(the boys) a mass of bugs in the shape of a body

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It seems like it's a giant room, impossibly cavernous and vast, the ceiling and walls sheltered somewhere deep in the distance. It's impossible to tell, exactly, because the room is entirely filled with bugs.

They cover the floor, skittering over each other in piles that undulate and recess like waves. They cover the boxes piled here and there along the floor, they spill out of the red plastic trays that travel on conveyor belts throughout the room, and they fill the air, flying and flickering into each other about, a constant sonic and visual white noise sweeping like a storm in every direction.

The room is filled with long, tall rows of deep red plastic trays on continually-moving conveyer belts. On one side of the room the trays appear, empty, although as soon as they appear the bugs cover them, as they cover every surface. The empty trays travel beneath a series of hoses and get filled half-way up with what looks like a mixture of dirt and garbage. Then they travel beneath another series of hoses where the dirt mixture is squirted with a bubbly gray foam. As the foam settles into the dirt, the trays move under a series of bright lights that heat the foam, hatching millions of larvae that then burrow deeper into the dirt. As the trays turn a slow loop around the room they travel under another series of lights, and then the beetles emerge from the dirt, crawling up, tunneling their way up to the surface in droves and spilling out of the sides of the containers, out onto the floor. They wander around, crawling over each other until their wings start to grow, and then they take flight, filling the air, hovering around the room, getting strong and stronger and more sure of their flight, until they fly high enough eventually to reach the vents.

Somewhere overhead there are huge turbines sucking the flying insects up and out of the room, millions and millions of them disappearing up through the vents every second, but never enough to clear the room. There are always more and more bugs.

The worker is covered in bugs.

They emerge from a row of trays, walking slowly in their bulky life suit, every inch of their skin covered and protected. Their face mask consists of dark black goggles covering their eyes and a breathing apparatus over their mouth, connected via hose to the oxygen unit on their back.

They move slowly, checking the status of the bugs, poking at their screen with one finger to record their progress. They keep having to wipe the bugs off their goggles to see.

The worker checks the consistency of the gray foam, pokes at their screen to indicate systems nominal, then pauses. They turn and look at a long cardboard box labeled Frescue at the end of the row. There are boxes everywhere, with different brand labels. The fact that Frescue is an older, disused brand barely registers. The worker is more worried about the fact that this very large box just moved.

They pause, wipe the bugs away from their goggles and stare at the box, waiting to see if it moves again. It does. It's shaking. Like there's something inside.

The worker steps slowly over to the box, which is shaking even more now, like someone is trapped inside and frantic to get out. The worker imagines an insect larvae that got stuck inside and somehow grew to monstrous proportions and now it's filling this 6 foot long box.

The worker cautiously works a finger underneath the packing tape sealing the box, pulls it off, and steps back. Nothing jumps out at them. But the box keeps shaking, frantically now, like something is going wrong. The workers steps forward again and pulls the box open, digs beneath the packing material inside and finds: a body. It's a boy, having a seizure. He's wearing a breathing unit but maybe something is wrong with it, his eyes rolling back in his head as his body convulses.

The worker isn't sure what to do and without really thinking removes the mask from the boy. There's a pause, and then the boy gasps, his eyes wide open. He looks up in horror at the worker for a moment, and then the bugs descend upon him. A new surface to cover, they alight upon his face and start crawling into his still gasping mouth. He can't even scream. The worker tries to wipe them away but it's too late, he's losing the body behind a wall of bugs and after a moment the body and the box both lie still.

The worker stands back, their black goggle eyes reflecting the box emotionlessly. After a beat they sense something else, someone else, and turns to see 4 more boys standing behind them, all having emerged from other boxes lying around the room. They're wearing face masks and breathing units but otherwise are dressed very shabbily. Their clothes are old. Shapeless. Uncool.

It's impossible to read their emotions with their faces covered but contextual clues say: these 4 boys just watched me accidentally kill their friend and they're not happy. The worker raises their hands to signal caution but it's too late. The boys are set on this going a certain way. They attack the worker all at once. One grabs the worker's arm, trying to get their screen. Another grabs their other arm, one is on the floor, clinging to the worker's legs, while the other jumps on the worker's back.

It's not clean or pretty, as fights go. Or quick. They all just kind of sway and struggle like that for a moment. Whoever these interlopers are, they're not super tough. The worker attempts to shake them off, tries to swipe their screen to indicate a problem. But the boy clinging to their back gets the strap of their face mask unhooked and that's it. The worker's face is exposed, and the bugs descend on them. They don't even have time to get upset. The last emotion they register before their life ends is: Dang it.

The worker falls to the ground and the bugs move up their body in a slow wave as the boys work their limbs free from entanglement. One of the boys takes the worker's screen and gloves, exposing more of their skin to the bugs. One of them goes over to the box where his friend lies. It's a mass of bugs in the shape of a body. He reaches in, pushing his hand beneath the surface of the bugs and fishes around inside the box until he pulls out a gun.

The face of his friend is already partially eaten. He stands over the body in an impenetrable way. Deep in thought, a prayer, who knows.

Then one of the other boys pulls at his arm and they start looking for a way out. They move through the vast room, immediately disappearing into the haze of bugs.


HI EVERYONE WELCOME TO EPISODE 3 I'm so excited, we have some fun stuff lined up. Anyways! Bugs! Gross! We'll be following these boys around the city and learning more about them in upcoming chapters. But FIRST: the return of Kessl8, the world's worst maid.

Thanks for reading, thanks for voting. TTYL 💜


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