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Grasshopper Wings

Grass, brown.  Sky, grey.  Grasshoppers, dead.  Skeleton wings tossed on the wind, stuck with damp mist to brown dirt and grey rocks.

She remembered the green grass, and trying to catch grasshoppers exactly the same shade. Hard to find, like a treasure.  A good day if she could find one.  Her mother had hated them in her garden.

She remembered when her mother was alive.

 She swung her hoe into the black dirt.  Waited.  No tears came.  Swung again.

Grasshoppers.  Tickled like a blade of grass on her hand.  A laugh, and gone in a flash.  She must have been about seven years old the last time she caught one.  Saw one.

No luck the day the raiders came.  Locusts.  She had been too busy looking at the ground to notice the hint of smoke in the air.  The banks of mist that rolled in.  The ships, in the sky.  The strangers, sailing on the fog.

When the men grabbed her, she told them she was looking for grasshoppers.  “You killed them all” they said.  Like a punch to the stomach.  She desperately tried to explain, she’d only killed one once – dog had surprised her, she squealed and held too tight, and then in her hand, instead of a grasshopper, bright green scraps of wing overlaid with a more sickly green taint – she began to cry.

But they weren’t listening.  They loaded her into the longboats, rode the mist up to the great ships.  She cried and her mother held her, cried while they razed the cities and reduced every bit of technology to atoms.  Dragon-head canons spitting fire.

She sniffed at the mist.  The scent of smoke had long gone, but the memory played tricks.

Her mother had died, her tears dried up, and now she tilled this field.  A new one.  Used to be part of the city, it was bordered on two sides by immoveable rubble.  Remains of a wall.  Cement slabs, steel girders like broken fingers not quite reaching up to the sky.  Inside of a building, once.

The men with the horses had cleared the field of large debris, but sometimes she still came across things.  Burnt bones, charred scraps of cloth delicate and gossamer as dead grasshoppers’ wings.  Other things.  Metal and wiry things, with intricate designs on them, or plain plastic boxes.  She had to give those to the overseers.  Cleaning up.  They must have been important once, but it was all rubbish now.

She bent down, aching back, and pulled at a dead and stubborn tangle of weed.  No, not dead, a flash of green, bright against the misty, muddy tones.

Blinked.  A grasshopper.  It struggled free of its grey moulting, and clung to the new shoot, fresh green.  She cupped her hands around it to protect it from the damp.  Season would turn soon.

The mist rolled over her back.  She heard the hum of the overseer’s boat but did not get up.

He barked an instruction and stiffly she stood, and turned.

He pointed to her cupped hands, spoke again.

She looked back into her hands.  No green.  Gone.

She plucked the empty husk from the weed and handed it to the overseer.  Picked up her hoe and went back to work.


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