by Kajetan Kwiatkowski
“Basically darling... I want those maggots out of your hair.”
Lena hunched over the glass table, both hands flat on its
surface. She stared into her daughter’s eyes, searching for the child she
remembered raising, the one before the piercings, metal implants, and cobalt
Samantha stared back unblinkingly, irises dark and red.
“Well mom, I respectfully disagree. It’s an acceptable fashion trend and I
intend to follow it.”
Lena’s hands smacked the glass surface, harder than she
intended. The impact sent vibrations across the water jug and peanuts. “Well, I
don’t think it’s acceptable to turn my house into a fly-ridden dumpster. I
think you should finally grow up.”
The counselor, sitting between them sipped from her glass.
“Now Ms. Hawcroft, your daughter has already explained that her accessories
will not fly about your home.”
“They’ll only follow me,” Samantha said. “My scent.”
“Your daughter is entitled to embrace her own personage
however she wishes. Don’t you think you could make some compromise to accept
Lena, who had tried to be the progressive kind of parent
who would pay for this sort of counselling session, now realized her mistake.
The experts promoting the emotional health of single-parent families seemed to
be under the strange, ever-expanding misconception that youth should be
pardoned for anything and everything. Lena had to draw a line.
“Look, I don’t
care what clothes Samantha wears, what tattoo’s she’s got, or even what feed
raves she goes to,” Lena leaned on the table again, “I think I’m being very
reasonable, the only compromise I want, as a parent, as a cohabitant—is no
flies in my daughter’s hair.”
“They’re called Faunas
“Ms. Hawcroft,” the counselor set down her drink, “Fauna’s
are a cosmetic accessory. They’re a sterile, non-pathogenic fashion trend
across all age groups. Surely you saw our secretary with butterflies across her
Lena rolled her eyes. “Yes.”
“I have a friend with honeybees that follow her wherever
she goes. There are children who opt for ladybugs. Not to sound like a spokesperson,
but I think Fauna’s are a very healthy way to maintain our ties to nature here
in the upper cities.”
Lena looked at her reflection in the table and could see
the disgust in her own eyes. “Can I at least request that Samantha switches to
something more presentable? I don’t want house-guests to see hairy green horse
flies filtering through our flat.
They’ll think something’s dead.”
Samantha turned to the counselor, who seemed unbothered by
“This is not a question of what animals you find
repulsive,” the counselor said. “It is a matter of you accepting your daughter.
I think people are very tolerant of any variety of fauna.”
Lena stared blankly at the woman’s plucked eyebrows. It was
a paradox how such a reticent, normal-looking professional would have no
reservations with her vampire child. Couldn’t she see that Sam needed some
pushback? Some degree of adjustment for the real world?
“Do you know anything about the social scenes or pressure
that your daughter might be under?” The counsellor asked.
“No.” Lena leaned back into her chair. “Clearly I don’t.”
There was a pause where the counsellor made direct eye
contact with Lena, as if imparting a counsel too profound for simple words. “If
I may be blunt, Ms Hawcroft, this all stems from a direct lack of interest in
your daughter. Your apathy, at least up until this appointment, has driven her
to make the decisions she has.”
Samantha sat up, brushed her bangs.
“Psychologically speaking, the gothic and dark subcultures
of feedraves are born out of a lack of attention. They’re a rebellion. If you
want Samantha to ‘grow up’’, you need to start by opening a channel of
communication based on support for her interests.”
Lena took a moment to exhale. She looked at Samantha’s
bangs and imagined a fat fly crawling across them, buzzing about. “So you say
the bottom line is... she keeps the bugs.”
“No. The bottom line is:
spend more time together. That is the compromise you must both make.”
After an awkward shuttle back to their apartment, Lena
agreed that a better connection with Sam was the solution to many of their
Anything was better than the constant silence they
exchanged, the dead glances with no communication. They needed to start bonding
together, however incrementally.
Although Lena had no desire to seek the new anarchic state of music, she
was starting to suspect that if she joined Sam to a feed rave, that could be
the first step towards something. A conversation. A hello. Anything. If I have to
do it -god help me- I will.
Lena thought. I’ll go to a feed rave.
Later that night, Lena approached the band posters hung on
her daughter’s door and knocked on the face of a crimson-eyed vocalist. He was
the lead singer of a band called ‘All
Dead, All Gone.’
“So what do you think Sammy, can I join you tonight? I
think that counsellor did have a point.”
The door opened, revealing a tired-looking Samantha with
wet, soapy hair. She wiped foam from under her red eyes, a few piercings were
temporarily removed. “It’s alright mom. It’s fine.”
“What did you do?”
“I rinsed my hair. I’m not getting the Faunas.”
Lena instinctually lifted her hands, wanting to inspect her
daughter’s head, but soon resisted, forcing her palms back down. “So. What made
you change your—”
“—Just please don’t come to any of my rave stuff. Okay?
That’s all I ask.” Her daughter gazed imploringly, seeking some kind of
Lena was unsure if this counted as a victory or loss. Would
the counsellor see this as progress? “Okay. Well. Just be home before morning.”
The door closed, and Lena was left standing alone again.
She tried briefly, as she usually did, to decipher the collage on Samantha’s
door. The post-apocalyptic band names, the photos of feed cables stretched into
guitarists —was this the cause of Samantha’s acting out? Or just an expression
Lena observed the posters and came across a cadaverous
singer with see-through skin, organs fully on display. Above his head hovered a
crown of thousands of gnats, fanning outward like a black flame. It must have
been the look Samantha was going for.
Lena inspected the singer’s eyes and wondered what pigment
they had been before he dyed them so dark and red. Did his mother know he now
looked like this? Had she tried to stop
Ever since playing Sim Ant on Windows 98, Kajetan Kwiatkowski
has had a lifelong obsession with arthropods. He’s fine when a fly falls in his
soup, and he’s fine when a spider nestles in the side mirror of his car. In the
future, he hopes humanity is willing to embrace such insectophilia, but until
then, he’ll write entomological spec fiction to satisfy his soul. You can visit
his website: www.EclosionStories.com and follow him @Kajetkwiat