Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Captured Fire - Part 7

Image courtesy of suphakit73 /
This is the Seventh
installment of the 
short story 
Captured Fire

This story is the story of a nine-year-old boy,
Robbie, who enters a magical world where he learns about the meaning of life,
friendship, and respect for others

The morning after the ceremony Robbie was up bright and early, a little tired from all the celebrating the day before, but ready to receive his orders.  He didn’t understand what orders meant; it must be his job or where he was going to live. He figured it must be something like that, after all what does a firefly really do.

All the new cadets met in the training room all excited anticipating the start to their new life as mature fireflies.  As he sat waiting for the captain of assignments to arrive he noticed a large map on the wall.  He strained his eyes to see it and noticed it was a map of his neighborhood, his neighborhood as a boy.  Through the door the captain of assignments walked in carrying a clipboard. 

“Today is first assignment day,” he said as he surveyed the eager group. “Each of you will be given an area to work. Today you will observe those with experience.  When I call your name you will go with your group leader.”  He then started to read off names.

“These individuals are assigned to Poplar Street, Cagewire, Runter…” each firefly stood in line and then was escorted out with their leader.

“These individuals are assigned to Mayberry Street.”

Robbie’s eyes opened wide, Mayberry Street, he was astonished thinking that is where he lived.

“Schrewer, Martworth, Robbie…”

Robbie stood up quickly and took his place in line.  ‘I am going home,’ he thought.  Then his thoughts stopped.  ‘How can I go home? I’m not a boy anymore but a firefly. This is my home now.’

Robbie followed the others out of the room and down the hall into the dining room where a huge meal was waiting.  They all ate the breakfast in silence either because of excitement or nervousness, but not a word was spoken.  After they were finished eating they were introduced to the rest of their squad.  These were mature fireflies who were huge and muscular next to the little cadets.  Some of the fireflies had rips in their wings or antenna missing, but it didn’t seem to matter to them. They all strutted around the room with immense confidence.   The cadets looked at them with envy hoping to one day be just like them.

The cadets were then paired off in twos to a big firefly who would be their work trainer. Robbie and his group were assigned to a big scary fly that had a missing eye, two ripped wings and only one antenna.  They approached him, trying not to show too much of the fear they felt.  As they stood in front of him, he gave them a warm friendly smile and said ‘hi.’

Robbie was glad to be with Martworth, they had gone through training side by side.  Martworth was one of the smallest fireflies and rather shy, but he was one of the friendliest and most determined to succeed in what he did.  Most of the others teased him, but Robbie liked him very much for he knew what it was like to be teased by others.  He was always being teased about his upturned nose, and the fact that he was smaller then most of the boys his age.

Their work trainer led them down a dark hallway that inclined upwards towards a light at the end.  He told them his name was Barra. He was the most experienced night worker. When they reached the light he motioned for them to go ahead.   They walked toward the lighted archway and found themselves in the land above. It was daylight and their eyes were not accustomed to such brightness. They squinted to see the land before them.

Barra took their hands and helped walk them over to the shade under the huge old oak tree where the rest of the squad was waiting.  Robbie and Martworth sat down with the other new cadets.  Attention focused on their trainers.  Barra was the leader of this squad and he addressed the group.

“We want to welcome all the new members to Meltor Squad.  Today we will start your orientation, you will get to know all members of Meltor.”  Barra motioned toward the squad and they nodded in acknowledgement to the new members. “You must get to know each member and work closely with them, your life and theirs can depend on this knowledge and cooperation.”

All the new members spent the day out in the sun hearing stories of bravery from the old members of the Meltor squad.  They learned each squad was assigned an area and they must learn to know that area completely.  Each squad was named after a legendary hero of the past. Meltor, they learned was one of the greatest heroes surviving the most attacks ever in the history of the firefly kingdom. The area Meltor Squad was assigned to was the most treacherous since the most dangerous Land-one lived there.

The day ended with a flying race between the new and old members and a huge banquet.  Robbie could not remember when he had enjoyed himself so much.  As night fell the new members were told to go home. Tonight they would not go out, but they were to rest for tomorrow night, which would be their first work assignment.

They all retreated to their dorm rooms. Martworth was now Robbie’s roommate and the two settled in for the evening.  Martworth told Robbie about his family. He had fifty siblings and they all had been very close as infants.

“Me and my brothers were all sent off to training as soon as we evolved into beetles and my sisters were sent to reproduction training.  I am especially proud of my sisters they are important breeders because our father was a hero. ”

His father had been a member of the Meltor Squad but was killed at work one night.  “I never really knew my father I was just a larva when he died, but I have heard many wonderful things about him. I do want to be brave like he was,” Martworth said as his eyes filled with tears.

Robbie envied the fact that Martworth had brothers and sisters, being an only child had been very lonely for him.  He also wondered about the dangerous Land-one who lived in his boy-life neighborhood. He probably knew this person and therefore knew the killer of Martworth’s father.  This made him sad and he did not want to think about it.

The two friends talked and laughed late into the night until kings’ guards came to tell them lights out.  It was difficult to fall asleep that night with the thoughts of their new assignment the following evening. Eventually the both were lost in their dreams. Martworth dreaming of being a famous hero like his father. Robbie struggled to sleep, unsure of his future, would he ever be a boy again or a firefly forever. Finally his dreams mellowed, dreaming he was at home with Nana and she was young again.

Next morning they met in the squad room and were given instructions for the evening run.  Most were assigned to light show duty as was the common job for young fireflies who where to young for dating and marriage. When they were mature enough they would be taught the mating signals, which at this point all the young squad members thought was a rather “icky” thing, but in reality an important job to keep the community alive.  Other members of the squad were assigned to food gathering for the elderly and injured members of the kingdom who could not fly and get out anymore.

Robbie and Martworth were both assigned to the same light show group so they had flashing classes all day.  The routine was easy and fun and everyone in the group was very excited to get out that evening and perform.  They were cautioned not all humans enjoyed the light show and to be very aware of the surroundings and the dangers of being caught.

At pre-dusk the squad assembled at the base of the oak tree.  The old members got their assignments and many snickered at the young new members who could hardly contain themselves with their excitement.  Attendance was taken and they all stood in groups according to their night’s assignment. Soon they flew off to Mayberry Street for an evening of work.

When they reached Mayberry Street each group followed a leader to an assigned area.  Robbie couldn’t believe it he was assigned to the area that encompassed his and Jason’s yard, he would probably see all his old friends.

Robbie was amazed.  Here he was a firefly flying around his own neighborhood.  High in the sky he surveyed the land below.  He never knew Mayberry Street was so huge. Everyone in his group started performing the practiced routine, and they looked magnificent.  About half way through the performance he saw the neighborhood boys rushing after him and Martworth.  He flew - whoosh - to the other side of the yard.  The boys, recovering from their stumble, raced over to where he hovered with his light blinking.  He then presented a sarcastic blink to them.  Again they tried to capture him and missed. He flew as fast as he could to the yard two doors down.  He sat proud on a leaf of a hazelnut tree.  ‘Not only am I the best firefly catcher on Mayberry Street, but the fastest and best firefly.’ He had no idea it could be so much fun being a bug.  ‘No one can catch Robbie the Great Firefly Extraordinaire.’

Robbie sat glowing in self-importance when in an instant darkness covered his world.  He felt moist warmth crushing him, an earthy aroma infiltrating his nostrils. Next thing he knew, he was plummeting through a clear wide tunnel.   He braced himself to hit hard.  But he came to stop with a thump on what seemed to be a soft cushion.  Robbie shook his head and waited a moment while his vision cleared.  It wasn’t a cushion.  On the floor piled one upon each other were fellow fireflies.  Some looked dazed while others were missing wings and lights, while all seemed to be gasping for breath.  Those not injured where in a frenzied mode trying to help those in need. 

He could see the clear tunnel he came down was a giant canning jar, the kind Nana used to can tomatoes, and the kind he had used to catch fireflies.  Through the glass walls of the jar the outside world was a distorted scene of colors.  Movement could be seen, but it was difficult to interpret what action was taking place in the outside world, and by whom.   A loud bang was heard up above and everyone in the glass prison let out a cry.  Robbie looked around at his fellow fireflies and saw terror on their faces as they ran in panic.  An older firefly with a calmer look about him bumped into Robbie, he evidently had experienced this horror before.

“What is happening?” Robbie cried out.  

“It’s those that captured us. They have closed off the prison. There are no air ducts in the roof,” the old firefly said has he turned to attend to a younger comrade who had no wings and was taking his last breathes of life. 

Robbie looked up and saw the cap to the jar.   There it was a solid surface with no means to let air in the jar.  This was the important reason he had received the ‘bughouse’ for a gift, it gave the fireflies plenty of air so they could breathe and not suffocate.  He never before understood the importance of this, but now he did.

Those with no injuries, or minor ones, helped separate the injured from the dead.  With tears in his eyes Robbie helped as best he could, it was not easy seeing friends he lived with and attended class with hurt or dying.  It was also getting difficult for him to breathe, but he moved along with the rest to help those who needed him.

The lid to the jar opened up again and a blast of air covered them as everyone who could, began breathing in as much air as possible.  Then suddenly the container fell to the ground with a huge jolt.  Robbie slowly stood up in a daze and saw the jar was lying on its side in the yard with the lid off.  Everyone who could move started toward the opening.  He looked down the long jar and out across the yard and saw the boys running off.  He did remember those nights with them catching fireflies. Little did he know how much harm and damage he caused.

“Help me get the injured out of the prison,” the old fly interrupted Robbie’s thoughts.  He quickly came back to the present remembering now he was a firefly now and the boys were the enemy.

All who could, helped move the injured out of the jar-prison and laid them on the cool grass.  Martworth flew back to the kingdom to get help to carry the injured back for medical care.  The old fly gave orders how to bandage broken limbs and stop bleeding, others went back into the jar and pulled out the dead and prepared them for burial as the Chaplin said a pray over the torn bodies.

Panic and discipline at the same time filled the air around the glass prison.  Most of the young fireflies cried in terror not knowing where to run.  The mature took charge comforting the scared and attending the injured.

Martworth returned with the medical group and soon all the injured were taken back to the hospital for emergency care.  The dead were left where they succumbed as the survivors said a silent pray themselves before returning home.

“So now you see what your kind has done to our citizens.  For what reason? Because we can do something they cannot?  We light up the sky at night with a beautiful show giving beauty to the world of humans, and what do we get, death and mutilation.” 

A huge teardrop ran down his cheek and sorrow showed in his eyes as he looked up at the King, “I never knew what I was doing. I never thought of the fireflies as living beings.  Nana tried to tell me. She gave me the bughouse for collecting, but still I never really knew.”  He then let out a loud howl and was unable to stop crying.


© Copyright 2013   Eileen A Partak

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