Figures of Speech – An old short story of mine

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And now for your enjoyment, Figures of Speech by Adam Dreece circa 1996.

“Well, Ophelia, I suppose you have a point there. I hadn’t really considered it a possibility,” Arju said fluttering around gently in the breeze. The topic of conversation today had been most intriguing, better than any of their other impromptu afternoon philosophical debates. They seemed to spark up every couple of days, whenever any of their little gang was in these parts.

Ophelia was laying on an autumn maple leaf quite comfortably. She was ecstatic that Arju had been interested in talking about her topic of the day. She always tried to come up with something really thought provoking but rarely found any success. Today, however, was a day of intellectual triumph.

“I also think that they might be sentient,” she added, pushing the boundary of reason.

“Oh, I don’t know if I’d go that far,” Arju replied. He had started to glow as the sun went down. Being a firefly had the advantage of allowing such conversations to retain their original atmosphere, despite the time of day.

“That’s because you aren’t daring,” said Floyd as he inched himself over the hill of pebbles, slowly coming into view. Floyd had a habit of stepping into conversations both uninvited and unwelcome. He liked to be a know it all, but sometimes was mildly entertaining and on truly rare occasions, was known to have a good point. The most annoying thing about Floyd, however, was the fact that he always kept to earthworms with him, which he also named Floyd. Despite their being slightly lower life forms on the worm scale than Floyd, these creatures sat on the other side of the sentient line, behaving more like simple pets than anything else.

Ophelia twitched her antennae, “Ruined. A perfectly good topic about to be ruined,” she muttered under her breath. “Hey Floyd, I saw a pile of dung on the way here, why don’t you go get it.”

Floyd looked at one of the earthworms, and looked back at Ophelia, puzzled. “You know he can’t hear you, so why do you talk to him?”

“I was talking to you!” she bit back.

“Really Floyd, no one believes you that you can hear any subtle differences in the way the names are pronounced,” said Arju, shifting his position to have everyone in view.

Floyd was looking at the other earthworm, “No Floyd, he wasn’t talking to you, he was talking to me. No, I don’t know why they keep mispronouncing your names.”

“If they couldn’t hear me, how can they hear you? You are so… oh never mind,” commented Ophelia, giving up.

“That defeatist attitude is your undoing, Ophelia. That is why ants fail to proceed lower on the food chain,” said Floyd.

Arju rebuked, “Floyd, we’ve discussed that topic to death before. You are the only one that thinks being lower on the food chain is better.”

Floyd inched forward indignantly, “You, sir, are a mere firefly. I do not expect you little buggy brain to start to be able to comprehend such a thing. It requires the mind of an inch worm or better, to fully comprehend it,” he trumpeted, ego and proud held up him. “Now, what was the topic of the day?”

Ophelia and Arju traded looks. They both knew there was no way to get Floyd to leave without giving up the goods. The least they could do was attempted to enjoy it and get it over with quickly.

“Well,” Ophelia started reluctantly, “we were talking about the walkers.”

“The big things with the hair? What about them?” Floyd asked.

“That’s them. We left off questioning whether or not they were sentient,” Arju replied.

Floyd inched forward, looking back and ushering the Floyds to stay with him. After a moment of thought he said, “Simple, they aren’t. They are way to high on the food chain. What a bad topic of the day. You really need to try harder Ophelia.”

Ophelia sprang to her feet and marched to the end of her leaf, leaving her still a good number half a foot away from Floyd. “How can you say that? You’re entire premise for that idiotic statement is that inch worms are the highest form of life!”

“Hmph! Do not proclaim me so arrogant, we are simply among the highest forms of life,” Floyd answered, folding his body slightly so as to sit, perched, on his later half.

Arju shifted closer to Ophelia. “Earthworms are lower on the food chain than inch worms, and yet they aren’t declared a high form of life at all.”

Floyd looked wounded, and muttered, “He’s just mean. He didn’t mean it. No, I know but we are debating, there are certain rules one must abide by during such engagements.” He then turned back to Arju, “You really are insensitive. You almost hurt Floyd’s feelings.”

Arju fly in a circle a couple of times to relieve his frustration.

“To answer your offending question, earth worms are beside inch worms on the evolutionary scale, however they are too simply organized, biologically, to have any sentience. It’s like plants, they are just too simple. We eat plants, and you can’t get lower on the food chain than that. Walkers, on the other hand, are far too complex.

“Why just the other day I saw a walker sitting there, in all of their enormity, staring blankly at a tree. Suddenly, Newman, that pesky garden fly, showed up. At first, the walker didn’t react. However, when he went right in front of its head, it started trying to catch it. It was evident it was instinctually trying to capture and eat it.”

“I didn’t know that walkers ate flies,” said Ophelia. “I know they like to come into the park and put food out for us. I know they like to play with us from time to time.”

“Allow me to finish my story first. When Newman disappeared into the shadow of the tree, the walker stopped, and returned to its original position, staring at a tree. This is more simplistic behavior than…” Floyd nodded in the direction of the other Floyds. “And to Ophelia’s point, what type of sentient creature would put food out for another creature just to try and play with them. They are as smart as pebbles I tell you.”

“But don’t you think that something with that much organized biology could be smart, build things? I mean ants are pretty organized and collectively they do some amazing construction,” Arju said, knowing full well that it would play a note of pride in Ophelia.

“Well, I have wondered if something that complex would need to use whatever brain it had in just managing its internal systems. Imagine the effort and organization required to breathe, or eat. Within ant circles, we have a common belief that we work together well and are our size because it isn’t possible to be any bigger and accomplish the same thing,” Ophelia added.

“Interesting…” Floyd replied inquisitively. “Well, for once I think I agree with the ants…”

Suddenly there was a thunderous shaking of the ground.

“It looked like everything just moved,” said Arju, flying around the group.

A second thunderous shaking happened, followed by the sound of a rolling thunder of alternating frequencies.

“Walkers!” Ophelia yelled, running for cover.

As Floyd’s pet earthworms followed Ophelia, he stood there defiantly. “I will prove to you that they aren’t as intelligent as us.”

A third thunderous shake was followed by the sound of vegetation being moved aside. Slowly, a walker revealed itself and stepped into the clearing. It was clearly a smaller walker, and clearly scanning the area for something, before it noticed Floyd.

“You there!” Floyd screamed out.

Ophelia and Arju looked at each other. “What the heck does he think he’s doing?”

After a flurry of movement, the walker was standing among them. Sound boomed over the area as it said,

“Hang on, I think I stepped on something. Oh, just a stupid bug.”

After a long pause of silence, Ophelia turned to Arju and said, “Just like Floyd to dramatically end a debate with no definitive conclusion.”

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