Hello! It's been a while (a long, long, looong while) but here I am again! Rest assured, I am not dead and now you can read all about the nonsense that spews from my freakish mind.
A big thanks to all the reviewers who encouraged me and replied within the first few days (and some, hours) of this being posted. This chappie is dedicated to all of you! You all rock!
And an even BIGGER thanks to ML, who was the co-writer of this, or should I say co-thinker? However you split the hairs, this couldn't have happened without her- literally. She was the one who commissioned me to write this. If she never existed, this wouldn't be. (Because, let's face it, I never would have thought up something this inventive by myself. I'm not really imaginative when it comes to bugs.)
Disclaimer: None of this belongs to me- none of it. Lion King doesn't, bugs don't, and Africa doesn't. (Had to cover all my bases there). Oh, and wherever Mark lives isn't mine either. Just the weird stuff that comes out of their mouths.
Read on, if you dare…
Mark's life was literally a living hell. For the past day (or what seemed like a day to him- it was kind of hard to tell in this disgusting body) he had barely managed to stay alive. In order to survive, he'd had to do things no self-respecting human would even think of doing!
Associating with the lowly bugs was bad enough, seeing them scurry around as if they had any right to live at all, but the actions they expected of him were ghastly. They had wanted him to, to- dear Lord, even thinking of it made his stomach roll- to eat like them! It was humiliating!
They delighted in his misery, showing him different kinds of plants and things to eat, claiming they were only trying to help. Well, he knew the truth. They were all out to get him, those low-life insects. If he were his normal size he'd have crushed them all hours ago! And really, they didn't even deserve a quick death by his shoe! Those bugs weren't worth enough for him to dirty his shoe on. They deserved to fry in the sun, pinned to the hot sidewalk. He hated them all.
Another hunger pain shot through his stomach- or at least he thought it was his stomach. No telling with this hideous body. But he wouldn't give in, not yet. He still had some dignity left. He refused to eat the trash they offered him. He wouldn't even feed his dog such garbage. He was a man inside, and he would not eat anything unfit for a man. Let this horrendous beetle body starve- at least then he would be out of his misery.
A shadow passed over him as he returned to the log these creatures called home. He'd joined a small group of bugs as they went out for food, and they dared call the voyage successful- easy even! It was neither, in Mark's opinion. They hadn't fed him properly (ergo it wasn't successful) and his feet or whatever these things were called were aching and sore (and so it wasn't easy).
He heard rumbling laughter behind him and turned to stare at the…face, he supposed…of a huge beetle. "Tarsi hurting? It's okay, my first pillage they didn't stop throbbing for a whole sun!" He looked at Mark, obviously waiting for him to chuckle or something. Stupid bug. He wasn't even funny.
When Mark kept staring at him blankly, the bug cleared his throat. "Sorry. Goliath's the name, carin's the game. Local charity, that's me. You need something, or you're in a pinch, just give me a wave and I'll be there quicker than you can smell a dung beetle! I noticed you're new 'round these parts…?"
The sentence ended with a question and Mark resigned himself to another talk with a bug that clearly couldn't see he didn't like them. But, being the generous person that he was, instead of snubbing the beetle he answered. "I'm from Maryland."
The bug nodded sagely, like he could have any idea where that was. "One of them city bugs, then, eh? My brother's like that, too. I hear he's mating a girl half his age- practically a pupae! Scandalous, but what can you expect from ol' Titan? Anyway, if you need a place to rest your body, you're welcome under my leaf."
Now this was something he could use to his advantage. A nice home, a comfy bed. "Well, I don't want to impose…"
"Nonsense!" The stupid bug was actually grinning, or something akin to it. "If anything, we'll probably impose on you! My bug, you see, she's just hatched our first eggs! Yep, I'm going to be the proud father of two thousand!"
Mark started at the large number of eggs this bug claimed his female had just produced. The heck? Who was happy about that kind of news? He couldn't even stand one of those little brats at the best of times, and this imbecile wanted thousands? What a moron. He knew the guy was already some happy-go-lucky idiot, but even he hadn't taken Goliath for a loony. Hmp. Just went to show- you couldn't trust anybody these days.
Then again, he did need someone to take care of him. It was only fair, seeing as he'd graced them all with his presence in the first place, though unwillingly, and now he knew why; they were all obviously in need of some serious help. Who better to teach them their miserable place in the order of things than him? It was meant to be, he supposed.
And so Mark smiled and heartily said "Good for you! Must be so exciting!" Alright, so he couldn't completely rid his voice of the sarcasm. Maybe it would tip this bug off that he needed to get away as fast as possible. A family was like a prison sentence, and with that many kids, it was obviously for life.
"Oh, it is! We're hoping to name half of them Goliath Jr. and half Goldie Jr., after my wife, you know"
Mark didn't know. Didn't really want to, but he needed to make Goliath think the poor guy actually had a friend. After all, with as much as this guy talked it wasn't like there would be any volunteers. Mark felt his pride swelling. He was so nice.
"Yes siree, did I hit the jackpot! She's a Golden Stag! Don't see many of them settlin' down outside their species, but my girl's special. We both reached for a clump of sap, and when her mandible touched my tarsi, it was all over. I just knew she was the one for me." He was shaking his head and smiling like some love-sick fool.
Geez, didn't he realize it was all a trick? That she was playing him just so she could have some big, scary protector by her side? Still, ignorance was bliss, so Mark decided to let Goliath think his…wife? Really did love him. The sap looked like he needed it.
They walked a bit more, before finally coming upon what looked like a few big leaves stuck together, hanging lower to the ground than Mark would have liked. All the way there Goliath chattered on about how they had worked together to tunnel under the ground and build their precious home. It was 'we work together so well' and 'I would do anything for her' this and 'I bribed a frog for his mucus to mold the leaves together' that. So sickening.
As they neared the closest leaf and ducked under it, Mark caught sight of the backside of a golden shell, with a green tinge along the bottom. The legs were a blue-green that molded into solid black at the very bottom. The bug turned around, and Mark's breath caught.
Dear God, was it…no. Impossible! There was no way such an atrocity to man could be committed! But the evidence was right in front of Mark. Here, in front of him, in the most awful place on this Earth, stood…a pretty beetle.
Mark was in a stump. This was not happening, this was not happening, this was not happening. If he said it enough times inside his head, the rest of his body would have to listen. Especially the part of him that wanted to actually be nice to her. She was a beetle! The enemy! Seriously, how could he be attracted to something like that. And not only was she a beetle, but she was obviously brain-damaged to boot! After all, who in their right mind would marry someone as annoying as Goliath. And he twice her size! He dwarfed her like a tree to a flower. It was pathetic. Mark just hoped they were prepared to handle kids, as he was sure those children were going to have some serious issues with parents like those two.
It was laughable really, Mark thought as his eyes strayed to her again. There was nothing really noticeable about her. There were other stag beetles he'd seen on the way in. They all looked the same, the girl in front of him included.
Like your mom… a voice in his head taunted. He nearly shook his head from the wave of hatred that flowed through him at the thought. Because the voice was right, it was like his mother. Everywhere they went together, Mark would catch people (not just men, oh no!) looking at her. They would look, and do a double-take, and smile. And when he said everywhere, he meant it. It happened at every. Friggin'. Place.
In fact, that was one of the reasons Mark had stopped going places with his mother. It was okay at first, because Mark could convince himself that the people were looking at him, that he was so handsome, and it was to be expected.
But then the talking started up. Chatting was more like it, but it still involved people's mouths moving, and not in his direction. They would just come up to her and talk. And talk. And talk. Men, women, children, teachers, strangers, employees, everyone!
And what had she done to stop it? Absolutely nothing! She just stood there, and actually talked back to them. Practically told them her life story. And of course she just had to bring him into all her conversations, introducing him, talking about him- so rude! She was a horrible person. The only good thing about this exile was that she wasn't here to chat with all these disgusting creatures.
Feminine giggling drew his attention once more to Goldie. What kind of name was that anyway? Goldie. A stupid name. Was every bug here named after their species? It was ridiculous. Then again, what could he expect of insects like these.
More giggling- it grated on his nerves like claws on a chalkboard. What was she even laughing at, anyway? The most popular answer seemed to be Goliath's jokes, but those weren't of the sophisticated humor that Mark preferred, and so he didn't really think they were all that funny. But apparently Goldie just found them frickin' hilarious, judging by the amount of laughing that was currently coming from her small form.
Honestly, if he wanted to, he could make her laugh harder. He was so much funnier. And smarter, and more talented, and nearer to her size. If he wanted to, he could totally make her dump Goliath and go for him. But seriously, there were major drawbacks- like the two thousand kids, for instance.
In fact…Mark hadn't really even seen the eggs. When they first came in under the leaves, there was a large (or what seemed large to Mark in this new body) hole. That was it. When they went into the hole, however, there were several tunnels. One to the future kids' room, one to Goliath and Goldie's separate quarters, one to the general living area, and a few escape routes, just in case as Goliath had explained…
To which Goldie had giggled, again. Honestly, she couldn't stop. If he was Goliath he would've at the very least yelled at her by now. Hm. Maybe the bug had more to him than was revealed at first glance. Goliath had the patience of a saint. Interesting.
Mark snorted and rolled his eyes. No, Goliath was just too dense to realize how annoying Goldie's giggling was.
Rustling at the entrance drew Mark's attention to the tunnel, where four more bugs emerged, all smaller than Goliath and with varying colors. Goliath went over to talk with them and then motioned Mark to come closer. Normally, Mark would never have followed the order of someone so inferior, but he was curious and decided to indulge Goliath. But just this one time, of course.
What a waste of time, Mark thought. And it really, really was. All they did was walk. And walk. And- guess what? They walked some more!
As it turned out, the bugs wanted to form another foraging party, considering the earlier trip (the one in which Goliath had tricked Mark into this mess in the first place) wasn't too successful. Goliath consented, saying "You can never have too much food!" from which he based on the fact that it was better 'to be safe than sorry' in his opinion.
He personally didn't give a rat's arse about what Goliath's opinion was, but he liked Goldie-she seemed like a nice enough bug- and so he came to make sure Goliath didn't do anything stupid. Or more stupid than normal.
The thing he hadn't realized was how boring this was going to be. So far, the highlight of this trip had been seeing a snail go three whole inches in *gasp!* less than two minutes.
The small cluster of beetles stopped up ahead, clustering around something that was currently discernible to Mark. There seemed a general buzz of excitement though, so at least there was a chance of it being something of interest to Mark.
Upon drawing closer, it was a round object of some kind, brownish in color. It stunk to high heaven, but at the same time wafts of deliciousness would catch Mark's attention. It didn't really seem possible, unless it was like cheese or garlic bread. They smelled nasty, but tasted pretty darn good. And the whole bad breath thing could be solved with a few mints!
He shuffled into the ring around the…thing…and looked at it some more. Now that he was closer he could see that it wasn't just brown, but had dark tints of orange and seemed to be, strange as it was, speckled with green.
As if on cue, all the insects walked up to the object and started pulling at the green spots with their various appendages, whether it was pincers, horns, claws or regular feet. Well, regular beetle feet.
Mark joined Goliath and together they pried the clump away from the main mass. It landed on the ground after they stepped back, landing with a soft whump.
Now that it was away from the bigger whatever, it didn't stink so bad. It actually smelled pretty good.
Goliath motioned towards it and said "Go on. I know you must be hungrier than me. You have the first bite."
Not a bad idea.
He pulled an ever smaller section away from it and hesitantly tasted it and…
It was great! He might liken it to a hushpuppy filled with doughnut. The outer brown layer was okay, but the green filling was better.
Huh. So these bugs actually had good taste. Who knew, right? Mark ate some more and looked around at all the others. They seemed to be in a good mood, now that they had some food in them. Or a better mood, at any rate.
Now that he thought about it, they hadn't been receptive to him at all. They kept annoying him with conversations, and ice-breakers. As if he wanted to know about them and all their little problems. He had bigger things to worry about than whether or not they had gotten a new leaf for their hole. So boring.
And another thing: They actually expected him to do everything himself. Everyone complained about his walking pace, about his silence, about his mood, everything. If there was something to comment negatively about, you better believe they commented. And commented. And went right on ahead and commented some more about things that were none of their business.
They were lucky he had been so lenient with them thus far. They were blessed in that they were even able to talk to a higher being like him. Hmph.
Another bite of the mystery food and his dreary thoughts evaporated. This stuff was really good! If only they had whatever this was back at home. Maybe then he wouldn't have to choke down his mother's cooking.
Lost in his own thoughts, Mark didn't even notice the three large shadows that suddenly appeared over them all.
Simba smiled as he looked on to the two animals that, for all intents and purposes, should have been his brothers. Parents, really, but they could never replace…
He shook his head to banish that train of thought. It never did anyone any good. It just put him in a bad mood and made Timone and Pumba worry. And after all they had done for him, it was the least he could do to repay them.
His paws softly padded on the ground, barely making a noise. Despite his upbringing, he thought he made a darn good lion.
Just because he didn't hunt didn't mean he didn't go through the motions. It wasn't even conscious; he'd been playing hide-and-seek and over the years the skills had developed themselves. He'd never really had a chance to test them, but he was pretty sure that if he had to, he could survive with them.
But he'd never have the chance- didn't need the chance, didn't want the chance. He was happy here, and he was loved here. He had two amazing friends that would do anything for him, even if it was reluctantly. They weren't delicate or picky- they belched and farted and made crude jokes. He fit into their group like striped to a zebra.
Zebras…elephants…rhinos…gazelles. Images from the past flashed through his mind. They were fuzzy, and any sounds he remembered hearing from them were muted, as if from underwater. He remembered singing, and dancing. And kings. That was what these memories always ended up being about. That, and Nala. Him and Nala saying things about kings near animals. Lot of animals.
If he tried, maybe he could remember. But honestly, he'd blocked most of those memories long ago. General things, personal things, anything he could. Because the things he could remember were bad enough.
The first few months were the worst. After the shock and numbness had worn off, all that was left of him was an empty shell. It was like he was living in his own bubble. Sure, he enjoyed some things. Eating bugs, swimming, he wasn't always melancholy. It was when he was alone that the crushing feeling in his chest came.
But even that was preferable to the nightmares. He'd wake up in a cold sweat, his father's voice still ringing in his ears. The image of him lying there, still warm, not responding to anything Simba did or said.
And the worst part was that it was all his fault. He'd killed his own father. His mother probably hated him. He was lucky that Uncle Scar had understood and given him the chance to run.
When Pumba had noticed, he'd told Timone and they'd both sat with him every night until he'd gone to sleep. Even then, they'd take turns watching over him, and if they thought he was having a bad dream they'd wake him up immediately.
At that, Simba smiled. Timone and Pumba had once told him that they knew he was having a bad dream by the noises he used to make as a cub. Shaking, straining, grunting, all were signs. And signs meant a rude awakening in the middle of the night. When they read the signs correctly, Simba was very grateful. But when they read them incorrectly it meant he was out of luck all because of a bit of gas.
After a few times of mistaken nightmare signs, Simba learned not to eat too many beetles before bedtime. It was a habit he still practiced to this very day.
He looked towards the skyline and saw the cascade of orange and pink that signaled sunset was approaching. They would have to head back to the nest soon. Some might consider it weird that they slept in nests, but then they had never exactly stuck to the status-quo. He liked it better that way.
More bickering drew his attention back to the other two that made their unique trio. He wondered what they were arguing about now. He supposed he should go over there and make sure they didn't say anything too hurtful.
Typical. Timone and Pumba were bickering and he had to be the mediator. Although he supposed he understood. Timone was naïve to the ways of the real world, to some extent. A soft heart is not something a warthog needed. All the taunts, the laughs, they hurt. But he consoled himself with the fact of tomorrow, was how Pumba had explained it to him. Tomorrow, Pumba had said. Tomorrow would be better. Tomorrow someone wouldn't run at the sight of him. And he was right- Timone hadn't run.
But therein lay the problem. Timone hadn't run, not then and not now. From the very first day Timone had realized he had found someone to…whatever you wanted to call it, boss around or take care of…he had stuck by Pumba's side, self-appointed guardian and care-giver.
Timone thought that he needed to protect Pumba from the horrors from the world, and Pumba thought he needed to get Timone to acknowledge that the world wasn't so horrible. Both had points, both wouldn't budge. So Simba was stuck in the middle. He saw both sides. He'd come from both sides.
"You don't tell me what to do!"
"I will when you act like this!"
"Leave me alone or else…"
"You'll do what- sit on me?"
"Don't think I won't!"
"I'd like to see you try, you overgrown-"
"Enough!" Simba snapped at the both of them. "Now both of you- stop it and tell me what this is about."
Pumba gestured towards the dirt where several bugs were clustered towards a pile of his…ugh. Nasty. "This. This is what it's about."
He was lost. It looked normal. Not that Simba made it a habit to look at Pumba's…but still. Pumba didn't really have a regular…spot, per se, so he ran into these type of things every once in a while.
Simba shook his head. "I don't really-"
Pumba cut him off before he could finish. "Look closer. It's a disgrace to warthogs!"
He looked down again, and then back up. "Do I really have to?"
Timone rolled his eyes and chose that moment to rejoin the conversation. "He wants to eat a bug!"
"In case you haven't noticed, I eat bugs all the time!"
"Well not today!"
"Look what it's been doing to my-" Pumba gestured downward. Timone rolled his eyes. Simba decided to let them figure this one out on their own and stay out of their conversation. The entire topic was disgusting and the conversation was confusing.
A few more rounds of verbal barbs were distributed before Simba gathered enough information to piece together what was going on.
From what he could gather, Timone had used Pumba as a health kick and forbade him to eat bugs as much as he used to, instead inserting plants as a substitute. Pumba was not happy, to say the least. He said he'd been having stomach troubles and more gas than usual.
Timone said nothing was different than usual and it was all in Pumba's head. Pumba fervently disagreed and wanted to quit with the plants. Timone said no, Pumba said yes, and on and on.
This went on for a while, by which point Simba had reluctantly noticed that the steaming pile of poo on the ground was indeed discolored with bits of green. Now that he thought about it (as much as he tried not to) Pumba had been a bit gassier right after meals lately. And Timone had kicked him out of the nest multiple times last week for farting in Timone's breathing zone. Simba thought it was kind of funny, but…Timone was of a different opinion. Especially when he was yanked out of sleep-land to a poisonous cloud of stank.
The volume of the fight came to a crescendo when Timone snatched a random bug off the ground near the pile of excrement and ate it, yelling "Crunchy!" at Pumba.
Pumba yelled at Timone and stomped at the ground, releasing a loud fart in the process. This spurned another round of fighting.
Simba sighed and circled around them, gently corralling them back towards the trees behind them and in the general direction of home. He hoped they were at least done bickering by the time they got there. It was hard to go to sleep when all you could hear was fighting in the background.
He rolled his eyes as Pumba yelled something and waved a hoof in the air, nearly hitting Timone's head in the process. This caused Timone to start waving his hands around and screech like…well, a Meer cat.
Honestly. Family. You couldn't live with them, you couldn't live without them. Simba smiled.
Goliath jerked his head up as darkness enveloped them. It was hard to see, but there were three shadows, and that only ever meant one thing.
The Three Terrors.
Loud noises assaulted their eardrums and made them pop. Goliath winced, and looked around, processing his surroundings.
Three shadows, three threats. It was dusk, they were probably hungry. There were less than ten bugs around, so they were all in danger. His vision, as well as probably all the others, was less than good. They couldn't see, could barely hear through all the noise. He, Mark, and two others were at this pile, all the rest were a mere few feet away.
Which meant that he didn't have much time.
Goliath shoved Mark and yelled at him, "Move!"
Mark stumbled. He didn't have time for this, everything was chaos and it was about to get worse. The sounds got louder and Goliath cringed, resisting the urge to crouch and cover his ears. From his peripheral vision he could see that a few didn't have the restraint that he did.
He didn't get very far when the screaming started. Bugs scrambled for cover, giant footsteps rumbled the earth, and Mark wouldn't move his legs, damn it all, he wasn't moving fast enough.
More screaming. More rumbling. A smaller bug shot under his feet and Goliath tripped, nearly falling down. Get up, get up, get up! Find Mark- right in front of him, alright. Move on.
One foot in front of the other. Keep moving, keep Mark in front of him. Shove Mark, make him move. Dodge the big bugs, don't step on the smaller ones. Keep moving.
And later, later Goliath would be ashamed. He would be mortified that he had only thought of himself and Mark. He would beat himself up about panicking and not saving more when he had the chance. But right now his brain was fried and all he could think about was what was right in front of him.
That happened to be Mark, and he was notmovingfastenough! Goliath shoved him some more and scuttled behind him as fast as he could.
A crash sounded behind him and the ground split open beneath his feet. He pushed Mark onto the ground and pinned him there, praying to every insect deity to protect them because Goldie would haunt him when she died or resurrect him just to kill him again. Plus he loved her. That was also a good reason not to die. A very good reason not to die.
Crunching sounds filled the air, riddled with blood-curdling screams. One more chomp and the yelling stopped.
That was probably worse than the screaming. It was done, everything was over. The worst had passed, it had to be. It was all over.
The ground-shaking subsided and Goliath waited. And waited.
Nothing happened. Tension slowly drained from each of his muscles until he was lying on top of Mark. This was probably uncomfortable for him, but Goliath didn't care. They were safe. For now at least, they were safe.
Mark was mad.
Mark was furious.
Mark was-he was outraged!
The way they had treated him during that trip was despicable. He was eating, he was happy, he was contemplating worldly, important, matters and then they just attacked him! Out of the blue!
He swore these rude bugs were just mongrels, barbarians! He shouldn't have to put up with this, he was an important person!
In kindergarten he had learned his ABC's and 123's before any other child. In first grade his penmanship had earned him the 'Best Writer' award. Second grade, he had aced his multiplication and division test the first time he had taken it. In fact, he didn't have to take the practice tests for the rest of the year. And third grade, third grade was a gem. The art teacher had compared his cursive to the ancient practice of calligraphy.
Did he really need to continue? Of course not, he was Mark, but he would.
Fourth grade: his reading level was that of a high schooler. Fifth, he'd passed the vocabulary aptitude test with flying colors, scoring highest in his grade level, nay- school!
Middle school had gone by in the blink of an eye, and he had kept the number one spot on the principals list, never getting a grade lower than an A+. He was a genius. He'd always gotten the most AR points and his test marks had, more often than not, been higher than 100%.
His freshman year he'd been offered a position in the Honors Society without even applying. His teachers had all told him that they would give him a sparkling recommendation any time he wanted. SOL scores and Final Exam scores? No problem, he'd passed with flying colors. It was his sophomore year and now, he was here.
Being mistreated and manhandled like some common street ruffian. It was ridiculous. He was better than this! He deserved better!
Having Goliath shove him away from his meal was horrid enough, but then to have him continue shoving him and then, to add insult to injury, to lie on top of him and flatten him to the ground. And to keep him there! It was degrading, it what it was. He was flabbergasted Goliath had even dared touch him in such an informal manner. Disgusting. These bugs needed to learn their place.
Mark shook his head and smirked. Starting now, class was officially in session.
Michelle was not a stupid person. She may have been blonde, and she may be a bit ditzy and air-headed at times, but she was far from stupid.
She didn't go to college, she barely graduated high school, but she wasn't stupid. She knew this had happened because of her, because she had clung to him too tightly.
But really, what was she supposed to act like? He was her baby, her life; he was her son. She loved him, of course she loved him. Mark was a little rough to the untrained eye, but he was a good boy underneath it all.
He worked hard, he got good grades, and he did his chores. He was a good person. He loved her. She loved him, she adored him, she'd rearranged her world around him.
And now he was gone. Disappeared into thin air. No traces, no clues, not even a note.
Hadn't she raised him better than this? He'd always left a note before. Well, not always, but she knew where he was. It was her mother's intuition. She knew he was always safe.
Not now, though. She didn't know, couldn't feel anything. Was he safe, was he in danger? She needed to know. This was her little boy, her child. Her everything. And now he was gone. Not here, not there, not anywhere and she was losing it.
Taking more and more shifts off at the bar, and her boss had been so understanding. Really, Jeff had been amazing. He'd covered for her, asked the other girls to take her shifts, and he hadn't even docked her pay by much. Of course he had to reduce it a little, but it was understandable considering how much time she hadn't spent at her actual job.
The doors of the local police station were as familiar as her own now. The opaque class with black outlines and the badge with the town name in the middle. To some it was considered old-fashioned, but she liked. She thought it retained a sort of charm.
As she entered the front desk girl, Francine, nodded and smiled at her. She returned the gesture. She didn't really feel it this morning, but it was only polite.
The floors dully gleamed under the fluorescent lights. Walter, the janitor, must have polished them since the last time she was here. Since last night.
Looking around, she noted that he was right about the new cleaner he'd switched to. It had done wonders for the windows.
The main office room was busy, as per usual. Desks piled high with paperwork, coffee machines buzzing, chairs squeaking, hinges squealing in protest, doors swinging back and forth behind her. Shoes click-clacked across the now-scuffed floor (and in the back of her mind, she felt something akin to dulled outrage for all the work Walter had done). Voices were raised; talking, discussing, whispering, gossiping, arguing, figuring. Doing police things, detective things.
Normal things, in their mind. And somewhere along the way, this had become normal in her mind. Comforting, even.
She wondered what she would do when she got Mark back, when she didn't need to come here every day, didn't feel this compulsion to practically live here. Because of course she would get Mark back. She had to get Mark back. He was her son.
Down the central isle, a right at the green chair person's desk, down two more, and stop. The name plate was crooked again, even though she'd fixed it just a mere ten hours ago, if that. She didn't really look at the clock again. It just served as a reminder as to how long her baby had been missing.
Using her pinky to nudge the rectangular piece of metal-on-wood back in place, she smiled. It wasn't much, but this was a small comfort. She could fix this. See? All done.
Two hands covered her eyes and a wide chest pressed into her from behind.
"Guess who?" She could feel the vibrations in her spine, his rumbling voice resonating in her bones.
"Huh," she pretended to think about it. "Is this Walter?" It wasn't Walter. He didn't even work the day shift.
"Nope." She could picture him shaking his head good-naturedly. "Try again."
"How about…" she tapped her finger on her chin, nails lightly scraping the bottom of his hands in the process. "Oh! I know- it's Greg!" She didn't even know a Greg. It was a nice name, though.
"No dice, sweetheart. One more try," he teased.
Logic it was then. "Well, if it's not Walter, and it's not Greg, then it must be…" she bit her lip. She knew who it was. "I suppose it's the only answer. Yes, I know. It's definitely…Anderson!"
The hands removed themselves suddenly and a face swung down into her line of view. "Who's Anderson? And what kind of sissy name is that?"
She laughed, swatting at him. "Oh, please. You know I knew it was you."
He smiled. "Yeah, I knew. So how are you?" He leaned his hip against his desk as he asked the last half, his head tilted slightly.
How was she? Her only child was missing, how did he think she was doing? She voiced as much to him. His head shook back and forth in sympathy. "You just have to wait. We'll find him, you'll see."
How she wished she could believe it as surely as he did. Every day he said the same things to her, sometimes in sympathy, sometimes in assurance, but always with confidence. She was grateful that one of them had this kind of faith.
Officer Jeffrey Gordone had been a godsend. From the moment she'd first entered the police station, flustered and confused, he'd helped her.
His hand on the small of her back had guided her to a chair next to her desk. He'd calmly taken out his notepad and asked her what she needed. She'd told him she need to report a missing person- her son. Jeff had asked if it had been at least twenty-four hours since she'd seen him last. Yes, she'd replied, she knew the protocol.
It had been a week now, and she'd been here like clockwork- and so had he.
Only a year older than her, no kids, he'd been married once, but it had fallen through. Marriages tended to do that when one caught his significant other in bed with her palates instructor. The divorce was finalized over a year ago, and all contact had been severed for months now.
Jeff lived by himself in a two bedroom apartment off Main Street, just a few blocks from her and Mark's house. It was a nice place, cheery, and the kitchen was a sky blue color. She would know. They'd had lunch a few times, both at his and her place. Yesterday they'd gone out for coffee.
But it's not like it was pleasure or anything, it was business, too. They discussed vital facts and possible answers as to where Mark could have been taken.
They chatted some more and he probably would have invited her somewhere had another officer come up and interrupted them.
The man tipped his hat to her. "Ma'am, I'm Officer Leo Hereon, one of the people working on your son Mark's case. If you will, please step into my office for a bit. We'd like to discuss some things with you." He gestured towards a door on the far wall.
Michelle looked at Jeff, but he just shrugged his shoulders. So he didn't know what was going on either.
They walked through the door and the man gestured for her to sit down on the small sofa against the office wall. She did, wondering at the nerve this man possessed, to assume she would follow his every order. Jeff stood beside her, arms crossed. He didn't look happy.
"What is this about?" His voice conveyed as much.
"Wellup, it's about the case." He took off his hat and held it in his hands. Large, beefy, sweaty-looking hands. She didn't like those hands. They were nothing like Jeff's.
"You see, ma'am," she wished he would stop calling her that. It made her feel old. "We've been looking for clues as to your son's whereabouts. Your house, street, neighborhood, school, we've been through it all with a fine-tooth comb. Metaphorically, of course." No shite Sherlock.
"And so far, well, we haven't found any evidence suggesting that he was, in fact, kidnapped. I wish I had better news, but the fact of it is I don't. And another fact that seems to be taking shape is that Mark disappeared of his own volition."
She didn't understand, what was he saying? Did he actually, could he really believe that Mark would…no. No, it wasn't true. She hadn't raised her boy like that.
"What the hell are you suggesting, Leo?" Jeff agreed with her. That was a good sign, Jeff was usually right. "Do you honestly think he ran away? Because if so," he was on a roll now, "then there has to be a reason, and after meeting Michelle here, I can't think of one."
The officer opened his mouth, but Jeff cut him off again. "Now, why don't you get back to, I don't know, your job? And find her child."
Jeff took her by the arm (gently, though) and led her out of the office. "Won't you get in trouble for that?"
"Naw." He was actually smiling. "We're both on the same level, and we've always been good drinking buddies. He'll understand, won't take it personal or nothin'." She'd thought as much.
"And don't worry," he added. "They still might find something- there's always tomorrow, after all."
A/N: And there it is! Slightly longer than the last chapter, but I'm still happy with it. Mostly. It also took longer to update and all that- psh, hell, it took months to update! Ah, I'm such a procrastinator. But it's here, all in one neat little package that burns your eyes if you stare at the screen too long.
To learn about what type bugs Goliath and other characters are, skip down to the part that has weird symbols posted above it- to learn more about bugs in general, and where I got my info from, read on!
So, I made references to bugs, but I know nothing about them, meaning I had to do research. Okay, I didn't, but I like to be accurate most of the time (talking insects, yeah, I know-shut up)
The anatomy of the beetle is pretty uniform, but different things vary depending on species, gender, etc. I was just going by the general outline: The head, on which the antennae sit- antennae are usually used to smell things, but can also be used to feel the beetle's environment. The mouth is also on the face, along with the mandibles, which are basically over-glorified pincer things. Roughly inside the pincers are two appendages, which by our standards look like tiny, straight fingers. These are used to shove food into the mouth.
The body is called the thorax, usually divided into two parts but not always. There are actually segments upon segments on and in the beetle, hidden by wings and exo-skeletons, but that's not really need to know info. The abdomen is behind the thorax, with a series of rings that each have holes for breathing and respiration.
The legs, which are also multi-segmented, end in 2-5 sections called tarsi (aforementioned in the joke that introduced Goliath to Mark). Though their actual purpose is walking, they can be adapted to other uses, such as digging, jumping, and in some species, even swimming.
There are basically two sets of wings; the outer ones, used for protection mainly, and the inner ones, which are more delicate and used for the actual flying.
Internal morphology, more detailed external morphology, mating habits, life cycles and such things can be found on any website, but this information can from wiki/Beetle. I don't know if FFN will let you click on the link, but you can copy and paste and it should have the same effect.
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So, Goliath and Mark are two different species, as well as Goldie.
Goliath is (what else?) a Goliath beetle. Goliath beetles are among the largest species on earth, and if you were to hold one, if would be as big as your hand, sometimes bigger depending on the size of your hand. (BTW, did you know you're of a lower IQ if your hand is bigger than your face? Haha, no, bad joke, don't do it.) They are found in Africa's tropical forests, so that part was accurate. Their diet mainly consists of tree sap and fruit.
Mark is a mix of a Ground Beetle and Metallic Beetle- I couldn't quite decide on one alone. The Ground Beetle is the size I want (not very big, a few inches in size), but it's carnivorous, and not well-known or researched. The Metallic Beetle on the other hand, eats mainly fruits and vegetables and its color ranges from a bright green to brown-gold color. They both originate in Africa, so that's not really a big problem.
Goldie. Goldie is a Golden Stag Beetle. If you go on the Wikipedia website for beetles, there's a picture just under the first paragraph with several beetles in it. The caption under it lists beetles, the first of which is a female Golden Stag Beetle from which I based Goldie's character on. Not much is known about these either, but at least there's more than the Ground Beetle. They're found in wet forests and live in dead trees most of the time, so it wasn't too much of a stretch.
All other bugs mentioned have no specific species, so label them as you will. We all know that Simba is a lion, roughly a teenager at this point in time, Pumba is a warthog and Timone is a Meer cat. Michelle, Jeff, Leo, and Walter are humans. If this wasn't (shockingly) clear by now, Michelle is Mark's Mom. Jeff is a police officer based on the retired K-9 cop that lives across from me. Leo and Walter are made up. I apologize to any Walter's out there that take offense to being a Janitor, and any Leo's that take offense to being spoken to in such a manner by Jeff.
That is the conclusion of my little history lesson- til' next time, my beautiful insects!