The fireflies are out in force tonight, turning the air above the lawn into a dizzying sea of dancing lights. Pretty much the only entertainment someone living in the middle of nowhere with a busted TV can find on a Wednesday night. I put my feet up on the porch’s railing and take a sip from my glass.
Buying this bottled “Sweetened Tea” was a mistake. A better label would have been “Tea Flavored Pancake Syrup”. So much for paring back my drinking.
A heavy-sounding crash from the side of the house has me on my feet so fast that I nearly spill my drink. I jump down the steps of the porch and race around the corner, alert for whatever made that god-awful noise. I stop in front of the planter halfway down the side of the house and glance around. Wall seems undamaged. Nothing skulking around in the yard or out in the woods. Huh, there’s a light coming out of my office window. I must have left the lamp on…
“Ow, ow, ow, ow…”
A small voice from the bushes beneath the office window puts me back on guard.
Tick, tock, tick, tock…
“What are you doing in there?”
“Didn’t sound like nothing.”
“Well it was.”
“My ass it was.”
“Look I’m not going to argue about this, just come out of there”
“Promise you’re not gonna be mad?”
“Then why would I come out?”
“Because if you don’t I’m going to turn the sprinklers on. Now get out here and stop crushing my azaleas”
The bushes rustle with motion and a pair of feathery antennae emerges from the foliage. A pretty, if a bit angular, face framed with white chitin along the jawline follows them, followed in turn by a body whose pleasant fullness in all the areas modelling agencies like is concealed by a black turtleneck and a pair of bike shorts, all draped in a pair of scaly wings. The vexed-looking mothwoman grips the bushes with her lower set of arms to support herself, the upper set still occupied with rubbing her head. She starts fidgeting when she straightens up, shifting her weight from claw to chitinous claw, almond shaped eyes cast downward.
“So what brings you to this neck of the woods?”
“I frickin’ live here”
“Really? That’s nice. You do all this landscaping yourself? I bet you did. You look like you’ve got a green thu-“
“No no no, this conversation isn’t about me, it’s about you, and the fact that you just trashed my flowerbed.”
“I’m sorry. I really am. It’s just, well, you know…”
“I don’t know. Honestly. You’re going to have to explain it to me.”
“I wanted to, uh, um…look at the…”
“THE LAMP! I FLEW UP TO LOOK AT THE LAMP AND HIT MY HEAD ON THE WINDOW OKAY!?”
“It casts really pretty light.”
She looks over her shoulder up at the office window as she speaks. I look along with her, but I don’t see it. It’s just ordinary light from an ordinary desk lamp.
She nods vehemently.
“I don’t see it.”
“You don’t have eyes like mine. You’ve got an incandescent bulb in there don’t you?”
“Probably. I haven’t changed it since I bought it.”
“That’s why it’s so great. No one has those anymore. They’re all using those fluorescent bulbs now and those things make light like tepid skim milk”
“You know you can go into any hardware store in the country and buy one of those bulbs for less than a dollar, right?”
Her antennae droop a little bit.
“Same reason cops can’t go into Krispy Kreme. I’d just be advancing the stereotype.”
“So you fly around at night hunting for lamps with pretty light?”
“Yes. Two or three times a week.”
“How’s that working out for you?”
“My doctor hates me and the sheriff’s department one county over is looking for me.”
She points to the glass of iced “tea” in my hand, forgotten until now.
“Can I have a drink of that? It smells yummy.”
“What was that?”
“It smells yummy?”
“No the first part.”
“Can I have a drink?”
“No, before that, the part about the, uh…”
The moth-woman smiles pleasantly and cocks her head.
“Sure, let me get you a glass.”
“Ah~. This is delicious!”
My insectile guest clacks her glass down on the wrought iron table between us, the last dregs from her third helping of straight sugar clinging to the ice at the bottom. She’s seated on a stool I brought out from the house. She tried to sit on a regular chair when she first came up here, then wordlessly seated herself on the ground.
“Something wrong?” I’d asked.
“It’s uncomfortable trying to fit my wings into a chair with a back.”
Makes sense. They nearly reach down to her knees. Like a cape, almost.
“So you’re just going to sit on the ground then?”
“I thought it would be rude to make you find me another seat.”
My mind is still struggling to comprehend how she could think it was okay to fly up to a stranger’s window to ogle his lighting fixtures, but not to ask for a more comfortable chair, when she draws my attention with an extremely fake-sounding cough.
“I don’t think we’ve introduced ourselves yet. I’m Kaitlyn.”
I accept her proffered hand and introduce myself, distracted a bit by the glassy smoothness of her chitin-clad appendage.
“Man, I’m never gonna remember that. Glad to meet you though. Also really glad that you didn’t call the police. That means a lot to me.”
Uh oh. I don’t like that tone of voice.
“Would it be weird if I asked to come in and sit by that lamp?”
“Yes. Yes it would be.”
“How weird? ‘Gee whiz this chick is kinda out there’-weird, or ‘Good lord, the butter slipped off her toast long ago, I’m getting my gun’-weird?”
“Probably the first one.”
“I can live with that. How about it?”
“What will you do if I say no?”
“Wait until you fall asleep, break in, subdue you, abscond with the lamp, maybe stop at a Denny’s on the way home.”
“You know, maybe I should call the cops after all. Let them know to watch all the Denny’s locations around here and get in touch with their buddies in the next town.”
“Awwww come oooooon~” she croons, leaning forward to flash me the most heart melting puppy dog-eyes a person with compound eyes is capable of giving.
“That’s not gonna work.”
Her will-shattering gaze intensifies.
“Nope. Not working at all.”
She adds a cute little pout to her routine.
“Oh fine. Come on.”
Kaitlyn boosts herself off the stool with a single flick of her wings and moves with carefully orchestrated apathy to the door. I can tell from the way she bounces on her tip toes that she’s ready to rush into the house ahead of me, but she has just barely enough tact to hide her roiling enthusiasm.
Her quill-like antennae go haywire when she steps through the door, each one swishing and pivoting independently, taking in her new surroundings. The wings hanging down from her shoulder blades flicker slightly with excitement at all the electric lights.
“Wow,” she gushes, “You’ve got a lovely home. Just gorgeous.”
“I was actually just about to apologize for the state of the place.”
“Why would you? There’s like, 10 light bulbs in here!”
I’m sensing a theme here.
“You really like light bulbs don’t you?”
She shrugs, antennae still flipping about like they have a mind of their own.
“Girl’s gotta have a hobby. Anyway…”
She stands to the side and holds her arm out.
“After you, dear sir.”
“Uh, my office is actually over that way.” I inform her, pointing over her shoulder.
She carefully lines herself up with the direction I’m pointing in and assumes the same pose.
I shuffle past her and show her up the stairs. As we creak down toward the end of the hallway it occurs to me that I’m leading a complete stranger rather deep into my house. If she really was more than just some harmless wacko, I’d have a hard time escaping her.
I glance over my shoulder at her.
“You look kinda tense all the sudden.”
“I was just-“
My housecat mewls pathetically from the doorjam of my bedroom, wondering why I’m not paying attention to it.
“Get lost you little shithead.”
I’m not up for dealing with the rat-catcher’s bullhockey at the moment, but my guest is of a rather different opinion.
“Go ahead. It’s your funeral.”
Apparantly Kaitlyn didn’t catch my drift, because she doesn’t hesitate to bend down and reach out toward the brain-damaged alley cat I keep around for anti-pest purposes. Camacho, pretty much like you’d expect, is afraid of strangers and even more afraid of strangers that are of a different species than he’s used to. So, naturally, his response to having a strange insectile creature reaching toward him is to execute a flying death leap to the face.
“AAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” Kaitlyn falls onto her back, desperately trying to detach the psychotic feline from her head.
Nah, this girl is pretty much harmless.
“Okay, okay. That’s enough furball. Get off.” I drone and reach down to yank the ragged feline off of my guest, feeling much better about my chances of making it through the night without getting stabbed, raped, or rape-stabbed.
Camacho whines pathetically, pawing uselessly at the air, tail hanging limp.
“Awwww…” Kaitlyn sighs and stands back up. She reaches out to pet him again, having learned absolutely nothing from her experience five seconds ago. She actually manages it this time, mostly because I’ve got him by the nape of the neck and he can’t really do anything right now.
I’m suddenly feeling sympathetic, so I hold him up and let her pet him for as long as I can before my arms starts to give out. He hits the ground and staggers back down the hall like a drunken sailor shortly after, leaving Kaitlyn waving goodbye with two of her hands while the other two remain pressed over the injuries she sustained.
“Well, that was fun.” She says with unsettling cheeriness as one of her antennae flaps down over her face to bat at the largest of the scratches on her cheek. This really isn’t a person who should be left alone for too long.
“I think you might need a bandaid. Or two”
“Sure,” she says, giving one of those disturbing, uncanny shrugs people with extra sets of arms give, “Do you have any Spiderman bandaids?”
As it happens, I do not have any Spiderman bandaids, but for some reason there’s a box of G.I. Joe bandaids in the medicine cabinet. They’re probably as old as I am, but she’s quite insistent on using them to dress her wounds over anything else.
“These look awesome!” she declares with no detectable irony, admiring the adhesive image of Storm Shadow across her nose in the mirror. She doesn’t even have a scratch on her nose, she just really wanted to have that particular bandage front and center on her face.
“Any ninja who can wear white and still do his job has to be great.”
What did we come up here for again?
“So what kind of wattage do you run that lamp on?”
Kaitlyn takes the lead and saunters down the hall, apparently having deduced the way to my office on her own. I struggle to wring some useful piece of information about my house’s electrical situation from the ass end of my mind, but come up short. Luckily for me, Kaitlyn loses all interest in whatever I may have had to say once we reach our goal.
All four of her arms drop to her sides and she shuffles over to my desk with a trance-like gait.
“It’s so awesooome…”
She wedges herself into my office chair, the fact that she’s sitting on one wing and has the other sprawled haphazardly over the back apparently no longer an issue. She just gawks at the corroded old GATCO lamp sitting on my desk. It’s like she’s gone into a fugue state. With nothing better to do, I start creeping up to her, testing just how disconnected she’s become from reality. Quite disconnected indeed as it happens; I actually have to snap my fingers next to her ear to get her to realize that there’s something else in life besides my desk lamp.
“Oh hey. How are you doing?”
“Good. How about you?”
“I’m fine. I’m better than fine. I’m doing great. This has got to be the nicest lamp ever. It’s like candy. For your eyes. It’s eyecandy. But not the lewd kind.” She assures me dreamily, leaning back in the chair and kicking it into a slow spin. Her head starts swooning and bobbing, like someone whose just knocked back three pints on an empty stomach.
This was probably a bad idea. I should have called the fuzz on her when I had the chance; I can’t do it now after she’s already thanked me for leaving them out of this.
Two of Kaitlyn’s hands snap out to halt her spin as it brings her around to face the desk. A third reaches across to grab a half-finished manuscript that’s been gathering dust there.
“Un-tittied Romansh Work”
“It says ‘unTITLED’.”
“Oh. Sorry, thish font’s really small.”
The title on the cover sheet was written in 18 point font.
“…by Jennifer Lovesmith.”
She furrows her brow at me.
“Your names not Jennifer.”
“Publisher insisted that feminine pen names tend to sell better. So far they haven’t been wrong.”
“Wait, YOU’RE Jennifer Lovesmith? I know you! Yer the jerk who wrote all thoshe god-awful mush-fest romance paperbacks we read in middle shkool!”
“That’s me. Smut-slinger extraordinaire.”
“I thought you were s’posed to be a lilim?”
“That’s just a rumor someone started on the internet. Great free publicity though. Buzz means book sales.”
“…I’m shorry I din’t catch a word of that I’m just trying to imagine you with a spade tail and one of those really slutty tradishunal outfits succubusseses wear for culture feshtivals.”
“So the pershon who got me through puberty is just a heartlesh pulp-peddling human. ‘anksh alot world.” she slurs while clumsily starting to leaf through my latest attempt at producing something that’ll get single monsters with low standards hot under the collar.
“I think ‘heartless’ might be a bit much.”
“Uh huh…” she nods distractedly, her antennae a beat behind the rest of her, lost in her reading,”…this sucks. ‘snot cute at all.”
“Yeah yeah I know. Believe me, I know. Right now I don’t have one idea to rub against another.”
“Don’t shay rub. It’sh dirty.”
“Sho why ‘aven’t you got any ideas?”
“I have no idea. That’s why I’m out here. My publisher thought a change of scenery would do me good.”
“Makes shense. No other reason to live in Podunk, Nowhere. Izzit working?” She muses, staring up at the ceiling. Being so close to a light source is really starting to get to her. She’s practically limp except for her antennae, which have started flickering around like flags in a high wind.
“Not really. Right now I couldn’t write a story to save my life.”
“Awwww poor dear…”
She suddenly rises from her seat and slouches across the floor to me. She gives me a “hug”, by which I mean she practically falls on me and then wraps her arms around me. Not that it’s really a problem; she’s as light as you’d expect a flying creature to be. If she were human I’d be worried she was malnourished.
“…I’m shure you’ll come up with something.” She finishes as one of her hands reaches up to pat me klutzily on the head while her antennae start batting at me.
“Ehehe, you shmell like Ivory Soap. Whoinnaheck uses Ivory Soap anymore.”
“Ooookay I think you’ve had just about enough. You need to lie down.”
“Issat an invitation?” she queries, batting her eyelashes at me and pushing her rather substantial chest out.
“No, it’s an order. Now quit pawing at me.”
“Shpoil-sport…” she huffs, but she ceases her obnoxious head patting.
“Alrighty then, come on.”
I disentangle myself from her multitude of clinging appendages and lead her back down to the living room. There are plenty of throwpillows on the couch and an old quilt that I use to keep warm when the weather turns foul. Good enough for government work, as they say.
“I gotta shleep on the couuuch?” she whines.
“You don’t ‘gotta’ sleep anywhere; if you want to stretch out on the floor I won’t stop you.”
“Nevermind nevermindnevermind. The couch soundsh great.”
“Have at it then.”
Kaitlyn face plants on the couch and rolls around like a thing possessed until she’s bundled up in the quilt and has one pillow under her head and another hugged to her chest. She hums with contentment and wriggles against her bedclothes.
“Thish is so comfy~”
This seems like the perfect opportunity to leave.
“Goodniii-iiight~” she sings.
Freed at last from the burdensome responsibility of an intoxicated houseguest, I shuffle back upstairs. Turning one door earlier than I had a few moments ago, I shuffle into my bedroom, free myself from my day clothes, wriggle into a set of baggy pajamas, and lie down for the night.