Stink Bug – Chapter 6

The sun was low on the horizon and the shadows very long when we reached the stand of trees. It was dark in there, all shadows and flashes from the few remaining streams of light able to penetrate the thick canopy of trees. The canopy was abrupt, changing from a nearly unobstructed view of the darkening skies to a solid roof of leaves within a few feet. The edge of the canopy was almost perfectly straight. It bothered me.

K’eel stepped into the shadows and nearly vanished in the broken light. He walked a few feet in and stopped when he noticed I wasn’t following. “Come! Come!” he said. “Mustn’t be out after dark.”

My legs were aching. I didn’t really want to take another step. The shadows made me nervous. That place must be full of spiders. “I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?!” K’eel hopped back toward me. “There is no going back. Not today, anyway. You would surely die!”

“Well, what…”

“They will check on us. They will clear the meadows. They will take you.”


“The keepers.”

“Who are the keepers?”

K’eel looked around nervously. “Please! Come now.”

“K’eel!” warbled a voice from within the trees.

K’eel rolled his eyes and looked toward the shadows. A smaller bird-man hopped out. “I have been so worried about you!” She said. I assumed it was female. She seemed so much smaller and more gracile, even fragile.

“I am fine, W’oo’woo.”

“Are you him?” said W’oo’woo.

“Who?” I said.

“He is here to help,” interjected K’eel. He looked back at me. “We must go or we will die.”

“Yes!” said W’oo’woo. “We have food! Surely you are hungry.”

I hadn’t thought about it for a while. “I could eat. I’d like to sit, too.”

“Then come,” said K’eel. He turned back into the shadows. I followed him hesitantly. W’oo’woo hopped beside me, gawking at me.

“What is it like where you live? Do you have flowers?” said W’oo’woo. “Do you have trees like this? Is the sun so lovely?”

“Well, I…”

“Can you go out after the sun falls?”


“W’oo’woo, leave the man alone!” said K’eel.

“I am only curious!” said W’oo’woo.

“Let the man breathe! There will be time for questions later,” growled K’eel.

“It’s ok, really,” I said.

K’eel looked back at me. “Men don’t know how to behave. Always gab, gab, gab. Questions, questions, questions.”

“What?” I said.

“That’s not true, and you know it!” yelped W’oo’woo.

“Oh, just stop it,” grumbled K’eel.

“I’ve only just been so worried about you.”

“Stop worrying, husband. I am fine.” K’eel stopped and eyed W’oo’woo. “I am here now. I am safe. We will be fine.” K’eel stood straight and tall and towered over W’oo’woo. She crouched back subserviently.

The two bird-men stared at each other in silence. K’eel relaxed and hung his head close to W’oo’woo’s. He warbled gently. W’oo’woo cooed back. K’eel reached out and took W’oo’woo’s hands, still warbling. K’eel opened his wings and used them to embrace W’oo’woo.

They separated. W’oo’woo hopped backwards, waving at me. “Bye! See you soon!”

K’eel watched her go, then turned to face me. “We are practically there. Only a little further.”

“Great,” I said. “Is she, um, Woo-woo, your wife?” I cringed, because I knew i mispronounced her name.

“Wife?” K’eel leaned back and trilled. “Wife?! W’oo’woo is my husband. I am his wife.”

“Whoa,” was all I could say.

K’eel cocked his head – her head at me. “This is different for you. Yes. For you the male is larger. You thought I was male.”

“I did. I’m sorry.”

“How funny. Yes, we are not the same. Please come. I know you would like to rest.” K’eel hopped away further into the darkness. I followed, the promise of food luring me on despite my trepidation.

Read Chapter 7 (not yet available).

Go back to the beginning.

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