In China, we’re kept as pets, and considered lucky. In Brazil, we’re counted on as tellers of fortune. In Barbados and Zambia, we’re welcomed as portents of windfalls. In Macao we fight- but at least that gives an honest insect an honest shot. Here in the States, we’re boiled alive in chocolate and devoured; the rest of us… well, the rest of us aren’t that lucky.
"Is it awake?" Lisa asked. "I can’t tell," Jim rwhispered. "How long has it been since he ate Tom?" asked Cecil. "I don’t know if you can say Tom’s eaten. I can still see a leg, and I think that’s a, that’s gotta be a wing," added Peter.
"Is it spring? Does anyone want to breed with me yet?" asked Michael. "Do you even know if there are any females here?" asked Jim. "I’m a female," Lisa said. "How do you know if you don’t have any eggs?" asked Cecil. "I won’t have eggs until the spring, dumbass- and I know I’m a female. Just look at my curves," she replied.
"Curves? You look like the rest of us," Cecil said. "Dude, I’m not going to stop her from breaking off your leg and beating you into a stupor with it." Jim told him. "Who asked you to?" he replied. "God… I can’t believe this. Dying sucks enough, but, you know, I really wanted to be a mother," she whimpered. "I can arrange that," offered Michael.
"But I’m stuck with- and I don’t mean any more offense than is necessary- but I’m stuck here with all of you. Even if I could enter estrus in time, your offspring would hatch with three eyes, three brain cells, three times too much testosterone, or three times too little," Lisa collapsed on the heating rock with a sigh. "Not to mention the fact that you’re three-eyed, balding but bosomed retard babies wouldn’t be able to get out of here, they’d just be late night snacks for Godzilla over there," Cecil added. "Now where have I heard that name before?" Jim asked.
"Was it just me, or did the leg just move?" asked Peter. "Whose leg, Tom’s, or the thing?" asked Cecil. "I don’t know, did either of them move?" asked Peter. "I don’t think so, but I wasn’t paying attention," replied Cecil. "Then why did you ask whose leg I meant?" asked Peter. "I was just trying to be helpful," replied Cecil. "Hey guys, I’m not dead, I’m still alive in here, seriously."
"Oh, my insect lord," said Cecil. "Hurry, get him to open his mouth so I can, crawl out of here. The smell, is, well it smells like dead us-es. Like a lot of dead us-es, like, generations on generations of," Jim stopped speaking to laugh. "That is so not funny, Jim; I think I’d breed with Michael before you," Lisa said. "Really?" asked Michael. "No, not really."
The beast opened its mouth to yawn, then closed it, and, as if realizing there was still most of a cricket in its throat, wrapped its tongue around Tom’s carapace and smashed it downward with a sickening crunch.
Cecil panicked, and said, "We are locked, in a cage, with something that wants to eat us." An older cricket poked his head out of the piece of wood. "Yep. And you’re going to die here, too. My name’s Henry, by the by. I used to think I’d wake up. Or find a way out. At least maybe die of old age before he got me. But I’ve seen enough crickets come and die to know it’s a matter of when, never if. I’ve seen smart ones and fast ones, young and old, all food for the beast. I wish I could say I was at peace, or that at least I’d made mine, but, I’m not ready to die. I don’t know that, barring circumstances, I ever would be, but I know I’m not ready to die yet, and I sincerely doubt I’ll live to a point where I am."
"How long have you been here?" asked Jim. "Oh, I’ve seen a couple new waves of immigrants come and, um, well, go. It was hard the first time, because they were good folks I knew, good folks I grew up knowing. The second time was easier. I didn’t talk to them much; I warned them as I could, but, well, young crickets are always hard to talk sense to. There was a girl with them, who I think I remembered from larvalhood. I couldn’t remember if she was from the same clutch as me or not, but I think, had she lived long enough, I’d have bred with her. Desparation, strange bedfellows and all that."
"You seem pretty calm," said Peter. "I seem that way, yeah. Because you can’t panic. If you panic, he wins. He waits and he eats when he wants. There’s really no telling when he’ll be hungry again next. So you just stay calm, and try to keep your wits about you as you can," Henry replied. "What do you know about the beast?" asked Jim quietly. "I’d think the beast was god if I were that much of a cynic, and if I hadn’t seen bigger things. Hell, we’ve all seen bigger things if you think back to it- the big pink things that took us from our home in the first place and crammed us into this hell. I sometimes wonder if we’re being tested, that if we last this damnation long enough, we’ll be let loose in a field without predators or parasites, teaming with females swollen with eggs, or males that won’t give us retard children- but it’s wishful thinking, and it’s killed better bugs than me."
Michael collapsed onto the fake rocks and muttered, "Damn. I was hoping to live until spring. So I could pass on my superior libido." Jim interjected, "You don’t have a superior libido, you just have no self control." Michael responded, "Yeah, but I think that would be genetically helpful."
"Where the hell did you learn a word like ‘genetically’?" asked Peter. "I don’t know. Doesn’t it have something to do with genitals?" asked Michael. "Um, yes and no?" responded Jim. "But mainly no," added Peter. "Except when it’s yes, which is mainly in spring," added Cecil. "Yeah, except then," agreed Peter. "Oh…" Michael said solemnly; "so… is it spring yet?"