Legacy of a Bug

by Erynn Peyton

            “Yeah, man, no. Yeah. It’s been a long week, for sure.”
            “Yeah? What’s up? What’s going on?”
            “Nothing. Not really anything. It’s just dragging, you know?”
            “Uh-huh. Can I get you anything?”
            “It’s just… work. It’s everything, really.”            “What’s going on at work?”
            “Nothing. I’ve just been sitting there thinking, you know?”
            “It’s like, what’s the point? You know? What’s the point of it all?”
            “What is it you do again?”
            “And there’s bugs everywhere. These little beetles. I think they’re called box elder bugs. The place is overrun with them.”
            “Yeah, I’ve seen them around.”
            “And they can’t spray for them, because it’s a cancer hospital. The patients have weak immune systems and stuff, so they can’t spray. So they just get everywhere. Sometimes I just stare out the window and look at them all, dozens of them, flying and crawling over the glass. I mean, they’re out there, and they can literally fly anywhere they want to, and go find trees to live in and eat, you know? But they come here. Something about the building. Dude, you should see it. The building is just covered in them. I can’t figure it out. Why do they love it so much? It’s just glass. It stands out, up there on the hill. Grass and mountains. And then the big, glass building.”
            “I mean, don’t they want food? Shouldn’t they be looking for food?”
            “I think they try to find warm places when it gets cooler like this--”
            “It’s just, if I could be anywhere, you know, just fly anywhere I wanted, I wouldn’t be there. Why would I want to go there? I’m there because I have to be there.”
            “Got to pay the bills.”
            “Sometimes I sit there and I just think I can’t take it anymore. You know? Like, I’m fed up. My life is going nowhere, and I’m stuck in this dead end job watching the bugs.”
            “How’s school going?”
            “I saw this one. He’d gotten inside. They always get inside; they’re all over the floor. They get on my desk and stuff. But I saw this one on the wall in front of me. And he just sat there. I wondered, what must it be like to be a bug on a wall like that? Like, as far as you can see the world is just painted drywall, or whatever. I don’t know what walls are made of. And you don’t even know what the wall is, or what anything is, ‘cause you’re a bug. But that’s your world. That’s your version of reality. Somehow you found your way into this building, this huge building (like, to a bug, can you imagine how big a hospital is), but now you can’t get out. You can’t even remember how you got there. And sure, let’s say you were just trying to find somewhere warm at night, but now you’re inside this building and there’s no food anywhere. And you just crawl around, and crawl around, and sometimes you fly, and you see other bugs like you but none of you can find any food and you’re all kind of on your own in that respect. You know?”
            “And so anyway, this bug was just sitting there on the wall, and after a while he started crawling again, towards the window. And when he got to the window, he crawled around on it for a while and then he just sat there again. At this point I was thinking, he’s got to be able to see light coming through the window, and maybe he can even make out the shapes of the trees and grass outside. I don’t know what their vision is like, but let’s just say, right? He can definitely see the other bugs crawling all over the outside, but he can’t get to them. You know? He’s got to realize something’s wrong. He’s so close to getting back out, but what’s he going to do now?
            “Then he freaked. He just snapped, you know? He started flying, and he whirled into the glass over and over again, bouncing off, making little tapping noises each time. He was ballistic! He wouldn’t calm down. It was like he was rebelling against reality, because he knew he should be able to get past where the glass was but just couldn’t. And he had to be close to the end. He had to know he needed to get out to that grass and those trees to eat or he’d be finished.
And that’s when I realized: we’re all that bug. We’re all trapped in here, this concrete world, walking on a sea of glass that we can see through but not pass through. We’re all stuck in this illusion, and just like the bug has no way of knowing he’s trapped in a building made by a species thousands of times larger and more intelligent than itself, we don’t know that we’re trapped in something. Something impossibly big and complex, something we can’t get a handle on. And we went there because we needed warmth, or something. We thought we were just surviving. But we wandered far and we lost track of who we really were while on the way. We separated ourselves from something we really need. Something spiritual, maybe. Some kind of meaning. You know? You ever feel like that? Like you’re trapped on the wrong side of the glass?”
What happened to the bug?”
I don’t know. He just disappeared.”
What do you mean he disappeared?”
I just said I don’t know, man! I don’t know. Maybe…”
Maybe he found a way out.”