Lately though, these groups were occasionally coming back smaller than when they had departed. Such things happened from time to time, one of the hunters or one of the gatherers would be killed during their work. When that rarely happened, they would be born back to the tribe on their own carapace sections, then shared with the village. Lately, however, the hunters and gatherers were coming back without their fallen. This was disconcerting for many societal reasons. When this happened, the youngling and his friends watched the adults gather around those returning, listening to important words, but not sharing them. The youngling had tried to get close enough to hear them, the last time this happened. He wound up being chased all the way home by this father, threatened to repeat nothing of what he had heard, if he had heard anything. That was the first time the youngling had cried. This moved his father, his father the builder, the first-builder of their tribe. The youngling's father took him, that night, to his workshop. He showed him how to use many of the tools that the youngling had seen, but never touched. The youngling had never loved his father as much as he did that night, the night he spent time alone with his father, in his father's workshop. Click-click.

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