Estimated reading time — 6 minutes
The first thing Jenny noticed about the new house wasn’t the Jacuzzi, or the wrap around porch, or even her new room. It was the moths. The first one flew out the door when they unlocked the house for the first time. It wasn’t a big deal, and the family had even had a good laugh about it. But then she started seeing more of them. Nestled in the corners, in drawers, even in the old pots and pans left by the previous owner. She hated moths. To her, they were just ugly, dusty butterflies. But nobody else seemed to mind.
At first Jenny though that nobody else was really bothered by moths. They were everywhere. They were in her room, and that’s what really upset her. But the most moths were in the living room. Every time she flipped the light on or walked into that room, she swore she could hear the rustling of hundreds of gray wings folding, trying to hide from her. She was surprised anybody would even sit in there. But they did, and they cooked with the pots, and the ignored the two moths flying around the ceiling fan at dinner.
“There are a lot of moths here.” Jenny stated, picking dully at her food.
“Suppose so.” Her brother said, stuffing the cooked chicken into his mouth. She looked away, disgusted.
“Is it the light? I mean, maybe it’s the light that’s attracting them. We could turn on the porch lights at night to try and draw them out. Or maybe it’s the smell; that-“ Jenny was cut off mid-sentence.
“Jenny, calm down. There are hardly any moths. You’re just over reacting.” Her father said, cutting his food.
“I haven’t noticed any.” Her mother said, slowly sipping her soup. Since she had gotten sick, she hadn’t spoken much. She was looking better today, it seemed like. Or perhaps it was just the lighting. Jenny remained silent, eyeing the moths above her head.
She didn’t sleep that night. She couldn’t. It seemed when ever she closed her eyes, the moths started moving. They hid from her; of course, they knew she would swat them if she saw them. But when her eyes were closed, the moved. She put in her earphones, and tried to block out the noise. It took her an hour, but she finally fell asleep. Her dreams were gloomy and confusing, and she didn’t remember them in the morning. But the words screamed in her dream were still in the back of her mind, ‘The moths.’
She awoke to the sun peeking through her window. She sighed, and covered her head with her covers. An eruption of wings came from her bed, flying up past her face. She screamed, realizing the moths were not only on her bed, but also in her bead. She jumped out and ran into the hallway, panting. Her brother stumbled out of his room, wide eyes glazed over.
“W-what?” He asked, looking around. She could only stare as three moths climbed slowly through his doorway, onto the ceiling. She covered her mouth as another moth crawled over her brother’s foot. He didn’t even notice.
“There are moths everywhere!” She screamed. “How do you not see them!?” He sighed.
“You’re such a drama queen.” He mumbled, going back into his room. Jenny stayed, staring at her open door, back against the wooden railing, for a while. She couldn’t go back in there. She couldn’t. It had been like this for a week already. No more.
She went downstairs for breakfast, still in her pajamas. Her father looked up at her in mild surprise.
“Aren’t people usually dressed by 8:30?” He asked, returning to his toast.
“Yeah, funny thing about that. I was awake this morning, at 6:00. But then I was woken up by moths, Dad. In my room. In my bed.” Jenny complained, still shaking off the memories.
“So that was you screaming your head off this morning?” He asked, looking up at her with a slightly angry expression.
“I- Have you even listened to me? Dad, moths! Everywhere! Up on the ceiling, in the furniture! Yes, I was screaming, because there were 20 moths in my bed!” She exclaimed furiously. How could he not see what was crawling over his breakfast plate? She shrieked and picked up the newspaper, smashing the moth on the table. Her father jumped back, almost knocking his coffee over.
“Listen, Jenny, I know you’re upset about the move and all, but this is ridiculous! Okay, yes, one moth. But you woke your mom and I up last night, and she wasn’t able to get back to sleep. You know how important sleep is for her, don’t you? Now, I think you should go into the living room and apologize to her.” Her father said sternly. Jenny was dumbfounded. Did he not notice, or did he just hate her? She knew there was no point in arguing. When the ‘Mom is sick’ card is pulled, you may as well fold, because there is no way you’ll win. She straightened up and spun on her heel, heading to the living room.
Her mother was sitting on the large brown sofa, eating more soup. Jenny grimaced as the moths nestled farther into the safe cushions.
“Hey, Mom, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you. It’s just the moths-“ Jenny tried to explain, already feeling bad for what she had done.
“You know what, Jenny?” He mom demanded in a hostile tone, “I’ve had just about enough of the moths. I haven’t seen any; they’re not bothering anyone. But you jut have to keep pushing and pushing for attention. You think this move hasn’t been hard on all of us? I’m the one dying, Jennifer.” Her mom stared at her with a coldness she had never seen before. Jenny backed up. Her mother had never been cruel. Even when she was diagnosed, she took it in stride. Her eyes darted up as a moth grasping to the ceiling fan slowly dropped down. It landed in her mother’s soup bowl. Her mother, still looking directly at her, spooned the struggling moth into her mouth. There was a small crunch, and then nothing. Jenny grasped the wall behind her, and ran to the front hallway. She didn’t know where she was going. Just anywhere but here.
She ended up beside a river. She didn’t know which one. She had just run until she was gasping for breath. Then she had walked. And eventually, after about an hour, the path she had been following faded away onto a riverbank. She sat where the sand and grass met, slowly tugging pieces of grass up. Something was wrong. Her brother, an alert, determined boy had been so sleepy lately. A moth could crawl the length of his body and he wouldn’t even know. Her father, a quiet, studious man, was angry and harsh. And her mother… her sweet, sickly mother. She was cruel. She rested her hands in the grass and sighed, tears pricking her eyes. What was happening? She felt tiny legs crawl over her index finger and pulled her hand up quickly. A small, grey shape fluttered up. She screamed, and ran. There was no place to run but home.
The walk home took longer than the run did. By the time she was back, it was around lunchtime. She saw the car was gone from the front of the house. They must have gone someplace with out her. She sighed again, and looked down. She felt guilty and angry and upset. But most of all, she felt confused. At this point, everyone had abandoned her. Her friends, her family- but not the moths. She made her way to the back door. Luckily, it was unlocked. She let herself in and made herself a sandwich, not paying any attention to the moths. After finishing, she went back to her room and fell asleep.
Hours passed by. The car returned, but nobody woke her up or checked on her. When she opened her eyes, it was dark. She didn’t sit up, or even move. She knew the moths were there. What did it matter? There were moths on her ceiling. Maybe one would fall in her mouth. Maybe it would land in her eye. She didn’t care. The moths above her moved slowly, forming a shape. No, a letter? A word. The moths had lined up to shape a crude word: ‘Jenny.’ Her eyes widened. Sure, nobody cared about her and she had nobody left to rely on. But moths could spell. The rearranged themselves. Three words, in order; ‘We’ ‘Need’ ‘Jenny.’
A shape moved in the corner. Jenny’s eyes quickly shot to the object. At first, it looked like a mass of moths, moving together in a cloud. But then she saw it: Two eyes, red. Staring at her. At first she thought she imagined it. But it grew closer. It was in the shape of a man, but with wings. His body was covered with a short grey fur. She should be scared. She should be screaming. But something about this was calming. Like this was meant to happen. He reached out an arm to her. The moths above her now read, ‘Go.’ She sat up, the moths flying up around her, dispersing from her covers. And she took his hand. It was warm, yet cool at the same time. The fur was rough, and small claws protruded from his fingertips. His did not hurt her, though. He needed her, as did the moths.
The moths needed a Queen.
Prompt by 1000Masks